Budapest Festival Orchestra

Orchestral Concert - Korngold, R. Strauss

Müpa, Bartók Béla Nemzeti Hangversenyterem February 12, 2018, 19:45

Arabella Steinbacher (violin) • conductor: Marek Janowski

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About the concert

Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Violin concerto
Richard Strauss: An Alpine Symphony (Eine Alpensinfonie)

“A surgeon with a conductor’s baton” was how Revizor referred to Marek Janowski in 2015. The Polish-born German Maestro is no showman, but while he conducts without frills he also takes bold risks and releases a flood of emotions. As he did last time, he’s bringing us a Richard Strauss piece which, on this occasion, he’ll match with a romantic violin concerto composed by one of the founders of incidental music for films.

Richard Strauss loved nature and the mountains, and he condensed his admiration into An Alpine Symphony which many regard as the pinnacle of symphonic programme music. Employing a gigantic orchestra, the piece draws on a childhood experience of his in which, as part of a hiking group, the composer was caught in a storm in the Alps. The symphony sweeps through forest springs, waterfalls, meadows in full bloom and glaring glaciers, the fog settles in and a storm breaks out, eventually to calm down. This was the first instance of naturalism being employed in music. Strauss used a wind machine, a thunder machine and a heckelphone, which is pitched an octave lower than a regular oboe, while he also conjured up the weeping of a child. In 1983, the Alpine Symphony was one of the first CDs ever to be sold in record shops.

The concert’s other main character was the recipient of two Oscars; Erich Wolfgang Korngold was one of the fathers of film music, someone whom Gustav Mahler called a musical genius on the back of a composition he’d written at the age of nine. Korngold reached the peak of his success in Hollywood, where he composed for Paramount and Warner Brothers. However, the start of his journey had not been of his own volition; his Jewish ancestry meant he was forced out of his native Austria and he would never overcome the homesickness he felt for his homeland. After the fall of Hitler he gave up film music and focused again on the concert hall, composing his late romantic Violin concerto which, in this instance, will be performed by Arabella Steinbacher, a regular partner of Janowski.