15H – CONCERT
Auditorium Rainier III
Durée approximative 1h10
Ludwig van Beethoven
Romance no 1 pour violon et orchestre en sol majeur, op. 40
Sur le même accord, nocturne pour violon et orchestre
Ludwig van Beethoven
Romance no 2 pour violon et orchestre en fa majeur, op. 50
Symphonie n°15 en la majeur, op.141
Renaud Capuçon, violon
Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo
Andris Poga, direction
Life and fate
Revolt without acquiescence. The visionary parallels linking Ludwig van Beethoven and Dmitri Shostakovich, which find an echo in Henri Dutilleux, reflect the degree to which these artists were at once witnesses, players and victims of their times.
The existential revolt which the Romantic generation ascribed to the tempestuous Beethoven is not yet apparent in his two Romances for violin and orchestra, composed on the cusp of the 19th century. These works nonetheless suggest a reassessment of concertante form, which the composer would later completely overhaul. Two centuries later, in Sur le même accord (2002), the French composer Henri Dutilleux seems to hark back to the free dialogue between violin and orchestra of the G major Romance (1798-99) and the intense lyricism of the F major (1802) – both works unfettered by the constraints of concerto format. Six notes, appearing in the very first bars, unify the entire work and establish its atmosphere. Between a concerto (because of its omnipresent solo line) and an evocation of a starry night (where the soloists of the wind section come in), Sur le même accord reflects the revival of interest in concertante form shown by musicians after 1945.
“I worked on it a lot. I wrote it in hospital and even later, at the dacha, it gave me no rest. It’s a work that quite simply carried me away – one of the rare works to have been clear in my mind from the beginning, from the first to the last note. I had only to write it out.” In 1971, Dmitri Shostakovich tackled a new symphony, strikingly different from his Eleventh and Twelfth Symphonies (the titles of which referred to his country’s history) and the Thirteenth and Fourteenth (both including vocal parts). The composer had suffered a heart attack in 1966 and his health had started to decline at that point. In this regard, it is likely that the Fifteenth Symphony has a valedictory aspect, such as may be found in Beethoven’s late Sonatas or Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff – a comedy whose apparent lightness and nostalgia for the passing of time mark a contrast with the Italian composer’s previous works.
This confrontation with death, described by the philosopher Edward W. Said as “late style,” comes through in numerous ways in the Fifteenth Symphony, with its return to “pure” symphonic writing and multiple references taken from a past predating the Soviet Union. The barely perceptible tensions, the symphony’s apparent lightness and its firm rooting in tradition (four movements, alternating rapidity and inwardness) sit alongside quotations and self-quotations which, while being characteristic of this composer, here assume a crepuscular dimension. As in his quartets, Shostakovich summons up the shadows of his past works: the Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and String Orchestra, his ballets The Golden Age and The Bolt and, above all, his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. These quotations implicitly evoke his own situation in Stalin’s USSR – the dynamism of the modernist 1930s, during which Shostakovich emerged in company with an extraordinary generation (the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, theater director Vsevolod Meyerhold, etc.) and the terror of the Great Purge, in which his Lady Macbeth was swept away in the torrent of works condemned as “formalist.” This introspection is reinforced by the use of the motif DSCH (in German, the notes D, E flat, C, B natural), as a signature representing Dmitri Shostakovich. The Soviet composer adds to this the famous B-A-C-H motif (in German, B-flat, A, C, B natural) that Bach, his illustrious predecessor, wove into certain of his works. The coded link between these two titans underlines Shostakovich’s importance in the history of music.
The composer also quotes two other (apparently dissimilar) figures: Gioachino Rossini and Richard Wagner. The Fifteenth Symphony alludes several times to the famous William Tell overture, the apparently ebullient character of which can be interpreted in political terms (a nation’s rebellion against an oppressor). The last movement of the work quotes a leitmotif from Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung – the fate motif heard in The Valkyrie. Here, too, the philosophical import of the allusion is unclear, although the orchestra plays it clearly, in almost funereal style. Is it an allusion to two composers whose work was also viewed in political terms or is it a reference to the use the regime made of their operas? A musician skilled in double meanings who, in the context of totalitarianism, developed a remarkable sense of survival by saying “despite everything”, Shostakovich allows us the freedom to interpret his 15th Symphony as we will.
Photo Renaud Capuçon ©Jean-François Leclercq -Virgin Classics
Parkings du Grimaldi Forum et Louis II : Forfait spectacle “Festival Printemps des Arts” 4€*
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