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David Robertson • Czech Philharmonic
The second subscription concert of Series C brings together Ludwig van Beethoven, who enchanted the nobility of Vienna with his talent as a young composer, and Béla Bartók, whose Viola Concerto was one of the final works composed at the end of his life.
Music for Ensemble and Orchestra (2018)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21
Rudolfinum — Dvorak Hall
The second subscription concert of Series C brings together Ludwig van Beethoven, who enchanted the nobility of Vienna with his talent as a young composer, and Béla Bartók, whose Viola Concerto was one of the final works composed at the end of his life. Baron Gottfried van Swieten was the patron behind Beethoven’s First Symphony, while Bartók wrote his concert at the request of a performer, the Scottish violist William Primrose. In his fresh, energetic symphony, Beethoven proudly paid tribute to his teacher Joseph Haydn, who was his equal in terms of the quantity and originality of his musical ideas. In his Viola Concerto, Bartók could build upon on a lifetime of compositional mastery, but he was unable to finish the work. He was in the last stages of his battle with leukaemia, but he still wrote to William Primrose that the concerto was nearly finished. Bartók’s friend Tibor Serly put the finishing touches on the concerto, and the composer’s son and the American violist Paul Neubauer made later revisions.
The concert will open with Music for Ensemble and Orchestra by Steve Reich, which was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The conductor of the premiere was Susanna Mälkki. Reich works with an extended form of the Baroque concerto grosso, in which there are twenty solo instruments including vibraphone and two pianos. The tempo of the five-movement composition remains constant, while there are changing note values in the pulsating parts for the two pianos. Thematically, the work is based on Reich’s earlier composition Runner.
Antoine Tamestit is recognised internationally as one of the great violists – soloist, recitalist and chamber musician. In addition to his peerless technique and profound musicianship, he is known for the depth and beauty of his sound with its rich, deep, burnished quality. His repertoire is broad, ranging from the Baroque to the contemporary, and he has performed and recorded several world premieres.
One of the concertos Tamestit commissioned is the concerto by Jörg Widmann. Since giving the world premiere performance in 2015 with the Orchestre de Paris and Paavo Järvi, Tamestit has given performances of the concerto with the co-commissioners, Swedish Radio Symphony and Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, both under Daniel Harding, again with the Orchestre de Paris, with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Stavanger Symphony, and the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Tamestit’s other world premiere performances and recordings include Thierry Escaich’s La Nuit Des Chants in 2018, the Concerto for Two Violas by Bruno Mantovani written for Tabea Zimmermann and Tamestit, and Olga Neuwirth’s Remnants of Songs. Works composed for Tamestit also include Neuwirth’s Weariness Heals Wounds and Gérard Tamestit’s Sakura.
In the 2019/2020 season, Tamestit is Artist in Residence at the Kammerakademie Potsdam, performing concerts throughout the season as soloist and including three play/conduct concerts. He is the subject of the London Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Artist Focus’ and will play 3 concerto programmes – the Widmann concerto with Daniel Harding, Berio Voci with Francois Xavier Roth and the Walton concerto with Alan Gilbert. In addition, he will play 4 substantial chamber music programmes with partners, Jörg Widmann, Denes Varjon, The Quatuor Arod, Colin Currie, and Masato Suzuki. Tamestit and Suzuki will play the same all-Bach programme in the 2019/2020 season in the Luxembourg Philharmonic, Alte Oper Frankfurt, Innsbruck and in the following season in Carnegie Hall and Montreal.
In the last season, Tamestit toured the US with Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and appeared as Gardiner’s soloist with the orchestra of Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. He returned to the London Symphony Orchestra, and performed with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, Dresden Saatskapelle, Orchestre de Paris in Paris and on tour, Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra. In recital and chamber music, he appeared at the Berlin Philharmonie, Wigmore Hall, Vienna Konzerthaus, BOZAR in Brussels and the Prinzregententheater in Munich.
