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Beethoven's Eroica Symphony and Leonidas Kavakos

This concert is now past.
Location: Avery Fisher Hall (Directions)
Price Range: $30.00 - $135.00

Concert Duration

1 hour 45 minutes
Thu, May, 8, 2014
7:30 PM
Fri, May, 9, 2014
8:00 PM
Sat, May, 10, 2014
8:00 PM
The 2014-15 Season

Program (Click the red play button to listen)


Im Sommerwind

ANTON WEBERN (1883-1945)
Im Sommerwind (In the Summer Wind), Idyll for Large Orchestra (1904)

Put aside what you may think is Anton Webern’s music. Im Sommerwind was composed before he entered the orbit of Arnold Schoenberg’s Second Viennese School; it preceded Webern’s transition to tone-rows and serialism. It will instead put in mind of Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night or Pelleas and Melisande. Im Sommerwind was inspired by Bruno Willie’s (1860-1928) evocative poem of the same name, and evokes the joy and peace of a summer day in the country. Program annotator Jonathan Kramer details the tragic story of the composition’s rediscovery. At the end of World War II, Webern buried some of his personal effects in his garden, ahead of Russian troops who were overrunning Vienna, and fled to Mittersill in the Austrian mountains. He was mistakenly shot there by an occupying American sentry who felt threatened by Webern. Meanwhile in Vienna, Russian soldiers senselessly destroyed whatever they found in Webern’s abandoned home. Hermine von Webern, widow of Webern’s son, salvaged what she could and stored it in Webern’s widow’s attic. In 1961, while Hans Moldenhauer was doing research for his Webern biography, he visited Hermine, who led him to countless unknown manuscripts—among them Im Sommerwind. It was premiered the following year by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra at the International Webern Festival in Seattle. While Richard Strauss’s influence is palpable in the tone poem, there are hints of Webern’s future miniaturist approach to music: motifs are brief—some just one or two notes; and though the work is scored for large orchestra, Webern employs small groups and even solo instruments in his tone painting. (An amazing fact about Webern’s prolific output is that all of his works taken together total only about three hours.) Listen for the blowing of the summer wind—though never fiercely—and the soft ending on the same chord that was heard at the beginning.

Violin Concerto

ALBAN BERG (1885-1935)
Violin Concerto (1935)

Alban Berg inscribed his only concerto and last composition “To the memory of an angel”—that angel being Manon Gropius (1916-1935), the daughter of architect Walter Gropius and Gustav Mahler’s widow Alma. Manon’s beauty was such that she was to portray an angel in Max Reinhardt’s production of the drama Everyman in Salzburg. But all that changed when the vivacious young woman was struck with polio at age 18 and died a year later, Easter 1935. Berg, who had been extremely close to Manon throughout her life, was devastated. Earlier that year he had begun a commission for a violin concerto for the American violinist Louis Krasner, but work proceeded slowly. Manon’s illness seemed to drive him to complete it. The Concerto is divided into two parts, and each part is divided into two more. Part 1, which, according to the composer, was a portrait of Manon, begins meditatively, but dance rhythms and folk melodies also appear. But the music comes to a sudden end. Part 2 of the Concerto incorporates a melody from a Bach chorale whose text reads: “It is enough./Lord, if it pleases you/Unshackle me./ My Jesus comes;/Good night, o world;/I go to heaven’s house;/I go there in peace./My misery I leave behind./It is enough.” This portion is the emotional heart of the Concerto. The words are wrenching in the context of a life taken too soon. The final Adagio is agitated and features a shattering climax—symbolizing Manon’s struggle, death, and her soul finding peace. The Violin Concerto ends serenely on an ethereal high G. This work was Berg’s own requiem as well. On Christmas Eve, only a few months after completing the work, Berg succumbed to blood poisoning, the result of a wasp sting.

Symphony No. 3, Eroica

Symphony No. 3, Eroica (1804)

Beethoven’s furious retraction of his dedication to Napoleon of the Third Symphony is well-known by now. The composer’s friend Ferdinand Ries recounts: “I was the first to bring him the intelligence that Bonaparte had proclaimed himself emperor, whereupon [Beethoven] flew into a rage and cried out: ‘Is he then, too, nothing more than an ordinary human being? Now he, too, will trample on all the rights of man and indulge only in his ambition. He will exalt himself above all others, become a tyrant!’ Beethoven went to the table, took hold of the symphony’s title page by the top, tore it in two, and threw it on the floor. The page was rewritten and only then did the symphony receive the title Sinfonia eroica, Composed to Celebrate the Memory of a Great Man.” The symphony’s extraordinary scope, its bold harmonies, the dramatic funeral march, a score resounding with majesty and drama—all proclaim that a new era in music had begun. Surely there is no greater leap in the development of a composer’s symphonic style than that which occurred in the year between Beethoven’s Second and Third symphonies. And yet, he observed the ideal formal structure of the 18th century symphony, all the while pushing its limits, expanding it, and making it grander. This is particularly evident in the first movement, which begins with two bolts-out-of-the-blue E-flat chords, where motifs come cascading in great profusion, and where grand gestures remind us that this music is all about a great man. The famous funeral march expresses both tragedy and nobility as we seem to be witnessing a solemn procession. (Referring to this movement when he heard of Napoleon’s death in 1821, Beethoven said, “I have already composed the proper music for that catastrophe.”) Following the third movement Allegro vivace, the brilliant finale ends on a note of triumph and exhilaration.


