As principal conductor of the Konzerthausorchester from 2012 to 2018, Iván Fischer proved in countless concerts the stylistic accuracy with which he is capable of handling music from very different eras. On these two evenings this season, on which he will once again conduct the Berliner Philharmoniker in the scope of an artistic collaboration that goes back to 1989, he will present a programme that could not be richer in contrasts.
Joseph Haydn’s Sinfonia concertante for oboe, bassoon, violin, cello and orchestra was written during the composer’s first stay in London in the 1791/92 concert season. The genre, which originated in France, is a mixture between an instrumental concerto and symphony, and combines features of the Baroque concerto grosso with the cyclical canon of forms of classical orchestra music. The English were introduced in 1792 to the musical form, at the time still relatively new: Ignaz Pleyel, former student of Haydn, had made quite a splash with the audience on the Thames with several such works. Haydn, who had already deployed concertante solo instruments in several of his early symphonies, countered – and created a prime example of the genre with his Sinfonia concertante. In the three-movement composition he succeeded in creating an admirable balance between the intertwined interplay among four concertante solo instruments in chamber music style and the orchestra. In these performances, three other members of the Berliner Philharmoniker can be heard in the work’s demanding solo roles, in addition to Philharmonic first concertmaster Daniel Stabrawa.
65 years after Haydn’s Sinfonia concertante, Franz Liszt’s Faust Symphony premiered in Weimar. The work, amply dimensioned in all respects and based on the first part of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s tragedy, is an attempt to reconcile the classical form of the symphony with the younger genre of the symphonic poem, which was substantially shaped by Liszt: the three movements of the work constitute musical character sketches of the protagonists of Goethe’s drama in verse, following classical compositional principles at the same time. The first movement, dedicated to Faust, has characteristics of the sonata form, while Liszt’s compositional portrait of Gretchen functions as a slow middle movement. The third and last movement initially strikes the listener as a diabolical scherzo, but by referring to the motifs and themes of the two previous movements also meets the requirements of a symphonic finale at the same time – a stroke of genius which presents the character of Mephistopheles with suggestive and colourful music.