The New York Philharmonic

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Beethoven and The Firebird

This concert is now past.
Location: Avery Fisher Hall (Directions)
Price Range: $33.00 - $134.00
Duration: 2 hours with intermission
Thu, Oct 16, 2014
7:30 PM
Fri, Oct 17, 2014
8:00 PM
Sat, Oct 18, 2014
8:00 PM

Program (Click the red play button to listen)


King Stephen Overture

King Stephen Overture (1811)

The King Stephen Overture abundantly reflects the splendid occasion for which Beethoven composed this music: the dedication of the opulent new Hungarian National Theater in Pest (which later became part of Budapest). He was commissioned to write incidental music for two historical plays by August Friedrich Ferdinand von Kotzebue, also commissioned for the event: King Stephen or Hungary’s First Benefactor (a prologue) and The Ruins of Athens (an epilogue). (A third play was rejected for being too political.) The martial character of this overture is appropriately stirring and heroic, with a stately opening in the winds and horns that proceeds to rousing strains, and its final bars will, no doubt, remind listeners of passages in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.


Piano Concerto No. 1

Piano Concerto No. 1 (1795, rev. 1800)

Beethoven’s reputation as a piano virtuoso was already well established in Vienna by the time he premiered his Piano Concerto No. 1 (actually composed second, but so numbered because it was published first). He left us no fewer than three cadenzas for the first movement alone — a reminder that he was aware of his own prodigious pianistic abilities and how these might translate into income-producing performances. Things to note as you listen include the very long orchestral introduction, after which the piano finally enters: some Mozart-inspired measures, followed by cascading keyboard runs; an introspective and deeply felt lyrical slow movement; and a spirited concluding Rondo. Perhaps you will agree with Beethoven’s fellow composer, Johann Tomášek, who was deeply affected upon hearing this music: “stirred me strangely to the depths of my soul; indeed I found myself so profoundly shaken that I did not touch my piano for several days.”


The Firebird (complete)

The Firebird (1910)

The Firebird, Stravinsky’s first ballet, catapulted the young composer to spectacular international fame. The score’s vibrant colors glitter and pulse with fantastic effects, from primitive to luminous, created by a “wastefully large orchestra” (so said Stravinsky later). The ballet’s exotic scenario overflows with the stuff of legends: a prince, 13 princesses, the Firebird’s magic feather, and the enchanted garden of the evil ogre Kastchei and his malevolent minions. The sound world Stravinsky created is a masterful combination of inspiration from his musical “godfathers” (Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov) and utterly original, daring inventions, such as shifting accents, repeated patterns of melodies and rhythms, and bold orchestral colors. Among the many familiar memorable passages — most of them known from one of the suites the composer created — are the lustrous dance of the Firebird herself, the menacing dance of Kastchei and his band of evil-doers, and the Lullaby and Finale, a spectacular, shimmering climax proclaiming that the prince and princess will live happily ever after.



Esa-Pekka Salonen

Esa-Pekka Salonen is currently principal conductor and artistic advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London and conductor laureate of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he was music director from 1992 until 2009. In the 2014–15 season he became the first-ever creative chair at Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra, which has commissioned a new piece for orchestra and chorus from him, and which will perform nine of his other works during the season. Trained in the austere world of European modernism but also enjoying a close relationship with the sunny city of Los Angeles, Mr. Salonen composes works that move freely between contemporary idioms, combining intricacy and technical virtuosity with playful rhythmic and melodic innovations. He has written several works for symphony orchestra, including Foreign Bodies (2001), Insomnia (2002), and Wing on Wing (which received its World Premiere at Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2004). Mr. Salonen’s extensive recording career includes a disc of his orchestral works performed by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, on which he also conducted; his Piano Concerto (co-commissioned by the New York Philharmonic) and Dichotomie, both performed by Yefim Bronfman, and Helix; and Out of Nowhere, featuring Nyx and Mr. Salonen’s Violin Concerto, which won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award, performed by Leila Josefowicz and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. During the 2014–15 season Mr. Salonen makes conducting appearances with the Bavarian Radio, Finnish Radio, and Chicago symphony orchestras; Los Angeles and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic orchestras; and Orchestre de Paris and Philharmonia Orchestra, among others. Throughout their relationship, Mr. Salonen and London’s Philharmonia Orchestra have curated landmark multidisciplinary projects, such as the award-winning Re-Rite and Universe of Sound installations, which allow the public to conduct, play, and step inside the orchestra with Mr. Salonen through audio and video projections of musicians in performance. He also drove the development of The Orchestra, a much hailed app for iPad that allows the user unprecedented access to eight symphonic works.

The Philharmonic’s relationship with Esa-Pekka Salonen began with his conducting debut in 1986 leading the U.S. Premiere of Castiglioni’s Sinfonia con giardino in addition to works by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, and Nielsen. Since his 2007 appearance leading the Orchestra in the World Premiere of his own Piano Concerto — co-commissioned by the Philharmonic and featuring Yefim Bronfman, for whom it was written — he has led the Orchestra in 30 performances, including the 2011 three-week Hungarian Echoes festival, the New York Concert Premiere of his Violin Concerto (2013, with Leila Josefowicz), and his most recent appearance in October 2014 conducting works by Beethoven and Stravinsky. Mr. Salonen has already been involved in the Philharmonic’s new-music projects, having hosted An Evening with Esa-Pekka Salonen, the 2013 CONTACT! concert in which Philharmonic musicians performed several of his chamber works. In the 2014–15 season Alan Gilbert conducts Mr. Salonen’s Nyx, the first time that a conductor other than Mr. Salonen will lead one of his works with the Philharmonic.

Esa-Pekka Salonen on Twitter

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Watch "Esa-Pekka's Verse" and other videos

Learn more about Esa-Pekka Salonen



Jeremy Denk

Pianist Jeremy Denk is the winner of a 2013 MacArthur Fellowship­. He has appeared as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and the symphony orchestras of Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and London, and regularly gives recitals in New York, Washington, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia, and throughout the U.S. In the 2014–15 season he starts his three-year tenure as artistic partner of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and makes debuts with The Cleveland Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. Mr. Denk is also known for his witty and personal writing; his blog, Think Denk, is widely read and enjoyed both within and outside the industry, and he has written pieces for The New Yorker, The New York Times Review of Books, Newsweek, The New Republic, and the website of NPR Music. One of his New Yorker contributions, “Every Good Boy Does Fine,” will be the basis of a book he is writing for publication by Random House. Jeremy Denk served as music director of the 2014 Ojai Music Festival, where, in addition to performing and curating, he composed the libretto for a semi-satirical opera The Classical Style. His debut recording for Nonesuch Records presented music by Ligeti and Beethoven and was included on many “Best of 2012” lists, including those of The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and NPR Music; his second recording for the label — featuring Bach’s Goldberg Variations — reached number one on Billboard’s “Classical Albums” chart and was named one of the “Best of 2013” by The New Yorker and The New York Times.

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Special Thanks

Esa-Pekka Salonen's appearance is made possible through the Charles A. Dana Distinguished Conductors Endowment Fund.

Photo of : Katja Tahja


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