Riccardo Muti Conductor
Anne-Sophie Mutter Violin
Anniversary Concert – Anne-Sophie Mutter – Berliner Philharmoniker: 40 Years of Artistic Partnership
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Violin Concerto in D major op. 35
Anne-Sophie Mutter Violin
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Symphonie Nr. 4 in F minor op. 36
Sat, 27 May 2017 7 p.m.
Philharmonie | Introduction: 6:00 pm
For Anne-Sophie Mutter, the Berlin Philharmonie is something like her second living room: “So many wonderful things happened there, all the recordings, the concerts, the incomparable ensemble […]. There have been many attempts to copy the hall – the Disney Hall in Los Angeles was inspired by the Philharmonie – but the original with its unique acoustics is simply in Berlin. The hall is inseparably linked with the orchestra, and will always remain my benchmark wherever I play.” Of course, one Philharmonic date has especially remained in the memory of the violinist from Wehr in the Black Forest: 11 December 1976, when Herbert von Karajan first invited Ms Mutter, at the time a girl of 13 years of age, to audition: “Mr von Karajan had said beforehand that I shouldn’t be surprised if he interrupted me and didn’t want to hear the whole 20 minutes. But I was allowed to play to the end of the piece – not a bad sign at all. […] I was all ready to return home when in the concert hall I literally ran into Mr von Karajan’s arms. He said, as if it was no big deal at all, that he would be delighted if we could perform together in the coming year at the Salzburg Festival at Whitsuntide.” A thunderbolt that was followed by a phenomenal career: “That day will always remain an absolutely extraordinary event in my life.”
Just one year after her performance at the Salzburg Whitsun Festival, Anne-Sophie Mutter debuted in Berlin’s Philharmonic Hall with Mozart’s Violin Concerto G major K. 216 conducted by Karajan. At the latest after recording the Mozart concertos Nos. 3 and 5 with the Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by Karajan, she established herself as the leading violinist of her generation, with a supreme mastery of the virtuoso concert and filigree chamber repertoire for her instrument, performing it repeatedly for enthusiastic audiences in all the important musical centres of Europe, the US and Asia. It is now the 40th anniversary of Anne-Sophie Mutter’s debut with the Berlin Philharmonic. What will be played at the jubilee concert conducted by Riccardo Muti has not yet been decided. Only that the violinist is looking forward to this special event, where she will once again be accompanied by her “standard-setting” orchestra, with the utmost anticipation: “To experience that resounding sound again, that sound that carries you forward so powerfully – yet at the same time every member has the subtlety of a soloist. Simply everything that one could wish for is there.”
About the music
(Sentiment + Intellect) x Pathos² = Tchaikovsky?
Observations on Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
“Until recently it was normal for us to call Tchaikovsky a sentimental intellectual whose music had no relevance for our generation.” That was written by Anatoly Lunacharsky, the first “People’s Commissar of Enlightenment” of the young Soviet Republic, in 1925. “His ‘hysterical pessimism’ and ‘petit bourgeois melancholy’ were condemned as completely incompatible with the aims of the Revolution,” according to the musicologist Alexander Poznansky. Nevertheless, at that time these reservations only applied to Tchaikovsky the musician, not the man; in September 2013 Spiegel Online reported that the Russian film fund would only give its support to a film biography of Tchaikovsky “in the amount of 30 million roubles (approximately 670,000 euros) ... if details about the artist’s private life were omitted”, meaning the composer’s homosexuality.
Composition as an Act of Sublimation?
Early symptoms of depressive tendencies, which were to become progressively worse throughout his life, were already apparent in 1868, during his work on the First Symphony. But Tchaikovsky’s homosexuality, which he had to conceal due to social conventions, was largely responsible for these “mental tempests and nervous disorders”, as his biographer Herbert Weinstock noted in 1943. No less significant, however, was the constant self-doubt against which Tchaikovsky had to struggle with every new work. Hypochondria and misanthropy balanced each other out; Tchaikovsky’s biography and the origins of his works read like the parallel psychological profile of a constant fluctuation between the creative urge and the despondency of someone who is up one minute and down the next. Viewed from the perspective of depth psychology, we are dealing with a classic case of sublimation, as Sigmund Freud described it in 1908 in his essay Cultural Sexual Morality and Modern Nervousness. The origins of the Violin Concerto and the Fourth Symphony, in particular, illustrate how inseparably linked Tchaikovsky’s life and work were.
