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7 Oct '20

Concert
7 Oct '20

Vladimir Jurowski

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Beethoven's public concert at the Theater an der Wien on 5 April 1803 included (among others!) three new works by the great composer from Bonn: the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives, the Piano concerto No. 3 and the Symphony No. 2. While the press didn't say a word about the latter following the first performance, there were unrestrained criticisms two years later, after the work was published in Leipzig: "This is a gross monster, a pierced dragon which will not die, and even in losing its blood (in the finale), wrote a certain Spazier.
A "monster", really? This much-denigrated work shows no signs of the deep inner crisis that Beethoven went through in 1802, the year of the ill-fated "Heiligenstadt Testament". Driven to despair by his relentlessly increasing deafness, the musician wrote a letter to his brothers, which he never sent in the end: "(...) I was on the verge of ending my life - it was only my art that held me back. Ah, it seemed for me impossible to leave the world until I had brought forth all that I felt was within me (...)." Beethoven gave a foretaste of this creative power in his Symphony in D Major, which was mainly written during that year 1802. "I am now ready to embark on a new path," he then told his pupil Carl Czerny. Innovations are numerous and significant in this crucial work, which is characterised in particular by a powerful slow introduction, a decidedly vocal slow movement and a sweeping finale.
In 1794, Beethoven wrote the following in Franz Clement's memory book: "Be happy, my dear young friend, and come back soon, so that I may hear your delightful, splendid playing again". The 14-year-old violinist was then a prodigy who had already aroused the admiration of many important musicians and aristocrats throughout Europe. Beethoven and Clement later became friends, and it was at Clement's request that Beethoven composed in 1806 his only violin concerto. Apart from being particularly fruitful in terms of output, 1806 was also the year when Beethoven finally acknowledged his deafness. He nevertheless assured his entourage that his loss of hearing "will no longer be an obstacle, even in the field of art". At the first performance of the Violin Concerto on 23 December 1806 at the Theater an der Wien, Beethoven took everyone by surprise. The critics gave very mixed reviews, condemning the "continual uproar" and the work's "lacking continuity". According to legend, the soloist played his part a vista, without any previous rehearsal! The concerto was long considered unplayable and was almost ignored during the three decades following its premiere. This masterpiece ultimately owes its reputation to another young violin prodigy. In 1844, 13-year-old Joseph Joachim brought the work to a triumph in London at a concert conducted by Mendelssohn. From then on, the Hungarian-born violinist made the D major Concerto a centrepiece of his repertoire and brought to the forefront of the stage this work of a new genre, that overturns the relationship between soloist and orchestra.

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Good to know

When Kirill Petrenko's appointment as chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra was announced, the question of his succession at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich aroused great interest. The decision fell in 2018 in favour of Vladimir Jurowski. For insiders, this choice came as no surprise. Born in Moscow in 1972, Jurowski has already made several guest appearances at the Munich Opera where he created "magical moments" according to BR critic Bernhard Neuhoff. Not only did the Russian conductor bring with him the experience gained in the world's major opera houses in London, Paris, Venice, Berlin and New York. He is also principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and artistic director of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin. As Principal Artist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, he has studied the practice of historical performance in depth. In 2018 he was awarded the International Opera Award - incidentally, together with the Bavarian State Opera, his future employer.

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