Tamestit has also appeared as soloist with orchestras such as the Czech Philharmonic, Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich, WDR Köln, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France, Philharmonia, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra of Europe. He has worked with many great conductors including Valery Gergiev, Riccardo Muti, Daniel Harding, Marek Janowski, Antonio Pappano, François-Xavier Roth, Emmanuel Krivine and Franz Welser-Möst.
Antoine Tamestit is a founding member of Trio Zimmermann with Frank Peter Zimmermann and Christian Poltera. Together they have recorded a number of acclaimed CDs for BIS Records, most recently Bach’s Goldberg Variations which was released in May 2019, and they have played in Europe’s most famous concert halls and series. Other chamber music partners include Nicholas Angelich, Gautier Capuçon, Martin Fröst, Leonidas Kavakos, Nikolai Lugansky, Emmanuel Pahud, Francesco Piemontesi, Christian Tetzlaff, Cédric Tiberghien, Yuja Wang, Jörg Widmann, Shai Wosner and the Ebene and Hagen Quartets.
Antoine Tamestit records for Harmonia Mundi and released the Widmann Concerto, recorded with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Daniel Harding in February 2018. The recording was selected as Editor’s Choice in BBC Music Magazine and also won the Premier Award at the BBC Music Magazine Awards in 2019. His first recording on Harmonia Mundi was Bel Canto: The Voice of the Viola, with Cédric Tiberghien released in February 2017. Tamestit’s distinguished discography includes Berlioz’s Harold en Italie with the London Symphony Orchestra and Valery Gergiev for LSO Live; for Naïve he has recorded three Bach Suites, Hindemith solo and concertante works with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra and Paavo Järvi; and an earlier recording of Harold in Italy with Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre. In 2016 he appeared with Frank Peter Zimmermann and the Chamber Orchestra of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra on a new recording of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante (Hännsler Classic). Tamestit’s second release in 2019 was Bach’s Sonatas for Viola Da Gamba which he recorded with Masato Suzuki.
Together with Nobuko Imai, Antoine Tamestit is co-artistic director of the Viola Space Festival in Japan, focusing on the development of viola repertoire and a wide range of education programmes.
Born in Paris, Antoine Tamestit studied with Jean Sulem, Jesse Levine, and with Tabea Zimmermann. He was the recipient of several coveted prizes including first prize at the ARD International Music Competition, the William Primrose Competition and the Young Concert Artists (YCA) International Auditions, as well as BBC Radio 3’s New Generation Artists Scheme, Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award and the Credit Suisse Young Artist Award in 2008.
Antoine Tamestit plays on a viola made by Stradivarius in 1672, loaned by the Habisreutinger Foundation.
David Robertson – conductor, artist, thinker, and American musical visionary – occupies some of the most prominent platforms on the international music scene. A highly sought-after podium figure in the worlds of opera, orchestral music, and new music, Robertson is celebrated worldwide as a champion of contemporary composers, an ingenious and adventurous programmer, and a masterful communicator whose passionate advocacy for the art form is widely recognized. A consummate and deeply collaborative musician, Robertson is hailed for his intensely committed music making.
Building upon his dynamic association with The Metropolitan Opera, Robertson conducts the Met’s 2019/2020 season opening production of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, directed by James Robinson, and featuring Eric Owens and Angel Blue. On the podium for all fourteen performances of the opera, through early February 2020, David Robertson also returns to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra to complete his 2019 valedictory season as Chief Conductor and Artistic Director with American and French music of the 20th and 21st centuries. Robertson will continue to conduct the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in future seasons as the city undertakes a major renovation of its beloved Sydney Opera House.
In Fall 2019, David Robertson joins the newly formed Tianjin Juilliard Advisory Council, an international body created to guide the young Chinese campus of the Juilliard School, complementing his role as Director of Conducting Studies, Distinguished Visiting Faculty. In the 2019/2020 season, Robertson continues his prolific collaboration with composer John Adams, conducting performances of his opera-oratorio El Niño with the Houston Symphony. In addition to numerous international musical endeavors this season, Robertson returns to the Staatskapelle Dreden and Czech Philharmonic, and conducts the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, the New Japan Philharmonic, and, in New York, The Juilliard Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.
