Antonín Dvořák’s eternally youthful Slavonic Dances represent a charming constant in the work of the Berliner Philharmoniker together with their chief conductor Sir Simon Rattle. A selection also opens this orchestral concert at the Easter Festival in Baden-Baden. Dvořák’s dances, published in two parts, are unmistakably linked to the no less popular Hungarian Dances by Johannes Brahms.
The genesis of the second Dvořák work in the programme also has a connection to the German composer: Like Brahms’s Violin Concerto, Dvořák’s sole contribution to the genre, written almost at the same time as Brahms’s, also benefited from the expert advice of the violinist of the century, Joseph Joachim. Dvořák even allowed himself to be inspired to make several significant changes to his original concept. The result is an irresistible masterpiece, both in its lyrical and its lively, folklore passages. The soloist is the Georgian violinist Lisa Batiashvili who has performed together with the Berliner Philharmoniker for a number of years.
Although the musical language of Dvořák seems little to resemble that of Bartók, both composers nevertheless succeeded in merging aspects of the Western European music tradition with the idiom of their home countries in an original way. In exile in America in 1944, and under the shadow of homesickness, financial worries and serious illness, Bartók created a classic of Modernism with his defiantly courageous Concerto for Orchestra in which the members of the orchestra have the opportunity to demonstrate their virtuosity in numerous solo passages.