Friday 25 May
Nathalie Stutzmann and Beethoven 9
RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra
Tickets: from €25.50BOOK NOW
Nänie / 14’
Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Choral / 65’
Broadcast live throughout Europe, our season finale ends on a spectacular note with Principal Guest conductor Natalie Stutzmann leading the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, RTÉ Philharmonic Choir and four sensational vocal talents in Brahms’s beautiful song of lamentation Nänie and Beethoven’s monumental and glorious Ninth Symphony with its clarion salute to joy – both works featuring texts by Friedrich Schiller.
The influence of the poet, playwright and philosopher Friedrich Schiller on European thought and, in particular, German art in the late-18th and 19th centuries was incalculable. Schubert set more than 40 of his poems, Verdi transformed five of his plays into operas while Donizetti, Rossini and Tchaikovsky also used his work as inspiration for their own.
Composed in 1881, Nänie was composed, as its subtitle indicates, as a ‘song of lamentation’ to mark the early death at the age of 50 of Brahms’s friend, the painter Anselm Feuerbach. Schiller’s text – which begins with the memorably poignant utterance ‘Even beauty must die’ – is suffused with allusions to classical Greek myths that speak of the promise of life after death. The music responds with sublime melodies, richly woven textures and a harmonic sophistication unmatched except by his earlier Deutsches Requiem. Elegiac and serene, the Brahms biographer Hugh MacDonald has described it as ‘possibly the most radiant thing he ever wrote’.
Nearly six decades earlier, Beethoven completed his Ninth (and final) Symphony in 1824. To the last the ailing composer was innovating and creating new directions for the symphonic form, the Ninth the first of any symphony to feature voices.
The words come late in a monumental work of operatic scale, appearing only in the final movement when Schiller’s Ode to Joy sings out with triumphant release. Now one of the cornerstones of European culture, the symphony is a work of exalting ambition, a thrilling journey from darkness into light (a familiar Beethoven trope that also characterises his Third and Fifth Symphonies), its Second movement an exhilarating scherzo, its solemn Third altogether moving in its tender gracefulness.
Unlike any other musical utterance, the intoxicating euphoria of the finale, with its stirring celebration of fraternity and life-affirming conviction in the possibility of a better future, has earned it the acclamation of a masterpiece and an abiding anthem of hope in dark times.
SOUNDINGS 6.30pm Pianist Nathalia Milstein conversation
National Concert Hall
National Concert Hall, Earlsfort Terrace, IrelandOpen Larger Map