Programme Guide

A number of Anton Bruckner’s most painful artistic setbacks were associated with his Third Symphony, composed 1872-1873 and which later underwent repeated revisions. For example, in 1874, the Wiener Philharmoniker refused to play the premiere of the work as presented to them – which moved Bruckner to revise the score, dedicated to “Master Richard Wagner in deepest reverence”, for a first time. Unfortunately without the desired success, as the composer noted in his diary in 1877: “3rd rejection of my Wagnerian Symphony No. 3 / 2nd rejection 1875.” However, Bruckner was by no means ready to give up: After making further changes to his Third, it finally received its belated premiere in Vienna on 16 December 1877. But the evening, ill-starred from the outset, was a fiasco: After the conductor Johann Herbeck had passed away a few weeks previously, Bruckner, inexperienced as an orchestral conductor, agreed at short notice to conduct the concert himself – and in doing so, proved himself to be perhaps not the most adept interpreter of his own music.

More self-critical as a composer than as a conductor, Bruckner then created another, now heavily cut, version of his Third. In this form, the work was presented again in Vienna on 21 December 1890 under the direction of Hans Richter. And this time, Bruckner was finally able to enjoy the popularity he had longed for. The question of whether the composer had rejected his original intentions to better suit the public taste of his day, or whether the final version of the Third is actually the ʻbestʼ, was not raised until the middle of the 20th century. Among the conductors who continue this debate – even in our times – is Herbert Blomstedt who on this occasion with the Berliner Philharmoniker, shows his preference for the original version of Bruckner’s problem child.

In the first part of the concert, a work is performed whose genesis and reception were more straightforward: the A major Piano Concerto K. 488 was entered by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on 2 March 1786 in his “Catalogue of all my works” which he had begun two years previously. It was given its first performance in Vienna not long after, and quickly became one of the composer’s most popular contributions to the genre – not least because of its dream-like, middle movement which anticipates the age of Romanticism. The soloist is the admirable pianist Maria João Pires, renowned for her sensitive touch.

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