LEOS JANÁCEK
(Hukvaldy, Czech Republic 1854 - Ostrava, Czech Republic 1928)

Žárlivost

(Jealousy)
Prelude of the opera Jenůfa
(1895) - Premiere at L'Auditori - 6 ′

 

JOHANNES BRAHMS
(Hamburg 1833 - Vienna 1897)

Violin Concerto in D major, op. 77

(1878) – 36′

Allegro non troppo
Adagio
Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo vivace

Alexandra Conunova, violin

 

INTERVAL 20 '

 

ANTONÍN DVORÁK
(Nelahozeves, Czech Republic 1841 - Prague 1904)

Symphony no. 7 in D minor, op. 70, “Tragic”

(1884-1885) – 38′

Allegro maestoso
Poco adagio
Scherzo: Vivace
Finale: Allegro

BARCELONA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
RUTH REINHARDT, CONDUCTOR
ALEXANDRA CONUNOVA, VIOLIN

 

FIRST VIOLINS Vlad Stanculeasa, concertino / Jaha Lee, associated concertino / Raúl García, concertino assistant / Sarah Bels / Walter Ebenberger / Alzy Kim * / Natalia Mediavilla / Katia Novell / Pilar Pérez / Jordi Salicrú / Paula Banciu * / Patricia Bronisz / Ariana Oroño * / Yulia Tsuranova *  SECOND VIOLINS Alexandra Presaizen, soloist / Clàudia Farrés / Mireia Llorens / Melita Murgea / Josep Maria Plana / Robert Tomàs / Andrea Duca * / Francesc Puche * / Raúl Suárez * / Marina Surnacheva *  VIOLAS Aine Suzuki, soloist / David Derrico / Christine de Lacoste / Franck Heudiard / Sophie Lasnet / Michel Millet / Miquel Serrahima / Jennifer Stahl / Irene Argüello * / Javier López *  CELLOS  José Mor, soloist / Vincent Ellegiers / Marc Galobardes / Jean Baptiste Texier / Carolina Bartumeu * / Jordi Claret * / Jonathan Cottle * / Manuel Martínez del Fresno * DOUBLE BASSES Christoph Rahn, soloist / Dmitri Smyshlyaev, assistant / Jonathan Camps / Josep Mensa / Matthew Nelson / Albert Prat  FLUTES Francisco López, soloist / Ricardo Borrull, flautí  OBOES Disa English, soloist / José Juan Pardo / Dolors Chiralt, assistant / Molly Judson, English horn  CLARINETS Josep Fuster, assistant / Francesc Navarro / Alfons Reverté, bass clarinet  BASSOONS Silvia Coricelli, soloist / Noah Cantú  HORNS Juan Manuel Gómez, soloist / Joan Aragó / Juan Conrado García / David Bonet  TRUMPETS Mireia Farrés, soloist / Adrián Moscardó  TROMBONES Gaspar Montesinos, assistant / Vicent Pérez / Juan Luis Bori *, bass trombone TUBA Daniel Martínez *  TIMPANI Marc Pino  PERCUSSION Ignasi Vila  HARP Magdalena Barrera, soloist

ORCHESTRA MANAGER Walter Ebenberger
MUSICAL DOCUMENTATION MANAGER Begoña Pérez
TECHNICAL MANAGER Ignasi Valero
STAGE CREW Luis Hernández *

* Collaborator

NOTES

by Josep Barcons Palau

Central European proximities

Less than two decades separate the compositions we will listen to today, with a violin concerto from 1878, a symphony from 1885 and an opera overture from 1894. And less than 300 kilometres separate - or unite - Vienna and Prague, the cities of the Austro-Hungarian Empire where Johannes Brahms, Antonín Dvorák and Leoš Janáček intertwined their biographies.

There are not so many kilometres nor so many years between the birth of the two most illustrious Czech composers of the late 19th early 20th centuries. Born into two humble families, Dvorák first saw the light of day in the home of a butcher in Nelahozeves (Bohemia) in 1841, while Janáček was born into the home of a schoolmaster in Hukvaldy (Moravia) in 1854. It seems that both musicians met in Prague in the Autumn of 1874, when Janáček, just 20 years old and with his master's degree in his pocket, left Brno to study at the same organ school where Dvorák had studied a few years earlier.

