FELIX MENDELSSOHN
(Hamburg 1809 - Leipzig 1847)

A Midsummer Night's Dream, op. 61

Selection - 15 ′

Nocturne
Scherzo
Wedding march

Violin and orchestra concerto n. 2 in E minor, op. 64

(1844) – 27′

Allegro molto appassionato
Andante
Allegretto non troppo – Allegro molto vivace

Fumiaki Miura, violin

 

INTERVAL 20 '

 

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
(Eisenach 1685 - Leipzig 1750)

Double violin concerto in D minor, BWM 1043

(1717-1723) – 16′

Vivace
Largo, ma non tanto
Allegro

Fumiaki Miura, violin
Pinchas Zukerman, violin

 

FELIX MENDELSSOHN

Symphony no. 4 in A Major, op. 90, “Italian”

(1833) – 26′

Allegro vivace
Andante con moto
Con moto moderato
Saltarello: Presto

BARCELONA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
PINCHAS ZUKERMAN, VIOLIN AND CONDUCTOR
FUMIAKI MIURA, VIOLIN

 

FIRST VIOLINS  Jaha Lee, associated concertino / Sarah Bels / Walter Ebenberger / Ana Galán / Natalia Mediavilla / Katia Novell / Pilar Pérez / Jordi Salicrú / Paula Banciu * / Vladimir Chilaru * / Daniel Gil * / Sei Morishima * / Ariana Oroño / Yulia Tsuranova *  SECOND VIOLINS Jennifer Moreau *, guest soloist / Emil Bolozan, assistant / Jana Brauninger / Clàudia Farrés / Mireia Llorens / Melita Murgea / Josep Maria Plana / Robert Tomàs / Cristian Benito * / Andrea Duca * / David Olmedo * / Elitsa Yancheva *  VIOLAS Domingo Mujica *, guest soloist / David Derrico / Christine de Lacoste / Franck Heudiard / Sophie Lasnet / Michel Millet / Miquel Serrahima / Jennifer Stahl / Andreas Süssmayr / Irene Argüello *  CELLOS  Jose Mor, soloist / Lourdes Duñó / Marc Galobardes / Jean Baptiste Texier / Jordi Claret * / Eduard Raventós * / Inés Sanz de Bermond * DOUBLE BASSES Dmitri Smyshlyaev, assistant / Jonathan Camps / Apostle Kosev / Josep Mensa / Matthew Nelson / Albert Prat  FLUTES Francisco López, soloist / Ricardo Borrull, flautí  OBOES   Dolors Chiralt, assistant / José Juan Pardo  CLARINETS Javier Balaguer *, guest soloist / Francesc Navarro  BASSOONS Thomas Greaves, assistant / Noah Cantú  HORNS Juan Conrado García / David Bonet  TRUMPETS Angel Serrano, assistant / Adrián Moscardó / Andreu Moros *  TROMBONES Eusebio Sáez, soloist / Antoni Duran * / Juan Luis Bori *, bass trombone  TUBA Daniel Martínez*  TIMPANI Fernando Llopis *, guest soloist PERCUSSION Juan Francisco Ruiz  CONTINUOUS Daniel Espasa *

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

* Collaborator

NOTES

by Xavier Chavarria

Felix Mendelssohn, born in Hamburg on 3 February 1809 into a wealthy and cultured family of Jewish origin, was brought up in the liberal tradition of German humanism and in an environment conducive to his developing the enormous talent he displayed as a child. A pupil of Karl Friedrich Zelter, who instilled in him a love for the musical science of Johann Sebastian Bach, he played the piano, the violin and the organ at a very young age; he read avidly and wrote poetry; he painted with great skill (which he would do for his entire life), as well as mastering six languages. By the age of 15, he had written a dozen string symphonies and some hundred pieces for piano, chamber music and songs, and conducted concerts at the Palace of the Republic in Berlin, where his family lived.

It was at this stage of his adolescence when, moved by reading William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night’s Dream (the German translation by Friedrich Schlegel), he composed a delightful and scintillating overture that evokes the play's magical and playful atmosphere with a surprising richness of timbre. He wrote it in four weeks, in the summer of 1826, and it was performed for the first time in a concert held in Szczecin (then Prussia, now Poland) on 20 February 1827, conducted by Carl Loewe: Mendelssohn had just turned 18, and that concert also included his Concerto for Two Pianos (for which he was the soloist) and, in the second part, Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, in which the young musician played with the first violins. Fifteen years later, he incorporated this overture into the stage music for Shakespeare’s play, commissioned by King Frederick William IV of Prussia, who was a great lover of the arts. It included soloists’ voices and a choir, and the complete work was performed on 14 October 1843 at Potsdam Palace, accompanying the theatrical performance staged by Ludwig Tieck. Today we will hear a selection of instrumental passages, full of suggestive images, subtle sounds and a playful reinterpretation of past greats that make this work one of the most perfect of his entire production.

