This afternoon (20/06/17) I attended a concert given by the Ulster Orchestra live from the Ulster Hall in Belfast performing Schumann and Sibelius. It was introduced by John Toal. It was a BBC Radio 3 Invitation Concert.
2pm Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54
Michael McHale (piano)
Michael was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1983. His interest in music began at the age of seven when he started learning the piano, soon followed by cello lessons at the City of Belfast School of Music. A varied education took Michael from Belfast to Dublin, Cambridge and ultimately London.
His performing career encompasses solo recital, concerto and chamber music appearances and he enjoys playing both core and contemporary repertoire. He has established himself as one of Ireland’s leading pianists and has developed a busy international career as a solo recitalist, concerto soloist and chamber musician. ( http://www.michaelmchale.com)
Ulster Orchestra : Christian Kluxen (conductor)
‘Music Director Designate of the Victoria Symphony Orchestra in Canada, Danish conductor Christian Kluxen is an artist of intelligence, vitality and great musical integrity. Having already conducted orchestras such as the London Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony and Netherlands Philharmonic, Kluxen makes further debuts this season with the Royal Philharmonic, Turku Philharmonic and Arctic Opera and Philharmonic. In 2016, he led a critically acclaimed tour of Madama Butterfly with Danish National Opera, and in the current season makes his debut with Komische Oper Berlin, conducting The Magic Flute’. (http://www.kluxen.dk)
Allegro affetuoso; Intermezzo (Andantino grazioso; Allegro vivace
Schumann’s Piano Concerto was described by Liszt as a ‘concerto without piano’.
He said that ‘we must wait for the genius who will show us how orchestra and piano can be combined in a newer and more brilliant way, so that the soloist might unfold the riches of his instrument and his art, while the orchestra, no longer a mere spectator, weaves its various sonorities into the fabric in a more artistic fashion.’ (From programme notes)
The music is poetic and lyrical with the contrasting features of Schumann’s two beloved characters, Eusebius the dreamer, and Florestan, the man of action. The musical material is all derived from the theme heard from the woodwind and horns after the opening flourish, there’s a lovely Andante espressivo section (the slow movement of the original Phnatasie concept) with the dialogue of the clarinet and the piano. The gentle slow movement is a short Intermezzo in three sections, the central one a dialogue between piano and cellos. (From programme notes)
c.2.30pm Sibelius: Symphony No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 82 Ulster Orchestra Christian Kluxen (conductor)
Tempo molto, moderato; Allegro moderato; Andante mosso, quasi allegretto; Allegro molto-Un pochettino largamente
Sibelius worked on this symphony from 1914-1915. He described his method of writing as:
‘Arrangement of the themes. It’s as if God the Father had thrown down the tiles of a mosaic from heaven’s floor and asked me to determine what kind of picture it was. To me they are confessions of faith from different periods of my life.
Today at ten to eleven I saw 16 swans. One of my greatest experiences! Lord God, what beauty! They circled over me for a long time. Disappeared into the solar haze like a gleaming silver ribbon. Their call the same woodwind type as that of cranes, but without tremolo. The swan-call closer to the trumpet…a low-pitched refrain reminiscent of a small child crying. Nature’s mysticism and life’s Angst. The Fifth Symphony’s finale-theme: legato in the trumpets! ‘
He stressed how important the swans were to his imagination:
‘The Swans are always in my thoughts…strange to learn that nothing in the whole world affects me – nothing in art, literature or music – in the same way as do these swans and cranes and wild geese.’
An entry in Sibelius’s diary, 21st April 1915.
Swans were also a source of inspiration to W.B. Yeats: In his poem ‘The
Wild Swans at Coole’ he wrote: