Oslo Philharmonic’s percussionists Tom Vissgren and Terje Viken are soloists in Bártok’s Concerto for Two Pianos, Percussion and Orchestra, together with the pianists Håvard Gimse and Helge Kjekshus. Jukka-Pekka Saraste conducts Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 9.
Béla Bartók (1881–1945) learnt to play the piano at the age of four, and the instrument remained absolutely central to him throughout his life. In 1923, he married his piano student Ditta Pásztory, and towards the end of his life he composed many piano works with her in mind. In 1937, he composed a sonata for two pianos and two percussionists, premiering it himself together with Ditta. He later arranged the sonata for an orchestra, calling it Concerto for Two Pianos, Percussion and Orchestra. At his last public appearance, in January 1943, the composer and his wife performed the concerto with the New York Philharmonic.
Gustav Mahler’s symphonies broke down the barriers of what a symphony could be. His Symphony No. 9 proved to be the last he completed, and it was first performed in 1912, the year after his death. Many saw this symphony as a musical farewell from a composer who “knew” that he was going to die. In it, Mahler quotes from various works that have death or farewells as their theme, such as Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 26 (“The Farewell”). It is impossible to know how much he had his own death in mind; in fact, there is much to indicate that he was in good health and good spirits when he composed the symphony in the summer of 1909.
What is played
- Béla Bartók
- Gustav Mahler