Krystian Zimerman (photo: Hiromichi Yamamoto/DG)

Simon Rattle and Krystian Zimerman with Bernstein’s Second Symphony

As chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker, Simon Rattle has impressively shown again and again what variety and richness are couched in the term “modern music” – and he does so again at this concert. We hear three short premieres, enter the world of film and television with Robin Hood and Tom and Jerry, and experience Bernstein’s jazz-influenced Second Symphony, with world star Krystian Zimerman as piano soloist.

Berliner Philharmoniker

Sir Simon Rattle conductor

Krystian Zimerman piano

Leonard Bernstein

Symphony No. 2 The Age of Anxiety for Piano and Orchestra

Krystian Zimerman piano

Magnus Lindberg

Agile for orchestra commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker Première

Andrew Norman

Spiral for orchestra commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation Première

Brett Dean

Notturno inquieto commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation Première

Scott Bradley

Tom and Jerry

Erich Wolfgang Korngold

The Adventures of Robin Hood Symphonic Portrait for Orchestra, arr. by John Mauceri (Excerpts)

Dates and Tickets

Thu, 14 Jun 2018, 20:00

Philharmonie | Introduction: 19:00

Serie E

Fri, 15 Jun 2018, 20:00

Philharmonie | Introduction: 19:00

Serie L

Programme

W. H. Auden was a charming moralist, wistful yet pitiless, affectionate yet weighed down by emotional pain. With The Age of Anxiety, he created a historical and psychological diagnosis of the soul and of the time in the guise of a Baroque pastoral poem: “Lies and lethargy police the world / in its periods of peace. What pain taught / is soon forgotten; we celebrate / what ought to happen as if it were done, / Are blinded by our boasts. Then back they come, / The fears that we fear.” The outer frame of the action is provided by the four protagonists who fall into conversation in a New York bar and – as the alcohol breaks down the barriers of internal censorship – discuss the war, their own world view and their faith: a fictional conversation between average people, the chorus of a drama (that fails to materialise) and a hymn and elegy.

The poem, which won Auden the Pulitzer Prize, inspired Leonard Bernstein to compose his eponymous symphony: “The essential line of Auden’s poem,” said the composer, “is the record of our difficult and problematic search for faith. In the end, two of the characters enunciate the recognition of this faith – at the same time revealing an inability to relate to it personally in their daily lives.” In the score, which mixes a kaleidoscopic variety of different musical styles, the concertante solo piano takes on a symbolic function: “The pianist,” as Bernstein wrote, “provides an almost autobiographical protagonist, set against an orchestral mirror in which he sees himself, analytically, in the modern ambience.” In the Berlin Philharmonie, no less than Krystian Zimerman will take on the solo part, interspersed with jazz-style syncopation, to which Bernstein subsequently added an extensive cadenza before the final coda.

Following the symphony, Sir Simon and the orchestra present three new songs by Andrew Norman, Magnus Lindberg and Brett Dean as part of the Philharmoniker’s “tapas” series of commissioned works with a duration of approx. six minutes. The evening comes to a close with an atmospheric trip to the genre of film music: Following Scott Bradley’s incidental music for the Tom and Jerry animated series, the programme continues with the symphonic orchestral portrait The Adventures of Robin Hood arranged by John Mauceri, based on the original score for the 1938 film. The music is by Erich Wolfgang Korngold who, thanks to an exclusive contract with the Warner Brothers film empire, became one of the most successful – and richest – film composer of all time.

About the music

Adventures in Good Music

Works from the 20th and 21st Centuries

Symphonic Psychoanalysis: Leonard Bernstein’s Second Symphony

Lenny would have been pleased! At the spiritual centre of this concert is a work by the composer Bernstein, who too often had to defer to the charismatic conductor: The Age of Anxiety – a remarkable work, which is symphony and piano concerto, philosophical poem and jazz study rolled into one. And a work with which its composer identified strongly, as he wrote in his prefatory note to the score: “The pianist provides an almost autobiographical protagonist, set against an orchestral mirror in which he sees himself, analytically, in the modern ambience.” This mirror effect is explained by the literary source, the poem The Age of Anxiety. A Baroque Eclogue by Wystan Hugh Auden. Written in 1946/47 under the shadow of war and the Holocaust, Auden’s poem revolves around the existential questions of life and the future, subconscious fears and religious expectations of salvation, social rejections and political perspectives. Auden bases his complex lines of thought on a dramaturgy which draws on Carl Gustav Jung’s theories of psychoanalysis. The four protagonists Emble, Quant, Malin and Rosetta – symbolizing the splitting of the ego – strike up a conversation at a New York bar. At first they talk about the seven ages of life from birth to death, then the subconscious, with all its anxieties and taboos, increasingly forces its way into the conversation – also because of the effects of alcohol. The couples combine in various configurations as though in a dream while they wander through seven further stages. The bar closes, and they move on to Rosetta’s apartment. The pessimistic mood (“The Dirge”) is followed by Rosetta’s frenetic dance with Emble (“The Masque”). But a feeling of uneasiness lingers below the surface: Quant and Malin leave the apartment, Emble falls asleep – and Rosetta, who is Jewish, seeks solace in a return to religion.

Despite his emotional involvement with the work, Bernstein succeeded in translating Auden’s poem into his own musical language by focusing on the essentials. He followed the dramaturgical sequence of the text closely but integrated it into the large symphonic form, drawing his inspiration from Gustav Mahler. The two sections “The Seven Ages” and “The Seven Stages”, together with “The Prologue”, form the extensive first part. The second major section is divided into a slow movement (“The Dirge”), a jazzy scherzo (“The Masque”) and a brief “Epilogue” as the finale.