In 2018, David Robertson completed his transformative 13-year tenure as Music Director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, where he solidified the orchestra’s status as one of the nation’s most enduring and innovative. For the SLSO, he established fruitful relationships with a wide spectrum of artists, and garnered a 2014 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance for the Nonesuch release of John Adams’ City Noir. Completing the historic Robertson-SLSO association, two final recordings were released in 2019: Wynton Marsalis’ Swing Symphony, with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, on Blue Engine Records; and Mozart Piano Concertos, No. 17 in G Major, K.453 and No. 24 in C Minor, K.491, with Orli Shaham, on Canaray Classics.
In addition to Sydney and St. Louis, Robertson has served in artistic leadership positions at musical institutions including the Orchestre National de Lyon, and, as a protégé of Pierre Boulez, the Ensemble InterContemporain, which he led on its first North American tour. At the BBC Symphony Orchestra, he served as Principal Guest Conductor. Robertson has served as a Perspectives Artist at Carnegie Hall, where he has conducted, among others, The Met Orchestra, the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. He appears regularly in Europe with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunk, the Dresden Staatskapelle, and at the Berlin Festival, the Edinburgh Festival, the BBC Proms, and the Musica Viva Festival in Munich.
Robertson’s longstanding relationship with the Met Opera includes the premiere of Phelim McDermott’s celebrated Spring 2018 production of Così fan tutte, set in 1950s Coney Island. Since his Met debut in 1996, with The Makropulos Case, he has conducted a breathtaking range of Met projects, including the Met premiere of John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer (2014); the 2016 revival of Janáček’s Jenůfa, then its first Met performances in nearly a decade; the premiere production of Nico Muhly’s Two Boys (2013); and many favorites, from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro to Britten’s Billy Budd. Robertson has frequent projects at the world’s most prestigious opera houses, including La Scala, Théâtre du Châtelet, Bayerische Staatsoper (orchestra), the San Francisco Opera, and the Santa Fe Opera.
Robertson is the recipient of numerous musical and artistic awards, and in 2010 was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Government of France. He is devoted to supporting young musicians and has worked with students at the festivals of Aspen, Tanglewood, Lucerne, at the Paris Conservatoire, Music Academy of the West, and the National Orchestral Institute. In 2014, he led the Coast to Coast tour of Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Orchestra of the USA.
Born in Santa Monica, California, David Robertson was educated at London’s Royal Academy of Music, where he studied horn and composition before turning to orchestral conducting. He is married to pianist Orli Shaham, and lives in New York.
Music for Ensemble and Orchestra (2018)
The American composer Steve Reich is the leading representative of periodically repetitive music which is customarily called Minimalism. This compositional technique, which originated in the 1960s in the United States, in its typical form uses minimal means of expression from the melodic, rhythmic and harmonic point of view and is characterized by an almost fixed pulsing rhythm and lengthy repetition of a single motif.
Reich was born in the cosmopolitan New York City, but because his parents divorced, he also grew up partly in Los Angeles. He learned to play percussion instruments, and later enrolled at New York’s famous Juilliard School to study composition (1959–1961). In 1963 he earned his master’s degree in composition at Mills College in Oakland, California, where he studied under the avant-garde Luciano Berio. Reich in his youth fell in love with the drumming of black Africans, whose constantly repeated rhythmic patterns and specific instruments, such as bongo or marimba, fundamentally influenced his entire compositional oeuvre. In 1970 he went to study this specific kind of ethnic music at the University of Ghana in Accra. Later he also turned his attention to the traditional music of the Indonesian island of Bali as well as Jewish musical culture. It would be a mistake to think of Reich as an exclusively minimalist composer since he has employed many other innovative compositional techniques in his work. His most frequently performed pieces include the opera The Cave and the chamber composition Different Trains from 1988 for string quartet combined with recorded speech.
