This year's seasonal opening is in many ways a complete with Stravinsky's sparse and exquisite music for piano and orchestra and Mozart's dark rococo feelings.
The soloist is incredible Icelander Víkingur Ólafsson, who has already debuted with a record on Deutsche Grammophon, which garnered much attention. His first performance at the Gothenburg Concert Hall, with Philip Glass in 2014, had audiences and critics gasping for breath. And the Symphony's chief conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali is definitely his equal when it comes to rapture and musicality.
Recorded at Gothenburg Concert Hall, on September 13, 2018.
Also, watch the interview by Måns Pär Fogelberg with conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali and the pianist Víkingur Ólafsson on the programme for the Season Opening 13 September 2018. Recorded at Gothenburg Concert Hall, on September 10, 2018.
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)
♪ Movements for Piano and Orchestra (1959)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
♪ Piano Concerto No.24 in C minor, K.491 (1786)
Víkingur Ólafsson, piano
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Santtu-Matias Rouvali
Gothenburg Concert Hall, September 13, 2018
Interview by Måns Pär Fogelberg with conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali and the pianist Víkingur Ólafsson on the programme for the Season Opening September 13, 2018.
Recorded at Gothenburg Concert Hall, on September 10, 2018.
Igor Stravinsky: Movements for Piano and Orchestra
During the 1950s, Igor Stravinsky produced a string of works in which he began to explore the possibilities of the Second Viennese School's serial developments. At first, as in the Septet of 1953, these investigations consisted of using specific intervallic units as the basis for most or all of the thematic and accompanimental material of a given piece, while still retaining much of the so-called Neo-Classical rhythmic and tonal layout that the composer was just beginning to abandon in the early 1950s. By the time of Threni of 1957-1958, however, and even more so the Movements for piano and orchestra of 1958-1959, Stravinsky had made the move (permanently, as it would turn out) into the realm of pure, complete twelve-tone serialism.
This move was made entirely on Stravinsky's own terms: he had spent quite some time studying serial music, and then proceeded to apply the techniques to his own musical language at a steady, cautious pace. The work that audiences were first introduced to at the premiere of Movements is as much a testament to Stravinsky's remarkable ability to absorb what seems to be unsympathetic musical principles into the body of his musical thought as it is to his acceptance of the merits of serialism.
Movements is a relatively brief work in five movements, between which are placed four interludes for orchestra alone. If serialism in Threni is used to define (or, perhaps, is defined by) an almost completely melodic texture, in Movements it is rhythm, fragmentation, and breathtaking contrapuntal density that breathe life into the twelve-tone architecture. All pertinent thematic and accompanimental material is drawn from a single tone row, given by the solo piano in a very nonlinear gesture at the very opening of the work: E flat-F flat-B flat-A flat-A-D-C-B-C sharp-F sharp-G-F. This row, however, is really only presented in its complete form a couple of times; it is far more often broken up into smaller groups (often tetrachords, or four note groups), and recast into slightly varied orderings.
On a rhythmic level, we find that the (local) regularity that characterizes most of the composer's music from his so-called Neo-Classical days on – still palpable in Threni – has been abandoned in favor of an approach that at first glance seems to owe something to Anton Webern, but which the composer felt actually drew on a much older musical tradition; he specifically mentioned his indebtedness to the polyrhythms of Renaissance composer Josquin de Pres' music.
Stravinsky himself described the harmonic structure of Movements as "antitonal" (a term he first coined many years earlier in his Poetics of Music), and, indeed, triadic references are far less prevalent in Movements than in many of his other serial works. When they do crop up they are quickly discarded without real elaboration.
Following his normal post-1920s instrumental procedure, Stravinsky avoids using the entire ensemble all at once, instead allowing the piano to act as a kind of mediator between the various different chamber organizations that appear; the actual piano writing, while very demanding, is by no means in the virtuoso tradition. Movements is dedicated to pianist Margrit Weber, who, with the composer on the podium, gave its premiere in January of 1960.
Source: Blair Johnston (allmusic.com)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concerto No.24 in C minor, K.491
During the early part of 1786 Mozart was busily engaged in the process of completing his opera Le nozze di Figaro, which received its premiere at the National Court Theater in Vienna on May 1. Lack of documentation for the winter and spring months of that year means that we do not know if he repeated the series of Lenten subscription concerts he had mounted the two previous years, but they did witness the completion of two new piano concertos, a genre that from 1784 to 1786 can normally be related to such concert series. One of these, No.23 in A, K.488, is a work now known to have been started two years earlier, but the magnificent concerto under consideration was an entirely new work. It was entered into his thematic catalog on March 24, and is believed to have been premiered at Mozart's benefit concert at the Burgtheater on April 7, the last concert he would give there.
The popularity Mozart had enjoyed with the Viennese public as a performer would henceforth start to decline, the C minor Concerto the penultimate of the great series of piano concertos composed for his concerts between 1784 and 1786. One of only two concertos composed by Mozart in a minor key, it is a work that reflects the increasing density and complexity of Mozart's music, the development of a style that already perplexed many of his contemporaries. What, for example, must they have made of the stormy, Beethovenian drama of the opening Allegro, or the chromatic intensity that pervades the concerto?
