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We start this festival with a female composer from England, Rebecca Clarke. A rarity in her time, and it was barely considered possible that a woman could compose anything of note. Yet she’s not featured prominently in the programme for reasons of political correctness. This sonata for viola and piano is a fantastic and vigorous piece of music that violists have embraced with enthusiasm. It’s time it were made known to a wider audience.
Then we kick off our presentation of Norwegian composers to mark the centenary of the Norwegian Society of Composers. Young Christian Grøvlen has taken on the task of uncovering some real gems. The result is at least one piece from each decade from 1917 until today.
Leif Ove Andsnes is currently in Mozart mode, which also informs the programme of his new festival at Rosendal. Here he has chosen one of Mozart’s own favourite pieces: his Quintet for Piano and Winds. With him he has a formidable team of winds to match him. And that’s saying something …
Ruby Hughes is one of today’s most outstanding English singers; we’re looking forward to her sharing with us the seductive tones of Chausson.
And then to round off we have Janacek’s String Quartet entitled “Intimate Letters”. Spurred on by his passionate falling in love with Kamila Stosslova, one of music history’s most striking examples of the catalysing effect of the muse, here soundly interpreted by his fellow countrymen, the Skampa Quartet.
Moonlight is the wine which through the eyes we drink, is the opening line of Pierrot Lunaire.
The moonbeam reflecting on water is one of Munch’s iconic motifs, including in The Dance of Life. Overflowing with mood and possible interpretations.
When Debussy composed his Cello Sonata its working title was: Pierrot is Angry at the Moon.
Stravinsky’s suite portrays another commedia dell’arte character, Pulcinella.
We commence with a cosmic horn canopy, before zooming in on our planet and all its creatures of dreams.
Here, four of the twentieth century’s character styles are clearly represented: Spectralism, Atonality, Impressionism and Neoclassicism.
Between the opposite poles that are Mozart and Nordheim, we’ll here encounter some of the loveliest of French sensualism. Both Verlaine’s words and Fauré’s tonal setting are the direct result of impassioned inspiration from their respective muses.
The second movement of Ravel’s Violin Sonata is a riveting blues.
Andsnes, with a veritable dream team, brings to fruition Mozart’s golden Piano Trio in E major.
Sandefjord’s Alfred Janson, a significant figure in Norwegian music for decades, as much at home facing music paper yet to be filled with notes as when commanding a melodica in a pub. Senza Pedales was composed for the pianist Lars Haugbro whose legs were paralysed in an accident. As indicated by its title, it has been written to be played without pedals.
The concert will conclude with two Vikings, each at his own piano. And in this instance both arms and legs will be energetically employed.
In between, we’ll be hearing some of the tenderest of music for strings.
J.S.Bach’s Suites for Unaccompanied Cello are not found in Johan Sebastian’s own hand, but in that of his wife, Anna Magdalena. This has led to speculation as to whether it is she who is actually the composer of these pieces.
An exciting thought, two geniuses under the same roof? The postulation is alas more exciting than true. Magnificent music nonetheless, and it’s incredible what can be achieved with four strings!
When did you last hear an original composition for tuba and string orchestra? Well, in going for such a treat we’ve brought in possibly the world’s foremost tubist, Andreas Hofmeir.
Benjamin Schmid is a multifaceted musician, impressively versatile in his range. He has collaborated frequently with Stian Carstensen and is at home in numerous types of jazz.
The second movement of Bach’s Violin Concerto in E major rests completely on its bassline. Above it are the harmonies of the other strings, and on top a set-down solo violin improvisation. This time, Beni takes matters into his own hands…
Alma Mahler is an enigmatic woman. A much-feted beauty in Vienna, fiercely anti-Semitic, married to Jewish Gustav Mahler. He was firmly against her composing her own music. And when we listen to these gripping, late-Romantic songs, we can only truly regret the folly of such a stance, and the whole cultural backdrop behind such stifling of one half of humankind.
Schönberg’s Verklärte Nacht extends the high-Romantic tonal language. Bona fide crisis-Romanticism! But immeasurably beautiful and captivating: NB, no atonality, don’t worry!
Kjempeviseslåtten (Ballad of Revolt) and Baghdad Blues are defiant pieces of music written in protest in times of war.
Strauss’s Metamorphosen was composed in mourning over the bombed-out city of Munich, especially its Opera House where Strauss had celebrated many artistic triumphs, and with a feeling that the whole of German culture had been blown to pieces.
Shostakovich’s Viola Sonata is also concerns finality, but on a more personal level. It was his last composition, completed just a few weeks before he died of lung cancer.
Both Shostakovich and Strauss have noticeable quotes from Beethoven: The final movement of the Shostakovich’s sonata paraphrases the Moonlight Sonata fairly consistently. And Strauss concludes his piece with the opening phrase of the funeral march from the Eroica Symphony.
Balkan music is fiery, emotional, virtuosic, varied. Stian Carstensen has travelled about a lot, and reaped and gathered as only he can. A musical sponge who will be squeezed at this concert. We can’t wait, and are in delightful awe of this musical phenomenon.
Gypsy music is probably what most of us associate with this region, despite there being a great deal more to hand too. But for both Brahms and Liszt, Hungarian music was synonymous with Gypsy resonance.
Here, French feelings prevail, from cool to extremely passionate!
Debussy and Fauré had one thing in common: their love for the beautiful soprano Emma Bardac. Fauré wrote his La Bonne Chanson (k3) for her. Debussy married her and they had a daughter – Claude-Emma. Children’s Corner was composed for her.
