Date: Wednesday 30 November 2022
Time: 20.30 – 22.00 hours
Location: Aula, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, campus Woudestein
Students: € 5,00
Other visitors: € 8,00
Organised by the Rotterdam Student Orchestra in cooperation with Studium Generale
The musical journey starts in the West: specifically, in Munich, where a young Richard Strauss (1864–1949), still true to his conservative musical upbringing and very distant from the New German School of Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner he would later be associated with, in 1879 composed the Romanze for clarinet and orchestra. The romantic piece, written for a fellow pupil at Strauss’s school, is interpreted by an extraordinarily talented young soloist from Codarts conservatory, Deniz Gülbeyaz.
This is followed by the Concertino for clarinet and orchestra by Carl Maria von Weber (1786–1826). Weber, one of the earliest exponents of German romanticism in music, composed the lively and playful piece in 1811 for the virtuoso Heinrich Joseph Baermann. Here, the soloist Deniz Gülbeyaz can shine again and explore, jointly with the orchestra, the captivating wit and beauty that sets German romanticism apart from other national styles.
Very different musical ideas emerged in the East. During the late-Romantic period, a group known as the Mighty Five formed in Saint Petersburg. Their goal: to develop a unique national style of music, making use of ‘Eastern’ themes and harmonies. A prominent member of the Five was Modest Mussorgsky (1839–1881), who composed the first version of Night on Bald Mountain in 1867. This piece is based on Slavik folk mythology and revolves around the Witches’ Sabbath on Kupala Night. Only after Mussorgsky’s death, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, another member of the Mighty Five, published the arrangement at hand, which soon rose to international fame.
Even further East leads the symphonic poem In the Steppes of Central Asia, composed by Alexander Borodin (1833–1887) in 1880. It describes encounters of the various peoples native to Central Asia and cleverly plays with ethnic melodies, which eventually join in a common harmony. Borodin was also a member of the Mighty Five, and it comes as no surprise that the acclaimed first performance of this work in Saint Petersburg was conducted by, again, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893) needs no introduction. Unlike the Mighty Five, Tchaikovsky was heavily inspired by Western music, and the Capriccio Italien, composed in 1880, is a perfect example for those influences. Tchaikovsky had just visited Rome during Carnival and managed to incorporate Italian street music and folk songs into the work. While a success with the public after the premiere in Moscow, the piece once again earned Tchaikovsky criticism for his excessive reliance on Western music. This ultimate encounter of East and West serves as a fitting conclusion of the concert.