Two of the most yearning compositions ever written open the two halves of this concert: Wagner’s “Tristan” prelude and Ravel’s song cycle “Shéhérazade”. The main works of this evening conducted by Simon Rattle are Jean Sibelius’s austere Nordic Fifth Symphony and the premiere of a piano concerto by Jörg Widmann, one of the most interesting composers of the younger generation, with Yefim Bronfman as the soloist.
Prelude to Act I from Tristan und Isolde
New Work for piano and orchestra commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation and the San Francisco Symphony Première
Yefim Bronfman Piano
Shéhérazade, Song Cycle for voice and orchestra
Stella Doufexis Soprano
Symphony No. 5 in E flat major
Many of Jörg Widmann’s works reveal a specific engagement with traditional musical forms, and his new Piano Concerto – his first work in the genre – is no exception. “I don’t consider what is new a self-contained quality,” says the composer. In these concerts conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, none other than Yefim Bronfman will premiere Widmann’s Piano Concerto. “What keeps me going is the new repertory,” the world-renowned pianist tells the Los Angeles Times. “Learning new pieces and commissioning new works is what I enjoy most.”
German-Greek mezzosoprano Stella Doufexis then performs Maurice Ravel’s sensual Shéhérazade song cycle, based on poems by Tristan Klingsor (alias Léon Leclère), in which the French composer artfully stylizes the exotic sound impressions of specifically “oriental” melodies. The concert begins with the Prelude to Richard Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde and ends with Jean Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony. The work clearly links to Sibelius’s impressionist tone poems from the same era and boasts an entire palette of brilliant orchestral effects. Despite the success of the premiere, Sibelius revised the work and wrote as he worked on the Finale, “The entire piece [...] is a vital heightening towards the end. Triumphant!” In this form, the Fifth quickly became the most popular of Sibelius’s symphonies.