When master cellist Istvan Vardaj plays his second group of Bach’s Cello Suites, we are taken through three different landscapes: Suite No.2’s dark broodiness, Suite No.4’s regal dignity, and finally Suite No.6’s crackling rain of sparks. Bach did not content himself with a normal cello for this one, but wanted an extra upper string. Almost impossible to play on a regular cello, but we happen to have Istvan…
One double bass,
Mozart’s wonderful quintet is not for five clarinets, fortunately!
Two of the world’s foremost woodwind instrumentalists in solo fashion. The oboe and the bassoon, double-reed, distinctive, personal and endearing. Have you ever split the stem of a dandelion in the spring and tasted the bitter milk that seeps out when you blow on this instrument of nature?
Janacek’s String Quartet is based on Tolstoy’s novella about jealousy and murder, passionate and fatal.
Mahler is here in a milder mood, but the concert finishes with some refreshing Hungarian barbarism; two pianists and two percussionists in unrestricted effusion.
Were one city to be chosen as the centre of our musical heritage, it would have to be Vienna. In its time the seat of power at the heart of a large empire, still a Mecca for music lovers. Everyone went to Vienna: Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler. But the two composers we’ll be hearing in this concert, Schubert and Berg, were both actually born there.
What then is the essence of “Viennese”? It must be the ambivalence: Melancholy-effervescence, tears-smiles, lines of song-dancing steps, banal-sophisticated. Schubert’s alternation between major and minor. Alban Berg’s dissolution of major and minor.
Vienna must have been a wonderful laboratory for Sigmund Freud.
In going from Schubert earlier in the day to Phillip Glass we must say that Sunday’s flavour so far has been minimalism. The Schubert-Glass connection is stronger than many may immediately suppose. Not only do their birthdays fall on the same day, 31st January, but Schubert’s relationship with time, and love of repetitions, certainly bear the seed of what Glass has later so eminently cultivated: hypnotic patterns, with small changes along the way. Same, but different. As Glass says: You can’t step into the same river twice…
Glass has suffered a fate unusual to composers of contemporary music by achieving indisputable popularity, without losing credibility, and we now have the chance to hear him through the perfect interpreter; Vikingur Olafsson has collaborated extensively with the composer and, for esteemed Deutsche Grammophon recently released a recording of the very programme we shall be hearing. Composer and the critics are in total agreement: A more perfect rendering than this is unimaginable!
We round off the festival in Dionysiac excess and in giddy waltz time are ushered out into the summer night, expectantly to await next year’s festival. Once again two grand pianos will regale us simultaneously, and we will experience once more at this festival just what four hands can get out of two Steinways.
Enescu’s superlative early work, his Octet for Strings, has over the last few years been rapturously received across Europe, and has hereby reached Sandefjord.
In the aristocratic setting of Jarlsberg Manor we’ll be savouring classical divertissement from Haydn and Mozart, as well as musical pieces of mischief by Dohnanyi and Edvard Fliflet Bræin. But when it comes to sumptuous shenanigans, Mozart will always be the undisputed master.
Joining us are the outstanding Trio Taus plus three of the world’s foremost wind instrumentalists!
When we sit down at Verdens ende (World’s End), our eyes take in as much as our ears. This magical place bears its name with dignity. It is as if we can catch a glimpse of other continents beyond the horizon.
Dvorak brought back with him tonal patterns from his time in America, which has made its mark not least on the quartet we shall be hearing here, his perhaps most popular chamber work.
In addition, we’ll be served a rare dish: Virtuosity and the most mellifluous bel canto on double bass.
Alberto Bocini does things with this instrument many thought impossible.
Magical Borre Church is the setting for grand music in an intimate format. Mozart’s epic trio, six movements long, but not one note too many, is accompanied by readings from his letters. This work belongs to the final eruption of divine genius in Mozart’s short lifespan. One has the feeling that Mozart had already peeped behind one curtain too many. “He who sees Jehova, dies.”
Bach’s Goldberg Variations was written for harpsichord but is played on all keyboard instruments, including the accordion. Perhaps we’ll hear a few passages from Stian Carstensen at Draaben Bar during this year’s Fjord Classics? But here in the age-old church of Nøtterøy, we shall hear a version for string trio created by violinist Dimitrij Sitkowetsky in the early 1980s. His arrangement has become tremendously popular. Which musician would not like to engage his or her fingers on Bach’s hour-long masterpiece?
The work was allegedly written for the insomniac Count Hermann-Karl von Keyserling, to fill his sleepless nights with substance. And substantial it is indeed! Here there are dances, overtures, genre pieces. Furthermore, precise canons, of different intervals. As the work nears its end, Bach really lets his hair down with a Quodlibet, a kind of potpourri of popular folk songs, in one case evoking for Norwegians «Bro,Bro Brille» (similar in form to «London Bridge is Falling Down»). Then, to conclude, there’s the beautiful, slow Aria that opened the whole piece. The storybook is closed. Is Hermann-Karl snoring…?
Purely for pleasure….. and so much more!
Wind music played for outdoor enjoyment is not a uniquely Norwegian phenomenon associated with celebration of its National Day. Austria’s nobility kept house orchestras called Harmonie, with just such a line-up as you’ll be hearing today. And just as one sips Champagne with a blissful smile, so too is the sparkling mood of Mozart’s highly irresponsible music.
But we’re talking about superlative frivolity. Behind the Champagne there’s knowledge, sweating backs in vineyards, years of expectation pressurised in green bottles. Behind the music, half a life of practice, thereafter hours of rehearsals for such a special performance.
And were you aware of the unfaltering craftsmanship that lies behind production of the reeds that oboists, bassoonists, clarinettists use for playing? From bamboo grove to the final meticulous whittle just before a concert?
A good kitchen is presided over with the same kind of passion for perfection. Let’s be pampered at a high level!