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Czech Philharmonic • Giovanni Antonini


Subscription series A | Duration of the programme 2 hours

Programme

Christoph Willibald Gluck
Don Juan, ballet suite 

Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36 

Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93

Performers

Giovanni Antonini
conductor

Czech Philharmonic

Photo illustrating the event Czech Philharmonic • Giovanni Antonini

Rudolfinum — Dvorak Hall

Dress rehearsal
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While Count Carl von Oppersdorff was visiting his friend Prince Lichnowsky, he heard Ludwig van Beethoven’s Second Symphony, and he was so enthusiastic that he immediately offered the composer a large sum of music to composer another symphony for him. But while Beethoven’s music thrilled Count von Oppersdorff, the critics in Vienna could not stand it. According to the “Newspaper for the Elegant World”, the Second Symphony made the impression of “a hideously writhing, wounded dragon that refuses to die, but is writhing in its last agonies and, in the fourth movement, bleeds to death.” Beethoven further strengthened the effect of this terrible, devilish music by excluding the elegant minuet and by putting a thorny scherzo in its place. As it turns out, scherzos would become a fixed feature of symphonic form, displacing the unfortunate minuet for good. The Eighth Symphony is one of Beethoven’s few compositions that does not bear any dedication. Beethoven called it “my Little Symphony in F Major” to differentiate it from the Pastoral Symphony. Although its premiere was not as successful as that of the Seventh Symphony that preceded it, the composer held it in very high regard musically.

The ballet Don Juan by Christoph Willibald Gluck also tells a very exciting story. Its importance to the ballet genre is similar to the importance of the revolutionary work Orfeo ed Euridice to opera. Don Juan is actually the first ballet to present the entire narrative of a story. Gluck had a very good grasp of dance, and he understood it as an art form all its own, entirely independent of music. The task of the dancer was to combine the musical and dancing elements into a single effective whole. There could be no better subject matter for this “prototype” than the drama of Don Juan.

Performers

Giovanni Antonini  conductor, recorder

Giovanni Antonini

Born in Milan, Giovanni Antonini studied at the Civica Scuola di Musica and at the Centre de Musique Ancienne in Geneva. He is a founder member of the Baroque ensemble Il Giardino Armonico, which he has led since 1989. With this ensemble he has appeared as conductor and soloist on the recorder and Baroque transverse flute in Europe, United States, Canada, South America, Australia, Japan and Malaysia. He is Artistic Director of Wratislavia Cantans Festival in Poland and Principal Guest Conductor of Mozarteum Orchester and Kammerorchester Basel.

He has performed with many prestigious artists including Cecilia Bartoli, Kristian Bezuidenhout, Giuliano Carmignola, Isabelle Faust, Sol Gabetta, Sumi Jo, Viktoria Mullova, Katia and Marielle Labèque, Emmanuel Pahud and Giovanni Sollima. Renowned for his refined and innovative interpretation of the classical and baroque repertoire, Antonini is also a regular guest with Berliner Philharmoniker, Concertgebouworkest, Tonhalle Orchester, Mozarteum Orchester, Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, London Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

His opera productions have included Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto and Bellini’s Norma with Cecilia Bartoli at Salzburg Festival. In 2018 he conducted Orlando at Theater an der Wien and returned to Opernhaus Zurich for Idomeneo. In 2019 he conducted Giulio Cesare for La Scala, and returned there in 2021 for Così fan tutte. He also returned to Theater an der Wien in 2021 with Cavalieri’s Rappresentatione di Anima, et di Corpo. In the 2022/2023 season, he returns to Bamberger Symphoniker for Haydn’s Die Schöpfung, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin for Pugnani’s Werther, Czech Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

With Il Giardino Armonico Antonini has recorded numerous CDs of instrumental works by Vivaldi, J. S. Bach (Brandenburg Concertos), Biber and Locke for Teldec. With Naïve he recorded Vivaldi’s opera Ottone in Villa, and for Decca he has recorded 2 volumes of Händelʼs works with Julia Lezhneva. With Alpha Classics (Outhere Music Group) he released various albums including La Morte della Ragione, exploring his interest in renaissance music through collections of sixteenth and seventeenth century instrumental music. With Kammerorchester Basel he has recorded the complete Beethoven Symphonies for Sony Classical and a disc of flute concertos with Emmanuel Pahud entitled Revolution for Warner Classics.