Bernard Haitink

Bernard Haitink, one of today’s most celebrated conductors, was for more than 25 years music director of Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and was principal conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 2006 to 2010. Previously, he held posts as music director of the Dresden Staatskapelle, the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He is conductor laureate of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and conductor emeritus of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He has made frequent guest appearances with most of the world’s leading orchestras.

In the 2010–11 season Mr. Haitink conducted the opening concerts of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, followed by performances of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Zurich Opera. He led a Brahms cycle with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe (COE), beginning at the Lucerne Piano Festival in November 2010 and completed at the Lucerne Easter and Summer Festivals of 2011. Further concerts with the COE last season included Beethoven cycles at the Concertgebouw and the Salle Pleyel in Paris. Other highlights of his 2010–11 season included concerts with the Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the London, Boston, and Chicago symphony orchestras.

Mr. Haitink has recorded widely for the Phillips, Decca, and EMI labels, leading the Concertgebouw Orchestra, Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic orchestras, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. His discography also includes many opera recordings with the Royal Opera, Glyndebourne, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Dresden Staatskapelle. He has recorded extensively with the London Symphony Orchestra for its LSO Live label, including the complete Brahms and Beethoven symphonies, and with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on its Resound label. Mr Haitink’s recording of Janáček’s Jenufa with the Royal Opera received a Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording in 2004, and his recording of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 4 with the Chicago Symphony was awarded a Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance of 2008.

Bernard Haitink has received many international awards in recognition of his services to music, including both an honorary Knighthood and the Companion of Honour in the United Kingdom, and the House Order of Orange-Nassau in the Netherlands. He was named Musical America’s 2007 Musician of the Year.

Learn more about Bernard Haitink



Leonidas Kavakos

Leonidas Kavakos first won international recognition in his teens, when he won the Sibelius Competition in 1985 and, three years later, the Paganini Competition. He performs with the Vienna, Berlin, La Scala, and Los Angeles philharmonic orchestras; Leipzigs Gewandhaus, amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw, Mariinsky Theatre, Philadelphia, and Boston and London symphony orchestras; and Orchestre de Paris, among others. He has been a tour soloist with the Leipzig Gewandhaus and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestras as well as the New York and Vienna Philharmonic orchestras, and in the 2012–13 season is the focus of the London Symphony Orchestra’s UBS Soundscapes LSO Artist Portrait. He is also the Berlin Philharmonic’s artist-in-residence.

Mr. Kavakos is increasingly recognized as a conductor, having appeared as conductor/soloist with the Boston and Atlanta Symphony Orchestras; Royal Stockholm and La Scala Philharmonic orchestras; Maggio Musicale Fiorentino; and Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. His 2012–13 season conducting debuts include the Finnish Radio and Vienna Symphony Orchestras. In October 2012 he returned to Santa Cecilia, where he appeared in a variety of programs in a special series titled Focus Kavakos. As a chamber musician and recitalist, he appears often at the Verbier, Montreux-Vevey, Bad Kissingen, Edinburgh, and Salzburg festivals.

Leonidas Kavakos is an exclusive Decca recording artist. His first release on the label, comprising the complete Beethoven violin sonatas with pianist Enrico Pace, was released in January 2013. His past releases on Sony Classical include the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto (recipient of an ECHO Klassik award for Best Concerto Recording 2009) and a live recording of Mozart’s five violin concertos and Symphony No. 39 with Camerata Salzburg. In 1991 Mr. Kavakos won a Gramophone Award for the first-ever recording of the original version of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto (BIS). He plays the “Abergavenny” Stradivarius of 1724. Mr. Kavakos made his New York Philharmonic debut in July 2002 performing Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, led by Bramwell Tovey. Leonidas Kavakos last appeared with the Philharmonic in June 2012 performing Korngold’s Violin Concerto, led by Music Director Alan Gilbert, in the same week in which he joined Mr. Gilbert (on violin) and Philharmonic musicians for Schubert’s String Quintet in C major on the June 2012 Saturday Matinee Concert.

Learn more about Leonidas Kavakos

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Special Thanks

Bernard Haitink's appearance is made possible through the Charles A. Dana Distinguished Conductors Endowment Fund.

Photo of : Yannis Bournias


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