Harding meets Alina Ibragimova
In the run-up to the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra’s large European tour, they invite us to three days of concerts, with particular focus on the amazing soloists that will accompany them. Alina Ibragimova is celebrated for her disarming musicality and her varied career. This time, she performs Robert Schumann’s classic Violin Concerto, which after decades of disrepute is now rightly considered to be one of the composer’s most important works. The programme also includes Allan Pettersson’s Symphonic Movement as well as a suite from Berlioz’s dramatic choral symphony, Romeo and Juliet.
Today, Allan Pettersson is one of our most internationally renowned composers. He grew up in poverty and lived most of his life in Södermalm in Stockholm. In his enormous body of work, including 17 symphonies, the 1973 work with the crass title Symphonic Movement assumes a modest position. The piece was written after the eleventh symphony and was commissioned by Swedish Television for a nature film by journalist and film maker Boris Ersson, with the intention that the music and images would create a unity. Ersson had already made a name for himself by setting images to the final section of Petterson’s seventh symphony, which for many years was the wintry New Year’s vignette for a large TV audience. In the barely 400-bar score to Symphonic Movement, Pettersson has set a playing time of 11 minutes. The piece begins with a twelve-tone series, a technique he studied in Paris in the 1950s, where the last note via a major cord transitions into less serial progressions of notes.
Few works have had such a strange fate as Robert Schumann’s Violin Concerto in D Minor. After having been forgotten for over eighty years, it was adopted by the Nazis as an “Aryan” alternative to Mendelssohn’s violin concerto, which had been banned, and was performed by Georg Kulenkampf in Berlin in November 1937. A month later, the concerto was performed in the United States by Jewish violinist Yehudi Menuhin, who called it the “link between Beethoven’s and Brahms’ violin concertos”. The concerto was Schumann’s final orchestral work and was written in the autumn of 1853 for violinist Joseph Joachim, who he met when visiting Mendelssohn in 1843. Despite a successful initial collaboration around Schumann’s Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra in September 1853, the work on the violin concerto came to nothing. The concerto was thought to show signs of Schumann’s increasing mental illness and after his death it faded into obscurity. Nowadays, the concerto is incorporated into the standing repertoire and Alina Ibragimova is very fond of the work. ”It is an extremely complex work” she says. “I often get very tired from playing Schumann’s music. There is so much emotion and you have to fill every single note with everything you have.”
Frenchman Hector Berlioz, belonged in several respects to the more wilful romantics. Some of his great vocal works cross genres and are difficult to classify with traditional measures. This includes The Damnation of Faust, a ‘dramatic legend’ that is not infrequently performed on stage, but also the ‘dramatic symphony’ Romeo and Juliet from 1839. The latter work is divided into seven movements and consists of a series of instrumental and vocal ensembles and solo numbers. The vocal passages comment on the events in the loosely connected scenes from Shakespeare’s drama. This is a suite from Romeo and Juliet, performed with the vocal elements left out.
Text: Henry Larsson
The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra serves as a symphony orchestra for the whole of Sweden. Regardless of where you live you can listen to the orchestra’s concerts through the Swedish Radio’s broadcasts or on their website, and several concerts are also shown on Swedish Television. The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra is one of the best and most versatile orchestras in Europe – perhaps even in the world. Every year they perform well-loved works from the classical repertoire as well as new music by exciting contemporary composers such as Victoria Borisova-Ollas, Magnus Lindberg and Unsuk Chin. In addition they perform music from popular films and computer and video games and collaborate with leading jazz, pop and rock artists in a constant endeavour to develop and to break new ground.