Giovanni Antonini and Piotr Anderszewski in works by Mozart and Haydn

24 Oct 2015

Berliner Philharmoniker
Giovanni Antonini

Piotr Anderszewski

  • Joseph Haydn
    Symphony No. 101 in D major “The Clock” (28 min.)

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 24 in C minor, K. 491 (38 min.)

    Piotr Anderszewski Piano

  • Joseph Haydn
    Symphony No. 103 in E flat major “Drumroll” (32 min.)

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    Piotr Anderszewski in conversation with Krzysztof Polonek (15 min.)

The “London Symphonies” mark a high point in Joseph Haydn’s oeuvre. For decades as “Royal Esterházy Composer”, Haydn had experimented with this genre, still in its infancy at the time, testing forms and effects and setting standards with his works. Haydn wrote his twelve last symphonies at the peak of his fame when he was invited to London by the violinist and impresario Johann Peter Salomon. They represent the sum total of his compositional experience and won the English audience over by storm with their wit and humour. Symphonies Nos. 101 and 103 became famous as “The Clock” and “Drum Roll”.

Giovanni Antonini, who conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker, is an absolute Haydn specialist: the conductor and his ensemble Il Giardino Armonico were at this time recording all the master’s symphonies as part of the project “Haydn 2032”.

Like the symphony, the piano concerto is also a “child” of the First Viennese School. It was not Haydn, but rather Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who pointed the way ahead in this genre. Mozart, who was also a phenomenal pianist, composed many of his concerti for himself to perform at the so-called “Subscription Academies”. An example of this is the C minor Piano Concerto, composed while he was working on the opera Le nozze di Figaro and already foreshadowing Beethoven with its dark, majestic air. Piotr Anderszewski, soloist at the concert, made a strong impression as a sensitive interpreter of Mozart at his Philharmoniker debut in 2005.

Free from External Constraints

Two Symphonies by Joseph Haydn and a Piano Concert by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Joseph Haydn in London

After the death of Prince Nikolaus of Esterházy (1790), who had employed him as music director for nearly 30 years, Joseph Haydn left Austria-Hungary for the first time in his life. Johann Peter Salomon, a violinist from Bonn who had been active in London as concertmaster, soloist, quartet player and impresario since 1781, engaged Haydn for his “Salomon Concerts” series. The contract stipulated, among other things, that he was to compose twelve new symphonies and a new opera.

Haydn arrived in Dover on New Year’s Day 1791 and continued his journey to London. The first subscription concert that Salomon had arranged for his guest took place at the Hanover Square Rooms on 11 March of that year and offered a varied programme: seven soloists performed instrumental compositions, lieder and vocal numbers. Salomon himself sat at the concertmaster’s desk, and Haydn conducted the performance of Symphony No. 96 from the harpsichord during the second part of the concert. He later wrote to a friend in Vienna that the work had created a “furore” and the slow movement was repeated at the request of the audience.

Symphony No. 101 in D major “The Clock”

Haydn went to London for the second time on 4 February 1794, bringing with him the completed score of Symphony No. 99 and parts of Symphonies No. 100 and 101. Called “The Clock” because of the “rocking” accompaniment in the slow movement, Symphony No. 101 in D major was premiered in London on 3 March 1794 and was a resounding success, like all of Haydn’s concerts. A critic observed: “Every new overture he writes, we fear, till it is heard, he can only repeat himself; and we are every time mistaken.” This work clearly displays the characteristics of Haydn’s symphonic oeuvre at its zenith: the perfection of the form, the clarity of the texture, the unity of the style, the originality of the thematic material and the inventiveness of the ideas.

The work begins with a slow, darkly shaded introduction, which already contains both themes of the animated first movement. The development section is devoted primarily to treatment of the second theme. The slow movement opens with a simple theme in the first violins above the “tick-tock” of the bassoons and the pizzicato of the low strings. The combination of the ostinato accompaniment and the free development of the melody make this movement particularly fascinating. The minuet is lively, at a robust pace; the trio provides a contrast, with its strongly flowing motion and solos by the flute and bassoon. During the Finale, rondo, sonata form and fugue are ingeniously combined. The principal theme is developed extensively. It consists of three parts: an eight-bar phrase, a twelve-bar “answer” and the repetition of the previous eight bars. The first subsidiary theme is related to the principal theme, while the second presents new thematic material; the symphony concludes with a 30-bar coda.

Symphony No. 103 in E flat major “Drumroll”

Haydn composed the E flat major Symphony for his fourth and last season in London. He surprised (and still surprises) listeners in his penultimate work for the genre with an unusual Adagio introduction at the very start. It begins with the drumroll from which the symphony takes its name. The score reveals the meaning of this curious opening. The term “intrada” appears in the timpani part, thus referring back to music of the 16th and 17th centuries, when intradas – brief instrumental pieces – were used for the opening of festive events. The drumroll is followed by “a vaguely insidious melody” in the basses and bassoon “whose darkly threatening character is brightened slightly by the delicate wind chords at the end of every phrase”, as musicologist Wolfgang Marggraf has described it. The animated principal theme of the first movement offers a sharp contrast.

The following Andante consists of variations on a minor and a major theme. As the Croatian ethnomusicologist Franjo Žaver Kuhač discovered, both are based on folk songs that were sung in the area of Sopron, Hungary (German: Ödenburg), not far from the Eszterházy palace. The C minor theme (“On the meadow”) is played by the strings, and the theme in C major (“Spring is coming”) is heard in the oboes, bassoons and horns. The vigorously energetic minuet follows as a full-blown movement and no longer a section inserted between supposedly more important sections. On the one hand, it is a symphonic character piece but is also in a folk style. During the trio, the two clarinets in unison make a solo “entrance” with the violins.

