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Burlesque

March 13, 2022
11 a.m.
Cologne Philharmonie

César Franck

»Variations symphoniques« for Piano and Orchestra (1885)

Richard Strauss

Burleske for Piano and Orchestra (1885/85)

Richard Strauss

»Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche« op. 28 (1894/95)

Witold Lutosławski

Concerto for Orchestra (1950-54)

»A new hand position for each measure – do you really believe I am about to sit down for four weeks to learn such an ornery piece?« Quite honestly: if such a renowned pianist as Hans von Bülow was at the time snubs a young composer so rudely, the latter’s frustration is entirely understandable. Richard Strauss, however, was undeterred and placed his »Burleske« on the music stand of none lesser than Eugen d’Albert a few years later. D’Albert mastered the diabolically difficult piano part brilliantly during the world premiere. For the Gürzenich Orchestra’s performance, the Swiss pianist Francesco Piemontesi braves the finger-breaking, high-octane parkour – even attempting another acrobatic tightrope act, César Franck’s »Variations symphoniques«. And speaking of tightropes: the jester Till Eulenspiegel was known for his own tightrope act, holding up a mirror to his contemporaries from lofty heights. In what may be his most cheerful orchestral piece, Richard Strauss hearkened back to ancient musical forms, clothing the famous jester in clever motley. Witold Lutosławski, Poland’s second-most important composer after Frédéric Chopin, also made reference to baroque traditions in his »Concerto for Orchestra«. He, however, also blasted away their limitations, writing one of the most impressive and energetic orchestral works ever.

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