About the program
Our concert begins with the prelude to Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin, before continuing with one work from each of two composers whose oeuvres were greatly influenced by Wagner: Strauss and Bruckner.
Wagner finished his opera, Lohengrin, in 1848. It was Wagner himself who named the roughly ten-minute-long orchestral piece which precedes the opera a ‘Prelude’; as opposed to the usual overtures of the time, which provided a taste of the opera’s themes, the composition expands out from a single motif in the plot.
Richard Strauss was still a child when he wrote his first horn compositions for his father, Franz Strauss – a horn player at the Royal Bavarian Opera House. But by the time his Second Horn Concerto came along, in 1942, many decades had passed. The latter composition recalls Strauss’ late-romantic sound and the world of his first concerto. It premiered at the Salzburg Festival in 1943.
There is little more indicative of Bruckner’s devotion to Wagner than that memorable occasion on which he visited the ‘Master of Masters’ – although later he couldn’t remember whether it was his Second or Third Symphony that he dedicated to the great man. Allegedly, it wasn’t just blind reverence that played a role in this, but also the copious amounts of beer consumed. (In sober hindsight, we know that it was his Third Symphony that he dedicated to Wagner.) The Sixth is the least played symphony of Bruckner’s oeuvre; it is also simultaneously his most daring work. After its completion in 1881, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra were unwilling to perform the entire symphony because of its difficulty, and the 1883 premiere featured only the middle two movements. The first full performance of his Sixth Symphony took place only after Bruckner’s death, in 1899, when Gustav Mahler conducted the Vienna Philharmonic.