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Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto and The Rite of Spring

This concert is now past.
Alan Gilbert
Location: Avery Fisher Hall (Directions)
Price Range: From $30.00 To $117.00
Wed, Sep, 19, 2012
7:30 PM
Thu, Sep, 20, 2012
7:30 PM
Fri, Sep, 21, 2012
8:00 PM
Sat, Sep, 22, 2012
8:00 PM
The 2014-15 Season

Program (Click the red play button to listen)


... quasi una fantasia ...

GYÖRGY KURTÁG (born in 1926)
... quasi una fantasia ... Op. 27, No. 1 (1987–88)

Like his Budapest music school colleague György Ligeti, György Kurtág didn't encounter the European avant-garde till the 1950s. He studied with Darius Milhaud and Olivier Messiaen, and was greatly influenced (as is audible in the present ... quasi una fantasia ...) by his countryman Béla Bartók, Anton Webern's economy of expression, and Karl-Heinz Stockhausen's spatial aspects of music (as in his Gruppen). With its four movements compressed into less than 10 minutes, this "miniature piano concerto" is the first composition in which Kurtág introduced his concept of spatial music by placing five instrumental groups around the concert hall. It was composed for Hungarian pianist Zoltán Kocsis on the occasion of a series of concerts featuring the composer's works at the Berlin Festival in October 1988. ... quasi una fantasia ... is Kurtág's Op. 27, No. 1, a reference to Beethoven's piano sonatas Op. 27, Nos. 1 and 2 (the latter being the famous "Moonlight Sonata"), which both bear the notation "like a fantasy." After a descending figure in the opening Largo, the music expands into a vista of colors and textures, mirrored by the spaces among the players; the very brief second movement is marked "Like disturbances in a dream"; the third features a huge explosion of percussion and brass; and the finale "Aria" alludes to lines from the poem "Andenken" ("Remembrance") by the 19th century German poet Friedrich Hölderlin, inscribed in the score: "But it is the sea/that takes and gives remembrance/And love no less keeps eyes attentively fixed/But what is lasting the poets provide." (Translated by Michael Hamburger)

Piano Concerto No. 3

Piano Concerto No. 3 (1803)

Ludwig van Beethoven was notorious for not having works ready in time for performances. This was certainly the case with this concerto, a work "in progress," at best, at its first presentation. The composer conducted from the keyboard, while Ignaz von Seyfried turned pages: "I saw almost nothing but empty pages; at the most, on one page or another a few Egyptian hieroglyphs, wholly unintelligible to me, were scribbled down to serve as clues for him; for he played nearly all of the solo part from memory, since... he had not had time to set it all down on paper. He gave me a surreptitious nod whenever he was at the end of one of the invisible passages, and my scarcely concealable anxiety not to miss the decisive moment amused him greatly, and he laughed heartily at the jovial supper afterwards." The concerto was part of a benefit marathon for the composer himself in spring of 1803 that went on for hours, also including premieres of the Second Symphony, the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives, and a reprise of the Symphony No. 1. Despite the improvisations, the Piano Concerto No. 3 was a masterpiece that spoke with a new voice — a personal statement from the heart of its creator and a showcase for his prodigious pianistic abilities, but sadly also one of the last in which he saw himself as soloist: his increasing deafness would soon make ensemble playing nearly impossible. He uses the dramatic key of C Minor — one he turned to in other revolutionary works — and expands the orchestral introduction to a gargantuan 110 measures. And, when the piano finally announces its presence, it is with three crashing fortissimo chords. In the magnificent Largo, the partnership between soloist and orchestra is rich and melodious, although the primacy of the piano is never in question. The Allegro is robust and vibrant, with the final Presto bringing the concerto to a fast, furious, jubilant close.