From a musical standpoint, Bernstein followed the principle of composition that he applied throughout his life: “It’s very hard trying to be eclectic.” This sentence reveals two things: on the one hand, Bernstein’s image of himself as an eclectic who dispenses with originality in the sense of an unmistakably individual style, and on the other, his desire to take up the challenge of producing a tradition-conscious adaptation. Many eclectic features can be found in The Age of Anxiety. At the end of the Prologue, which begins with two clarinets, a descending scale played by the solo flute leads downwards to the realm of the subconscious; Bernstein makes use of a figure that became an established device in music history for depicting such emotional states. It is no accident that the scale ascends upwards again – into consciousness – during the Epilogue, at full fortissimo in the orchestra.

Bernstein chooses an unusual technique of variation for connecting the Seven Ages and Seven Stations. Instead of always presenting a theme differently, for each variation he develops a new starting point from which the next variation follows – an associative process in the style of a dream sequence. Bernstein achieves a denser symphonic quality in the second part; the entrance, with a stacked twelve-note chord in the piano, characterizes the disorientation of the individual. The oppressive atmosphere culminates in an outcry by the orchestra. The scherzo, which follows without a break, forms a striking contrast: the soloist pays a spirited tribute to the world of jazz. The close, with its thick string colours, resembles a swan song. Bernstein had originally dispensed completely with the piano here, but when he revised the work in 1965 he changed his mind and even inserted an opulent solo cadenza. Many question marks remain at the end of W. H. Auden’s poem; with his optimistic rounding off, Bernstein opted for a different interpretation.

Three Tapas for Orchestra by Andrew Norman, Magnus Lindberg and Brett Dean

During the past three seasons Sir Simon Rattle has frequently made a point of whetting the audience’s appetite for contemporary music with short premieres. Three such “tapas” mark the end of the appetizer series at this concert. The Australian Brett Dean places a Notturno inquieto on the orchestra members’ music stands, and it appears that he especially wanted to remember his former colleagues in the viola section. They provide an atmosphere of nocturnal unrest, which gradually becomes more intense until it is finally superimposed with a kind of wind chorale. “With new energy” the work pushes towards a powerful climax, from which it quickly retreats into stillness again with a reminiscence of the opening.

The American Andrew Norman likes to tell stories with his music, at the same time applying editing techniques from other media such as film and video to the symphonic form. The third member of the trio is the Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg, whose orchestral piece Agile lives up to its title. It is characterized by an energy that is accelerated in clear rhythmic structures by the expressive gestures of the orchestral sections, which are often strikingly juxtaposed in blocks.

From the Cinema to the Concert: Film Scores by Scott Bradley and Erich Wolfgang Korngold

The last third of this concert transports listeners to the film and television studios of Hollywood. Composer Scott Bradley went to work for Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) in 1938. He supplied the music for the cult series Tom and Jerry from the first episode (1940) until he gave up his composing career with MGM and retired in the late 1950s. His scores made use of elements from big band music, jazz, folk tunes, sentimental violin melodies, chattering winds and all types of sounds, vividly depicting the exciting chase scenes of the cat Tom and mouse Jerry, even without a screen.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold, the child prodigy from Vienna who rose to the ranks of the most successful composers of his day with the opera Die tote Stadt in 1920, was of a different calibre. In 1934 he accepted an offer from Max Reinhardt to come to Hollywood for the first time to compose a new soundtrack for Reinhardt’s film A Midsummer Night’s Dream by reorchestrating Mendelssohn’s music. The film was a flop, but Korngold’s arrangement became a milestone in modern film music.

Despite favourable conditions and remarkable fees (he received $12,500 for his score for Robin Hood), Korngold constantly found himself in a conflict. Here, the romantic artist who wrote symphonic and operatic works in his own right, there, the composer who produced music commissioned by others. But what Korngold created was no less than the new genre of “symphonic film music”. In the case of his score for Robin Hood, which was composed in 1939 and won an Oscar, he incorporated archaic echoes of “old England” as well as an anachronistic Viennese waltz and a robust march. The composer was on his own terrain during the love scenes, whose seductive sounds (with saxophone solo!) could also have come from one of his successful operas. The brilliant close demonstrates that grand operatic gestures stood him in good stead here as well.

Michael Horst

Translation: Phyllis Anderson

Biography

Krystian Zimerman was born in Zabrze (Poland), the son of a pianist. After early piano lessons from his father, he became a pupil of Andrzej Jasinski at the age of seven. Jasinski remained Zimerman’s only teacher. The musician started performing in public at an early age, but his real career began when he won not only the first prize, but also a gold medal and all the special prizes as the youngest of 118 participants from 30 countries at the 10th Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 1975. As early as one year later, he performed for the first time with the Berliner Philharmoniker under the baton of Herbert Blomstedt. Major artists such as Arthur Rubinstein, Leonard Bernstein, Carlo Maria Giulini and Herbert von Karajan have had a major influence on Krystian Zimerman’s artistic development. He works with renowned European and American orchestras under the baton of conductors such as Pierre Boulez, Riccardo Chailly, Bernard Haitink, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa and André Previn. Since 1986 the pianist has dedicated up to twelve of his concerts to charitable events every year. He also tries not to give more than 50 concerts a year in total. Krystian Zimerman’s numerous CD releases include a recording of Witold Lutosławskiʼs Piano Concerto, which was composed for the pianist in 1987, and the First Piano Concerto by Johannes Brahms, both together with Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker. In concerts of the Berliner Philharmoniker, the artist most recently appeared in June 2016 in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto in G major op. 58; the conductor was Sir Simon Rattle.

Krystian Zimerman (photo: Hiromichi Yamamoto/DG)

Goodbye, Sir Simon!

The departing chief conductor looks back