A Survivor from Warsaw
Symphonie des psaumes
Adagio for string orchestra
Amériques (Original version)
After experiencing the latest trends of his era in Paris and Berlin, a talented young composer left Europe, burning his bridges behind him. He declared his previous music invalid and started from scratch in America. During his search for new horizons, Edgard Varèse moved to the USA in 1915. His emigration was an act of artistic liberation. New York, melting-pot and bubbling cauldron, with the most modern skyscrapers of the day, people from all over the world and a frantically fast pace – all this overwhelmed the young Edgard Varèse on his arrival. He incorporated his impressions of New York and first experiences of life in the USA into his orchestral work Amériques. The music is pure unleashed energy and raw power; its sounds go straight under the skin. In this work, Varèse re-invented the orchestra in his own mould, daringly stirring up all that was revolutionary, shocking and remarkable from what he had heard in Europe, close to the pulse of modernism.
In American exile towards the end of his life, Schoenberg wrote political music, a passionate appeal against forgetting. Composed shortly after the Second World War, A Survivor from Warsaw for narrator, male chorus and orchestra, treats the horror of the holocaust through an eye-witness account from the Warsaw ghetto. At its premiere, the work made such a deep impression on the American audience that it had to be repeated.
Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms was also composed in the USA, in 1930, when no one could yet envisage the extent of the devastation about to befall Europe. For his work, Stravinsky drew on psalms, setting them to music with expressive archaism, forging a new way, even while relating to historical precedents: “My view of the relations between vocal and instrumental groups parallels the techniques used by the old masters. They also treated chorus and orchestra as equals, reducing neither the role of the chorus to homophonic singing, nor the function of the orchestra to mere accompaniment.”
Samuel Barber’s famous Adagio is an early work, first introduced to a wider audience though Arturo Toscanini in 1938. Over time, the short piece has become a key piece of American funeral music. It was also performed in New York on the first anniversary of 9/11.
Mariss Jansons is visiting Berlin with the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest Amsterdam, and together with the Rundfunkchor Berlin will present this programme of American music with European roots, specially devised for Musikfest Berlin 2012.