Programme Guide

At the beginning of his composing career, the Danish Nørgård and Ligeti student Hans Abrahamsen was considered a key figure in “New Simplicity” – a movement originating in Germany, which in the 1970’s saw itself as a counterweight to serialism with minimalist, neoclassical and/or neo-romantic moments. Hans Abrahamsen’s orchestral piece Nacht und Trompeten, commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker, was premiered in the Philharmonie under the baton of Hans Werner Henze in late March 1982. This concert includes the premiere of his orchestral song cycle Let me tell you, based on the novella of the same name by Paul Griffiths and dedicated to Barbara Hannigan.

This is preceded by a work from another Nordic composer: the atmospheric Cantabile for strings by Pēteris Vasks, who in his home country is often referred to as “Latvia's ambassador in music.” The Latvian shooting star Andris Nelsons then conducts Johannes Brahms’s Fourth Symphony, performed for the first time on 25 October 1885 in Meiningen. One witness of the successful concert was 21-year old Richard Strauss, who was residing there as Hans von Bülow’s assistant. In a letter to his father he reported enthusiastically about an “enormous work”: “[…] it is difficult to define in words all the splendour that this work contains – you can only listen to it and raptly admire it again and again.”

After the Berlin premiere on 1 February 1886, Joseph Joachim noted how very much the “downright gripping movement of the whole thing, the density of the contrivance, the wonderfully intricate growth of the motives” had impressed him: “I […] believe the E minor is my favourite of the four symphonies.”

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