The closing Allegro con spirito manages with a single theme. The introduction again makes the listener sit up and take notice: with its four-bar horn call, played by two horns, it is the counterpart of the drumroll at the beginning of the first movement. During the repetition of the horn call, the violins play the principal theme, which is also taken from a Croatian folk song. Rondo and sonata form are artfully combined in this movement.

Profound Depth and Extreme Melancholy: Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C minor, K. 491

The Piano Concerto in C minor, K. 491, is in many respects one of Mozart’s most remarkable contributions to the genre. The musicologist and Mozart scholar Eva Badura-Skoda called it “probably Mozart’s most personal instrumental work, which is just as passionate as the D minor Concerto K. 466 or the great G minor Symphony K. 550 but surpasses these works in its profound depth and tragic nature”. Her colleague Friedrich Blume even regarded it as the composer’s “most powerful anticipation of Romanticism”.

The work’s orchestration is opulent, truly symphonic. In addition to the strings, it calls for a flute, pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns and trumpets as well as timpani. Although the previous (K. 482) and subsequent (K. 503) concertos are also scored for a large orchestra, in the C minor Concerto Mozart – who was especially fond of the clarinet – used the combination of clarinets and oboes, which otherwise is seldom found in his works.

The first movement (Allegro) is in a brisk 3/4 metre, “with something terse and succinct about it, averse to beating about the bush”, according to musicologist Rudolf Bockholdt. Like all first movements in Mozart concertos, the soloist enters only after a lengthy (99 bars) orchestral introduction. An “Eingang” entrance, a short improvisatory passage, leads into the principal theme, which has a vigorous, even defiant character. The middle movement, a Larghetto in E flat major, is a rondo with the structure A–B–A–C–A: principal theme, refrain (A), episodes in C minor (B) and A flat major (C) with new themes and marvellous dialogues between the piano and woodwinds. The finale, an Allegretto in the principal key of C minor in 4/4 metre, is a set of variations. The orchestra presents the marchlike theme, followed by eight variations, of which only two (nos. 5 and 7) are “thematically very individual interpolations within the chain of variations” (Rudolf Bockholdt).

Mozart’s composing for the genre of the piano concerto and his appearances as a virtuoso in Vienna were approaching their end with this C minor work. His star had already begun to wane at this point: On 7 April 1786, the presumed the date of the premiere, he appeared at the Burgtheater for the last time. Mozart’s music no longer suited the times; it was regarded as too difficult, dark, confusing. And so, as Wolfgang Hildesheimer has suggested, “gradually he must have realized that he was no longer needed . . .”

Helge Grünewald

Translation: Phyllis Anderson

Giovanni Antonini studied in his home town of Milan, as well as at the Centre de Musique Ancienne in Geneva. A founding member of the Baroque ensemble Il Giardino Armonico, he has been their music director since 1989 and has performed with them in many of the world’s major music venues both as conductor and as recorder and baroque flute soloist. In addition to the baroque and early classical concert repertoire, Giovanni Antonini has also conducted a large number of operas and oratorios by Monteverdi, Fux, Handel, Pergolesi, Cimarosa and Mozart. He makes guest regular appearances as conductor of renowned symphony and chamber orchestras such as the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, the Mozarteum Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, the Basel Chamber Orchestra and the Leipzig Gewandhaus. He has equally conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker on several occasions since his debut in January 2004; the last time in September 2010. He also appeared as a guest of the Foundation with Il Giardino Armonico on three occasions (in February of 2008, 2012 and 2015) as part of the Original Sounds series. Giovanni Antonini has worked together with Isabelle Faust, Sol Gabetta, Katia and Marielle Labèque, Viktoria Mullova and in particular with Cecilia Bartoli. In 2013 he conducted a recording of Bellini’s Norma with Bartoli in the title role. He is artistic director of the Wratislavia Cantans Festival in Poland.

Piotr Anderszewski was born in Warsaw in 1969, and began playing the piano at the age of six. He studied in Lyon, Strasbourg, Warsaw and in Southern California; He also participated in master classes held by Fou Ts'ong, Murray Perahia and Leon Fleisher. Piotr Anderszewski came to international attention soon after his debut at London's Wigmore Hall in 1991, and since then, he has performed solo programmes in numerous musical capitals (e.g. Paris, Vienna, Budapest, New York, Chicago and Tokyo), and has been a guest of, among others, the Boston, Chicago and London symphony orchestras, the Munich Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam. As a soloist and musical director, he has given concerts with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen. Piotr Anderszewski has also acted as curator and performer in a number of festivals devoted to the music of Karol Szymanowski. During his career, the pianist has been awarded several high-profile prizes, including the prestigious Gilmore Artists Award. The director Bruno Monsaingeon has made three documentaries about him, including an unusual portrait entitled Piotr Anderszewski, Unquiet Traveller (2008), in which the artist gives his thoughts on music, concerts and his Polish-Hungarian roots. Piotr Anderszewski made his debut in Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation concerts at the end of November 2004 with a solo recital which included works by Bach, Szymanowski and Chopin. As a concert soloist with the orchestra, he was heard for the first time in May 2005 with Mozart's Piano Concerto in C major K. 467 under the baton of Bernard Haitink. Most recently, he gave a Schumann recital with Matthias Goerne here in early June 2015. On 22 February 2016, Piotr Anderszewski will again give a solo recital in the Chamber Music Hall as a guest of the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation. On the programme are works by Bartók, Janáček and J. S. Bach.

Warner ClassicsPiotr Anderszewski appears by courtesy of Warner Classics.

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