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Tomáš Netopil divides his time between symphonic and opera conducting, and he wishes to show his “operatic face” to the Czech Philharmonic audience. For the players of the orchestra, the suite from the High Baroque opera Hippolyte et Aricie represents an interpretive challenge.
Hippolyte et Aricie, orchestral suite from the opera
Ludwig van Beethoven
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 4 in B Flat Major, Op. 60
Tomáš Netopil divides his time between symphonic and opera conducting, and he wishes to show his “operatic face” to the Czech Philharmonic audience. For the players of the orchestra, the suite from the High Baroque opera Hippolyte et Aricie represents an interpretive challenge. Just as it is a good idea for early music ensembles to take an occasional excursion into the world of Romanticism, Baroque music also belongs on the programmes of modern orchestras, and the opera Hippolyte et Aricie is one of the supreme works of its genre. Jean-Philippe Rameau wrote it at the age of fifty-one as a respected music theorist and teacher. The new work caused a true sensation, and according to the critics, it contained “enough music to compose ten operas”. Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony and First Piano Concerto have in common his attempt to come to terms with the compositional style of Haydn and Mozart in a worthy manner. Beethoven managed not only to grasp the greatness of the two composers, but also to channel his own original, sometimes unbridled musical language into the classical form. This can be best heard in the Menuetto of the Fourth Symphony, a full-fledged, brilliant scherzo notwithstanding its measured proportions. The Fourth Symphony is Tomáš Netopil’s contribution to the complete performances of Beethoven’s symphonies for the composer’s 250th birthday. In February, the phenomenal Austrian pianist Rudolf Buchbinder will also begin a cycle of all five of Beethoven’s piano concertos, which he will be performing as a soloist with the Czech Philharmonic, and next season as a conductor as well.
Rudolf Buchbinder is one of the legendary artists of our time. His piano playing is an unparalleled fusion of the authority of a career spanning more than 60 years with spirit and spontaneity. His renditions are celebrated worldwide for their intellectual depth and musical freedom.
Particularly his renditions of Ludwig van Beethovenʼs works are considered to be exemplary. He has performed the 32 piano sonatas 60 times in cycles all over the world and developed the story of their interpretation over decades. He was the first pianist to play all Beethoven sonatas at the Salzburg Festival during a summer festival. A live recording is available on DVD.
On the occasion of Ludwig van Beethovenʼs 250th birthday in the 2019/2020 concert season, for the first time in its 150-year history, the Vienna Musikverein is giving a single pianist, Rudolf Buchbinder, the honor of performing all five piano concertos by Ludwig van Beethoven in a specially edited cycle. Buchbinderʼs partners in this unprecedented constellation are the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under Music Director Andris Nelsons, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Riccardo Muti and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra and the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden under their chief conductors Mariss Jansons, Valery Gergiev and Christian Thielemann.
Together with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Mariss Jansons, Rudolf Buchbinder returned to the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, the Philharmonie de Paris, the Philharmonie Luxembourg and the Carnegie Hall New York as part of a tour.
A première is the focus of the Beethoven Year 2020. Based on Beethovenʼs Diabelli Variations Op. 120, Rudolf Buchbinder initiated a new cycle of variations on the same waltz by Anton Diabelli, which also forms the basis of Beethovenʼs epochal masterpiece. With Lera Auerbach, Brett Dean, Toshio Hosokawa, Christian Jost, Brad Lubman, Philippe Manoury, Krzysztof Penderecki, Max Richter, Rodion Shchedrin, Johannes Maria Staud, Tan Dun and Jörg Widmann, it was possible to win twelve leading contemporary composers of different generations and backgrounds. The New Diabelli Variations were commissioned by a variety of concert promoters worldwide and with the support of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation.
The world première recording of the New Diabelli Variations marks the beginning of Rudolf Buchbinderʼs exclusive partnership with Deutsche Grammophon. At the same time he also presents a new recording of Beethovenʼs Diabelli Variations, which he last recorded in 1976.
Rudolf Buchbinder is an honorary member of the Vienna Philharmonic, the Society of Friends of Music in Vienna, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. He is the first soloist to be awarded the Golden Badge of Honor by the Staatskapelle Dresden.
Buchbinder attaches great importance to source research. His private music collection comprises 39 complete editions of Ludwig van Beethovenʼs piano sonatas as well as an extensive archive of first prints, original editions and copies of the piano scores of both piano concertos by Johannes Brahms.
He has been the artistic director of the Grafenegg Festival since its foundation in 2007. Today, Grafenegg is one of the most influential orchestral festivals in Europe.
