Le tombeau de Couperin / 17’
Violin Concerto in D / 24’
Symphony No. 7 in A / 36’
A vivacious, Baroque-infused celebration of life; a ravishing concerto by the greatest film composer of Hollywood’s Golden Age; and a symphony – some of which you may know from the film The King’s Speech – in which hope triumphs over adversity. ‘Rising star in the conducting world’ (Esslinger Zeitung) Ben Gernon returns to lead the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra with Carolin Widmann ‘the perfect soloist’ (Daily Telegraph, Australia) in Korngold’s Violin Concerto.
Begun in 1914 as a suite for solo piano, Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin (‘The Tomb of Couperin’) was completed in 1917 shortly after his mother’s death. Two years later, Ravel orchestrated four of the six original movements. Its title refers to a 17th-century fashion for tombeau – works of commemoration. If the initial inspiration of the French Baroque composer François de Couperin’s gracefully brittle and beautiful music implied a degree of nostalgia, Ravel refused to indulge in sentimentality. Nor was it, despite each of the movements being dedicated to friends who died in the Great War, a work of sorrow. If anything, it boasts a vivaciousness that speaks of lives lived to the full, a quality lent added eloquence by the borrowing of animated forms from Baroque dance music. Responding to criticism of the work’s tone, Ravel pointedly remarked: ‘The dead are sad enough in their eternal silence’.
Declared at the age of 10 by no less a figure than Gustav Mahler as ‘A genius, a genius!’, Erich Wolfgang Korngold was part of that unfortunate generation of European composers who fled Nazi persecution in the 1930s to safety in the United States. There, they were to put their talents, honed in the great concert halls of Europe, towards creating and defining a new genre: the Hollywood soundtrack. Composed in 1945 when Korngold was at the height of his powers, the Violin Concerto is a lush, lyrical creation overflowing with haunting melodies, rich harmonies and an unfettered sense of romantic passion. Each of its three movements weaves together passages from earlier film scores – the first from Another Dawn, the second Anthony Adverse, the third The Prince and the Pauper – with wholly original material. The result is a glorious, ripely romantic, often exquisitely moving affair shot through with irresistible dramatic flair.
Famously hailed by Wagner as ‘the apotheosis of dance’, Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony opens with dark foreboding but moves towards an exhilarating climax described by Tchaikovsky as ‘a whole series of images, full of unrestrained joy, full of bliss and pleasure of life’. The transition is all the more remarkable for the context in which it was composed between 1811 and 1812. With the Napoleonic Wars engulfing Europe, Beethoven’s deafness was now acute and his emotional life – he had fallen in love with a married woman – in turmoil. All those experiences find voice in tumultuously lyrical music whose harmonic innovations re-wrote the rule book for generations of composers who followed. Its grave second movement is heard to fine effect in the film The King’s Speech.
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