The Rite of Spring

Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring: Pictures of Pagan Russia in Two Parts) (1911-13)

"I had only my ear to help me. I heard, and I wrote what I heard. I am the vessel through which The Rite passed." This calm assessment in no way reflect the wild scene at the Théâtre des Champs-élysées in Paris on May 29, 1913, when the premiere of Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring caused the most notorious scandal in music. The playing was nearly inaudible, what with the catcalls and booing from the audience. Stravinsky stormed out of the hall and went backstage. "I stood in the wings behind Nijinsky [the choreographer], holding on to the tails of his coat, while he stood on a chair, beating out the rhythm with his fist and shouting numbers to the dancers like a coxswain." And this after more than 120 rehearsals! Stravinsky also provided a description of Pierre Monteux, the conductor of the complex, revolutionary score: "He stood there, apparently impervious and as nerveless as a crocodile. It is still almost incredible to me that he actually brought the orchestra through to the end." The French writer, Jean Cocteau, reported: "The public...laughed, spat, hissed, imitated animal cries. They might have eventually tired themselves of that had it not been for the crowd of aesthetes and a few musicians who, carried by excess of zeal, insulted and even pushed the occupants of the loges. The riot degenerated into a fight." Stravinsky's music was based on an imagined scene, in which he saw "a solemn pagan rite: wise elders, seated in a circle, watching a young girl dance herself to death. They were sacrificing her to propitiate the god of spring." The violent Russian spring "seemed to begin in an hour and was like the whole earth cracking." Wild abandon, pulsing rhythms, and primitive rituals proclaim the veneration of spring and climax in the sacrificial dance of the victim.


Alan Gilbert

New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert began his tenure in September 2009. The first native New Yorker to hold the post, he has sought to make the Orchestra a point of pride for the city and country. As New York magazine wrote, “The Philharmonic and its music director Alan Gilbert have turned themselves into a force of permanent revolution.”

Mr. Gilbert and the Philharmonic have forged artistic partnerships, introducing the positions of The Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence and The Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence, held in the 2014–15 season by Christopher Rouse and violinist Lisa Batiashvili, respectively, as well as the new position of Artist-in-Association, inaugurated by Inon Barnatan this season; an annual festival, which this season is Dohnányi / Dvořák; CONTACT!, the new-music series; and the NY PHIL BIENNIAL, an exploration of today’s music by a wide range of contemporary and modern composers inaugurated in spring 2014.

In the 2014–15 season Alan Gilbert conducts the U.S. Premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Clarinet Concerto, a Philharmonic co-commission, alongside Mahler’s First Symphony; La Dolce Vita: The Music of Italian Cinema with Joshua Bell, Renée Fleming, and Josh Groban; Verdi’s Requiem; a staging of Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake featuring Oscar winner Marion Cotillard; World Premieres by John Adams, Peter Eötvös, and Christopher Rouse; works by contemporary Nordic composers during CONTACT!; and the Silk Road Ensemble and Yo-Yo Ma’s 15th-anniversary celebration. He concludes The Nielsen Project, the multi-year initiative to perform and record the Danish composer’s symphonies and concertos, the first release of which was named by The New York Times as among the Best Classical Music Recordings of 2012. The Music Director presides over the EUROPE / SPRING 2015 tour with stops including London, featuring Giants Are Small’s theatrical reimagining of Stravinsky’s ballet Petrushka as part of the Orchestra’s second International Associate residency at the Barbican Centre; Cologne, where he leads the World Premiere of Peter Eötvös’s Senza sangue, a Philharmonic co-commission; and returns to Dublin and Paris.

Last season’s highlights included the inaugural NY PHIL BIENNIAL; Mozart’s three final symphonies; the U.S. Premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Frieze coupled with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony; World Premieres; an all-Britten program celebrating the composer’s centennial; the score from 2001: A Space Odyssey as the film was screened; the ASIA / WINTER 2014 tour; and a staged production of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd starring Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson. High points of Mr. Gilbert’s first four Philharmonic seasons included the critically celebrated productions of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre (2010) and Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen (2011) — both cited as the top cultural events of their respective years — as well as Philharmonic 360 at Park Avenue Armory (2012), the acclaimed spatial music program featuring Stockhausen’s Gruppen, and A Dancer’s Dream: Two Ballets by Stravinsky (2013, and later presented in movie theaters internationally). Other highlights included World Premieres of works by Magnus Lindberg, John Corigliano, Christopher Rouse, and composers featured on CONTACT!; Mahler’s Second Symphony, Resurrection, on A Concert for New York on September 10; Mr. Gilbert’s Philharmonic debut as violin soloist in J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins; five concerts at Carnegie Hall; six tours to Europe; and the Asia Horizons tour.

