Programme Guide

Mariss Jansons first conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1971, after he had won second prize in Herbert von Karajan’s International Competition for Conductors. His “official” debut in Hans Scharoun’s Philharmonie came five years later, and since then the Latvian conductor has been a regular and welcome guest. For his first Waldbühne concert in June 1994 he created a musical portrait of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the 19th century with works by Schubert, Brahms, Liszt, members of Vienna’s waltzing Strauss dynasty, Richard Strauss, Smetana and Enescu.The Viennese waltz was always bound to feature prominently in a programme headed “A Night of Dances and Rhapsodies”, and on this occasion the works in question were the overture to Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss the Younger and the suite of waltzes from Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier – although here the waltzes are an anachronism since the opera is set in the Vienna of Maria Theresa at a time when the waltz had yet to be discovered. The Waltz King is also represented by his polka Thunder and Lightning, while his father, Johann Strauss the Elder, contributes arguably the most famous march of all time, a work written in honour of Field Marshal Josef Wenzel Count Radetzky von Radetz.

Hungary, Romania and Bohemia also belonged to the Habsburgs’ Austro-Hungarian Empire, and their music inspired Western European composers like Brahms and Liszt to write “Hungarian” works of their own. (Liszt may have been born in what was then Hungary, but he did not speak a word of Hungarian.) Both composers were paying tribute to the contemporary fashion for exotic rhythms and tone colours, while their colleagues Bedřich Smetana and George Enescu were more concerned to give their respective nations a distinctive musical voice.

An undoubted highlight of this Waldbühne concert is Liszt’s arrangement of Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy, an arrangement that transformed Schubert’s discursive piano piece into a highly virtuosic bravura work for piano and orchestra. The Waldbühne performance was notable for a brilliant reading of the solo part by Mikhail Rudy, a pianist who was born in Tashkent but who now lives in Paris. He and Mariss Jansons have worked together frequently over the years.

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