Friday 19 January 2018


RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra

Time 7:30pm
National Concert Hall Dublin

Tickets: from €15

  • Olari Elts 
  • Brett Dean 
  • Rachmaninoff
    The Isle of the Dead / 20’
  • Brett Dean
    Viola Concerto / 25’
  • Stravinsky
    Petrushka (1947) / 34’
  • Stravinsky
    Funeral Song / 12’

Four magnificent examples of music’s compelling gift for storytelling conjure vivid scenes to capture the imagination and the heart. Rachmaninoff’s The Isle of the Dead is broodingly atmospheric, Stravinsky’s recently re-discovered Funeral Song a moving tribute to Rimsky-Korsakov and his dramatic portrait of puppets brought to diabolical life in Petrushka, accompany Brett Dean’s Viola Concerto – an exercise in instrumental virtuosity and an orchestral showpiece of tremendous verve and vitality – with the composer as soloist.

Some of the most memorable musical masterpieces have been inspired by other art forms. Rachmaninoff’s darkly romantic The Isle of the Dead imagines Arnold Böcklin’s mysterious painting depicting two figures in a boat carrying a draped coffin across deathly still waters towards a forbidding shore. Moving with a hypnotic liquescent fluidity, it gives gripping voice to powerful and primal emotions in music of unforgettable passion and power.

Stravinsky’s Funeral Song was composed in memory of his teacher Rimsky-Korsakov in 1909 and remained lost until its re-discovery in St Petersburg in 2015. Sombre, slow-moving, and heartfelt, it depicts, said the composer, ‘all the solo instruments of the orchestra filing past the tomb of the master in succession, each laying down its melody as its wreath against a deep background of tremolo murmurings simulating the vibrations of bass voices singing in chorus’.

Stravinsky’s Petrushka fuses two great Russian traditions – folk music and puppetry ­ – into a ‘ballet burlesque’ in which puppets come to life and spar with each other and the orchestra in one of the richest and most animated scores of the early 20th century.

Composed in 2004, the Viola Concerto by Australia’s greatest living composer Brett Dean – ‘a voice of fertile imagination, originality and expressive subtlety’ (Chicago Tribune) – was inspired by the solo instrument itself and the bountiful resources of a symphony orchestra. Making evocative use of the viola’s voice (characterised the composer says, ‘by a particular sense of melancholy, invariably coupled with a busy, dogged brand of defiance or even gruffness’) it is a riveting dialogue of jagged virtuosity and rhythmic edginess between viola and orchestra.

SOUNDINGS 6.30pm Conductor Olari Elts and viola player Brett Dean in conversation