Conductor laureate of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and principal guest conductor of Hamburg’s NDR Symphony Orchestra, he regularly conducts leading orchestras nationally and internationally, such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, Orchestra della Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. He has appeared at The Metropolitan, Los Angeles, Zurich, Royal Swedish, and Santa Fe opera companies. In 2014–15 he conducts the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra’s season-opening concerts and on tour in Lucerne, Berlin, and London; Mozart’s Don Giovanni at The Metropolitan Opera; and The Philadelphia, Munich Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, and NDR Symphony orchestras.

In September 2011 Alan Gilbert became Director of Conducting and Orchestral Studies at The Juilliard School, where he is also the first holder of Juilliard’s William Schuman Chair in Musical Studies. He made his acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut in 2008 leading John Adams’s Doctor Atomic; the DVD and Blu-ray of this production received the 2012 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. Renée Fleming’s recent Decca recording Poèmes, on which he conducted, received a 2013 Grammy Award. Earlier releases garnered Grammy Award nominations and top honors from the Chicago Tribune and Gramophone magazine.

Mr. Gilbert studied at Harvard University, The Curtis Institute of Music, and Juilliard and was assistant conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra (1995–97). In May 2010 he received an Honorary Doctor of Music degree from Curtis, and in December 2011 he received Columbia University’s Ditson Conductor’s Award for his “exceptional commitment to the performance of works by American composers and to contemporary music.” In 2014 he was elected to The American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Visit Alan Gilbert's Official Website

Learn more about Alan Gilbert



Leif Ove Andsnes by Ozgur Albayrak

Pianist Leif Ove Andsnes has won international acclaim giving recitals and playing concertos in the world's leading concert halls and with the foremost orchestras. An active recording artist, he is also an avid chamber musician, regularly appearing at Norway's Risør Festival of Chamber Music. In 2012 he will serve as music director of the Ojai Music Festival in California.

Beethoven figures prominently in Mr. Andsnes's 2011–12 season and beyond, in concerto performances with orchestras from Boston to Vienna, as well as in recitals and recordings. His performances of Beethoven on tour with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra in Prague will be recorded live for his Sony Classical label debut: the beginning of a multi-year project titled Beethoven – A Journey, playing and recording all five of Beethoven's piano concertos; this project is sponsored by the Stiftelsen Kristian Gerhard Jebsen, a Bergen based foundation established to honor the memory of Krisitan Gerhard Jebsen and his contribution to the Norwegian and international shipping business.

Also in the 2011–12 season, Leif Ove Andsnes performs Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 with Hannover's NDR Radio Philharmonic, Japan's NHK Symphony, and his hometown orchestra, the Bergen Philharmonic. Music by Chopin, Debussy, Bartók, and Haydn are the focus of a recital program in 16 cities across North America and Europe, and he returns to the U.S. for a spring recital tour with baritone Matthias Goerne featuring Mahler and Shostakovich songs.

Mr. Andsnes's discography comprises more than 30 solo, chamber, and concerto releases, spanning repertoire from Bach to the present day and garnering seven Grammy nominations and five Gramophone Awards. The New York Times selected his 2004 recording of the Grieg Piano Concerto as Best CD of the Year. He has been named Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav, Norway's most distinguished honor, and has received the Peer Gynt Prize, Royal Philharmonic Society's Instrumentalist Award, and Gilmore Artist Award. Vanity Fair named Mr. Andsnes one of the "Best of the Best" in 2005.

Leif Ove Andsnes was born in Karmøy, Norway, in 1970, and studied at the Bergen Music Conservatory under the renowned Czech professor Jirí Hlinka. Mr. Andsnes is a professor at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, a visiting professor at the Royal Music Conservatory of Copenhagen, and a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.

Learn more about Leif Ove Andsnes

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