This season, BOZAR will receive a fine selection of international orchestras that have shaped the history of music and continue to spread it throughout the world wherever they perform. What’s more, they will perform several masterpieces in the Centre of Fine Arts that are appreciated by audiences the world over.
While it is evident that the magnificence of a musical performance is not in any way related to the orchestra’s reputation, there is no reason why you should deny your pleasure at hearing these works interpreted by some of the finest and most renowned orchestras – whose reputations are rarely a coincidence.
Bruckner, absolutely Bruckner
After the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest of Amsterdam and the Philharmonia Orchestra, our cycle of great international orchestras continues with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks. This orchestra was founded by the legendary Eugene Jochum, whose recordings of Bruckner’s symphonies are among the best interpretations ever of the Austrian’s compositions. And it is easy to see why, as the German conductor was one of the greatest champions of Bruckner, sharing his enthusiasm for the composer’s works wherever he went. Both Bruckner and Jochum were practicing Catholics, which helps if you want to understand and interpret the master’s music. Whether you are a Catholic or an adherent of any other religion does not really make a difference per se. However, the work requires the performer and conductor to have a singular capacity to understand the metaphysical scope and architectural splendour of Bruckner’s music. You need to have a certain spirituality to render it in all its splendid tonality and depth.
On 23 November 2017, the orchestra will pay tribute once again to Bruckner, performing one of his most successful symphonies, namely his Eighth. This monument of romanticism was the outcome of a veritable spiritual journey, within the confines of a mysticism that subsequently emerged in the work of such composers as Mahler, or in a more sanctified version, in Messiaen’s compositions. It is the pinnacle of Romanticism, achieving the highest degree of sophistication in terms of musical architecture and the tonality of the music. The formidable composer Mariss Jansons, one of the most talented conductors of his generation, will conduct the orchestra on this occasion. As the symphony’s musical director, he is a worthy successor to a long lineage that includes several influential conductors such as Eugen Jochum, Rafael Kubelík, Colin Davis and Lorin Maazel.
The epitome of romanticism
Other great orchestras will also visit BOZAR during this season, including two of the most prestigious American symphony orchestras. The Houston Symphony’s many distinguished -and for the most part European -conductors include Ferenc Fricsay, Leopold Stokowski, as well as John Barbirolli, André Previn and more recently Christoph Eschenbach, who has really contributed to the orchestra’s current reputation.
On 9 March 2018, the orchestra will perform two American masterpieces by Bernstein, namely West Side Story, which is considered a new stage of development in American music. As part of the programme, the great American violinist Hilary Hahn will perform the sublime solo in one of “Lenny’s” more rarely performed works, which was inspired by Plato’s Symposium. The evening draws to a close with a performance of the sumptuous Seventh Symphony by Dvořák, who was literally transfixed by the United States. A programme that is also a very true reflection of the orchestra’s identity.
Another great American orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, will take to the stage at BOZAR on 24 May 2018. Widely regarded as one of the best American ensembles, the orchestra is a member of the Big Five, or the Ivy League of orchestras, which includes New York, Cleveland, Boston and Chicago. The orchestra has also worked with some of the premier musical directors of our time, including Riccardo Muti, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Charles Dutoit and others who also conducted the Houston Symphony Orchestra such as Stokowski and Eschenbach. There is no need to introduce the orchestra’s current conductor, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who is a familiar face at BOZAR and who returns to the Henry Le Bœuf hall with the orchestra. The programme looks very promising and includes Schuman’s Symphony n° 4 with its famous Scherzo and Brahms’s magnificent Piano Concerto no. 1, which will be interpreted by Hélène Grimaud. Two romantic works, which are widely considered as the most popular compositions in this genre.
Return to Europe
The Orchestre de Paris has an equally prestigious history even though it was only recently established (in 1967, it succeeded the Orchestre de la Société des concerts du Conservatoire, which was founded in 1828 and heavily influenced French and European musical life in the 19th century). Over the years, it has had several prestigious conductors such as Herbert von Karajan, Georg Solti, Daniel Barenboim, Semyon Bychkov, Christoph Eschenbach (him again!), Paavo Järvi and, more recently, Daniel Harding. Even though Mahler’s Ninth Symphony is one of the most daunting challenges – both for the orchestra and the conductor -, it holds a special place in the classical repertoire. It requires a certain musicianship, which may explain why conductors such as Karajan and Bernstein only included it in their repertoire later in their career. There can be no doubt that the French orchestra and its musical director will deliver an astounding performance that lives up to expectations.
Fate knocking at the door
We end our overview with two special mentions. The Estonian Festival Orchestra is celebrating the Baltic republic’s centenary. While Estonia may be a small country, it has brought forth many talented artists, including the “Järvi dynasty”, and more specifically Paavo, the son of the internationally acclaimed conductor Neeme, who is a world-class conductor just like his father.
On 18 January 2018, he will lead the orchestra in its performance of two works by Arvo Pärt, his illustrious compatriot and one of the world’s most distinguished contemporary composers. The programme includes the world-famous Fratres. The magnificent Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest Amsterdam, meanwhile, is still the orchestra in residence at BOZAR. The audience especially enjoys the great sound quality of this orchestra, which is considered to be among the best in the world. Franz Welser-Möst will conduct the orchestra for its second concert of the season. The Austrian conductor is also the musical director of the Cleveland Orchestra, another member of the prestigious and select club of the Big Five American orchestras. It will be interesting to see which nuances the conductor adds to Beethoven’s Fifth, one of the most widely known compositions in classical music that has been a crucial step up to the classical repertory for many music lovers. As such, the symphony has acquired a very special status over the years, like a door which you must walk through before an initiation. Beyond it lies the realm of classical music and the enchantment you experience if you are open to it. The great German romantic author Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, who never hid his profound admiration for this magnificent work, praised it as follows: “How irresistibly does this wonderful composition transport the listener through ever-growing climaxes into the spiritual realm of the infinite.” According to the composer, its first notes sound like “fate knocking at the door”. Beethoven taught us that it is entirely up to us to open it.