During his years in exile, Arnold Schoenberg occasionally met leading figures of American entertainment: there was George Gershwin, for example, whose music he greatly appreciated and with whom the composer sometimes played tennis. And his only piano concerto resulted from a commission from the pianist and later radio, Broadway and Hollywood star Oscar Levant, who studied with him for a while.
Schoenberg’s opus 42, written in the twelve-tone technique and premiered in New York in 1944, certainly does not belong in the category of light music. But the concerto is by no means as inaccessible as is often claimed! Even the beginning, intoned by the solo instrument in a pensive character and interspersed with delicate orchestral interjections, possesses not only profundity but also elegance and charm. And the end of the work captivates with a stirring dramatic climax. In this concert, the soloist is Mitsuko Uchida, who has been playing with the Berliner Philharmoniker since 1984.
Anton Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony was premiered in 1884 to great acclaim by the Leipzig Gewandhauskapelle under the direction of Arthur Nikisch. Andris Nelsons – Gewandhaus kapellmeister since 2018 – has embarked on a complete recording of Bruckner’s symphonies with his orchestra, and conducts the work here with the Philharmoniker. According to Nelsons, the expansive opening theme, intoned by the cellos, creates “a wonderful and warm atmosphere”; the listener feels “literally embraced by the melody”. The Adagio, designed as poignant funeral music, is followed by a mysterious Scherzo and a finale that is unusually brief for Bruckner, in whose jubilant conclusion the main theme of the first movement also appears.