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Harding meets Janine Jansen

Multi-award-winning Janine Jansen interprets Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto, his final work in which he, in the fashion of a true master, unites the pioneering twelve-tone music of the 20th century with traditional harmonics. The concert is a marvellous example of Berg’s ability to imbue a seemingly strict and mathematical composition method with emotion and humanity. Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra also presents Beethoven’s classic and epoch-making Symphony No. 3, Eroica.

“To the memory of an angel.” Deeply affected by the death of 18-year-old Manon Gropius, the Austrian composer Alban Berg composed his expressive and sensual violin concerto, commissioned before the tragic event by the American violinist Louis Krasner in early 1935. Manon was the beautiful and talented daughter of Alma Mahler and the architect, Walter Gropius, whom Alma married upon Gustav Mahler’s death.

The concerto, which is divided into two parts, is partly composed in an advanced twelve-tone technique, but Berg has also inserted an Austrian folk song and a chorale that Bach made use of in his Cantata No. 60, Es ist genug. Berg, who was a student of Arnold Schoenberg’s and belonged to the so-called Second Viennese School, got the idea for the chorale whilst composing the piece. To his surprise, he discovered that its first four tones corresponded to the last four tones of the twelve-tone series on which the concerto was constructed.

The violin concerto’s sonorous sensualism and remarkable expressiveness has made it one of Alban Berg’s most accessible and popular works. It was also to become his final opus, after having put aside his work on the unfinished opera, Lulu. After Berg’s premature death on Christmas Eve 1935, Louis Krasner’s violin concerto was completed in Barcelona on April 19, 1936. In the first part of the concerto, Berg, according to music researcher Willi Reich, who is an expert on the Second Viennese School, has “tried to translate the young girl’s essence into musical terms”. In the second part, Berg describes the impending catastrophe and the possibility of salvation. Janine Jansen has previously made several acclaimed performances of Berg’s Violin Concerto and considers it to be one of her personal favourites.

Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E Flat Major, Eroica, was composed in 1803 and can be said to represent the break between Viennese classicism and romanticism. None of Beethoven’s symphonies, with the exception of the ninth, is as shrouded in myth, interpreted and politically exploited as the Eroica, which in a way is the starting point for the more subjective sounds of the nascent romanticism. Even the first movement, with its vast thematic adaptation, blew apart all the supposed limits of measurement and balance of its time. Beethoven composed the symphony as a tribute to Napoleon, but when Napoleon appointment himself Emperor of the French, Beethoven removed his name from the title page. The work was instead dedicated to “il sovvenire di un grande Uomo”, the memory of a great man – who could also be Beethoven himself.

Text: Henry Larsson


SVERIGES RADIOS SYMFONIORKESTER Print

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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.