Two books by Rudolf Buchbinder have been published so far, his autobiography Da Capo and Mein Beethoven – Leben mit dem Meister. Numerous award-winning recordings on CD and DVD document his career.
For concert dates and further information please visit the homepage www.buchbinder.net
Tomáš Netopil took up the position of General Music Director of the Aalto Musiktheater and Philharmonie Essen at the start of 2013/2014.
In Summer 2018, Tomáš Netopil created the International Summer Music Academy in Kroměříž offering students both exceptional artistic tuition and the opportunity to meet and work with major international musicians. In Summer 2020, in association with the Dvořák Prague Festival, the Academy will establish the Dvořákova Praha Youth Philharmonic with musicians from conservatories and music academies, coached by principal players of the Czech Philharmonic. Tomáš Netopil has held a close relationship with the Dvořák Prague Festival for some time: in 2017/2018, he served as their Artist in Residence, opening the festival with Essen Philharmoniker and closing the festival with Dvořák’s Te Deum and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. This new undertaking will consolidate this relationship still further.
An inspirational force in Czech music, Tomáš Netopil also holds the position of Principal Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic. He ended the 2018/2019 season with two programmes at the Kissinger Summer Festival with Leif Ove Andsnes and Truls Mörk, the first of which was broadcast live on Bavarian Radio. In early Spring 2018 he led the orchestra on an extensive UK tour, and conducted Má vlast in the opening concert of the 2018 Prague Spring Festival, which was televised live.
A regular guest with major opera houses, Netopil made his debut with Sächsische Staatsoper Dresden in 2008 and has subsequently conducted La clemenza di Tito, Rusalka, The Cunning Little Vixen, La Juive, The Bartered Bride, and Busoni’s Doktor Faust for them. Following previous successes in Vienna Staatsoper, including most recently Idomeneo and Der Freischütz, he returns to the house this season for a new production of Leonore. He will also conduct Opera Národní divadlo Brno’s production of The Greek Passion. One of the highlights of last season was Katie Mitchell’s acclaimed production of Jenůfa for Netherlands Opera, featuring Annette Dasch, Hanna Schwarz and Evelyn Herlitzius.
On the concert platform, upcoming orchestral engagements include Orchestre National de France, Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de Montpellier, RAI Torino, Accademia di Santa Cecilia and Yomiuri Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo. Highlights of recent seasons have included Zürich Tonhalle, as well as engagements with Orchestre de Paris, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo.
Tomáš Netopil’s discography for Supraphon includes Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass (the first ever recording of the original 1927 version), Dvořák’s complete cello works, Martinů’s Ariane and Double Concerto, and Smetana’s Má vlast with the Prague Symphony Orchestra.
From 2008–2012 Tomáš Netopil held the position of Music Director of the Prague National Theatre. Tomáš Netopil studied violin and conducting in his native Czech Republic, as well as at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm under the guidance of Professor Jorma Panula. In 2002 he won the 1st Sir Georg Solti Conductors Competition at the Alte Oper Frankfurt.
Jean-Philippe Rameau’s musical tragedy Hippolyte et Aricie was the work that set off a pitched battle in the field of opera. In eighteenth-century France, wars over opera erupted once every twenty years, and these conflicts enflamed the entire continent and determined the course of music history. In the 1730s it was the Lullistes against the Ramistes, in the 1750s a dispute over Italian comic opera (La querelle des buffons), and finally in the 1770s the ruthless struggle between proponents of Niccolò Piccinni and Christoph Willibald Gluck (La querelle des Gluckistes et des Piccinnistes).
J. P. Rameau began composing opera at a mature age. The opera Hippolyte et Aricie was premiered shortly after Rameau celebrated his 50th birthday on 1 October 1733. The renowned music theorist created a stir even before the premiere because the musicians were unable to learn some parts of the work because of their difficulty. The first performance served to highlight the unusual nature of Rameau’s music: chromatic progressions, sophisticated orchestration, and lengthy dance numbers. Lully’s proponents claimed that the score contained “too many notes” and derided their competitors as “Rameauneurs” (the French word “ramoneur” means “chimney sweep”). Rameau seemingly had no intention of engaging in artistic polemics with Lully. After all, he composed Hippolyte et Aricie as a “tragédie lyrique”, a five-act musical drama with a prologue, which was introduced to the stage in the 1670s by Jean Baptiste Lully the court composer of the “Sun King” Louis XIV. Moreover, the literary source of Hippolyte et Aricie was the tragedy Phèdre by another great figure of seventeenth-century French culture, Jean Racine, but the way Rameau treated Lully’s and Racine’s legacy in 1733 was viewed as an attack on the values of the “grand siècle”. In order to describe the impression made by the peculiarly overblown music, the critics used the insulting word “baroque”, which was later used to designate the entire epoch.
