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Mozart, Debussy & Roussel

Albert Roussel’s ballet Bacchus and Ariadne never had much success but his captivating orchestral suite, on the other hand, has garnered much appreciation. Conductor Alain Altinoglu discovered Debussy’s music early on, for example his groundbreaking opera Pelléas and Mélisande. On this occasion, the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra performs Altinoglu’s personally arranged orchestral suite from the opera. Altinoglu and pianist Piotr Anderszewski have been involved in several spectacular projects together, frequently involving Mozart in some way or other. Here, they come together over Mozart’s music once again, namely the Piano Concerto No. 13.

For Mozart, subscription concerts were an important source of revenue, not least after his settling down in Vienna. He wrote his own piano concertos for them, because, as we know, he could truly show off on the piano. He wrote at a furious pace; he seems to have composed Piano Concerto No. 13 in the three first weeks of 1783. Mozart described it to his father Leopold as ”a happy medium between what is too simple and what is too difficult” for the audience. From the beginning, he had in mind an adagio as the middle movement, but did the audience really crave such seriousness? So, he chose an andante instead, in other words not as slow, but parts of the original idea crept into the quieter parts of the finale.

Pianist Piotr Anderszewski belongs to the very top tier of today’s musicians. He stands out among his peers by having made his own film, ”Warszaw is my name”, in order to process his ambivalent feelings about his home country and he has also been portrayed in several works by documentary film-maker, Bruno Monsaingeon. Anderszewski and conductor Alain Altinoglu have also performed together to great acclaim at the Mozart week in Salzburg.

Altinoglu premièred his own orchestral suite from Claude Debussy’s Pelléas and Mélisande with the Berlin Philharmonic in September 2017. He discovered opera in his teens, after having loved Debussy’s piano music as a child. The suite is based on the important orchestral interludes and, unlike some other compilations, include Mélisande’s death. Debussy said about his fabulous and tragic drama about love, based on Maurice Maeterlinck’s play, that ”in the opera house, they sing too much”. And there are no proper arias or ensembles in this musical milestone. Conductor André Messager who premièred the opera, argued that ”in the final scene, when the dying Mélisande asks that a window be opened, it opens not just on the sunset, but on the whole world of modern music”.

In the beginning, Albert Roussel was more interested in mathematics than music and his professional life began with seven years as a naval officer. Only at the age of 25, did he begin to devote himself entirely to music. As a composer, he became immensely respected over time by his contemporary peers and he himself trained students such as Erik Satie and Edgard Varèse. The high points of his creativity are his symphonies and three ballets, among them Bacchus and Ariadne from 1930, based on the Greek myth about the God of Wine and his infatuation with the princess Ariadne. The première was not a success due to various stage issues. Roussel, who fully believed in his music, then divided the ballet into two parts: The first act became Suite no. 1 and the second, Suite no. 2. The latter is the most performed by far; the concluding bacchanal and the crowning of Ariadne is among the most intoxicating music you can image.

Text: Gunnar Lanzky-Otto


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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.