Czech Philharmonic • Anne-Sophie Mutter

Brahms’s great Double Concerto with Anne-Sophie Mutter and Pablo Ferrández will be the highlight. Framing it are arrangements of works that originally had vocal parts. In Larghetto by Scottish James MacMillan, the cellos and brass do the singing. Tomáš Ille and Manfred Honeck created a Symphonic Rhapsody with music from Strauss’s Elektra.

Subscription series B | Duration of the programme 1 hour 40 minutes


James MacMillan
Larghetto for orchestra (15')

Johannes Brahms
Double Concerto for Violin and Cello A minor, Op. 102 (32')
Vivace non troppo

— Intermission —

Richard Strauss
Symphonic Rhapsody from the opera Elektra, Op. 58 (35')


Anne-Sophie Mutter violin
Pablo Ferrández cello

Manfred Honeck conductor

Czech Philharmonic

Photo illustrating the event Czech Philharmonic • Anne-Sophie Mutter

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

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Anne-Sophie Mutter  violin

Anne-Sophie Mutter

Anne-Sophie Mutter is a musical phenomenon: for more than 45 years the virtuoso has now been a fixture in all the world’s major concert halls, making her mark on the classical music scene as a soloist, mentor and visionary. The four-time Grammy Award winner is equally committed to the performance of traditional composers as to the future of music: so far she has given world premieres of 30 works – Unsuk Chin, Sebastian Currier, Henri Dutilleux, Sofia Gubaidulina, Witold Lutosławski, Norbert Moret, Krzysztof Penderecki, Sir André Previn, Wolfgang Rihm, Jörg Widmann and John Williams have all composed for Anne-Sophie Mutter. She dedicates herself to supporting tomorrow’s musical elite and numerous benefit projects. Since 2011, Anne-Sophie Mutter has regularly shared the spotlight on stage with her ensemble of fellows, “Mutter’s Virtuosi”.

In June Anne-Sophie Mutter performed the world premiere of the “Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 2” which John Williams dedicated to her in Tanglewood. For the 2021/2022 season, an extensive European tour with “Mutter’s Virtuosi” is being undertaken, including today’s Double Concerto by Brahms together with Pablo Ferrández and the Czech Philharmonic, conducted by Manfred Honeck. She will also tour with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Vasily Petrenko, appearing with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (Andrew Davis) and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Riccardo Muti) as well. Chamber music programmes are also planned, featuring violin sonatas and piano trios by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with Lambert Orkis and Maximilian Hornung; further recitals with her long-standing piano partner will focus on works by Beethoven, Franck and Mozart.

Anne-Sophie Mutter has received several prestigious honorary prizes and medals from different European countries, including Poland, Romania, France, Spain, Germany or Austria. In 2018 she was named an Honorary Member of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, in 2015 an Honorary Fellow of Keble College at the University of Oxford; in 2010 the Technical-Scientific University of Norway in Trondheim bestowed an honorary doctorate upon her. She received the Brahms Prize as well as the Erich Fromm Prize and the Gustav Adolf Prize for her social activism too.

Pablo Ferrández  cello

Pablo Ferrández

The Spanish cellist Pablo Ferrández, now 32 years old, was destined from birth for a brilliant musical career. Both of his parents were also musicians, and they named their child for the iconic Spanish cellist Pablo Casals. Ferrández soon showed himself to be worthy of the name: he turned out to be a prodigy, making the impression of a “trained” cellist at age three, starting to make public appearances at age nine, and making his debut with the Spanish National Orchestra at age 12. He is said to have been a very disciplined child, and he was unaware of his exceptional nature because he was constantly immersed in his work.

At age 13 he began studying at the prestigious Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía under Natalia Shakhovskaya, a student of the great Mstislav Rostropovich, whose interpretive tradition Ferrández is following to a considerable extent. Ferrández then continued his musical education at the Kronberg Academy in Germany. Of course, his musical career would not be where it now is had it not been for two circumstances: victory at the famed Tchaikovsky International Competition (2015) and meeting Anne-Sophie Mutter, who took him under her wing as a scholar of her foundation. That not only put Ferrández in contact with his musical idol, who has since passed on many of her skills to him, but also earned him a large number of opportunities to perform in great concert halls including appearances alongside Anne-Sophie Mutter.