It is all the more important to include Bach’s music in this repertoire, not only because Mendelssohn owes a great deal to this artist, but also because it was he, strongly encouraged by his master Zelter, who revived the music of the Leipzig kantor twenty years after his death. His in-depth study of the Saint Matthew Passion led him to create and direct the entire work at the Sing-Akademie in Berlin on 11 March 1829, which would represent the beginning of the recovery of Bach’s legacy. The Double Violin Concerto BWV 1043 was written by Bach during his time in the court of Köthen, around 1720, and is one of the few concertos that has passed down through history in its original form. It follows the Italian three-part style, and the soloists are given absolute equality, without excesses of virtuosity, albeit with a very intense dialogue with the orchestra. Experiencing the duel between the two magnificent soloists in today’s concert should be a sight to behold, as they are from very different generations and schools (and with apparently antagonistic instruments: one plays a Stradivarius and the other a Guarnieri!), although united by the artistry of Bach. The central Largo ma non tanto, with a Sicilian rhythm, is extraordinarily beautiful.

In the early 1830s, after Mendelssohn had just returned from his trip round the British Isles, the University of Berlin offered him the chair of music, although he turned it down: his priority was to make the initiatory journey through Italy, the Grand Tour that many other Romantic artists of his day had already made, including his much-admired Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He left in the autumn of 1830, and stayed there for over a year. From Venice he wrote an enthusiastic letter to his sister Fanny: ‘Here I am, in Italy! Finally, the most beautiful dream of my life has come true’. Venice, Florence, Naples, Pompeii and a few months living on Rome’s Piazza di Spagna stimulated the young musician’s inspiration, who translated all the sensations into sounds that his admired and ‘eternally happy’ Italy had revealed to him. In another letter to his mother, he mentioned that he was composing a ‘lovely symphony about the Italian countryside’, and this is where his Italian Symphony in A was conceived. It merits mentions that Mendelssohn was not at any time concerned with description: he only wanted to express his own feelings and everything that the country, its monuments, its landscapes and its people aroused in him. Nonetheless, the country’s bustle, sounds, light and colours are easily identifiable from the initial Allegro vivace, or in the solemn Andante, in all likelihood inspired by a procession he witnessed in Rome, and especially in the final movement, a popular Saltarello (which is actually a tarantella) linked to the dances he came to know during this stay.

His first endeavours date from those months in Italy, curiously enough when he was working on the Scottish Symphony, although he would not finish it until three years later, taking advantage of the commission he was given in November 1832 by the London Philharmonic Society to write three works. One of them would end up being this Italian Symphony, which was premiered on 13 May 1833 in a concert in London conducted by the composer himself. It is a luminous work, brilliant but balanced, with great melodic exuberance magnificently displayed in a refined orchestral framework. ‘It will be the happiest piece I have ever written’, wrote Mendelssohn, who, you should recall, was only 21 years old. The great melodic and formal simplicity, as well as the transparency of the orchestral structure, became a model for future generations of Romantics, who saw this music by Mendelssohn as containing wonderful balance. He was very satisfied with it and considered it his most successful work, especially the fourth movement. Oddly, this symphony was never performed in Germany and was never published during the composer's lifetime, which is why the number and opus do not correspond to the chronological order of creation.

The Violin Concerto in E Minor is the last great work in Mendelssohn’s oeuvre, who died when he was only 38 years of age. He composed it during the summer of 1844, on holiday in Bad Soden, at the foot of Feldberg Mountain, near Frankfurt, an idyllic place. However, it was a painful time for him that he described as follows: ‘Eating and sleeping, without tails, without piano, without visiting cards, carriages or commissions, but with asses, wildflowers, ruled paper, a sketchbook and with Cécile and the children’. In September, back in Berlin, he finished his monumental concerto for the violin, a masterpiece of the repertoire for this instrument, highly poetic and expressive, which for the first time in history developed the cadenza entirely written in the score. The orchestral writing is dense and full of contrasts, from exacerbated lyricism to dramatic and abrupt passages, and always featuring the violin as the star of the show. Its full arsenal is deployed from the very first measure, and overflows with virtuosity in the brilliant final movement. The concert presents other structural innovations, such as the linking of the three movements without solution for continuity (using a note held by the bassoon as a subtle transition from the second to the third, which modulates the whole orchestral apparatus), or the placement of the cadenza in the heart of the middle section, and not at the end of the first movement.

The concerto was dedicated to violinist Ferdinand David, a childhood friend, with whom he maintained a lively and colourful correspondence for many years. In the letters he spoke about this work and gave technical details of the soloist’s part. He premiered it on 13 March 1845 at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, conducted by Niels Gade (the composer was in poor health), and since then it has been one of Mendelssohn’s most esteemed works, and a mainstay of 19th-century Romantic concert music.

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