Programme Guide

For the European Concert of 1998, the Berliner Philharmoniker and Claudio Abbado were joined by a silent, but no less impressive soloist: The 1627-built three-masted ship Vasa, which sank on its maiden voyage. In the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, specially built for this ship, the musicians performed works that portray water, wind and sky. With the Swedish Radio Choir and the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir, they were joined by two of Sweden’s internationally renowned music institutions.

The opening piece was an obvious choice: the overture to Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer (“The Flying Dutchman”), which conveys the incredible force of an eerie night storm on the high seas. A similar portrayal is to be experienced in Tchaikovsky’s orchestral fantasy The Tempest, based on Shakespeare’s play of the same name – although here, other scenes from the fairy tale-like story are also heard, but without recounting the complicated story in detail.

Even less tangible are Claude Debussy’s Nocturnes: music that does not directly illustrate, but rather suggests. In the first movement we encounter Nuages – clouds, followed by festivals (Fêtes) and sirens (Sirènes). In this last movement, we are back at sea with its flaring and swaying rhythms, and the choirs also make their first appearance. In the multifaceted Quattro pezzi sacri by the 80-year-old Verdi, they can then show their abilities to full advantage. These spiritual works set a counterpoint to the preceding tone poems. It is not the storms of nature which are in focus, but the change from calm and turmoil that every person carries within himself.


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