At the invitation of the Berliner Philharmoniker
Symphony No. 7 in A major
Firebird Suite (1919 version)
“I have only composed one masterpiece – Boléro. Unfortunately, it does not contain any music.” Maurice Ravel always took a sceptical view about the great success of what is probably his best-known orchestral work. In fact, despite all the irony expressed in Ravel’s witticism, the work contains relatively “little music” because strictly speaking Boléro essentially consists of only 16 measures of a melody which seems monotonous; supplemented by a variation of the first bars, it is underlaid for a quarter of an hour by the bolero rhythm of the snare drum, forcing the percussionist to achieve absolutely peak performance.
But what occurs in this quarter of an hour is truly breathtaking: by means of a broad crescendo all the way to the gigantic final apotheosis, Ravel achieves a downright narcotic musical effect which it seems no listener can resist. Georges Prêtre, grand old man among French conductors, will conduct his compatriot’s masterpiece at his concert with the Vienna Philharmonic in Berlin.
Besides that monomaniacal orchestra crescendo, there are two all the more tuneful works on the programme: Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, which early on became an audience favourite, during the finale of which the omnipresent rhythm turns into a Dionysian vital delirium of dance, and the atmospheric suite from Igor Stravinsky’s ballet L'Oiseau de feu (in the 1919 version), whose triumphal premiere in Paris on 25 June 1910 at the Théâtre National de l'Opêra made the composer, until then completely unknown, famous at one go.