Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra, Palace Of Arts, 18 February

  • 16 Feb 2015 1:00 AM
Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra, Palace Of Arts, 18 February
Two romantic pieces- Schumann ’ Symphony No. 4 and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.5 - and a brilliantly witty piano concerto consist of the National Philharmonic Orchestra’s programme on February 18. Alexei Volodin, winner of the Géza Anda Piano Competition is a representative of the great Russian pianist tradition and in this capacity he will be performing the Prokofiev piano concerto for left hand. British conductor, Christopher Seaman, who has a worldwide reputation for inspirational music making, will stand at the helm of the Palace of Arts.

SCHUMANN Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120

Composed in 1841, the D-minor symphony received its world première at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig. It was met with a chilly reception that put Robert Schumann off to the point that he would not allow the symphony to be published. Ten years later, however, he dusted off the score, partly reworked it and entirely re-orchestrated it, and published it two years later under the name of Symphony No. 4.

The construction of the symphony is unusual. Although it employs the classical four-movement model (with a slow second and scherzo third movement), the four movements are performed in an uninterrupted sequence. Also, the entire music is interwoven with thematic correspondences and references. The six-note motif intoned at the start of the slow introduction in opening movement remains the motto of the entire symphony in that most of the subsequent themes can be derived from it.

The ‘tempestuous’ D-minor main theme emerges at the end of the slow introduction, a new version of which appears later in the form of three energetically hit chords complemented and counterpointed by the incipit of the main theme. The closing movement is preceded by a connecting passage not unlike the one in Beethoven’s Fifth.

Here too the music passes from darkness (D minor) to light (D major), leading to the joyfully exploding main theme of the finale, which is none other than the main theme of the opening movement combined with three chords. The brilliant D-major finale is, therefore, a sequel to the opening movement, ending in a triumphant coda.

PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 4 for the left hand in B flat major, Op. 53

Composed in 1931, the Piano Concerto No. 4 for the left hand was commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein who had lost his right arm in World War I and for whom Ravel composed his famous piano concerto. Wittgenstein never understood the music and never performed it in public (the world première only took place three years after the death of the composer, in 1956).

Prokofiev, an excellent pianist himself, saw an exciting challenge in composing for a one hand. The work is extremely lively and, exploiting the entire range of the instrument, the piano solo spans vast sonorous spaces with big leaps. Clearly, Prokofiev sought to create the illusion of full piano sonority with one hand. The focal point of the four-movement work is the two middle movements.

The motoric, brilliantly witty first movement is more like a finale in character. The second is Prokofiev’s most beautiful slow movement, a magical splash of colours blended from the strings and woodwinds. The third movement brings together a variety of characters, ranging from the opening, almost grotesque piano fanfare to subsequent lyrical moments. The very short finale returns to the music of the opening movement and ends with a remarkable idea when the high-flying, soft scale passage ‘runs away’ from the audience.

TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64

Tchaikovsky composed six symphonies. In 1877, the composer's marriage to Antonina Milyukova ended after only three weeks. In a letter written to his legendary patron, Nadezhda von Meck, he expressed his inner feelings, and the concealed program locked into his Fourth Symphony, composed at the end of the year. "The kernel of the symphony is the guiding thought, the one with which I built the entire work.

This motif is Fate itself, Destiny, which stands in our path when we are searching for happiness." Tchaikovsky re-enacts this basic idea in his last two symphonies as well - in the Fifth with its hopeful resonance, and then in the 'Pathetique' (written after his relationship with von Meck was broken, in the year of his death), with its famous slow finale, leading into darkness.

Partly because of its triumphant conclusion, the form and character of the Fifth Symphony's movements can be described as traditional. Thus, following Beethovenian symbolism, the opening movement with its sharp contrasts is homo agens, the man of action. The slow movement is the ideal of the contemplative man homo meditans. The playful waltz of the third movement presents homo ludens, while the finale presents the conversion of the solitary individual into social group, homo communiss.

Tchaikovsky shapes these different stations of traditional dramaturgy into a sweeping whole using gestures that he had learned from Liszt (and in the spirit of the words quoted in relation to the Fourth Symphony.) Thus the motto theme that is heard in the slow introduction at the beginning of the work (which is often refered to as the Fate moto, borrowed as a term from Beethoven's Fifth symphony), recurs in a variety of guises throughout the work: in the second and third movements, it fills a memento mori function, but in the finale, it appears in the major as a triumphant final march.

Alexei Volodin was born in 1977 in Leningrad, today St. Petersburg. He gained international recognition following his victory at the Géza Anda Piano Competition in Zurich (Switzerland) in 2003. Volodin works with the world's top orchestras, among them the New York Philharmonic, Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig, and the Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich. Conductor collaborations include Valery Gergiev, Vladimir Fedoseyev and Semyon Bychkov. Earlier he performed with the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Kocsis in 2007. Recitals are a prominent part of Volodin’s engagements. Chamber music collaborations included concerts with the Borodin Quartet. Volodin records for Challenge Classics (Netherlands). Alexei Volodin is an exclusive Steinway and Sons’ artist.

Christopher Seaman British conductor has a worldwide reputation for inspirational music making. With a long and distinguished career in the US, Christopher was Music Director of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (New York) until 2011 and was subsequently named Conductor Laureate and was also awarded by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

He has previously held the positions of Music Director of the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra, Conductor-in-Residence with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Artistic Advisor of the San Antonio Symphony. Within the UK, Christopher has held the positions of Principal Conductor with both the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Northern Sinfonia. He is also a sought after guest conductor and a regular guest at the Aspen Music Festival.

Date and time: Wednesday 18 February 2015 7.30 pm
Venue: Palace of Arts
Address: 1095 Budapest, Komor Marcell utca1.

SCHUMANN Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 4 for the left hand in B flat major, Op. 53
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64


Source: Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra

  • How does this content make you feel?