Lahav Shani conducts Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique

lahav shani

Date

14.5.2019

Tuesday 20:00

Hall

Auditorium

Venue

Rappaport Hall, Haifa

Venue

Rappaport Hall, Haifa

Hall

Auditorium

Artists

Lahav Shani, conductor and pianist

Concert Program

Shimon Cohen: Jerusalem Sketches
Shostakovich: Piano Concerto no. 2
Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique

Event Info

Lahav Shani, the IPO’s Music Director Designate returns to play with and conduct the orchestra.

Jerusalem Sketches – Rhapsody for Orchestra by Shimon Cohen

I composed this work in 1981, by commission of Leonard Bernstein, for the inauguration of the Sultan Pool in Jerusalem. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Doron Salomon, performed it at that event.

Jerusalem is the heart of the world, and just as the heart combines into four sections there are four quarters in Jerusalem: the Jewish, the Muslim, the Armenian and the Christian.

The work is written in rhapsodic form, with four movements connected like a thread, with each quarter depicted by its own characteristic music.

Jerusalem Sketches opens with a motif played by the bassoon. In the background one can hear formulas of Jewish prayers. Everything awakens gradually. The idyll is interrupted by the tuba, with a melody of the Muezzin calling for the daily prayer.

From here we continue to the Muslim quarter – to the market. The eastern market is revealed in full glory, with stark colors, Arabian melodies that rise and sweep the listener in their enthusiasm, and lead us straight into the Armenian quarter, which is presented by Armenian folk melodies.

The church bells and Christian prayer, “Praise God, from all blessing flow”, played by the organ depict the Christian quarter. Melodies that appeared throughout the work gradually begin to form into a fugue, which intensifies and brings the work to an impressive conclusion.

The year is 1957. Dmitri Shostakovich is already a well-known and highly regarded composer. He is also the father of Maxim, a talented pianist who is celebrating his 19th birthday. Shostakovich decides to write a piano concerto for his son. A short work (just under 20 minutes) in three parts, it is one of the most delightful, joyous, energetic and amusing works written by the composer.

What led Shostakovich to write such music? Was it the end of Stalinism? Does this music reflect the love and hope that Shostakovich wanted to pass on to his son? Is this joy personal or national, or perhaps there is no joy at all but only fast, slow, and fast music, compelling and effective, as this composer knew to write? Presumably, there is no single answer to these questions.

This is one of the most communicative works in Shostakovich’s repertoire, and some have noted echoes from the period in which the composer made a living by accompanying silent films in the cinema. Perhaps it suited Disney's directors to use a segment of this concerto in the Steadfast Tin Soldier scene from the film "Fantasy 2000," creating the closure of a beautiful circle.

There is a clear rhythmic element in the first and third movements of the concerto. In the first movement, flutes (and piccolo) and drums (mainly the marching drum) are supported by symmetrical, clear, seemingly simple phrases that are characterized by virtuosity and freedom from conflict, and yet this is not naive music but rather music by a wise composer about reality. But it is also music that describes how in a flash happiness can turn into a fascist parade (as demonstrated in special moments in the first movement).

As for the aesthetics of this concerto, we ask whether it reflects the way Shostakovich perceives youth. (Oh, longing for a time where age 19 symbolizes carefree life...)? Or there is a more complex musical statement in which there is the possibility, this time in the context of a piano concerto, to present the composer's perception of the orchestra, the classical form, and what piano concertos after Bartok, Ravel and young Rachmaninov can be. Perhaps the conscious dialogue and reflections on the history of this genre begin even in earlier correspondence? For example, in the second movement of the piece, in which a gentle lyrical accompaniment allows the vocalist to create a line reminiscent of a wonderful vocalization without slipping into sentimentalism. Is it possible to see in the accompaniment of the strings in this movement as a kind of "updated" nod to the second movement of Beethoven's last concertos? The nature of such associations is that they are very personal. But something in the atmosphere of this movement certainly evokes memories.

The last movement in this concerto seems to have been heard before, in other works by Shostakovich, but who said that personal style is a bad thing?

The work was first performed by the young Maxim on May 10, 1957.

 Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz

There are few composers and few works that cast a shadow on artists as large as Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. The feeling that everything that can be said in the genre of the symphony has already been said in this work influenced the symphonic thought of many composers. Who would have believed that Brahms or Schumann or Schubert were terrified from a large symphony that had been written before them?

A crazy and “different” kind of man, like Berlioz, was needed to bring a new attitude to the symphonic genre. A composer that was not a wunderkind and did not play piano (Berlioz's instrument was guitar), someone who learned medicine at the command of his father, who was a doctor and atheist (unlike his mother who was a strict catholic). These were the circumstances necessary to write this work in his twenties, which broke all the borders that existed until then. It was written for a monstrous orchestra in terms of the period of composition (Two tubas? Who heard of such a thing before this?) It came with an extra-musical narrative, with explicit hints appearing within the score, a story that includes, among other things, the image of the sensitive artist and of different and rather disturbed visions that he experienced. This is a work that has meticulous thematic elements and is almost a "school for orchestration." A work that went beyond the boundaries of the symphonic genre as designed by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven and preceded Wagner, the symphonic poems of Liszt and Strauss, and Mahler's extensive symphonic writing. And to think that all this happened less than four years after Beethoven's death!

Get to know the man (Berlioz) and his world with a few quotes:

  1. "Time is a wonderful teacher, and unfortunately it kills his students." (From a letter, November 1856)
  2. "A life in which you have not read Hamlet at least once is like living in a coal mine."
  3. "This man was dead all his life..."
  4. "Hot topics should be treated in cold blood..."

Price Range

130 - 430 nis

Duration

approx 1.5 hours including intermission

Duration

approx 1.5 hours including intermission

Price range

130 - 430 nis

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