The opening concert of the Musikfest Berlin 2013: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra plays Janaček and Strauss. Conductor: Manfred Honeck.

The opening concert of the Musikfest Berlin 2013: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra plays Janaček, Lutosławski, and Strauss. Conductor: Manfred Honeck.

Programme

  1. Leoš Janáček: Suite for String Orchestra
  2. Richard Strauss: Ein Heldenleben, Opus 40

The streaming is produced by the Digital Concert Hall. The Digital Concert Hall is the virtual concert venue of the Berliner Philharmoniker on the Internet.

Leoš Janáček: Suite for String Orchestra

There are 6 movements:

  1. Moderato (G minor)
  2. Adagio
  3. Andante con moto
  4. Presto
  5. Adagio
  6. Andante (B minor)

Richard Strauss: Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life)

Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life), Op. 40 is a tone poem by Richard Strauss. The work was completed in 1898. It was his sixth work in the genre and exceeded any of its predecessors in its orchestral demands. Generally agreed to be autobiographical in tone, despite contradictory statements on the matter by the composer, the work contains more than thirty quotations from Strauss’s earlier works.

The work is performed without breaks, except for a dramatic grand pause at the end of the first movement. The movements are titled as follows (later editions of the score may not show these titles, owing to the composer’s request that they are removed):

  1. “Der Held” (The Hero)
  2. “Des Helden Widersacher” (The Hero’s Adversaries)
  3. “Des Helden Gefährtin” (The Hero’s Companion)
  4. Des Helden Walstatt” (The Hero at Battle)
  5. “Des Helden Friedenswerke” (The Hero’s Works of Peace)
  6. “Des Helden Weltflucht und Vollendung” (The Hero’s Retirement from this World and Consummation)

Ein Heldenleben employs the technique of leitmotifs that Richard Wagner used, but almost always as elements of its enlarged sonata-rondo symphonic structure.

  1. “The Hero”: The first theme represents the hero. In unison, horns and celli play E-flat major triads ascending through an almost four-octave span. A contrasting lyrical theme first appears in high strings and winds in B major. A second motive appears, outlining a stepwise descending fourth. Trumpets sound a dominant seventh chord followed by a grand pause, the only prolonged silence throughout the entire piece.
  2. “The Hero’s Adversaries”: The movement opens with chromatic woodwinds and low brass: multiple motives in contrasting registers are heard. The adversaries represented by the woodwinds are Strauss’s critics, such as the 19th-century Viennese music critic Doktor Dehring, who is memorably written into the score with an ominous four-note leitmotif played by the two tubas in parallel fifths. As the critic Michael Kennedy puts it, the Hero’s theme goes dolefully into the minor and the critics renew their attacks until a fanfare from the brass diminishes them”.
  3. “The Hero’s Companion”: Strauss was evasive about whether he was or was not the hero depicted in the piece, but he explicitly confirmed that the hero’s companion was a portrait of his wife, Pauline de Ahna. He wrote to Rolland, “She is very complex, a trifle perverse, a trifle coquettish, never the same, changing from minute to minute.” The section features a tender melody played by a solo violin. In an extended accompanied cadenza filled with extremely detailed performance instructions by Strauss, after the fashion of an operatic recitative, the violin presents new motivic material, alternating with brief interjections in low strings, winds, and brass. During this section, the violin briefly foreshadows a theme that will appear fully later. The cadenza concludes and the new thematic material is combined in a cantabile episode commencing in G-flat. Fragments of the motives from the previous movement briefly appear. A fanfare motive in offstage trumpets, repeated onstage, is then heard. The section ends with “a voluptuously scored love scene.”

The academic and critic James Hepokoski observes that the whole work is in a massive version of sonata form. The three initial sections comprise an elaborate exposition, with elements of a multiple-movement symphony evident in their contrasting character and tempo. The remainder of the work comprises development, recapitulation, and coda, with occasional new thematic material.

  1. “The Hero’s Battlefield”: In this first extended development section of the work, percussion and a solo trumpet is heard in the first appearance of 3/4 time: a variation of a previous motive. A sequence of clamorous trumpet fanfares occurs as the music approaches a harmonic climax in G flat and the related E flat minor. Percussion is pervasive throughout the movement. 4/4 time returns in a modified recapitulation of the first theme as it appeared at the beginning of the piece, this time with a repeated quaver accompaniment. A new cantabile theme makes its appearance in the trumpet, and an extended elaboration of this serves to preface the next section.
  2. “The Hero’s Works of Peace”: The autobiographical aspect of the work is indicated most clearly in this section, in which Strauss extensively quotes his previous works. He quotes his early opera Guntram (eight times), his symphonic poems Don Quixote (five times), Don Juan (four), Death and Transfiguration (four), Macbeth (three), Also Sprach Zarathustra (three) and Till Eulenspiegel (once). The lieder “Traum durch die Dämmerung”, Op 29/1 and “Befreit”, Op 39/1, are quoted once each. The melodies lead into the final section.
  3. “The Hero’s Retirement from this World and Consummation”: Yet another new motive appears, commencing in a rapid descending E-flat triad, which introduces a new development of the original theme: an elegy featuring harp, bassoon, English horn, and strings. The reappearance of the previous “Hanslick” motive brings in an agitato episode. This is followed by a pastoral interlude with what Kennedy calls “a bucolic cor anglais theme”. The descending triad now appears slowly, cantabile, as the head of a new, peaceful theme in E flat: this is the theme foreshadowed during the violin cadenza. In a final variation of the initial motive, the brass intones the last fanfare, and a serene E flat major conclusion is reached.

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) is an American orchestra based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The orchestra’s home is Heinz Hall, located in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District.

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at the opening concert of the Musikfest Berlin 2013
The opening concert of the Musikfest Berlin 2013: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra plays Janaček and Strauss. Conductor: Manfred Honeck.

The orchestra was founded by the Pittsburgh Arts Society with conductor Frederic Archer in 1895, who brought with him a number of musicians from the Boston Symphony Orchestra and led the PSO in its first concert the following year.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has a history of touring both domestically and internationally since 1900. The orchestra currently counts more than 36 international tours, including 20 to Europe, eight trips to the Far East, and two to South America. The Pittsburgh Symphony was the first American orchestra to perform at the Vatican in January 2004 for the late Pope John Paul II, as part of the Pontiff’s Silver Jubilee celebration.

The current music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is Austrian Manfred Honeck, who joined the orchestra in 2008, and the current president and CEO is Melia Tourangeau.

Sources

M. Özgür Nevres

Published by M. Özgür Nevres

I am Özgür Nevres, a software engineer, an ex-road racing cyclist, and also an amateur musician. I opened andantemoderato.com to share my favorite music. I also take care of stray cats & dogs. Please consider supporting me on Patreon.

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