»The Fiddler's child« ("Sumarovo díte") Orchestral Ballad (1912)
»Der Schwahnendreher«. Concerto after old folk songs for viola and small orchestra (1935)
»Ein Heldenleben« op.40 (1898)
This guest performance marks the Gürzenich Orchestra’s debut at the famous Prague Spring Music Festival.
Gürzenich-Kapellmeister François-Xavier Roth opens the concert with a tribute to the host: »The Fiddler’s Child«, a symphonic poem by the Czech composer Leoš Janáček. The inspiration for Janáček’s work came from the eponymous ballad by the poet Svatopluk Čech who tells the story of an impoverished musician and his child. Using distinct motives, Janáček weaves a fascinating musical tale which, despite being written for a large orchestra, shows many fine, chamber music-like characteristics.
Tabea Zimmermann is the soloist in Paul Hindemith’s concerto for viola and orchestra, »Der Schwandendreher«. Hindemith composed this piece following a spontaneous notion on a holiday trip in 1935. »A musician meets a cheerful crowd of people and shares with them what he’s brought from faraway places: Sad songs, happy songs, and finally, a dance piece«, is Hindemith’s own description of the work. Some old German folk songs are woven in, such as »Seid ihr nicht der Schwanendreher«? (Aren’t you the swan turner?), from which the title was derived. The piece is tender and poetic, but there is also an atmosphere of pain, parting and loneliness in this concerto by Hindemith who at the time felt more and more pressured by the Nazi regime.
The last piece on the programme emphasizes the close connection between the Gürzenich Orchestra and Richard Strauss. The latter had entrusted the Orchestra of the City of Cologne with the premieres of two of his most prominent works: In 1895, »Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks«, op. 28, and three years later, »Don Quixote«. To Prague, François-Xavier Roth decided to bring »Ein Heldenleben«, a late symphonic poem in which not only the Held (hero) himself plays an important role but also his adversaries as well as his companion – a somewhat ironic self-portrait of the composer, his critics and his wife. Above all, however, the piece is an ingenious work, so skillfully composed and of such visionary musical language that it set high standards