One doesn’t always get to perform a whole concert of a single composer’s music, especially one as woefully underperformed as Miklós Rózsa.
Thankfully the WDR radio orchestra here in Cologne seem to like such ideas and tomorrow night (Sunday 22nd Feb) we will perform a concert consisting of four of his works.
The concert will be recorded for broadcast later in the year (August 8th I think) and it is especially nice to be performing the Viola Concerto with Lawrence Power once again.
One of my favourite things with Lawrence is watching the reaction of the orchestra at his first rehearsal. As soon as he starts to play, from strings to wind to brass to percussion, heads turn to the front, jaws drop open and it becomes quite a task for me to keep everyone together for the first couple of minutes. He of course is oblivious to all this but he always has the orchestra on side within seconds! And they always seem to like the piece. That and the fact that it is so well written and Lawrence has such an amazing sound that no one has to creep around in micro dynamics – everyone can play their part pretty much as written.
This week our concerts from the Beethoven and Beyond series at NorrlandsOperan are broadcast on Swedish Radio P2. Starting on Monday at 7pm Swedish time (6pm UK) with the first concert (Symphonies 1,2,3) and continuing on Tuesday (4,5) and Wednesday (6,7). On Thursday the final concert (symphonies 8 and 9) will be broadcast live. Each Beethoven symphony has an accompanying world premiere commission by a Swedish composer. Nine symphonies, nine new commissions.
Sitting backstage in the interval of our third Beethoven cycle concert, having just conducted the world premiere of Tobias Broström’s ‘On Urban Ground’ and Beethoven’s Symphony no.6
Tobias’s piece uses themes from the symphony (and Mahler and Stravinsky…) in a very 21st century soundscape – city meets country. A fun, dashing piece with a beautiful, peaceful ending – some amazing harmonies to accompany the birds borrowed from Beethoven!
The second half is coming up with ‘The Apotheosis of the Dance’ by Mats Larsson Gothe and Beethoven Symphony no.7. Mats uses themes from Beethoven as well in an affectionately playful romp. Great fun and a good warm up for all those dotted rhythms in the symphony.
After an exhilarating night on Saturday where the NorrlandsOperan Symphony Orchestra and I played the first 3 Beethoven symphonies alongside 3 world premiere pieces, we move on to the second concert in our series ‘Beethoven and Beyond’
The concert on Thursday will contain the 4th and 5th symphonies and our new works come from composers Sven-David Sandström and B Tommy Andersson.
Sven-David’s piece was the first to be submitted, fairly promptly after the commission was announced and is in the form of four short movements relating directly to the four movements of Beethoven’s 4th symphony. He uses material from the symphony and he mixes and blurs it in a most interesting way. Very skilfully composed and well orchestrated, a playful updating of this playful symphony.
Talking of great orchestration, the piece ‘Death in Venice’ by B Tommy Andersson is a gift to a conductor! As a conductor himself, B Tommy writes music that just plays so well on an orchestra – this piece in particular, a lament for Wagner, sings with great expression and nothing gets in the way of that direct communication between composer, orchestra and audience. A really profound utterance from an underrated composer – luckily his music is going to become better known outside Sweden very soon. I shall say no more!
So, looking forward to another wonderful evening but this time without our Beethoven and Beyond sausage (see previous post)!
In a few hours, Norrlands Opera Symphony Orchestra and I will begin our survey of Beethoven Symphonies here in the new European Capital of Culture – Umeå, Sweden.
There will be four concerts in total taking place over one and a half weeks, but our Beethoven cycle has a difference – we have commissioned nine different Swedish composers to each write a nine minute work to be played alongside one of the nine symphonies.
We held a ‘lottery’ a while back to match the composers with a particular symphony and it has been really interesting to see how they have been inspired by their allotted work.
We will be playing the first three symphonies today, and the corresponding world premieres by Kent Olofsson, Fredrik Högberg and Kim Hedås. Quite a marathon, but perhaps slightly eased for the audience by the provision of our special ‘Beethoven and Beyond’ sausage which they will receive in the long interval!
Members of the orchestra and I had a very enjoyable evening making a lot of sausages the other night, with thanks to the guys at local gourmet store Duå (http://www.duaumea.se).
We tried to come up with a sausage to reflect Beethoven’s revolutionary, unique style that emerges during the series of symphonies and the result is wonderful, with more than a nod to the ‘Wiener Schnitzel’. Here is a photo of one of Bassoonists, Maria with her beautifully twisted bangers!
All the concerts will be recorded for broadcast by Swedish Radio in the week beginning the 20th January. I will post details later.
Meanwhile, here is the link to the NorrlandsOperan website about the concerts.
Frederic Austin – The Sea Venturers (1934)
Granville Bantock – The Frogs (1935)
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor – The Song of Hiawatha (1899)
Frederic Cowen – The Butterfly’s Ball (1901)
Henry Balfour Gardiner – Overture to a Comedy (1906, rev. 1911)
Alexander Mackenzie – The Little Minister (1897)
Charles Villiers Stanford – Oedipus Rex Prelude (1885)
Arthur Sullivan – Macbeth (1888)