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Whilst we are unable to come together with audiences at our Barbican home, we are pleased to continue releasing a programme of online content and streamed broadcasts, making music available for everyone to enjoy digitally in the coming weeks. A warm welcome to the numerous conductors and soloists joining us, among them many firm friends and regular collaborators with the Orchestra. We are delighted also to welcome back members of our family of conductors.
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Three composers, but one purpose: to enjoy the power of music at its happiest. Gianandrea Noseda and two of the LSO’s own stars share music they simply love.
Thursday 6 May 2021
Strauss, Liszt & Rota
Richard Strauss Duett-Concertino for Clarinet and Bassoon
Franz Liszt Symphonic Poem No 4, 'Orpheus'
Nino Rota Symphony No 3
Gianandrea Noseda conductor
Chris Richards clarinet
Rachel Gough bassoon
London Symphony Orchestra
This performance is broadcast on Marquee TV. Available to watch for free for seven days from 6 May, then on demand with a subscription.
Recorded at LSO St Luke's on Thursday 15 April in COVID-19 secure conditions.
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Duett-Concertino for Clarinet and Bassoon
✒️1947 | ⏰20 minutes
Chris Richards clarinet
Rachel Gough bassoon
1 Allegro moderato –
2 Andante –
3 Rondo: allegro non troppo
In 1947, at the age of 83, Richard Strauss completed what would be his last purely instrumental work, the Duett-Concertino for Clarinet and Bassoon. It is a prime example of the creativity so characteristic of Strauss’ final years, his ‘Indian Summer’.
The Concertino is dedicated to an old friend, Hugo Burghauser, previously Principal Bassoon of the Vienna Philharmonic. Strauss wrote to his friend while the work was still no more than a few sketches, ‘I am very busy with an idea for a double concerto for clarinet and bassoon, thinking especially of your beautiful tone’. Once complete, another letter to Burghauser revealed an underlying story to the work:
‘A dancing princess is alarmed by the grotesque cavorting of a bear in imitation of her. At last, she is won over to the creature and dances with it, upon which it turns into a prince.’ Strauss adds, ‘so in the end, you too will turn into a prince and live happily ever after …’
This beauty-and-the-beast-esque tale plays out in the work’s three movements, which are performed without breaks. The first begins with a five-note flourish, introduced by the principal players of the string sections – a ‘soli’ group that Strauss sets apart from the remainder of the strings (the ‘tutti’ group). Of our two protagonists, we meet the princess first, beautifully poised in an exquisite clarinet line. Along comes the bear (the bassoon) soon enough, his gruffness provoking distress and agitation in the clarinet and strings, though not for long. An animated exchange between the soloists ensues, before the clarinet and a solo violin recall the princess’ first melody, the bear grumbling along below.
In the transition to the second movement, we can hear the bear transform into a prince – the strings shimmer with high tremolandos (look to see the bows scrubbing away, playing one note repeatedly) and the harp dances – before one of the most expressive passages ever written for bassoon. The clarinet cannot help but be drawn in, singing along with its own delicate melody. As the movement draws to an end, the soloists turn to the five-note flourish heard at the very beginning of the work upon which to build their new life together.
So begins the final movement, the clarinet playing the five-note theme, the bassoon playing an inversion of it. Amid the variations on the main theme that are heard as the end of the work’s end approaches, a new, lyrical melody emerges. Shared by the soloists and supported by the violins, it is an endorsement of a fine match between our protagonists – the princess and the bear-turned-prince.
Though the Concertino was dedicated to Strauss’ friend Burghauser, its premiere was given in 1948 by the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana, for whom the work had been commissioned by its conductor Otmar Nussio. It was performed the following year at the BBC Proms, a little over a month before Strauss’ death. Malcolm Sargent conducted the LSO with Frederick Thurston and Archie Camden on clarinet and bassoon.
1864 to 1949 (Germany)
Richard Strauss was born in Munich in 1864, the son of Franz Strauss, a brilliant horn player in the Munich court orchestra. Strauss had his first piano lessons when he was four, producing his first composition two years later, but he did not attend a music academy. His formal education ended at Munich University, although he continued with his musical training at the same time. Following the first public performances of his work, he received a commission from Hans von Bülow in 1882 and two years later was appointed Bülow’s Assistant Musical Director at the Meiningen Court Orchestra, the beginning of a career in which Strauss was to conduct many of the world’s great orchestras, in addition to holding positions at opera houses in Munich, Weimar, Berlin and Vienna. While at Munich, he married the singer Pauline de Ahna, for whom he wrote many of his greatest songs.
Strauss’ legacy is to be found in his operas and his magnificent symphonic poems. Scores such as Till Eulenspiegel, Also Sprach Zarathustra, Don Juan and Ein Heldenleben demonstrate his supreme mastery of orchestration; the thoroughly modern operas Salome and Elektra, with their Freudian themes and atonal scoring, are landmarks in the development of 20th-century music, and Der Rosenkavalier has become one of the most popular operas of the century. Strauss spent his last years in self-imposed exile in Switzerland, waiting to be officially cleared of complicity in the Nazi regime. He died at Garmisch Partenkirchen in 1949, shortly after his widely celebrated 85th birthday.
