Rhapsody

Rhapsody

Saturday 11 June, 7.30pm

Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington

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Johannes Brahms (1833 - 1897)
Alto Rhapsody (1869)

Kristin Darragh, contralto
Orpheus Choir male chorus

Clara Schumann’s spirit infuses this whole concert, both through her inspiration to her husband and her friendship with Brahms, who adored her. A year after Brahms’ magisterial German Requiem, he composed this Rhapsody to a Goethe poem by that could serve as his own self-portrait: An irascible loner scorned by and scorning love seeks spiritual sustenance in the wild mountains; the consolation of music is what he finds. Written for the wedding of Clara and Robert Schumann’s daughter, it must have been one of the oddest presents they received. The soloist’s anguished, questing lines are introduced with dark grandeur by strings and horns. The men’s voices join, hymn-like, building to a glorious resolution, “then refresh his heart!/Open his clouded gaze/to the thousand springs/next to him who thirsts/in the wilderness!”

Clara Schumann (1819–1896)
Piano Concerto in A minor  (1835)
Jian Liu, piano

Aged 13, Clara Schumann had already been an international touring soloist for two years when she began sketching her piano concerto. She finished it just before turning 16. Its premiere with the Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestra two months later must have been an unforgettable meeting of precocious talents; Clara was the soloist and the conductor was Mendelssohn, then 26. The concerto begins with a formal orchestral introduction which the soloist elaborates with generous lyricism. A solo cello introduces the dreamy piano-led second movement then joins it in a sensitive duet. The finale ranges across sometimes daring modulations; the piano’s showy passagework leaves room for some fine orchestral touches.

Robert Schumann (1810 - 1856)
Symphony #4 in D minor, op. 120 (1851)

When, in 1840, Schumann overcame years of bitter parental opposition to marry Clara Wieck, he was spurred into a creative frenzy. With her encouragement, he began writing larger symphonic works. By the end of 1841 he’d completed, among other things, his First Symphony and begun this symphony. Clara wrote in her diary, “Robert’s mind is very creative now, and he began a symphony yesterday… I have heard nothing of it as yet, but from seeing Robert’s doings, and from hearing a D minor echoing wildly in the distance, I know in advance that this will be another work that is emerging from the depths of his soul.” Ten years later, Schumann revised it to create the version of the Fourth Symphony most frequently heard today. But Orchestra Wellington will perform Schumann’s Fourth in its 1841 incarnation, freshly forged from the blaze of that euphoric year. The work’s restless Romantic moods are unified by themes, including a musical coding of Clara’s name, that persist through imaginative transformations.

Alto Rhapsody

Johannes Brahms

Kristin Darragh contralto

Orpheus Choir male chorus

Piano Concerto in A minor

Clara Schumann

Jian Liu piano

Symphony #4 in D minor

Robert Schumann