Thierry Fischer, conductor
Gabriela Montero, piano
The Musikkollegium Winterthur is an orchestra steeped in tradition, with a history of some 400 years behind it. Thierry Fischer will conduct a programme including Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, with Gabriela Montero as soloist.—
Nikolai Tcherepnin (1873–1945):
Prelude to “La Princesse Lointaine” op. 4
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893):
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in b-flat minor op. 23
Johannes Brahms (1833–1897):
Symphony No. 1 in c minor op. 68
“Per aspera ad astra” – “through hardship to the stars”: this fascinating programme of borderline experiences is presented by the Musikkollegium Winterthur under the baton of Thierry Fischer. Nikolai Tcherepnin’s Prelude to “La Princesse Lointaine” op. 4 takes us to the heart of a troubadour’s search for the unknown and for love. Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Johannes Brahms’s Symphony No. 1, on the other hand, bear witness to their respective triumphs over technical and compositional difficulties and reveal their attainment of new, previously undreamed-of possibilities.
The Russian composer Tcherepnin wrote his symphonic prelude “La Princesse Lointaine” under the influence of his teacher Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1899. It is based on Edmond Rostand’s eponymous play whose protagonist Jaufré Rudel deliberately oversteps his boundaries on his way to Mélissinde of Tripoli, of whose beauty he has only heard second-hand. His journey is “arduous, full of dangers and obstacles” and ultimately ends in death – though he has meanwhile been united with his beloved. This Prelude is highly melodious – almost foreshadowing the film music of today – and Tcherepnin uses to the full the opportunities offered by the whole orchestra to express the hope and suffering of his tragic hero.
Being faced with Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 was a borderline experience for the pianist Nikolai Rubinstein, who deemed it too demanding, unplayable and simply beyond his technical capacity. But Tchaikovsky refused to be swayed by his judgement, and the work’s later success proved him right. It was Hans von Bülow who agreed to give the Concerto’s first performance in 1875 (albeit after having made some adjustments to the piano part). The work is incredibly virtuosic. Johannes Brahms was also no stranger to struggle: writing a symphony was to him “a matter of life and death”. He felt so overburdened by his musical idols, primarily Ludwig van Beethoven, that it took him a full 14 years to complete his first symphony. Composing it was to Brahms a borderline experience too – he was plagued by self-doubts, and after having made his first tentative efforts in 1854, his First Symphony was only premiered in 1876. Its success was initially reserved, but later unconditional and lasting. So what’s the moral of these stories? That a composer’s suffering can bring joy to his audience!
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