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Music

Elbphilharmonie Orchestra

Listen to Beethoven's Violin Concerto paired with a modern work of music inspired by it.

Listen to audio 54:59

Concert Hour: Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, part one

Concert Hour is your ticket to the German classical music festival scene. From the Schwetzingen Festival to the Bayreuth Festival, the Bachfest in Leipzig and the Beethovenfest in Bonn, we have 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.

This edition takes you to the Beethovenfest in Bonn for a guest performance by the Elbphilharmonie Orchestra from Hamburg. 

Listen to audio 54:59

Concert Hour: Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, part two

Part one:

Ludwig van Beethoven's violin concerto is a paradox to the German violinist Carolin Widmann. As she explained to DW, "The ideas are so simple, the score is so clean and there's nothing artificial about it. Everything is authentic, clean, pure — and therefore so difficult. Because the cleanest, most authentic, simplest truths are the hardest ones to speak out."

In the spirit of Beethoven, who loved to improvise and encouraged other artists to do so, Carolin Widmann contributed her own improvised cadenzas to this performance. She played on a violin from Beethoven's time, crafted by the Italian violin maker Giovanni Battista Guadagnini in 1782.

Triumph and tragedy are the main feelings in Beethoven's Seventh Symphony – the tragedy having to do with the second movement, a kind of funeral march. It was so well-loved at the very first performance that it had to be repeated. 

This hour you'll hear that movement — and the rest of the symphony next time.

Our performance from September 2019 is one of the first by the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra Hamburg in the tenure of its new principal conductor Alan Gilbert. NDR is the acronym for North German Radio. The Elbphilharmonie is the new but already iconic concert hall on the Hamburg harbor, a structure inaugurated in January 2017 after many delays and spectacular cost overruns. Virtually every concert since the inaugural has been sold out.  

As Gilbert explained to DW, "What I like about this orchestra is the spirit the shared spirit of ambition and the desire not only give the best but to make the most profound musical statement. It's a very positive, sincere mood and atmosphere onstage always. I wasn't looking for a chief conductor position, but with this orchestra I couldn't say no."

Elbphilharmonie: red-brick base and wavey, glass roof (DW/A. Drechsel)

The Elbphilharmonie on Hamburg harbor


Ludwig van Beethoven 

  • Violin concerto in D Major, op. 61 
  • Symphony No. 7 in A Major, op. 92, 2nd movement 

performed by:
Carolin Widmann, violin
NDR-Elbphilharmonie Orchestra Hamburg 
Alan Gilbert, conductor 
Recorded by West German Radio, Cologne (WDR) in the World Conference Center Bonn on September 24, 2019
 

Part two: 

The past five years at the Beethovenfest in Bonn have witnessed the world premieres of five works by contemporary composers, each referencing a work by Beethoven. You'll hear one of those works this hour. 

The German composer Enno Poppe used Beethoven's violin concerto as a point of departure for his own, new composition. He doesn't quote Beethoven in his piece, nor is there really a recognizable similarity between the two works. Instead, this composer is more inspired by Beethoven's spirit of innovation, and by vibrato, the sound that is created when a violinist's finger moves back and forth rapidly while holding down a string. So he named his new piece "String" – "Schnur" in German, although "Schnur" can also mean twine or chord. 

Carolin Widmann, the violinist who premiered the work, explained, "I think he created a completely new language for the violin actually, a fluid language that is absolutely without boundaries, at least at the beginning and the end. The middle part is very rhythmic and very precise. It's really like a math lesson: to count the beats and to know where I have to play what. It was really incredibly complex."

One of the first projects the new principal conductor Alan Gilbert wanted to do with his Elbphilharmonie Orchestra Hamburg was to perform Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, so the invitation to the Beethovenfest in September 2019 came just at the right time.  

Alan Gilbert (picture-alliance/dpa/H. Sparks)

Alan Gilbert

Enno Poppe
"Schnur" (String) for violin and orchestra (world premiere, commissioned by the Beethovenfest Bonn) 

Ludwig van Beethoven 
Symphony No. 7 in A Major, op. 92: 1st, 3rd and 4th movements  

performed by:
Carolin Widmann, violin
NDR-Elbphilharmonie Orchestra Hamburg 
Alan Gilbert, conductor 
Recorded by West German Radio, Cologne (WDR) in the World Conference Center Bonn on September 24, 2019
 

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