Founded in 1997 by members of the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, which was mentored by Claudio Abbado and substantially shaped artistically by collaborating with Daniel Harding, now their conductor laureate, developed in a short period of time to one of the most respected chamber orchestras of our time – or even to the best, according to Le Monde. The precision with which they play together and their stylistic versatility are what opens up a repertoire to the Mahler Chamber Orchestra that ranges from the First Viennese School to music of our times. These qualities can be experienced in a particularly exemplary manner at this concert conducted by French conductor François-Xavier Roth.
Music by Joseph Haydn frames the programme. During his second London season in 1794-95, he surprised the audience with six new symphonies (Nos. 99 to 104), with which he crowned his extensive and groundbreaking symphonic output. While his early symphonies – including the one in E flat major composed in 1764, later named The Philosopher – were still grappling with Baroque form traditions, in the 1770s Haydn had already found his way to the four-movement structural model that remained essential for the genre well into the Romantic era. He transferred the “completely new and special way” (Haydn) of motifs intertwining in all voices that he developed in the epoch-making string quartets op. 33 into the orchestration of the six symphonies composed for the Paris Concerts de la Loge Olympique in 1785-86 (Nos. 82 to 87). He drew the sum of his experience in the twelve “London” symphonies: even with intricate construction of motives, Haydn’s playful handling of the musical material gives the appearance of spontaneous – and, what’s more, catchy – invention; his mastery of the form is so superior that he can come up with a surprising twist in almost every movement, like the famous drum roll at the beginning of the first movement of his Symphony No. 103.
Between the two Haydn symphonies, the programme consists of two concertante 20th-century works: the Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů’s Double Concerto for two String Orchestras, Piano and Timpani, composed in 1938, building on the model of the Baroque concerto grosso, and György Ligeti’s Hamburg Concerto for solo horn and chamber orchestra from 1998-99, in which Philharmonic principal hornist Stephan Dohr will be heard as soloist.