Violin Concerto in D major
Five Pieces for Orchestra
An American in Paris
Elliott Carter, born in 1908 and one of the oldest famous living composers of our time, wrote his Holiday Overture in 1944. He composed it in celebration of the liberation of Paris from the Nazis. His personal memories were still fresh – just a few years previously, he had lived in Paris, studying under the legendary composition teacher Nadia Boulanger.
The Five Orchestral Pieces (Fünf Orchesterstücke) op. 16 from 1909, was the first work in which Arnold Schoenberg used harmony without tonal hierarchies – the “emancipation of dissonance”, as he called it – in a larger instrumentation. In this work, timbre becomes a structural element. “The changes of chord have to be executed with the greatest subtlety, avoiding any accentuation on the instruments’ entries, such that only the change of colour is perceived”, Schoenberg wrote in the score.
When George Gershwin met his French colleague Maurice Ravel on one of his grand tours to Europe, he asked Ravel to give him composition lessons. Ravel, a great admirer of Gershwin’s music, categorically refused. “Why would you want to be a second-grade Ravel, when you could be a first-grade Gershwin?” He wanted Gershwin to maintain his melodic spontaneity. Despite a heavy tour schedule of performances and meetings with famous colleagues, Gershwin found time during the trip to compose An American in Paris. He maintained that the work was “the most modern music I have attempted to date (…) in a typically French style, of the kind of Debussy and les Six (…) although the themes are all original”.
A real American orchestra from a real jazz metropolis, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra performs a programme presenting one Austrian and two American modern classics, conducted by David Robertson. After the New York Philharmonic, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is the second oldest American orchestra. In Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, Musikfest Berlin 2012’s American guests meet violinist Christian Tetzlaff.