That is also how Ferrández first came to the Rudolfinum last January with Anne-Sophie Mutter, the Czech Philharmonic, and Manfred Honeck, excelling in Brahms’s Double Concerto. And today, we are fortunate to have a live recording of that successful concert. The acclaim was so tempestuous that Pablo Ferrández immediately received the offer to perform here again. He had no idea it would be so soon: already in September he stood in at the opening of the Dvořák Prague Festival in Dvořák’s great Cello Concerto. Despite his youth, he has already played the work on today’s programme countless times, and he included it on his first recording. According to some of the world’s critics, with Dvořák Ferrández has become “a cellist of stature” (The Guardian), and Czech critics have also been unsparing in their praise.

Ferrández and the Czech Philharmonic are taking Dvořák to Japan at the turn of October and November, and he will also be appearing on the March tour of Europe with the Czech Philharmonic in Spain, Germany (on 19 March you can wish him a happy birthday at the concert in Munich), and France. This year, he will get quite a few chances to enjoy the masses of orchestral sound that he loves during his solo appearances: on his busy calendar are several debuts with American orchestras in Boston, Cleveland, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and other important cities as well as concerts with the already familiar faces of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orchestre National de France. A “New genius of the cello” (Le Figaro), he is conquering the world with his 1689 Stradivarius.

Manfred Honeck  conductor

Manfred Honeck

Over the last quarter century, Manfred Honeck has firmly established himself as one of the world’s leading conductors, renowned for his distinctive interpretations and arrangements of a wide range of repertoire. For well over a decade, he has served as Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, celebrated in Pittsburgh and abroad. Together, they have continued a legacy of music-making that includes several Grammy nominations and a 2018 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance. Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra serve as cultural ambassadors for the city as one of the most frequently toured American orchestras.

Born in Austria, Manfred Honeck received his musical training at the Academy of Music in Vienna. Many years of experience as a member of the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra have given his conducting a distinctive stamp. He began his career as assistant to Claudio Abbado and was subsequently engaged by the Zurich Opera House, where he was bestowed the prestigious European Conductor’s Award. Following early posts at MDR Symphony Orchestra in Leipzig and the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, he was appointed Music Director of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Stockholm. For several years, he also served as Principal Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. From 2007 to 2011, Manfred Honeck was Music Director of the Staatsoper Stuttgart. As a guest conductor Manfred Honeck has worked with the world’s leading orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Staatskapelle Dresden, London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Accademia di Santa Cecilia Rome, and the Vienna Philharmonic, and is a regular guest with all of the major American orchestras. 

He also has a strong profile as opera conductor. In his four seasons as General Music Director of the Staatsoper Stuttgart, he conducted premieres of operas by Berlioz, Mozart, Poulenc, Strauss, Verdi, and Wagner. He has also appeared as a guest at leading houses such as the Semperoper Dresden, Komische Oper Berlin, Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, Royal Opera of Copenhagen, and the Salzburg Festival. In autumn 2022, he will make his debut at the Metropolitan opera in New York, leading a revival of Mozart’s Idomeneo.

Manfred Honeck holds honorary doctorates from several North American universities and was awarded the honorary title of Professor by the Austrian Federal President. An international jury of critics selected him as the International Classical Music Awards “Artist of the Year” 2018.