Composer profile by Andrew Stewart
Symphonic Poem No 4, 'Orpheus'
✒️1854 | ⏰12 minutes
In 1847, Franz Liszt gave up his career as the world’s most famous pianist to work as a conductor and composer. He hoped the change would help him reimagine the language of music. In short, Liszt wanted to bring about the ‘rejuvenation of music by its more profound link with the art of poetry.’ In 1853 he coined the term ‘symphonic poem,’ describing a piece of music inspired by literature, painting, poetry or landscape.
The following year, Liszt conducted a performance of Gluck’s opera Orfeo ed Euridice at the opera in Weimar. He wrote a new orchestral prelude to the opera for the occasion, as well as an epilogue. Liszt later extended that prelude into his fourth symphonic poem, Orpheus. It wasn’t Liszt’s intention to tell any particular story associated with Orpheus. Rather, he wanted to present an image of the character and perhaps suggest his broader relevance to humanity. Much is left to the imagination of the listener.
The composer had recently seen an Etruscan vase in the Louvre museum in Paris, depicting Orpheus playing his lyre and calming the souls of men and animals. It’s easy to hear this referenced in the strumming harps that appear at the start of the piece.
Over the harps, Liszt outlines a simple tune that could be said to personify Orpheus. The overall impression across the composer’s three-part poem, in which the third part reprises the first, is of the ennobling power of music. Eventually, the music floats away with a series of chords compared, by Liszt, to rising incense.
Note by Andrew Mellor
1811 (Hungary) to 1886 (Germany)
Franz Liszt's father, Adam, was a cellist in the court orchestra of Prince Nikolaus Esterházy. He taught his son piano, and was delighted when the boy gave his first public concerts in 1820. The following year the family moved to Vienna, where Franz studied with the great pianist Carl Czerny and composition with Antonio Salieri, Kapellmeister at the imperial court. His debut concerts in Vienna were a critical success; Liszt later claimed that Beethoven, who was in the audience for his second appearance in April 1823, had kissed the prodigy's forehead.
Liszt was soon in demand as a recitalist throughout Europe and beyond; aristocrats invited him to perform at their private salons and audiences were driven wild by his incredible command of the keyboard. He attracted and fell in love with many of his female fans and piano pupils, including Countess Marie d'Agoult, who left her husband for Liszt and bore him three children before they split in 1843. He also formed friendships with leading writers, artists and musicians, among them George Sand, Hector Berlioz and Richard Wagner, who married his youngest daughter, Cosima.
In February 1848 Liszt became music director to the court of Weimar. Shortly before accepting this job, he fell in love with Princess Carolyne Sayn Wittgenstein, but their wedding plans were thwarted in 1861 when the annulment of her first marriage was declined. After the death of his eldest daughter, Liszt entered the oratory of the Madonna del Rosario in Rome and, in 1865, took minor orders in the Roman Catholic Church. In his final years, he travelled extensively and composed a series of elegiac, often mystical piano works. According to the pianist Louis Kantner, 'Liszt was a devout Catholic: he feared God, but he loved the Devil'.
Composer profile by Andrew Stewart
Symphony No 3
✒️1956 to 1957 | ⏰19 minutes
2 Adagio con moto
4 Vivace con spirit
Nino Rota strove to achieve the same sense of immediacy in his concert works as in his film music. One trend that allowed him to do just that was neo-classicism – using shapes, proportions and musical manners that harked back to the baroque and classical eras of composers like Handel, Mozart and so on.
If Rota’s first two symphonies had neo-classical tendencies, his third and final symphony went all-in. It was written in 1956 to 1957, during one of the composer’s most intense periods of writing for the cinema. The music has all the immaculate craftsmanship associated with the mid-century neo-classical movement, where no note is wasted and textures are lucid and transparent. The symphony also shows Rota at his best, able to dream up a melody, present it clearly, and immediately get to work elaborating it – satisfying the architectural rules of the Classical symphony with apparent effortlessness.
During the playful bustle that launches the piece, a brisk tune is thrown between strings and woodwinds. It returns after the more louche clarinet tune but before a witty sign-off, when the music appears to sit down and behave itself with an appeasing wind chord.
There follows an intimate, emotive slow Adagio haunted by a trumpet tune and a third movement Scherzo with more than a touch of commedia dell’arte play-acting. That movement ends with two percussive notes used as a double full stop – a device Rota takes over into the final movement, which offsets the pointed and percussive with the smooth and shapely.
Throughout the piece, Rota’s sense of musical order is stalked by the inner restlessness of driving, insistent rhythms and short attention spans. As the music of the last movement shows signs of drifting whimsically, it is called to order at the very last moment.
