Lord Byron’s Manfred is a key work of literary Romanticism. With stylistic features from Elizabethan drama and the English Gothic novel of the 18th century as well as elements of the ancient Orpheus myth, this poem, published in 1817, tells the tale of a brooding loner whose desperate world weariness and insatiable thirst for knowledge lead to his ultimately demise.
Not for nothing did Byron want his Manfred to be seen as a response to Goethe’s Faust! And Byron’s “dramatic poem” with its grandiose descriptions of nature, eerie apparitions and dramatic events, simply cries out for music. After Hector Berlioz expressed an interest in the material, Robert Schumann wrote – like his long misunderstood Scenes from Goethe’s Faust – incidental music to Manfred in 1848. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky tackled the subject in the form of a large-scale orchestral work in 1885. Taking on all fronts like its literary source, this work shifts between symphonic poem in four movements and four-movement programmatic symphony in a composition by Tchaikovsky which is still rarely performed.
Unjustly so, in the opinion of the conductor Tugan Sokhiev, born in 1977. In this concert with the Berliner Philharmoniker, he presents Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony. First of all, however, Hilary Hahn enchants the audience with the music of Henri Vieuxtemps, which focuses wholly on instrumental virtuosity. For her performance with the Philharmoniker, the American violinist chose the composer’s equally rarely heard Fourth Violin Concerto in D minor op. 31.