Schoenberg once jokingly remarked about his Violin Concerto that the music was intended for a new kind of “violinist with 6 fingers”. The work, which was dedicated to Dr. Anton von Webern, was one of the first major compositions after Schoenberg emigrated to the USA and is characterised not only by the twelve-tone technique, but also by its intricately interwoven, dense composition and its brilliant solo part. Patricia Kopatchinskaja, the soloist in this programme, approached this piece in an unusual and very refreshing way: via the melodrama Pierrot lunaire, a milestone on Schoenberg’s path to a new musical language. The violinist studied the part of the speaking voice – in which she appears in the Late Night concert on 9 March – and discovered that many elements of the piece could also be found in the Violin Concerto, such as the pointed articulation, the sound painting, the wit, the tenderness and the constant change of mood. “The tonal language of the concerto is new and expressive, like Schoenberg’s pictures,” she reveals, “but the form is old, like a plush sofa, on which you can imagine escaping the difficulties of the solo part as a six-fingered Pierrot in a dodecaphonic dream.”
After the interval, Kirill Petrenko has programmed Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, which is one of the composer’s most popular creations today. However, this success was unexpected as the work, despite its successful German premiere in Hamburg in 1889, had been “completely forgotten” two years later as the music critic Nikolay Kashkin reported in his reminiscences of Tchaikovsky, published in 1896. He then continued that “Arthur Nikisch, the present Kapellmeister of the Leipzig Gewandhaus and the Philharmonic concerts in Berlin, took the symphony on, and performed it in London, Leipzig, Berlin and Moscow with such brilliant success that one can hope that it will take its proper place in the symphonic repertoire”. The action of Nikisch, who Tchaikovsky revered as a “master of his craft” and as a “magician in front of the orchestra”, did not fail to have its effect. More and more conductors took on the work with the result that today, Tchaikovsky’s Fifth is one of the world’s most frequently performed symphonies, alongside Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony and Beethoven’s Eroica.