Even in his first performed opera, Peter Grimes, Benjamin Britten achieved a compellingly dramatic musical language, in which modern instrumentation is brilliantly merged with traditional melodic and harmonic structures and highly sophisticated sonorities. Andris Nelsons opens this concert with one of the opera’s graphically vivid “sea interludes”, the Passacaglia.
In Jörg Widmann’s 2007 Violin Concerto which follows, the composer lets the soloist unfold his great song almost without interruption. At the beginning and end of the work the violin plays completely unaccompanied; in the middle section it is supported by carefully darkened orchestral colours. Here the composer does not exploit the extreme possibilities of the solo concerto but rather conceives the form as freedom to explore intermediate shadings in terms of sonority and tempo. The solo part in this performance is played by Christian Tetzlaff, one of the leading violinists of our day, who gave the concerto its premiere.
French Impressionism informs the second part of the concert: Claude Debussy’s three-movement symphonic poem La Mer, glistening in every imaginable orchestral colour, and Maurice Ravel’s enigmatic tone poem La Valse, a musical distorting mirror that reflects the crumbling Austro-Hungarian monarchy, which finally disappeared in the First World War.