James MacMillan
Larghetto for orchestra

The Scottish composer and conductor Sir James MacMillan studied composition at the University of Edinburgh under Rita McAllister and Kenneth Leighton and at Durham University under John Casken. After finishing his studies, he taught briefly at the Victoria University of Manchester (1986–1988), then he worked with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra on educational projects. He became widely known in 1990, when at the BBC Proms he led the premiere of his composition The Confession of Isobel Gowdie on the subject of a 17th-century witchcraft trial in Scotland. Another success was the performance of Veni, veni, Emmanuel for percussion and orchestra (1992), which has become one of MacMillan’s most frequently performed compositions. One of his important commissions was to write a cello concerto for Mstislav Rostropovich (1996), and the Welsh National Opera commissioned The Sacrifice (2007), which won an award from the Royal Philharmonic Society. Besides concertos and operas, the composer has also written five symphonies and sacred works including his Magnificat (1999), St. John Passion (2007), Strathclyde Motets (2005–2010), St. Luke Passion (2012–2013), and several masses, one of which was commissioned for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom (2010). From 2000 to 2009 he served as a composer and conductor of the BBC Philharmonic, then he was the chief guest conductor of the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic. He has conducted many renowned ensembles around the world. His works are heard regularly on programmes of major orchestras (London Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra) and festivals (Edinburgh Festival, Grafenegg Festival).

 MacMillan composed his Larghetto for Orchestra in 2017 by orchestrating Miserere (2009), a work he had originally composed for eight-voice a cappella choir to a text from the Psalms. A few years later he made the arrangement for orchestra, using all of the advantages of the original vocal work—it is filled with strikingly melodic themes and cadences typical of sacred music—but also employing the symphony orchestra’s rich colours and monumental scale of dynamics. The premiere of Larghetto took place in October 2017 at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh with Manfred Honeck conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Johannes Brahms
Double Concerto for violin and cello in A minor, Op. 102

A Hamburg native, Johannes Brahms gained his first musical experiences at an early age—his father was a musician in Hamburg who played several instruments including French horn and contrabass. The life of the musician’s family was hard, but Brahms’s parents strove to have their children well educated, so little Brahms got a good foundation in the humanities and languages as well as higher musical education as a pianist and composer, during which he thoroughly familiarised himself with the music of Bach and of the Viennese classics, and he also learned to play cello and French horn. He soon began appearing in public as a pianist, and he gave his first chamber music performance in 1843, then he played a solo recital five years later. This initial acclaim brought him offers of work; as an adolescent he earned money by teaching piano and playing popular pieces at parties in private homes and in public. He also played as an accompanist at the theatre, and he arranged music for various instruments including brass and piano four-hands. Later on, he put these stimuli and experiences with popular pieces and folk music to use in his own works. As a composer, he was inspired mainly by the great authors of German Romanticism (Jean Paul, E. T. A. Hoffmann) and by German composers (Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Sebastian Bach) as well as many others. Brahms was also a collector of folklore. The violinist Joseph Joachim took Brahms to Liszt and Schumann. Brahms wrote several works in honour of the event and established friendly relations with the two composers. He held a succession of musical posts: court Kapellmeister in Detmold, choirmaster of the Wiener Singakademie, and conductor of concerts of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, and he gave concert tours around Europe. He was a model for Antonín Dvořák and helped him launch his international career by recommending him to his publisher Simrock. Brahms’s best known works include four symphonies, the German Requiem inspired by the death of the composer’s mother, and the Hungarian Dances; his vocal works include many song cycles and choral music.

Brahms also composed four concertos, with two for piano, one for violin, and the Double Concerto for violin and cello in A minor, Op. 102, a masterpiece and his last work for orchestra. He wrote it in the summer of 1887, and at the premiere on 18 October of that year in Cologne, the soloists were Brahms’s friends and dedicatees of the work: violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim and cellist Robert Hausmann. The three-movement work represents a sophisticated dialogue between the violin and cello, and because of the circumstances of its composition, it is usually interpreted symbolically as the interpersonal drama of a dialogue between a woman and a man. The impulse for the work’s creation was a crisis in Joachim’s marriage, when Brahms took the side of Joachim’s wife, chilling the relations between the two artists for some time. One thing that helped repair their friendship was the Double Concerto, a masterful specimen of symphonic writing with ingenious elaboration and polyphonic treatment of themes. The two solo instruments are equal partners with the orchestra, which alternates between playing accompaniment and taking the role of the chief protagonist. The first movement in sonata form is dominated by a passionate opening theme that gives way to a cantabile secondary idea, the melodic second movement is suffused with nostalgic concordance as the violin and cello play together in octaves, then in the rondo third movement the two solo instruments give each other encouragement—their dialogue leads to a climax as each attempts to equal the other technically and sonically.

