Concert of April 26, 2016

Curiosities

 

Ravel at the Cinema

Pavane pour une infante défunte was used in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises (2012) as the background song in Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle’s (Catwoman) ballroom dance scene.  A short extract of Pavane is also part of the soundtrack of Birdman by Alejandro González Iñárritu (2014).

 

 

Ravel’s poilu

Ravel enrolled in the army in 1916 and served in World War I as a driver, at the Verdun front. This is how he described himself in a letter* to his friend Jane Bathori: “I am pretty far from music; I am a poilu, dressed in a goat fur coat, with helmet and mask, driving the car on rough roads, all the way to the core of the “gigantic fight”.

*  from Ravel’s Letters - Orenstein

 

Pavane pour une infante défunte in America

In 1928, Ravel went on a four-month tour in North America, both as performer and conductor. He was widely acclaimed and performed with the main orchestras in Canada and the United States.  On 8th February in Los Angeles, he performed Pavane pour une infante dèfunte. This is how Ravel described the city in a letter* to his brother Edouard the day before the concert: “What a sunny day; a great city blooming with flowers – flowers you would only find in greenhouses back home; majestic palms, in their natural environment here”.  Word has it that Ravel was also fond of the lively city life “taking a stroll in Hollywood, the city of cinema. Various Stars (…)  I should have had lunch with Charlie Chaplin, but then I thought it wouldn’t have been fun for either of us:  he doesn’t utter a single word of French”


*  from Ravel’s Letters - Orenstein

 

Little Mahler

The second in a family of twelve children, Mahler showed his gift for music since childhood. Alma, his wife, told of how one day, at the age of four, he disappeared only to be found, after a long search, playing an old piano in the attic. That is when his father decided that Gustav was bound to become a great musician. And he was right.  

 

Alma Mahler

Gustav Mahler met Alma, a young and beautiful composer and painter, in 1901 and he married her soon after. Their marriage lasted 9 years, up to the demise of the composer.  In her book GUSTAV MAHLER Memories and Letters Alma describes her husband and their life together, from the first day they met to the last trip from New York to Vienna. Among the various letters published in the book, in one letter dated December 1902, Mahler – in Berlin for a concert at the time – wrote this to Alma “If the notes, sound waves, had as much force as my thirst of love for you, you would hear their sound all morning. Everything that lives in me should be dedicated to you, it should be for you!”*

 

Kindertotenlieder rehearsals

In 1906 Mahler was in Amsterdam where he was to conduct a concert featuring the Kindertotenlieder.  The composer was captivated by the city “This time round I am madly in love with Holland” and the quality of the orchestra “The orchestra is great and highly devoted to me.  It’s pleasure not duty this time round”.  It looks like the orchestra requested Mahler to perform other pieces “Isn’t it great? You see, for this to happen, they have to rehearse twice instead of having two free mornings!”*

* from Gustav Mahler Memories and Letters – Alma Mahler

 

Gustav and Alma Mahler, at the cinema and online

Andy Sommer’s documentary film, Autopsy of a Genius, in which the musicologist Henry-Louis de la Grange takes us  on a journey through the Maestro’s works, through events of his life (with the participation of Pierre Boulez, Thomas Hampson, Claudio Abbado, Daniele Gatti and Daniel Harding) has roused great interest. A show on Alma Mahler, entitled Alma. A Life Full of Passion. The film entitled Mahler auf der Couch which narrates of the composer’s meeting with Sigmund Freud.

 

Symphony No. 4

Symphony no. 4 was composed by Brahms in the summers of 1884 and 1885 in Mürzzuschlag, a small town in Austria. “What a beautiful summer hideout”, thus the composer described – to Clara Schumann - this period spent alone and joyfully devoted to composing music. Today, Mürzzuschlag boasts of an interesting Brahms Museum where one can take a “musical stroll” and learn about Brahms’s life. Concerts are held here every year.

 

Apropos of Symphony No 4…

Bernstein* “Though the structure of this symphony is unlike any particular form of music, it coincides with the very creation of life due to its constant and ceaseless crescendo.

Wolf* “Brahms cannot rise above mediocrity. Never have I seen so much emptiness and lack of personality in a symphony before. The art of clueless composition has finally found one of its greatest representatives in Brahms.”

From Brahms. Signori, il catalogo è questo! [Brahms. Gentlemen, this is the catalogue!]  – Poggi and Vallora

Did you know...

The Symphony no. 4 manuscript miraculously escaped the fire in Braham’s home?

 

What a debut!

On 25th October 1885 Brahms took the podium for the first performance of symphony no. 4, in Meiningen. Word has it he was rather unsettled because the first private performance of the piece – in the two pianoforte version – before Hanslick and Billroth (who turned pages) and Richter, the orchestra conductor, among others, was not a great success. Contrary to the expectations, the first and second movement drew an ovation from the audience during the first public performance. Brahms had to immediately follow the third movement with a fourth one as the audience tried to request an encore. All major European musical venues have featured the symphony in their concerts since then.

 

By Giovanni Bietti

Watch the listening guide for the concert of April 26 (in Italian)

Browse the libretto

PAPPANOINWEB 2016

Watch the video message by Antonio Pappano