10 Märsche, um den Sieg zu verfehlen
Piano Concerto in G major
The Ox on the Roof, Op. 58
Erik Satie – Claude Debussy:
Gymnopedie No. 1
Erik Satie – Francis Poulenc:
Gnossienne No. 3
About the event
Marches, tangos, jazz, surreal Spartans and waltzes―it is hard to imagine a more colorful program. Though the concert features Argentinian and French composers active around the turn of the last century and in the last century, all of whom were eccentrics, their iconoclastic, odd personal styles add up to a harmonious yet satisfyingly diverse unity. Kagel’s entertaining music, Piazzolla’s melancholy, Ravel’s buoyancy, Milhaud’s exoticism and Satie’s unique mindset all promise an unforgettable experience. So does the soloist for the evening, Seong-Jin Cho from South Korea, who rose to fame after winning the International Chopin Piano Competition in 2015, and had a tour with Iván Fischer and the Festival Orchestra in 2019.
Kagel, who was born in Argentina but spent most of his life in Germany, is mostly known for his incidental music for the theatre. He passed away in 2008. The title of his 10 Marches to Miss the Victory is not the only unusual thing about the piece. The orchestration, the spacial position of the parts and their actual pitch are all decided by the performers. This virtuosic, funny piece filled with clichés of marches is put together on the stage, without prior consultation, as the musicians adapt to each other.
“Those classical musicians are like that”, said Piazzolla after the premiere of Tangazo, referring to the contrasting worlds of tango and classical music. The conventional concert hall atmosphere is disrupted by the sinuous, lamenting melodies and the erotic slides (glissandi) of the piece.
According to Ravel’s account, his Piano Concerto in G major, composed in 1928, is nothing but a string of cheerful and occasionally jazzy tunes. Nonetheless, there’s obviously much more to it than fake glamour. The music is virtuosic and enigmatic, playful and magnificent at the same time, with unmistakably Ravelian jazzy sections.
Though it was originally intended as incidental music for a Chaplin movie, it ended up as a surrealist ballet: Milhaud’s music conjuring up Brazilian scenes was snapped up by Cocteau in 1919 to create his ballet featuring slow motion as well as artists, clowns and dwarfs. Though it has hardly ever been performed in this form, the music incorporating popular dance tunes continues to be a favorite concert piece.
With his bowler hat, umbrella, grotesque writings and unmistakable musical style Satie stuck out from the 19th-century Parisian scene. His most famous piano pieces (Gymnopedies) took their title from a Spartan festivity where young men danced and wrestled with each other in the nude. And what does the likewise free and melancholic gnossienne mean? Only the inventor of the word, Satie knows.
When Diaghilev commissioned a ballet from Ravel in 1919, the composer wrote La valse as a tribute to Viennese waltz and Johann Strauss II, making a long-time dream come true. The music that the ballet director considered abhorrent and unfit for dance, was eventually immortalized as an independent composition.
Did you know? Kagel and Piazzola composed their pieces in 1979 and 1969, respectively, Ravel’s piano concerto premiered in Paris on January 14, 1932 (soloist: Marguerite Long, conducted by the composer), Milhaud’s composition was first played in Paris on February 21, 1920, the two Satie gymnopédies arranged by Debussy debuted in Paris on February 20, 1897 (conductor: Gustave Doret) and Ravel’s La Valse was first performed in Paris on December 12, 1920 (conductor: Camille Chevillard); the Festival Orchestra last played Milhaud’s work in Budapest on December 27, 2011 (conductor: Iván Fischer), the two gymnopédies in Budapest on February 19, 2006 (conductor: Iván Fischer) and Ravel’s composition in Budapest on December 26, 2008 (conductor: Iván Fischer), and will be performing the other pieces now for the first time.
Contemporary events in 1979, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, a book by American philosopher Richard Rorty was first published / on June 21, 1979, Octet by American composer Steve Reich was first performed in Frankfurt / on July 20, 1969, the astronauts of Apollo-11 landed on the Moon / Brave New World, a novel by English writer Aldous Huxley was published in 1932 / Girl Before Mirror by Spanish painter Pablo Picasso was completed in 1932 / on May 15, 1920, Pulcinella, a ballet by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, was first staged in Paris/ Czech writer Karel Čapek wrote his sci-fi drama, R. U. R. Rossum's Universal Robots, in 1920 / on April 3, 1897, Gustav Klimt and other Austrian visual artists founded the Vienna Secession Association / on November 27, 1897, Opéra Comique in Paris premiered Sapho, the opera of French composer Jules Massenet