Richard Strauss
Symphonic Rhapsody from the opera Elektra, Op. 58

The German composer and conductor Richard Strauss came from a musical family. His father was the principal French horn player of the court orchestra in Munich. Strauss made his first attempts at composition in his early childhood, and already by 1881 there had been performances of his symphony and string quartet. Strauss studied at the university in Munich, but he soon left school because he got an opportunity to conduct from Hans von Bülow and was offered the position of vice-Kapellmeister of the court orchestra in Meiningen. Soon afterwards in 1886 Strauss accepted the position of third Kapellmeister at the court opera in Munich. Conducting engagements followed in Weimar and also in Berlin, where the composer worked for 20 seasons. From 1919 to 1924 he was the conductor and co-director of the Vienna State Opera, then from 1924 the state of his finances allowed him rely on composing alone for income. In the 1930s he was appointed as the president of the Reichsmusikkammer, and after World War II, he spent the rest of his life in Switzerland.

From Strauss’s youth, his musical orientation was conservative, and his artistic legacy rests especially on his symphonic poems and operas. Stravinsky characterised Strauss’s music as “triumphant banality” with a dearth of ideas and a wealth of superficial, showy effects. Strauss, however, was a master of orchestration, and he also wrote wonderfully for the human voice. He created unique programmatic orchestral music that drew upon his knowledge of the works of Berlioz, Liszt, and Franck. The outstanding works in his series of symphonic poems are Macbeth (1888), Don Juan (1889), Tod und Verklärung (1889), Till Eulenspiegel (1895), Also sprach Zarathustra (1896), and Ein Heldenleben (1899), and later his Sinfonia domestica (1903) and Eine Alpensinfonie (1915) continued along those lines. In opera, Strauss followed in Wagner’s footsteps, but his individual voice as a composer finally emerged in the one-act operas Salome and Elektra, in which he faces his audience with traditional musical and dramatic resources escalated to their extremes.

Strauss composed the one-act opera Elektra, Op. 58, to a libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal between 1906 and 1908, and it was premiered at the Semperoper in Dresden on 25 January 1909. Hofmannsthal played a key role in Strauss’s work as an opera composer. They collaborated on preparing most of the composer’s greatest operas, and as a creative pairing they have been compared with Mozart and da Ponte. Based on tale from classical antiquity dealing with revenge, death, and madness, Elektra is often described as an operatic horror story, and it can be challenging for the singers who have to contend with an orchestra of 115 instruments. This evening, the vocal parts of Elektra will not be sung. Instead, you will hear an adaptation of the work in the form of the Symphonic Rhapsody from the opera Elektra. The rhapsody emerged in 2016 from what was not the first equal collaboration between two present-day artists—the conductor of today’s concert Manfred Honeck and the composer and pianist Tomáš Ille. Their chief motivation was the demand for concert performances of operatic works, and together they had already prepared a symphonic suite from Janáček’s opera Jenůfa, which has enjoyed success in concert halls abroad. Honeck was the author of the rhapsody’s conception and structure, and Ille created the orchestration and compositional details. The rhapsody presents various parts of the opera that the authors newly combined, creating a new conception for the work, reworking the music’s orchestration and tectonic structure into new contexts. The musical drama was thus transformed into a concert work that has a completely different structure and performance requirements—the singers’ individual voices are replaced by instruments, and the overall sonic structure is subordinated to the requirements of concert performance. The original orchestration is also reduced and altered to adapt it to the usual forces available to symphony orchestras.