Arthur Honegger: Symphony No. 3, ʻSymphonie Liturgiqueʻ
Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98
When it comes to an unquestionably great orchestra like the Vienna Philharmonic, it would be wasteful not to take advantage of the chance to have more than one concert, especially considering that this orchestra – one of the best in the world – comes with the ageless Herbert Blomstedt. After performing Schubert’s “Unfinished” and Bruckner’s “Romantic” symphonies on the first night, the programme for the second evening offers a link between Paris and Vienna. The first half of the concert will feature the Symphony No. 3 (“Symphonie Liturgique”) by Arthur Honegger, who was of Swiss origin but was a member of a group of Parisian composers known as Les Six. He was fascinated by modern technologies (he shared with Dvořák a love of locomotives) and sport, as can be seen from his inter-war compositions Pacific 231 and Rugby. His “Symphonie Liturgique” (1946) was influenced directly by the events of the Second World War. In it, Honegger put his compositional mastery at the service of a profound meditation on the horrors of war and the desire for peace. Like Honegger’s work, Brahms’s Symphony No. 4 is music of great depth, ending with a brilliant passacaglia. With Brahms, the Vienna Philharmonic and Maestro Blomstedt return to their core repertoire.
The Vienna Philharmonic will be making its first festival appearance a day earlier with a programme of music by Franz Schubert and Anton Bruckner.
The Vienna Philharmonic has long been one of the world’s top orchestras. Its remarkable tradition reaches back to 1842 and is associated with such names as Arturo Toscanini, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Bruno Walter, Karl Böhm, Herbert von Karajan, and Leonard Bernstein. Still today, the world’s best conductors appear with the orchestra, including Daniel Barenboim, Riccardo Muti, and Christian Thielemann. Each year, the orchestra gives forty concerts on its home stage (including the famed New Year’s concert) and about fifty concerts on tours abroad, and it makes its regular appearance at the Salzburg Festival. It has been making recordings since 1905, with hundreds to its credit including complete sets of Beethoven’s, Brahms’s, and Mahler’s symphonies. The orchestra first appeared in Prague in 1934 at the Smetana Hall in the Municipal House under the baton of Arturo Toscanini.
The legendary Swedish conductor Herbert Blomstedt first came to wider attention of the musical public back in 1953 when he won the Koussevitzky Prize, and just two years later he won the conducting competition in Salzburg. A year before that, he had made his debut with the Stockholm Philharmonic. During his career, he has been at the helm of several of the world’s leading orchestras, including the Oslo Philharmonic, the Staatskapelle Dresden, the San Francisco Symphony, and the Gewandhausorchester in Leipzig. Maestro Blomstedt has won several international awards, honorary doctorates, and honorary conducting posts. His scope as a performer is enormously broad, but he is most noted for his unparalleled Bruckner performances characterised by analytically precise interpretation of the musical notation and depth and soulfulness of expression. Remarkably, even at over 90, he continues his tireless cooperation with several leading orchestras with tremendous artistic commitment.
The Rudolfinum is one of the most important Neo-Renaissance edifices in the Czech Republic. In its conception as a multi-purpose cultural centre it was quite unique in Europe at the time of its construction. Based on a joint design by two outstanding Czech architects, Josef Zítek and Josef Schultz, a magnificent building was erected serving for concerts, as a gallery, and as a museum. The grand opening on 7 February 1885 was attended by Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria, in whose honour the structure was named. In 1896 the very first concert of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra took place in the Rudolfinum's main concert hall, under the baton of the composer Antonín Dvořák whose name was later bestowed on the hall.