In 1914, Pope Pius X toyed with the idea of displacing the (in his eyes) immoral tango from the nightclubs with one of the less sensual Renaissance dances of the past. As a mocker par excellence, Maurice Ravel then planned to arrange a composition by the French Baroque composer François Couperin so that it could be danced “in the Vatican by [the cabaret singer] Mistinguett and [the chansonette] Colette dressed as a man”. The outbreak of the First World War, which Ravel spent as a driver on the front line until his early release from military service, drew a line under this subversive project: he dedicated his Couperin arrangement which had now grown to several movements to the memory of comrades who had fallen in the war.
In this concert with the Karajan Academy, Ravel’s music, dazzling in every imaginable sense, finds its counterpart in the song cycle Puzzles and Games from »Alice in Wonderland« by the Berlin-based Korean composer Unsuk Chin, who draw inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s novel Alice in Wonderland. The opening work of this evening, conducted by the Spanish star conductor Pablo Heras-Casado, is Robert Schumann’s Overture, Scherzo and Finale, op. 52, a composition that was intended as an alternative to the classical symphonic tradition. The concert closes with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s penultimate symphony; a work whose pioneering character was regarded with awe and admiration by Romantic composers such as Schumann.