Variations on a Theme by Haydn in B flat major
Lichtes Spiel – Ein Sommerstück for violin and small orchestra
Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration)
Till Eulenspigel’s Merry Pranks
A Berliner Festspiele/Musikfest Berlin event
Richard Strauss tried early on to stem the need of his contemporaries to read into his works, by pointing out hard facts. For example, he emphatically rejected speculation on possible biographical motivations behind his tone poem Death and Transfiguration, which premiered in 1890 (The prediction of his own death from a serious illness? The death of a loved one?): “Death [and Transfiguration] is a pure product of the imagination – it is not based on experience. I only became ill two years later.” And when he was asked a good half century later if he had wanted to use musical means to express the metaphysics of humour in Till Eulenspiegel, the composer apparently answered: “Not at all – I just wanted the concert hall audience to have a really good laugh.”
The second half of the concert programme is dedicated to Strauss – the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam under conductor-in-chief Mariss Jansons will perform both works. The first half of the concert programme features Johannes Brahms’ Haydn Variations and music for violin and orchestra by Wolfgang Rihm. The latter’s title, Lichtes Spiel, portrays “a transparent, instrumental accompaniment […] something light but certainly no ‘lightweight’”, writes the composer. In fact, the demands Rihm makes of the soloists of his “Sommerstück”, composed in 2009, are in no way inferior to a virtuoso violin concert.