SWISS SYMPHONY IN FOCUS
14–29 MAY 2022
Johann Carl Eschmann (born in Winterthur, 1826 – 1882)
Grand Concert Overture
Frank Martin (born in Geneva, 1890 – 1974)
Three Dances for oboe, harp, string quintet and string orchestra
Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897)
Symphony No. 3, op. 90
Johann Carl Eschmann from Winterthur studied with Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Ignaz Moscheles in Leipzig before working as a piano teacher and composer in his hometown as well as in Schaffhausen and Zurich. He belonged to Richard Wagner’s inner circle and was also friends with Johannes Brahms, who held him in high esteem as a composer. Eschmann’s works were stylistically influenced by Robert Schumann and Felix Mendelssohn. Nevertheless, he developed his own musical language at an early age, with unexpected rhythmic subtleties and harmonic twists and turns. His Grand Concert Overture of 1847 is one of his early compositions and remained (unfortunately) his only work for orchestra.
In contrast to Eschmann, Frank Martin from the French-speaking part of Switzerland is one of the better-known personalities among Swiss composers. At the request of his parents, he began to study mathematics and physics in Geneva, but devoted himself more and more to composition. In Geneva he then worked closely with Emile Jaques-Dalcroze and founded the “Société de musique de chambre” to cultivate the music of the 17th and 18th centuries. In addition to his great vocal works, Martin composed sophisticated instrumental music. For example, the Three Dances for oboe, harp, string quintet and string orchestra with their flamenco rhythms. “Trois Danses” was first performed on 9 October 1970 in Zurich under the baton of Paul Sacher with soloists Heinz and Ursula Holliger.
After the interval, Johannes Brahms‘ third symphony builds a bridge to the romantic beginning of this concert. His 3rd symphony was composed in 1883 and thus falls into the period of the so-called “music dispute” between representatives of the New German School, who saw the future of music in symphonic tone poetry and programme music, and the advocates of “absolute” music free of extra-musical content, to whom Brahms also belonged. The latter were of the opinion that music should not be measured by programmatic statements but solely by inner-musical artistic claims, as was customary in Viennese classical music. Not surprisingly, therefore, the response to this work was divided. While some rejected it, others went into raptures. Thus Antonín Dvořák wrote to his publisher Simrock “What wonderful melodies are to be found there! It is pure love, and one’s heart opens up to it”. And Clara Schumann wrote to Brahms: “…every movement is a jewel! – How bewitched one is from beginning to end by this mysterious magic…”
Heinz Holliger is one of the most versatile and extraordinary Swiss musical personalities. He is not only considered one of the world’s most important oboe virtuosos, but is also one of the most famous contemporary Swiss composers and a celebrated conductor.
Born in Langenthal, canton Berne, Holliger completed his oboe studies in Berne with Emile Castagnaud and in Paris with Pierre Pierlot. Prizes at prestigious international music contests (1959 in Munich; 1961 in Geneva) made him internationally renowned as an instrumentalist. Since 1963 he has been performing as a freelance soloist, setting new standards on his instrument.
Contemporary composers like Hans Werner Henze, Krzysztof Penderecki, György Ligeti, Elliott Carter, Witold Lutoslawski, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Luciano Berio wrote works especially for him. For example, Frank Martin from Geneva dedicated his “Trois Danses”, premiered in 1970, to Heinz Holliger.
Among Holliger’s numerous prizes and awards, we would like to mention for example: the Frankfurt Music Prize 1988, the Art Prize of the City of Basel 1988, the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize 1991, the Zurich Festival Prize awarded for the first time in 2007, the Rheingau Music Prize 2008, the Swiss Grand Prix Music 2015 and the Robert Schumann Prize 2017. He has been Composer in Residence for the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and at the International Music Festival in Lucerne. The Cité de la Musique in Paris dedicated an entire concert week to Holliger as composer, conductor and oboist in April 2003. Through projects such as the Basel Music Forum, which he co-founded in 1987, and collaborations with the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie and the Ensemble Modern, Holliger is particularly committed to the dissemination of new music.
Heinz Holliger performs with the leading orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, the Philharmonia Orchestra London, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Frankfurt Symphony Orchestra and the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich.
The harpist Alice Belugou was born in Rouen in 1991. She began her studies at the Sorbonne in Paris and the Pôle Supérieur de Paris Boulogne-Billancourt, then moved on to Letizia Belmondo to qualify as Master in Music Performance at the Haute École de Musique Lausanne, where she was awarded the Special Prize for Excellent Master Concerts in 2015, and then completed a Master’s degree in Music Pedagogy and a Minor in Contemporary Music at Basel Academy of Music.
She attended master classes with Isabelle Moretti, Fabrice Pierre, Catherine Michel, Frédérique Cambreling and Marie-Pierre Langlamet, and worked with composers such as Georges Aperghis, Mark André, Heinz Holliger, William Blank, Jennifer Walshe, and Simon Steen-Andersen.
Since 2015 she has performed at various festivals in Europe as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral musician: Lucerne Festival, Zeiträume, Archipelago (CH), Manifeste (FR), New Direction (SW), ON Cologne (DE), Microtonality Basel, Darmstadt Summer Courses, Tage für neue Musik Zurich, Kontakte Berlin, Rümlingen festival (CH).
In 2017 Alice won a scholarship from the Fritz Gerber Foundation, and in 2018 second prize at the DHF world harp competition.
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