The evening’s concert concludes with a remarkable finale filled with Hungarian dance rhythms in Béla Bartók’s ‘Concert for Orchestra’.
Into the Music with David Friedrich begins at 18:30.
Nikolaus Lenaus verse-drama about the legendary Don Juan was the inspiration for Strauss’ symphonic poem of the same name. Here Strauss presents us to the conquests and triumphs of the protagonist and finally his pathetic ending, where he is killed in a duel. Strauss’s energetic early work is very demanding technically, and on one rehearsal, one of the hornists had broken out with sweat dripping from his forehead and said : “Good God, how have we must have sinned for you to have sent us this scourge?”
Maurice Ravel wrote two piano concertos in parallel during the years 1930 and 1931: one is a light and easy concert in G major, and the other, a slightly more dreary and dark left hand concert in D-dur. The left-hand concert was commissioned by the Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost the right arm of the First World War, but did not want to give up his pianist career for that reason.
Ravel’s concert has one movement, but with three consecutive parts. If you only listen to the sound of the piano, it is quite incredible that it is only written for one hand. The limitations seem to have inspired Ravel to create a full work, as many later pianists, with both one and two hands, have not succeeded in playing this arduous and spectacular piece.
Béla Bartók’s Concert for Orchestra was written in just two months in 1943, and the 1945 opening received the piece with enthusiastic reception. Bartok consciously called the work a concert, not a symphony. He treats all the instruments as soloists, and uses other instrumental groups in the orchestra as accompaniment.
The concert is written in arch-form, and in the first movement lies a veil over the slow, calm introduction. This movement clearly shows the dissonant side of Bartók’s musical style. The second movement is more cheerful, giving each instrument pair its exquisite musical material. The third movement was described by Bartók as a gloomy song of death. The fourth movement has a playful basic atmosphere with a folk music theme, while the last movement is a remarkable finale with Hungarian dance rhythms.
Ken-David Masur, conductor
Strauss: Don Juan
Ravel: Piano Concert for Left Hand
Bartók: Concert for Orchestra