The autograph score, housed in the British Library, also shows thoroughly uncharacteristic signs of struggle, particularly in the final movement where Mozart attempted several versions of the third variation without ever attaining a resolution. The very full orchestration, the largest forces Mozart ever wrote for in a concerto, is commensurate with the size and power of the work – flute, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, and strings.
Source: Brian Robins (allmusic.com)
Possessing a rare combination of passionate musicality, explosive virtuosity and intellectual curiosity, pianist Víkingur Ólafsson has been heralded "Iceland's Glenn Gould" by the New York Times (Anthony Tommasini, August 2017). Before lighting up the international scene in 2016, Ólafsson won all the major prizes in his native country, including four Musician of the Year prizes at the Icelandic Music Awards, and the Icelandic Optimism Prize.
In September 2018 Víkingur Ólafsson released his new album on Deutsche Grammophon, Johann Sebastian Bach, featuring an eclectic selection of the composer's keyboard works. In an ingeniously woven tapestry of diverse original compositions as well as transcriptions from different eras, Ólafsson's "inspired playing makes Bach more human than we've heard in a long time" (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 2018). The Bach album follows on from the global success ("Breathtakingly brilliant pianist" (Gramophone) of the Philip Glass Etudes, Ólafsson's debut recording for the label after signing as an exclusive recording artist in 2016.
Ólafsson's 2018-2019 season commenced with a return to the LA Philharmonic for Beethoven's Second Concerto with Thomas Adès at the Hollywood Bowl, and the opening of the new season of Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra with Santtu Matias-Rouvali in a double bill of Stravinsky and Mozart. The season includes performances with Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France (Alan Gilbert), Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra (Gustavo Gimeno), Minnesota Orchestra (Osmo Vänskä), and Orchestre National de Lille (Jean-Claude Casadesus). Víkingur rejoins Santtu Matias-Rouvali for performances with Detroit Symphony Orchestra, plays Bach's F minor concerto with London's Philharmonia Orchestra in Cartagena, Colombia, and reunites with composer Philip Glass for performances of his works at the Philharmonie de Paris in May 2019. Furthermore, Ólafsson will give recitals across Japan, the USA and in Europe in halls including the Berlin Philharmonie, London's Royal Albert Hall, Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Philharmonie de Paris, Laeiszhalle in Hamburg, Palau de la Música in Barcelona, Flagey in Brussels.
Víkingur Ólafsson has premiered six piano concertos to date, most recently Haukur Tómasson's new piano concerto with NDR Elbphilhamonie Orchester and Los Angeles Philharmonic under Esa-Pekka Salonen in 2017. Ólafsson is lauded for his ability to approach music from a fresh and original angle, whether through interpretation – ("Like Gould, Ólafsson possesses that rare gift of illuminating a familiar work in unexpected ways, revealing hidden depths and drawing out its best qualities", Gramophone); or original programming ("Few musicians match Ólafsson for creative flair", BBC Music Magazine). Ólafsson is also Artistic Director of Vinterfest in Sweden and the award-winning Reykjavík Midsummer Music, of which he is also the founder.
Hailed by The Guardian as "the latest sit-up-and-listen talent to emerge from the great Finnish conducting tradition", the 2018-2019 season will see Santtu-Matias Rouvali (b. 1985) continuing his positions as Chief Conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony and Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, alongside his longstanding Chief Conductor-ship with the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra close to his home in Finland.
Rouvali has regular relationships with several orchestras across Europe, including the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Bamberger Symphoniker and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. As well as making his debut with the Münchner Philharmoniker this season, he also returns to North America for concerts with the Minnesota Orchestra and Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Following a very successful Nordic tour with Hélène Grimaud last season, the Gothenburg Symphony is back on the road in February 2019 for a tour hitting major centres in Germany and Austria with pianist Alice Sara Ott, and percussionist Martin Grubinger who premieres a new percussion concert by Daníel Bjarnason. Rouvali looks forward to other ambitious touring projects with his orchestras in the future, including appearances in North America and Japan.
In addition to the extensive tour, Rouvali's season in Gothenburg opens with Strauss' Alpine Symphony accompanied by Víkingur Ólafsson Mozart Piano Concerto No.24, and he looks forward to collaborations with Janine Jansen, Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Baiba Skride throughout the rest of the season.
As another cornerstone to his tenure in Gothenburg, he is adding his mark to the Orchestra's impressive recording legacy. In partnership with Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra and violinist Baiba Skride, a recording featuring concertos from Bernstein, Korngold and Rozsa is released in autumn 2018. This continues his great collaboration with Baiba Skride following their hugely successful recording of Nielsen and Sibelius' violin concertos with the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra in summer 2015.
Rouvali has been Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra since 2013. Highlights of the tenure so far include a Sibelius symphony cycle in autumn 2015, and the Orchestra's first tour to Japan in spring 2017 where they were accompanied by an exhibition of original Moomin drawings by Tove Jansson to mark the opening of the new museum at the Tampere Hall. He opens the 2018-2019 season with a Beethoven programme with pianist Javier Perianes.
Alongside an extremely busy symphonic conducting career, as Chief Conductor in Tampere he has conducted Verdi's La Forza del Destino and most recently world premiere of Olli Kortekangas's My Brother's Keeper (Veljeni vartija) with Tampere Opera in spring 2018.
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