Rameau borrowed the story of Hippolyte from Racine’s Phèdre, but he followed operatic convention and added a happy ending to the originally tragic story. While in the play Hippolyte is cursed by his father Thésée for seemingly having seduced Phèdre, in the opera he is rescued by the goddess Diana, and in the end he returns to his beloved Aricie. The story gave Rameau the opportunity to write evocative solo scenes (especially for Phèdre and Thésée) and a number of instrumental numbers for spectacular tableaux. Already in the prologue we find two gavottes, which began to be played separately soon after the premiere. In Act II, Thésée finds himself in the underworld, and his cries sharply contrast with the wild dancing of demons. In Act III, sailors are in Thésée’s palace giving thanks to Neptune for a safe return from their travels, and the rigaudon is danced twice in celebration. In Act IV in Diana’s grove by the sea, first there is a hunt (here, Rameau employs French horns, which were growing in popularity), then sea monsters arrive to carry off Hippolyte – the tempestuous elements of water and fire are seconded by the wind in the flutes. In Act V, pastoral music is heard with the imitation of bagpipes (musette), and there is a lavishly orchestrated chaconne. The happy reunion of Hippolyte and Aricie is crowned by a gavotte.
Ludwig van Beethoven began his professional career in music as a pianist who also composed. Beethoven’s legacy for piano is monumental, and standing at its pinnacle are the 32 piano sonatas, which follow Bach’s earlier Well-Tempered Clavier as the New Testament of piano playing, and the five piano concertos. That is, the five numbered and finished piano concertos! Before having made Vienna his permanent home, Beethoven also composed a Piano Concerto in E Flat Major (1784). Dating from the late 1780s is the Piano Concerto in B Flat Major, which the composer did not have published until 1801; he numbered it as his 2nd Piano Concerto. His Piano Concerto in C Major, Op. 15, is actually his third solo concerto. It was premiered in Vienna on 18 December 1795, but it was not published until after careful revisions, also in 1801, when the concerto was numbered as his first.
By the 1790s, Beethoven had already firmly chosen the path his life would take. All of the prerequisites had been met for a successful career as a musical “genius”. Beethoven was fascinating because of his conspicuous – and rather preoccupied – personality, and he was a resourceful improviser. He took composition lessons from the great Joseph Haydn, and it seemed that after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s premature death, it was Beethoven who was to be seated upon the “musical throne”. He became someone who was talked and written about. His First Piano Concerto documents this situation wonderfully; the composition unabashedly builds upon Mozart’s piano concertos. Haydn conducted the first performance, and Beethoven played the piano part, for which he wrote some brilliant cadenzas (one for the first movement and two for the concluding rondo). The first movement is in keeping with the sonata form of Mozart’s concertos, in which the soloist does not work with the themes until after an orchestral exposition. Nonetheless, Beethoven increased the virtuosic element of the solo part and created a highly elaborate harmonic framework. In the second movement, Beethoven unfolded melodic phrases of unusual breadth, and he reduced the wind section to allow a dialogue between the piano and the clarinets. The third movement absolutely abounds with Haydnesque humour. The music of the sonata-rondo drives ahead with no lack of sharp contrasts of dynamics, and there are also surprising tempo changes.
When Beethoven’s piano concertos in C and B flat major were published, the composer was already striving towards a completely different musical language. He was re-evaluating every element of musical structure – from harmony and form to instrumental possibilities and orchestration. From a piano virtuoso, had had become a composer, and for entirely practical reasons: Beethoven was losing his hearing. In 1801 he confided in his friend Franz Wegeler: “It’s just that jealous demon, my poor health, that turned my luck for the worse: my hearing grows weaker and weaker.” In each new work of his mature creative period, Beethoven began experimenting with the possibilities of the given musical genre. His Symphony No. 4 in B Flat Major, Op. 60, is no exception, and although it is not one of his best-known symphonic works, it rightly won the respect of Hector Berlioz, Robert Schumann, and even Igor Stravinsky. Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony demands an attentive listener. In the first movement, the main theme is heard almost constantly (even as an accompaniment!), while the wind instruments divide the melody of the secondary theme among themselves. A monotonous dotted rhythm accompanies the whole second movement without becoming dull. In the third movement he tried out for the first time what one might call a five-part ternary form (the traditional trio of the minuet appears twice!). Beethoven wrote the Finale as a wild perpetuum mobile with Haydnesque “jokes” (for example, having the main idea appear at a slower tempo before the final fortissimo).