Antonini is Artistic Director of the Haydn2032 project, created to realise a vision to record and perform with Il Giardino Armonico and Kammerorchester Basel the complete symphonies of Joseph Haydn by the 300th anniversary of the composer’s birth. The first twelve volumes have been released on the Alpha Classics label with two further volumes planned for release every year.

Compositions

Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36

In the early nineteenth century, Beethoven was known to the Viennese public mainly as a pianist and a skilled improviser, but after the premiere of his Symphony No. 1. in C Major, he also began to earn a reputation as a composer. While composing his Symphony No. 2 (1801–1802), Beethoven was undergoing a crisis involving his physical condition. He was not healthy, and the problems had been manifesting themselves for several years. Without knowing the real cause of his problems, physicians had been prescribing various therapies, but they did not help. His hearing – the most important sense for a musician – was constantly worsening. In 1802 Beethoven wrote his brothers a letter later named after its place of origin, the "Heiligenstadt Testament". Heiligenstadt, now part of Vienna, remains an idyllic place. The despair of Beethoven’s words sharply contrasts with the peace and quiet and the undisturbed atmosphere of the place. He contemplated death, but he chose to live. We can sense this decision from the Symphony No. 2 in D Major. One period music critic descried the symphony’s defiant music as being like "a wounded dragon that refuses to die, but furiously thrashes about with its tail". This was the first symphony to contain a movement labelled as a "scherzo".

Ludwig van Beethoven
Symfonie č. 8 F dur op. 93

V létě 1812 se Ludwig van Beethoven konečně seznámil s Johannem Wolfgangem Goethem. Setkání v Teplicích ho však spíše zklamalo – básník na něho nepůsobil ani jako revolucionář, ani jako spřízněný demokrat, spíše jako stárnoucí dvořan. Ani Beethoven neudělal dobrý dojem na Goetha – byl na něho moc náruživý a jeho způsoby podle Goetha hraničily s hrubostí. V jediném ohledu básníka oslovil: jako neohrožený a originální umělec. Právě v letech 1812 a 1813 byl Beethoven plný kompozičního elánu, mimo drobnější skladby psal současně SedmouOsmou symfonii. Obě skladby vyzařují energii a radost, je proto s podivem, že první uvedení Osmé 27. února 1814 za řízení autora velký úspěch nepřineslo. Současníkům se ve srovnání s předchozími symfoniemi zdála příliš málo náročná a překvapující. Na vině však byla především nešťastná dramaturgie premiérového koncertu.

Beethovenovu Osmou symfonii můžeme charakterizovat jako dílo rozjasněné, čiré, dílo mistra zkratky a znalce hudební podstaty. Navíc není vše nudné a podle „šablony“. Běžná čtyřvětá struktura i klasické formy jednotlivých částí jsou periodicky narušovány různými, mnohdy humornými prvky. V první větě jsou to velké rytmické nepravidelnosti. Zvláštní ráz díla zvýrazňuje i absence typicky pomalé části. Allegretto scherzando je jiskřivé, brilantní a suverénní. Menuet třetí věty je spíše zemitým, ale rychlým ländlerem s noblesní instrumentací, podtrženou melodií lesních rohů v triu. Finale v rondové formě je nejenergičtější částí symfonie. Má pochodový charakter, Beethoven zde používá „sforzando“ v přiznávkách smyčců, dokola opakuje hlavní téma, vytváří velký kontrast mezi extrémně vysokými a extrémně hlubokými tóny. V některých částech mezi rondy se setkáme s určitou delikátností, za okamžik však opět nastupuje rázné úvodní téma s fanfárami trubek a bicích a s hlučným tečkovaným rytmem. Beethoven považoval osmou symfonii za jednu ze svých nejlepších, Robert Schumann ocenil jeho „hluboký humor“ a napsal, že druhá věta ho naplnila „klidem a štěstím“.