“To my best friend”: Symphony No. 4 in F minor, op. 36
In July 1877 the composer had attempted to escape from his homosexuality into a “respectable”, in other words, heterosexual relationship, but his utterly rash and hasty marriage to a student proved to be a disaster. Tchaikovsky separated from his wife after only a few weeks and entered a phase of deep depression. A short time later he began work on the F minor Symphony, “in which my memories of the passionateness and misery of my feelings and experiences found their echo”. The “content” of the work is explained even more clearly in a letter from the composer to his friend and patroness Nadezhda von Meck, to whom he had dedicated the symphony, coded for outsiders: à mon meilleur ami (“to my best friend”). Between “the fateful force that prevents our striving for happiness from succeeding” – the fanfare theme in the Andante sostenuto introduction of the first movement, which is heard again in the Finale as a cyclical formal element – and the recognition that one must “get out among the people; if you cannot find reasons for happiness in yourself, look at others”, Tchaikovsky develops a detailed psychological profile in almost bar-by-bar analogy with the music.
The Fourth reflects another dilemma Tchaikovsky found himself in, beyond psychology: his role in Russian music between Westernization and national autonomy. The mere fact of his closeness to the Moscow circle of the brothers Anton and Nikolai Rubinstein caused the St Petersburg colleagues of “The Five”, known in Russia as “The Mighty Handful”, who represented the nationalist school of Russian music, to regard Tchaikovsky as Sápadnik, as a “Westerner”, who continued the great tradition of the role models Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven in the core genres of instrumental music, while paying tribute to Wagnerism in his operas. But how is this consistent with the fact that the string pizzicatos in the third movement of the Fourth Symphony unmistakably imitate the sound of a balalaika and the main theme of the Finale quotes the ancient folk song “Vo pole berëza stojala” (In the field a little birch tree stood)? “To the people!” the composer wrote in his programme. “See what a good time they have, surrendering themselves completely to joyous feelings.” The bourgeois artist who goes “to the people” is embarrassingly reminiscent of Faust’s Easter walk: “Hark! Sounds of village joy arise; / Here is the people’s paradise, / Contented, great and small shout joyfully: / Here I am Man, here dare it to be!” It is no wonder that the early Soviet reception regarded Tchaikovsky as a “class element completely alien to the proletarian consciousness” (Alexander Poznansky).
The Fruit of “Pure Enjoyment”: Violin Concerto in D major, op. 35
After the complete mental breakdown which Tchaikovsky suffered following the failure of his marriage (and which culminated in an unsuccessful suicide attempt), the composer left Russia in October 1877 and fled first to Switzerland, then to Italy. In Clarens, on Lake Geneva, he had a visit from a former student in March 1878, the 22-year-old violinist Iosif Kotek, to whom he felt passionately attracted, as we learn from a letter: “He tenderly ridiculed my expressions of affection and kept repeating that my love ... is selfish and impure, while his love is selfless and pure. We spoke of the piece he ordered me to write for his Lenten concert. He repeated over and over that he would get angry if I didn’t write this piece” – the Valse-Scherzo op. 34 for violin and orchestra, which Tchaikovsky in fact composed for Kotek and dedicated to him. Thus, it is not surprising that he felt intense jealousy when he learned that Kotek was obviously also having an affair with a woman. “My love for a person known to you has ignited with new and unheard-of strength! The reason for this is jealousy. He has tied himself to [the singer] Eibozhenka, and they *** [here the original contains a word eliminated by the editors of the letter and described as ‘obscene’] five and six times a day,” Tchaikovsky wrote to his brother Modest in May 1877.
Now Kotek had come to Clarens, and one must assume that Tchaikovsky’s passion was aroused again – and was reflected in the Violin Concerto, which he composed between 13 March and 11 April 1878. “In such a phase of spiritual life composition completely loses the character of work; it is pure enjoyment,” he wrote to Nadezhda von Meck on 22 March. Up one minute – down the next! When Kotek hesitated to play the solo part at the planned premiere in St Petersburg, the relationship between the two quickly cooled. Tchaikovsky and Kotek saw each other for the last time in November 1884 in Davos, where the violinist sought a cure for his lung disease in a sanatorium – to no avail: Iosif Kotek died on 4 January 1885, at the age of only 29.
In his letters Tchaikovsky frequently spoke of his fear of people, his mistrust, his “shyness which has become a mania” and his despair at “not showing myself as I am”. The fact that “out of an inner, insurmountable compulsion” he confided everything to his music which he had to deny in his life is a tragedy to which Romantic music owes some of its greatest works.