The history of the symphony entered a new phase with Beethoven’s “Eroica”. The symphony was no longer just playing with themes and instruments, but rather dedicated to an idea – the idea of the heroic, which lends the work an incomparable drive. Beside the symphony, conductor Christian Thielemann will programme works by Liszt and Henze that also follow poetic concepts, each in its own way.
Orpheus, Symphonic Poem No. 4
Sebastian im Traum for large orchestra
Symphony No. 3 in E flat major Eroica
For these concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Christian Thielemann programmed three orchestral works that refer to literary or mythological figures in completely different ways. There’s Hans Werner Henze’s orchestral piece Sebastian im Traum, premiered in 2005, based on a poem by Georg Trakl. As the composer himself notes, his music tries to “follow the traces of the poet’s words (as someone with a movie camera tries to capture the course of events or as another perhaps takes down the communication of subject matter in shorthand)”. The piece, to which Henze gave the subtitle Salzburg Night Music, is full of allusions “to the rustic Baroque, to the biblical, to the wooden crucifix, to the nearness of death, to the moonlight, to Traklish evening sonatas”.
These concerts also include two works that refer to the legends of the ancient world: Franz Liszt’s symphonic poem Orpheus, composed precisely 150 years before Henze’s composition, and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Eroica, bearing witness to the composer’s grappling with a symbolic figure of the European enlightenment: Prometheus. It was no coincidence that Beethoven based the finale of his Third Symphony, originally titled “Bonaparte”, on a melody from his ballet music The Creatures of Prometheus, which premiered in 1801: for – as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe later remarked – Napoleon also brought to mankind “light: a moral enlightenment.”