Music for Ensemble and Orchestra is Reich’s most recent piece. It was written two years ago when he was 82. The composer explains the composition as follows: “Here there are 20 soloists – all regular members of the orchestra, including the first stand strings and winds, as well as two vibraphones and two pianos. The piece is in five movements, though the tempo never changes, only the note value of the constant pulse in the pianos. Thus, an arch form: sixteenths, eighths, quarters, eighths, sixteenths. Music for Ensemble and Orchestra is modeled on my Runner of 2016 which has the same five movement form.
The Hungarian composer and pianist Béla Bartók (1881-1945) was born in Nagyszentmiklós at the border of Romania, Serbia and Hungary. He spent part of his childhood in what is today Bratislava. His activities of a professional ethnomusicologist and composer were profoundly influenced by the folk music of nations living along the Danube River. He collected folk songs from historically oldest sources, catalogued them, harmonized them, and even reflected them on the theoretical level. The melodic, tonal and rhythmic features of East European folk music became a rich source of inspiration for his own compositional work. He became one of the most remarkable composers in the history of 20th-century music. After the outbreak of the Second World War, however, he was forced to emigrate to the United States of America, where he died in terrible material circumstances.
Precisely in this period of life Bartók started his Viola Concerto, commissioned by the eminent Scottish violist William Primrose, which he did not manage to finish. In August 1945, Bartók informed Primrose in writing that the concerto would be in four movements. However, when he died two months later due to a terminal illness, he left behind an incomplete short score of a three-movement composition with some sections only in sketches. Over the next decades, three attempts were made to complete this concerto. The version which is currently played most often was prepared under the supervision of the composer’s son Péter Bartók by the American violist Paul Neubauer. Despite the unfavorable circumstances in which Bartók’s Viola Concerto was created, the work is unusually fresh. Its great melodic richness and overall atmosphere are typical of the greatest Hungarian composer of the 20th century, and we can be happy that the composition did not remain only in sketches.
Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21
Ludwig van Beethoven gave musical Classicism its crowning achievement in the pathos of his music, the selection of heroic themes and the use of unconventional means of expression, heralding in many ways the upcoming period of Romanticism. His symphonic debut – Symphony No. 1 in C major – still belongs to the Classical style and shows strong traces of the influence exerted upon Beethoven by his great predecessors, Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Unlike these two composers, however, Beethoven began to deal with symphonies later in his career, considering them to be an extremely important form to be approached with the utmost responsibility. This is testified by the total number of symphonic works composed by the individual representatives of Viennese Classicism – while Beethoven produced “only” nine symphonies, Mozart wrote 54 of them and Haydn nearly doubled this number. Beethoven started to work on his first symphony at the age of 29 (although he had noted some of the themes for it five years earlier), i.e., at the time when his hearing began to deteriorate.
The long, slow introduction of the first movement of this symphony eventually leads to a typically Classical main theme of a marching character. It is immediately followed by the more lyrical second theme played by oboes and flutes, interwoven with the strings. The movement develops further based on these two themes. In short, the entire first movement is composed in an exemplary and clearly recognizable sonata form with introduction, exposition, development, recapitulation and coda. The second dance-like movement Andante cantabile con moto has a sonata character as well. Here, Beethoven is returning to the mannerisms of the Mannheim School, i.e., to the ultimate musical source of the Classical period. Traditionally, composers placed minuet in the third movement of their symphonies. Beethoven proceeded in the same way in his First Symphony, but later, when composing his Second and Third, he replaced the minuet with scherzo. The third movement of his Symphony No. 1 in C major is actually an original symphonic scherzo as well (there is a lot more of classic minuet in the preceding movement). The unsettling excitement and the rather non-dancing character of the third movement contrast with its marking, which can be interpreted as Beethoven’s ironical comment on the established convention. In the final movement, after a timid introduction, a jubilant topic bursts out, to which the composer returns several times in the form of a rondo, while working with this theme in a way similar to the sonata form. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 is a child of the 18th century. However, with some of its features, it already anticipates Beethoven’s original musical language expressing grave content, which he fully developed especially in his other symphonies, composed in the following century.