20 - 22 Jan '20

Tour IV
20 - 22 Jan '20

Basel Chamber Orchestra


Concert dates and locations

  • 20 January 2020 | Victoria Hall Geneva | 20:00
  • 21 January 2020 | Tonhalle Maag Zurich | 19:30
  • 22 January 2020 | Casino Bern | 19:30



Overture As a prelude to each concert, talented Swiss singers and instrumentalists will have the opportunity to introduce themselves to the public. This is a twofold "overture", which not only serves as an introduction to the concerts but also as a career gateway for our "our stars of tomorrow”.


No one is a prophet in his own land. Stravinsky couldn't have claimed otherwise, since he left Russia during the First World War to come to Switzerland, before settling in France in 1920. Faced with the imminence of a new worldwide conflict, he again set off two decades later to cross the Atlantic. In 1945, he was granted American nationality, which enabled him to sign a contract with the American publisher Boosey & Hawkes. Stravinsky's first composition to be accepted by this editor was a piece commissioned by the Swiss conductor and patron Paul Sacher for the Basel Chamber Orchestra's 20th anniversary. Stravinsky honoured this request in 1946 with the Concerto in D major for chamber orchestra. This work is the last Stravinsky wrote in a neoclassical style and therefore one of his most easily accessible compositions. Throughout the three movements, the piece continually shifts between the major and minor modes, playing with the interval of a semitone. In both of the concerto's outer movements, single instruments stand out as soloists, thus justifying the work's designation. This so-called "Basel Concerto" (to distinguish it from the previous 1931 Concerto in D for violin and orchestra) was premiered on 27 January 1947 in Basel under Paul Sacher. Choreographer Jerome Robbins later chose the piece for his ballet The Cage (1951), which develops the theme of natural selection.
With a catalogue that now outnumbers 400 works, German composer Wolfgang Rihm ranks among the most prolific and versatile composers of the present era. Born in Karlsruhe in 1952, the musician wrote his first compositions at an early age. After studying music in his hometown and attending the famous Darmstadt Summer School, he pursued his musical training with Karlheinz Stockhausen in Cologne and Klaus Huber in Freiburg-im-Breisgau, where he also followed musicology seminars. Rihm himself soon became involved in educational activities, successively teaching in Karlsruhe, Darmstadt, Munich and again in his hometown, where he has been a professor of composition since 1985. Since the summer of 2016, he has also been Artistic Director of the Lucerne Festival Academy: a fine achievement for this musician who has long enjoyed a close relationship with the Lucerne Festival. In his early works, Rihm was still under the influence of Webern, Stockhausen and Feldman. He later related to Wilhelm Killmayer, Helmut Lachenmann and in particular Luigi Nono, to whom he dedicated several of his works. In his most recent compositions, Wolfgang Rihm no longer claims any particular stylistic affiliation. His multifaceted oeuvre covers a wide range of works, ranging from chamber music to music theatre (nine productions including Dionysus after Nietzsche), orchestral music and numerous concertos. Rihm has already written several pieces for the cello, including Monodram (1982-83), Styx und Lethe (1997-1998) and Konzert in einem Satz (2005-05).
Mendelssohn was encouraged by his parents to travel so as to develop an open mind. The musician first crossed the English Channel in April 1829. He started with a stopover in London where he was welcomed by pianist Ignaz Moscheles and poet Karl Klingemann. With the latter, he then travelled northwards through Scotland to reach the Hebrides where he drew inspiration for his "Scottish" Symphony. However, it took the composer a long time to finish the work. Some twelve years elapsed between the first sketches jotted down in the composer's travel diary and the final notes of the last of Mendelssohn's symphonies (despite its confusing numbering!). The composer had to admit his inability to restore as he wished the unique atmosphere of Scottish mists. In fact, the piece is in no way descriptive. Through a very romantic approach, it far more suggests than depicts the colours of the Scottish landscapes. Alone in the second movement, a characteristic Scottish tune is to be heard. According to Mendelssohn's wish, the four movements of the "Scottish" Symphony are to be played without interruption. The work was premiered on 3rd March 1842 at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, with the composer conducting. It was again performed in June that same year in London, in the course of Mendelssohn's seventh trip to England.

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Good to know

The Basel Chamber Orchestra is a continuation of the tradition established by Paul Sacher. The Basel conductor and patron initially founded the Basler Kammerorchester in 1926 and premiered many 20th century works, including Bartók's Divertimento for string orchestra. The current ensemble was founded in 1984 by a group of highly motivated graduates from several Swiss Music Colleges. It has established itself as one of the world's best chamber orchestras, performing both in his own concert series in Basel and in major European venues under the leadership of its own concertmasters or with guest conductors. Milan-born Giovanni Antonini has been the principal guest conductor since 2015. The Basel Chamber Orchestra also collaborates with internationally renowned soloists, including Maria João Pires, Sol Gabetta, Nuria Rial and Christoph Pégardien. Apart from the Viennese Classics and baroque programmes, the orchestra promotes contemporary music. It also performs a range of operas in concert version with outstanding partners such as the Theater an der Wien, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées Paris or the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg.

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