5–28 May 2023
Antonio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741)
Concerto Grosso in a minor RV 356 op.3 No. 6
Hermann Suter (1870 Kaiserstuhl – 1926 Basel)
Violin concerto in A major op. 23
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809 – 1847)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream op. 61 (Excerpts)
George Templeton Strong (1856 – 1948 Genf)
Le Livre d’Images, Suite No. 3
Hermann Suter was one of the most important Swiss composers and had a lasting influence on its music life. As a conductor, he directed the Basel Choral Society (the “Gesangverein”) and was in charge of the concerts of the city’s Music Society for more than 20 years until shortly before his unexpected death in 1926. Besides conducting, he was thus also responsible for choosing the works to be performed. Suter was well-known for his unusual, inventive concert programmes, and he even published an essay entitled “About designing programmes for the symphony concerts”. In it, he told an anecdote in broad Basel dialect about a conversation that had supposedly taken place between his friend Matthias Oswald and an unknown Beethoven fan: “A Beethoven admirer says to Mr Oswald: ‘Why do you play so little Beethoven? It’s the most beautiful music there is; I know all of it, and I go to the concert every time that Beethoven is played’. To which Mr Oswald replied: ‘Well, soon Eroica is coming’. The Beethoven admirer then said: ‘Really? What’s she singing?’” This anecdote reveals the fan to be someone who clearly only went to concerts when well-known works by Beethoven were being played, or when a star was performing.
In this concert, we can present a star on the violin – Michael Barenboim – though we can’t offer any showpiece by Beethoven this time. We prefer to awaken your curiosity: this programme includes the Violin Concerto by Hermann Suter – a great work by a largely forgotten Swiss composer. Just as in the concert that saw its second performance under the composer’s baton, Suter’s Concerto will here be paired with Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto Grosso in a minor.
This idiosyncratic juxtaposition of a late Romantic work and one from the High Baroque is here provided with a further contrast. After Beethoven’s death, a bitter dispute flared up in the musical community about whether the future of music lay in “pure”, absolute, instrumental music or in programme music that was intended to tell a story. And so these two works by Suter and Vivaldi are here played alongside “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and “Le Livre d’Images” by the American-born Genevan composer George Templeton Strong: two compositions characterised by their pictorial musical language and by their programmatic content.
Performing Schoenberg’s Violin Concerto under Pierre Boulez in the Cologne Philharmonic marked the beginning of a remarkable career for Michael Barenboim (*1985). Following this celebrated debut, he has since performed the Schoenberg Concerto with the Vienna Philharmonic under Daniel Barenboim, the Chicago Symphony under Asher Fisch, the Israel Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta, and the Berlin Philharmonic under Vasily Petrenko. Michael regularly gives solo recitals in the world’s most prestigious concert halls, such as the Wigmore Hall in London, the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, the Sydney Opera House and the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples. He has presented a programme with works by Pierre Boulez in Carnegie Hall, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Opéra National de Paris, the Barbican Centre in London, the Dortmund Konzerthaus and the Salzburg Festival.
As a member of the Boulez Ensemble, Michael Barenboim has premiered numerous new works by composers such as Jörg Widmann, Kareem Rouston and many others. He is a professor for violin and chamber music at the Barenboim-Said Akademie in Berlin and has been the academy’s Dean since 2020. In addition, he and seven other selected members of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra founded the West-Eastern Divan Ensemble in 2020 and were able to complete a 13-concert tour of the USA shortly before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Among Michael’s last solo performances before the lockdown were Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under Robert Trevino and Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel.
Michael Barenboim’s first solo album featured compositions by Bach and Bartók as well as Boulez’s “Anthèmes 1 & 2”. In 2018 there followed a CD with works by Tartini, Berio, Paganini and Sciarrino. For Deutsche Grammophon, Michael has recorded the Mozart piano quartets and trios as well as the complete Beethoven piano trios – together with Kian Soltani and Daniel Barenboim.