May 18, 2022

Charlie Doodle

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DW Festival Concert: The Heimbach chamber music festival | Music | DW

9 min read

Known today as the “Bayreuth of Chamber Music,” Heimbach has long been a highlight of our Deutsche Welle Festival Concert series. The performance venue is quite unique: it’s a stunning art nouveau hydroelectric power plant, and it’s what gives the festival its name: “Spannungen,” or “tensions.”

Our first piece is also the oldest piece in today’s program: Franz Schubert’s Rondo in B minor for violin and piano. Schubert wrote the piece in 1826, just two years before he died. His publisher spiced up the marketing a bit, adding the word “brilliant” to the printed score, as if to say, “Attention all virtuosos: Play this piece, and you’ll really shine.”  

No audience

Like many other music festivals that took place in 2021, the Heimbach chamber music festival had to do without a live public. This is not an easy situation for the performers, as pianist Aris Alexander Blettenberg explains.

“It’s rather horrible to have to sit onstage and take a bow in that empty hall. Our colleagues are standing behind us, watching us, and of course, they’re fully supporting us. But we need that very special atmosphere that can only be created by an audience. That gives us more inspiration, and it leads to an exchange, to communication. This is obviously missing right now.”

The next piece featured in this recording is by Nino Rota. Rota, who was born in Milan in 1911 and died in Rome in 1979, is primarily known as a composer of film music. He wrote over 150 film scores, many for very famous movies, including ones directed by fellow Italians Federico Fellini and Luchino Visconti. In 1975, Rota won an Oscar for his unforgettable film score to “The Godfather Part II.”

Moody poetry

Further below on our playlist is British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams’ song cycle, “On Wenlock Edge” – a setting of various poems from Alfred Edward Housman’s collection “A Shropshire Lad.” Vaughan Williams’ music radiates melancholy from beginning to end, matching the mood of Housman’s texts.

In Vaughan Williams’ piece, nature and outdoor landscapes symbolize the inner world of the lyrical first-person narrator. Unlike the German Lieder, or concert song tradition, in which the singer is usually only accompanied by a pianist, Vaughan Williams also included a string quartet alongside the piano.

He needed these instruments’ colors to really sketch out the landscapes in the piece, says English tenor Ian Bostridge: “I think he’s very good at conveying a feeling for landscape and for space and for the feeling of being outside. So particularly the first song, which is stormy, so you have the feeling in the instruments of wind, and it’s very effective, the string writing for that… So it’s a wonderful, evocative writing.”

Folk music from Romania

Let’s move on to eastern Europe now. Our collection today includes a compositionby the Romanian George Enescu: his violin sonata No. 3. Enescu wrote the piece in 1926 in Paris. The folk music of his homeland, Romania, played a major role in his compositional style.

He noted his third violin sonata with the subheading, “dans le caractère populaire roumain,” which literally means, “in the Romanian popular character.” In other words, the piece isn’t just supposed to be performed in the style of Romanian folk music; it’s supposed to contain its essence. The work has rhapsodic and mystical song-like melodies and rustic dance rhythms, and it shows his masterful ability to create endlessly diverse timbres.

Another featured piece in this edition is Johannes Brahms’ quintet No. 1 in F major. Brahms wrote the piece in the town of Bad Ischl, Austria, which is near Salzburg. You can really picture an alpine meadow when you hear this music.

That’s all for this edition of DW Festival Concert with Cristina Burack. Drop us a line with feedback anytime at [email protected] We have more exciting performances waiting for you in the next Deutsche Welle Festival Concert.

Performances featured in this DW Festival Concert:

1. Composer: Franz SchubertRondo brilliant for violin and piano in B minor, op. 70, D.895

Performed by: Christian Tetzlaff, violin

Aris Alexander Blettenberg, piano

2. Composer: Nino Rota, Trio for clarinet, cello and piano

Performed by: Sharon Kam, clarinet

Tanja Tetzlaff, cello

Aris Alexander Blettenberg, piano

3. Composer: Ralph Vaughan Williams, “On Wenlock Edge,” song cycle for tenor, piano and string quartet, with poetry from Alfred Edward Housman’s “A Shropshire Lad”

Selections: “On Wenlock Edge,” “Is my team ploughing?” “Oh, when I was in love with you,” “Bredon Hill,” “Clun”

Performed by: Ian Bostridge, tenor

Saskia Giorgini, piano

Florian Donderer, violin

Anna Reszniak, violin

Jan Larsen, viola

Cristina Burack

DW Festival Concert host Cristina Burack

Tanja Tetzlaff, cello

4. Composer: George Enescu, Violin sonata No. 3 in A minor, op. 25

Performed by: Elisabeth Kufferath, violin

Saskia Giorgini, piano

5. Composer: Johannes Brahms, String quintet No. 1 in F major, op. 88

Performed by: Byol Kang, violin

Florian Donderer, violin

Elisabeth Kufferath, viola

Jan Larsen, viola

Gustav Rivinius, cello

All music recorded by Deutschlandfunk (DLF) at the Heimbach Spannungen Chamber Music Festival in the Heimbach hydroelectric power plant on June 23, 2021

Edited by: Manasi Gopalakrishnan

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