About the event
Symphonic Minutes, a piano concerto introducing revolutionary innovations, a symphonic poem, an opera excerpt and “an old scoundrel's tale – in rondo form.” Three composers with a fantastic gift for orchestration; untold yet pleasing stories and the endless mix of timbres in an orchestra – this is on offer at the joint concert in Lugano by the BFO and the legendary Rudolf Buchbinder, an authority with more than 60 years’ experience. The pianist, known for his Beethoven performances, appears on the podium after Dohnányi’s Symphonic Minutes (composed with a ballet stage in mind) to perform Beethoven ’s last piano concerto, which the composer intended to play himself. After the intermission, the focus is on Richard Strauss: the story of the famous womanizer is followed by Oscar Wilde’s seductive but terrifying heroine, and then, eventually, Till Eulenspiegel plays his tricks on the audience.
In 1933, to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Orchestra of the Budapest Philharmonic Society, the great trio of Hungarian composers joined forces: One work each from Bartók, Kodály, and Dohnányi was on the program of the jubilee concert. A year later, Symphonic Minutes also reached the stage of the Budapest Opera House with choreography by Dohnányi’s wife, Elza Galafrés. The five movements are the ethereal Capriccio, a somewhat dejected Rhapsody, a buoyant Scherzo, a movement of variations on a 16th century melody and a carefree Rondo.
Beethoven first began to show signs of deafness in 1798, which mainly hindered his career as a performer, and ten years later he was forced to give up his career as a pianist. The last concert where he played as a soloist was in Vienna on 22 December 1808. He performed his fourth and most solemn piano concerto, which, as he composed it for himself, abounds with improvisation-like passages. In contrast with the era’s custom, the piece does not open with an orchestral introduction, but - for the first time in the history of music - the piano immediately begins with a main theme related to the famous motif of fate. The second movement is the passionate and tense dialogue of two different worlds; Liszt thought that it was a musical representation of the Orpheus story. The finale resolves the often introverted work with a cheerful rondo.
A teasing, increasingly vehement musical theme for four French horns with lyrical melodies between the returns of the theme – anyone can guess without knowing the title: this is all about Don Juan’s conquests. Strauss did not permit the printing of a text next to his composition of 1888 since the story could clearly be followed in his music. A concise, impressive portrait, also rich in tunes.
A seductive woman to replace the seductive man: young Salome, performing a thrilling dance in front of her emotionally highly-strung stepfather, can ask for anything in return for the Dance of the Seven Veils. And she wants the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter. The wonderful last scene, preceding complete madness, is the best-known part of Strauss’ opera, premiered in 1905; its exotic music builds up gradually.
The last piece of the concert commemorates Till Eulenspiegel, a scoundrel from the world of German tales. Arranged like a rondo, the adventures are independent of one another yet are connected by two unmistakable Till-motifs. These continue to echo on even after the death of the title hero, suggesting that provocation and épater le bourgeois (shock the middle classes) are eternal themes. One of the greatest strengths of the light, entertaining music is that beneath the playful surface, it also carries within it deeper layers of life.