Following in the footsteps of the man who from then onwards would become his friend and mentor, the young Janáček had begun to write several works based on the recovery of popular melodies from his country. A considerable leap forwards was the opera Jenůfa, begun in 1894 (twenty years after that first meeting), finished in 1903 and set in the rural world that Janáček had travelled through in his musical research as a young man. The piece that heads today's programme, titled Žárlivost (Jealousy), was supposed to be the opening of this opera, although it was never performed as such. The music begins and ends with some powerful kettledrum hits that are reinforced by the brass. The violence of the first chords drifts towards a turbulent texture that soon dissolves to reveal more luminous landscapes, almost always surrounded by a fateful shadow. The opera (a rural drama similar to those Víctor Català was writing at the same time in Catalonia) is actually based on the infanticide committed by Kostelnička, the widow of the churchwarden and Jenůfa’s stepmother, to guarantee her stepdaughter a supposedly honourable future.

If Dvorák was Janáček's friend and mentor, it is well known that Brahms, although eight years younger than him, was also Dvorák's friend and to a great extent his mentor, whose natural facility for melody he envied. In fact, the famous German musician launched Dvorák's international career when, in 1877 (three years after he had met Janáček), he suggested to his influential publisher Fritz Simrock that he publish Moravské Dvojzpěvy (Moravian Duets), op. 20.

Brahms began to work on his Violin Concerto just one year after this encounter with Dvorák. He composed it in the summer of 1878 in Pörtschach am Wörthersee, a place where Brahms claimed that the ‘melodies flow so freely that one must be careful not to trample on them’. In the autumn, back in Vienna again, the concert was ready, and the première took place on 1 January 1879 in Leipzig, with Brahms conducting the Gewandhaus Orchestra and the prestigious Joseph Joachim playing the violin. Despite Brahms' misgivings, Joachim (a close friend, to whom the work was dedicated) decided to perform the new concert together with the one written by Beethoven. The move, which might seem a little strange to us, must be seen in a historical perspective: not only were musical marathons commonplace at the time, but placing Brahms and Beethoven side by side was Joachim's visionary gamble, in the sense that these works - which share the key of D major - constitute two of the most important pages of violin concertismo.

As in Beethoven's concerto, it could be said that the first movement of Brahms' work has an overly large head, since the sum of the two remaining movements does not reach the dimensions of the first, written according to the patterns of a sonata and with abundant harmonic surprises. The work begins with one of those themes so characteristic of Brahms entrusted to the orchestra, into which the violin is integrated more with a role of primus inter pares rather than a soloist in the strictest sense of the word, to start extracting possibilities of developing variation. This is also evident in the second movement, in which Brahms gives the oboe a very inspired melody that the violin does not transform until much later, always accompanied by some orchestral soloist. The third movement is a festival of twists and gypsy tunes, which are enriched here with those accentuation shifts that Brahms enjoyed so much.

After Brahms's brilliant D major, we move on to the sombre depths of the D minor with which Dvorák wrote his Seventh Symphony, full of political and biographical references (the recent deaths of his mother and his beloved Bedřich Smetana). The work was commissioned by the London Philharmonic Society, which premiered it under the composer’s baton in April 1885. After a first movement full of musical ideas and harmonic contrasts, the adagio - with its contrite wind instruments and pizzicato strings - seems to take us back to Brahms' Third Symphony, which had made such an impact on Dvorák a few months earlier. Although it is written in a minor key, the carefree scherzo evokes a fairy tale ball and lets us escape for a moment from the dramatic climate of the two preceding movements; although this respite is nothing more than a mirage from where the agitation of the coda arises, which seems to anticipate the tempestuous character of the fourth movement. The tragic chorale of the first bars of the finale floods the whole movement, which - despite the cello's laudable attempt to redeem us and the Beethovenian air of the finale towards D major - does not manage to escape from the shadows of that Jealousy that Janáček had not even begun to imagine.

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