Friday 04 May 2018

Stravinsky, Lutosławski &
Gerald Barry

RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra

Time 7:30pm
National Concert Hall Dublin

Tickets: from €15

  • To be announced
    conductor (Thomas Adès has had to regrettably withdraw)
  • Thomas Trotter 
  • Stravinsky
    Symphony in Three Movements / 22’
  • Gerald Barry
    Organ Concerto / 30’ [Irish premiere]
  • Lutosławski
    Symphony No. 3 / 28’

Three major musical figures provide a potted history of contemporary music, from Stravinsky’s seething ‘War Symphony’ to the daring, improvisatory-accented Third Symphony by Witold Lutosławski and the Irish premiere of a tempestuous and thrilling new Organ Concerto by one of Ireland’s greatest living composers Gerald Barry, with Thomas Trotter – ‘one of the most brilliant organists currently on the world stage’ (The American Organist) – as soloist.

Composed during the last years of the Second World War, Stravinsky would later describe his Symphony in Three Movements as his ‘War Symphony’. Begun in 1942, when Stravinsky was already safely in exile in the United States, his impressions of the conflict in Europe and Asia was largely through newsreels. Appropriately enough, then, that the material for this work should have been culled from scores that Stravinsky had composed for films but never used.

The first movement was inspired by film of ‘scorched earth tactics’ in China and its striking central section for clarinet and piano borrows from an abandoned keyboard concerto. The second movement draws on a putative score for the 1943 film The Song of Bernadette but here was inspired by footage of Chinese peasants ‘scratching and digging in their fields’. The relentless march rhythm of the finale mimics the goose-stepping smack of Nazi stormtroopers in all their menacing pomp.

Witold Lutosławski was a dominant force in Polish contemporary music in the second half of the last century. The son of landed nobility, he began composing in his early teenage years although much of his music was lost when he fled his native Warsaw just days before the doomed uprising against the Nazis in 1944. Having survived one war, Lutosławski found himself embroiled in another when Poland became a Soviet satellite during the long, dangerous stalemate of the Cold War.

His Third Symphony was composed in 1981, the year Martial Law was declared in Poland in response to the growing Solidarity movement, and in its turbulent argument between symphonic structure and free-flowing individual instruments, it is one of the most bracing muscular orchestral works of the modern age and, arguably, can be seen be as a different kind of war symphony.

A new work by Gerald Barry – ‘a composer of strange and rare device’ (Sunday Times) is always an event. Commissioned by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, his Organ Concerto sees him returning to the instrument for the first time since 1994’s miniature, The Chair. Barry succinctly describes the concerto as ‘a stormy conversation between organist and orchestra’.