25th anniversary season
TOUCH THE SOUND

Music is for me a fantastic balm to my restless soul.

Barbora Haasová — flute · PATRON OF THE CONCERT | photo: Milan Mošna

Ricercar a 6 Voci

Together with his teacher Arnold Schoenberg and friend Alban Berg, Anton Webern belongs to the “Second Viennese School” which definitively broke tonality and discovered the world of dodecaphony for the entire following generation of composers. Besides an exceptional compositional imagination, Webern also had a special gift of instrumentation. His orchestration of the Ricercar from Bach’s Musical Offering, which is on the programme of the A2 subscription concert, still serves as a reference example of this mastery.

The composer had a lot of experience with music of earlier style periods. In his doctoral dissertation at the Vienna University, he analysed the works of Netherlandish Renaissance composer Heinrich Isaac. His choosing of Bach’s music based on the theme by Prussian King Friedrich II was no coincidence. The composition openly asks for being adapted and a number of composers before and after Anton Webern also decided to arrange it or cite it in their works. But Webern found a unique instrumentation key. He sends the melody from one instrument to another in small parts in such a way that almost each note has a different colour based on which instrument plays it. He managed to create an absolutely fascinating world of sound.

“If I was to compare the Ricercar to a painter, it reminds me of Paul Klee’s works. I see colours and I see structure for the understanding of which one needs time. And all of a sudden, I hear Webern but also Bach and the composition sounds like the world’s most beautiful and colourful organ.” (From an interview with conductor Kaspar Zehnder)

Webern’s world ended in a bizarre way when a lost bullet of an American Army soldier killed him on 15th September 1945 in Mittersill close to Salzburg.

From the left Alban Berg and Anton Webern

When an experiment does (not) go well

Initially, Richard Strauss and his main librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal were thinking about the stage music for Molière’s play Le bourgeois gentilhomme as some sort of a little experiment. Hofmannsthal adapted the original hoping to create a prequel to the opera Ariadne auf Naxos. Sadly, the idea did not really work out because apart from the “total vulgarity of the audience”, as the upset composer put is, an unexpected obstacle complicated the whole situation at the premiere – a lavish banquet hosted by King Charles I of Württemberg. In the end, the opera was not performed at all and annoyed Strauss very soon abandoned the idea of connecting the two works. Luckily for us, he did not throw away the music he had composed and made it into a charming nine-part orchestral suite. It tells the story of Jourdain, a petit bourgeoisie citizen, who is trying to impress and become equal with the bourgeoisie – a world from which he couldn’t be further away! Richard Strauss was inspired by Jean-Baptiste Lully’s music, which freely takes us to the glittering atmosphere of Louis XIV or the Sun King’s court.

“Webern’s Bach, neo-classical Strauss, a touch of Ravel’s impressionism and Busoni’s music in which the flute will get its solo. Come and let us take you to meet the old masters who inspired their younger followers! I am very excited! What about you?”

Kaspar Zehnder and Vaclav Macha will be in the spotlight at the second subscription concert of PKF – Prague Philharmonia and I have a special relationship with both of them. As a flute player, I am very interested in how Kaspar Zehnder will approach Busoni’s Divertimento because he will become the soloist in this piece and the flute will thus be the centrepiece of the whole concert for a moment. I am also excited about playing with him as a conductor. I share some personal memories with Václav Macha as he was my musical accompaniment and support during the Concertino Praga competition when I was a conservatory freshman. He is an excellent pianist with a great sense for feeling music. Even though a number of years have passed since then, I am certain that it will be an amazing experience to play with him.

This is because I think the programme choices are great, the pieces relate to one another and I believe that you, the audience, will also enjoy it in a single breath. Personally, I am very much looking forward to Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin because impressionism in general is very close to me for its sensitivity and natural flow. On top of that, woodwinds get their large share to play in this music and for example the first flute has some truly gorgeous music there.

I am also very interested in Webern’s arrangement of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Musical Offering. I think that by enriching it with modern means and new ideas, Webern made it much more approachable for the audiences. It may be too innovative for some but I am enjoying it very much. The audience still hears Bach’s brilliant music but enjoys new and unusual harmonies at the same time, brought in by Anton Webern. Richard Strauss’s music will close the concert and this piece is likely to be the most difficult for us as musicians to interpret. But I have no doubts that we will manage!

Barbora Haasová — flute · PATRON OF THE CONCERT

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
Ricercare a 6 voci from The Musical Offering (Musikalisches Opfer) BWV 1079/5 (arr. Anton Webern)
FERRUCCIO BUSONI
Divertimento for Flute and Small Orchestra in B flat major Op. 52
MAURICE RAVEL
Le tombeau de Couperin
RICHARD STRAUSS
Der Bürger als Edelmann, Suite Op. 60

Václav Mácha — piano
Kaspar Zehnder — flute, conductor

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