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Roots

Jan. 24, 2021
11 a.m.
Kölner Philharmonie

Johannes Brahms

Piano concerto No. 1 in D-minor (1854-57)

Béla Bartók

Divertimento for String Orchestra (1939)

Márton Illés

»New Work« World Premiere. Commissioned by the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne

The First Piano Concerto by Johannes Brahms, for which pianist Kirill Gerstein returns to the Gürzenich Orchestra as a guest soloist, truly breaks formal boundaries: with this 45-minute colossus of a work, the 21-year-old composer was miles ahead of his contemporary audience’s tastes. Brahms always had a weakness for Hungarian music. Márton Illés soaked up the sound of the Hungarian language and music from his earliest childhood: its rough rhythms and mellifluous lines are reflected in this composer’s output in all their fantastic colourfulness. His new orchestral piece is conceived as a companion for the Divertimento for Strings which Béla Bartók composed in Switzerland in 1939, as a world war loomed ahead: idyllic scenes, retrospection and the threat of catastrophe form an intimidating mixture here, barely held together by classical form. François-Xavier Roth searches for the shared roots of the works on this high-contrast programme.

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