Alban Berg′s ′In Memory of an Angel′ | Music | DW | 05.05.2021
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Festival Concerts

Alban Berg's 'In Memory of an Angel'

In this edition of Concert Hour, we listen to conductor Kirill Petrenko, who rediscovered Antonin Dvorak in the COVID lockdown, and an interpretation of Alban Berg's concerto written in the memory of someone special.

Listen to audio 54:59

Concert Hour: Memory of an Angel part I

Your ticket to the German classical music festival scene: Concert Hour has the picks of the season — two hours of music updated regularly. Along with host Rick Fulker, the musicians themselves are on hand to give their insights into the events and the music.

Listen to audio 54:59

Concert Hour: Memory of an Angel, part II

Part one 

At the Berlin Music Festival, Germany's arguably most supercharged lineup - the Berlin Philharmonic and principal conductor Kirill Petrenko - are joined by violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann in Alban Berg's Violin concerto "In Memory of an Angel."

Who was the angel Alban Berg wrote a concerto in memory of? Manon Gropius, the daughter of family friends, Alma Mahler Werfel und Walter Gropius. Manon died of polio at age 18 in 1935. Ironically, Berg himself had only a few months more to live – he was to die of blood poisoning at age fifty. "It sounds like a story straight out of late Romanticism," said the conductor, Kirill Petrenko. "But Berg even wrote in the preface to the score that he'd said to someone: 'In the end, we're all Romantics.' And you hear that this concerto was his personal farewell. I always think that great artists know when their time has come." 

The violin concerto by Alban Berg was performed in Barcelona Spain in 1936. In the audience was a 25-year-old composer named Benjamin Britten, fascinated by what he heard. Probably that performance, and the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War that year, gave the inspiration to Britten's own violin concerto in D Minor, which he finished in 1939 while living on Long Island, New York.   

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Alban Berg   

Violin concerto "In Memory of an Angel" 

 

Bela Bartok   

Solo sonata: Presto   

 

Antonin Dvorak   

Symphony No. 5 in F Major, op. 76, 1st movement (excerpt) 

 

Performed by:  

Frank Peter Zimmermann, violin  

Berlin Philharmonic  

Kirill Petrenko, conductor   

Recorded by Deutschlandfunk Kultur, Berlin (DLF) in the Berlin Philharmonie on September 17, 2020  

Benjamin Britten 

Violin Concerto in D Minor, op. 15, 3rd movement 

 

Performed by:  

Frank Peter Zimmermann, violin  

Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra 

Manfred Honeck, conductor 

Part two

This hour we'll hear music from a particularly happy moment in the life of its composer, Antonin Dvorak, and a requiem to concert and arts venues lost in the destruction of war by Richard Strauss.  

Richard Strauss lived during the Nazi era in Germany: not only lived through it but was also complicit, in the first years at least, as President of the Reich Music Chamber. But he also witnessed the eventual outcome, and in "Metamorphoses," he laments the complete destruction of Munich and Germany's other major cities and their arts venues. In the work, Strauss has a simple motif and spins it out over the space of the 25-minute composition.   

If there's a silver lining to a worldwide pandemic, it could be that it's forcing us to take a closer look at things and to see them in a different way. An example is what happened with Kirill Petrenko when it came to Dvorak's Fifth Symphony.

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"During the shutdown, when we were in isolation for such a long time and had nothing to do, was a good time to pull some works out of desk drawer that themselves had been in isolation," said Petrenko. "So I didn't choose Dvorak's Seventh or Ninth, but the Fifth. A personal discovery, and it's definitely worthwhile to play works like this.  

Dvorak's Fifth Symphony dates from the summer of 1875. Adds Petrenko: "He was freshly married to the woman who would stand by his side for decades. It was one of the happiest years of his life, which, you could say, was a happy life overall. You seldom encounter composers who were really happy, married, successful and recognized. You hear it in the music."  

 

Richard Strauss   

Metamorphoses

 

Performed by:  

Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra  

Vladimir Jurowski, conductor  

Recorded by Deutschlandfunk Kultur, Berlin (DLF) in the Berlin Philharmonie on September 11, 2020  

 

Antonin Dvorak   

Symphony No. 5 in F Major, op. 76, 2nd, 3rd and 4th movements (excerpt)  

 

Performed by:  

Berlin Philharmonic  

Kirill Petrenko, conductor  

Recorded by Deutschlandfunk Kultur, Berlin (DLF) in the Berlin Philharmonie on September 17, 2020 

 

Rebroadcasting rights: one broadcast before December 27, 2021 
 

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