Note by Andrew Mellor
1911 to 1979 (Italy)
Nino Rota had written his first major work by the age of twelve. In his teens he was a student at the conservatories of Milan and Rome and by 20 he was studying at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where he befriended Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber. Back in Italy in 1932, Rota was a fully-formed composer, but a notably conservative one – a tunesmith and a craftsman with a gift for musical entertainment and imitation.
In 1951, Rota collaborated for the first time with the filmmaker Federico Fellini, a partnership that would last three decades. In total, Rota scored more than 150 movies including Fellini’s La dolce vita and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather trilogy, winning an Oscar in the process. Fellini treasured Rota’s friendship. ‘As soon as he arrived, stress disappeared,’ said the director.
Rota’s output was huge. He completed eleven operas, five ballets, three symphonies and numerous instrumental, chamber and choral works in addition to his film music. His operas tended towards magical fairytale and his concert works towards the discipline of old styles – sometimes neo-classical after Handel and Mozart, sometimes neo-romantic after Dvořák (a particular favourite).
‘If anyone reckons that all I am attempting to express in my music is a little nostalgia and lots of humour and optimism, well that is exactly how I would like to be remembered,’ Rota once said. He was flooded with happiness when writing music, and wanted nothing more than for others to feel that happiness when it is played.
Composer profile by Andrew Mellor
LSO Principal Guest Conductor
Gianandrea Noseda is one of the world’s most sought-after conductors, equally recognised for his artistry in the concert hall and opera house. He is Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and has been Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra since the 2017/18 season. In 2018, his initial four-year contract was extended for four more years, up to and including the 2024/25 season.
In 2019, Noseda and the National Symphony Orchestra, which has its home at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, earned rave reviews for their first concerts together at New York’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. The 2019/20 season saw their artistic partnership continue to flourish with the launch of a new recording label distributed by LSO Live.
Noseda also serves as Principal Guest Conductor of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and Artistic Director of the Stresa Festival in Italy. In the 2021/22 season, Noseda became General Music Director of the Zurich Opera House, where he will lead his first Ring Cycle. From 2007 to 2018, Noseda served as Music Director of the Teatro Regio Torino, where his leadership and his initiatives propelled the company’s global reputation.
Noseda has worked with the world’s leading orchestras, opera houses and festivals including the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Filarmonica della Scala, Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre National de France, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Philharmonia Zurich, Philadelphia Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Royal Opera House (London), Salzburg Festival, Tonhalle Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna Symphony Orchestra.
In addition to his recordings for LSO Live, Noseda has an extensive discography of over 60 recordings for Chandos and Deutsche Grammophon, among others. He has championed the works of neglected Italian composers through his Musica Italiana recordings for Chandos. The most recent recording in this series – Dallapiccola’s Il Prigioniero with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra – has been critically acclaimed and named Gramophone magazine’s August 2020 Recording of the Month.
Noseda is closely involved with the next generation of musicians through his work as Music Director of the Tsinandali Festival and Pan-Caucasian Youth Orchestra, as well as with other youth orchestras, including the European Union Youth Orchestra.
A native of Milan, Noseda is Commendatore al Merito della Repubblica Italiana, marking his contribution to the artistic life of Italy. In 2015, he was Musical America’s Conductor of the Year, and was named the 2016 International Opera Awards Conductor of the Year.
LSO Principal Clarinet
Chris Richards studied at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama with Julian Farrell, Joy Farrall and Thea King. He reached the finals of the 2001 Shell/LSO competition, performing as a soloist with the LSO, and after his studies was appointed Principal Clarinet with the Royal Northern Sinfonia. Chris joined the LSO as Principal Clarinet in 2010.
He has performed as a soloist with orchestras such as the LSO, CBSO and Royal Northern Sinfonia with conductors including Sir Simon Rattle, James Gaffigan, Robin Ticciati, Thomas Zehetmair and H K Gruber. Chris has played chamber music at Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, LSO St Luke’s, The Sage Gateshead and Aldeburgh Festival with artists including Thomas Adès, Howard Shelley, Pascal Rogé and the Elias and Navarra string quartets.
LSO Principal Bassoon
Rachel Gough read anthropology and music at King’s College, Cambridge, before gaining scholarships for postgraduate study at the Royal Academy of Music and the Hannover Hochschule für Musik with Klaus Thunemann. During this time, she was Principal Bassoon of the European Community Youth Orchestra and won the Gold Medal at the Royal Overseas League. Prior to joining the LSO in 1999, Rachel was Co-Principal with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and a professor at the Royal Academy of Music, where she is now a Fellow.
Rachel has appeared as a soloist with Sir Colin Davis, Valery Gergiev, Bernard Haitink, Sir Neville Marriner, Gianandrea Noseda and Gennady Rozhdestvensky. Several solo works have been written for her, including the London Concerto by Huw Watkins, commissioned as part of the LSO's centenary celebrations. She has been a jury member on the Donatella Flick Conducting Competition and the ARD International Music Competition in Munich.
Julián Gil Rodríguez
Laure Le Dantec
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© Mark Allen
© Mark Allen