The Swiss Symphonic Treasury
27 AUGUST - 16 OCTOBER 2021
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809 – 1847)
Overture to “The Fairytale of the Beautiful Melusine”, op. 32
Joseph Joachim Raff (born in Lachen, 1822 – 1882)
Two Scenes, op. 199, and “The Dream King and his Love”, op.66 for
voice and orchestra
Cavatina from “Six Morsels”, op. 85 No. 3,
arranged for violin and orchestra by Edmund Singer (1874)
Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883)
“Dreams” from the Wesendonck Lieder, version for violin and orchestra, WWV 91B
August Walter (1821 – 1896 Basel)
Symphony in E flat major, op. 9
The beauty of Switzerland has inspired not only poets, but also numerous composers from Switzerland and abroad. We present four of them who met in Switzerland and whose biographies are closely interwoven.
Our concert evening opens with Felix Mendelssohn’s overture to “The Fairytale of the Beautiful Melusine”. This work, written in 1833 as a birthday present for his sister Fanny, deals with the legend of the mermaid Melusine and shows the composer at the height of his creative powers. Mendelssohn travelled to Switzerland three times during his life. His parents introduced him to German and French-speaking Switzerland at the age of 13, and in 1831 he undertook an extensive hike on his own initiative from Vevey through the canton of Berne and central Switzerland to St Gallen. His enthusiasm for Switzerland is evidenced by echoes of Swiss folk themes in two of his string symphonies.
In 1843 Mendelssohn was asked by the 22-year-old Joachim Raff, born in Lachen (Canton Schwyz), to appraise his compositions. Mendelssohn was so taken with them that he recommended them to the renowned publishing house Breitkopf & Härtel, who subsequently issued them. Raff’s most popular work today is probably his Cavatina for solo violin and orchestra. His symphonic poems “Two Scenes” and “The Dream King and his Love”, the only major works of this genre in Raff’s oeuvre, are veritable treasures. According to the Joachim Raff Archive, it can be assumed that they have never been performed in Switzerland.
Joachim Raff was in lively discussion with Richard Wagner, whose “Dreams” from the Wesendonck Lieder, composed in Zurich, offer an exciting comparison to Raff’s orchestral poem “Traumkönig und sein Lieb” (Dream King and His Love), both thematically and compositionally. A political refugee with a false passport, Wagner settled in Switzerland – initially in Zurich, then in Lucerne – for a total of more than 15 years. Like Mendelssohn, Wagner can also be considered a witness to the beginnings of alpine Swiss tourism. Together with his father-in-law Franz Liszt, Wagner explored the mountains, some of which were hardly accessible to tourists at the time, in a sometimes adventurous way. Wagner’s enthusiasm for Nature in Switzerland was reflected not least in the fact that he regarded the Swiss mountain landscape as a visual source of inspiration for an environment in which he musically located the Germanic world of gods.
The second part of the concert leads us to Basel and presents a key work by August Walter. The composer and conductor August Walter, born in Stuttgart in 1821 as the son of a confectioner, came to Basel at the age of 25 to take up an engagement as conductor, which from then on became the centre of his life. Highly regarded in Basel’s musical society, he was granted Basel citizenship in 1884 “in recognition of his achievements in the field of musical art in an honourable manner”. Although Walter’s Symphony in E flat major was performed continually in German-speaking countries during the second half of the 19th century and is considered one of his major works, it has now completely disappeared from concert halls – another discovery offered by the Swiss symphonic treasury.
Marie-Claude Chappuis studied singing at the conservatory in her hometown of Freiburg and at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg, where she was awarded a special prize for her virtuosity. Initially she was a member of the ensemble at the Tiroler Landestheater – at that time directed by Brigitte Fassbaender – and from there she soon conquered the most renowned stages in Europe and Asia.
Among the milestones of her career are productions such as Idomeneo (Idamante), conducted and directed by Nikolaus Harnoncourt in Graz and Zurich, L’incoronazione di Poppea (Ottavia) under the baton of René Jacobs in Berlin and Brussels, L’Etoile (Lazuli) conducted by John Eliot Gardiner in Zurich and Geneva, Carmen conducted by Brigitte Fassbaender in Innsbruck, Cosi fan tutte (Dorabella) at the Salzburg Festival, La Clemenza di Tito (Sesto), conducted by Alain Altinoglu in Baden-Baden and Luxembourg; Il Matrimonio Inaspettato (Contessa), a rarity by Paisiello conducted by Riccardo Muti at the Salzburg Festival, in Ravenna and Piacenza; Fledermaus (Orlofsky) at the Grand Théâtre in Geneva; and La Damnation de Faust (Marguerite), conducted by Sir Roger Norrington in Leipzig.
On the concert podium she has recently performed with Il Giardino Armonico and Giovanni Antonini (Arianna a Naxos by Haydn), with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Riccardo Chailly (Bach’s St. Matthew Passion), the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra and Ivor Bolton (Mozart’s C Minor Mass) and with the New Japan Philharmonic and Ingo Metzmacher (Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis).
Her extensive discography includes J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with Riccardo Chailly (Decca), La Clemenza di Tito (Annio) with René Jacobs (nominated for a Grammy Award, published by Harmonia Mundi), Idomeneo (Idamante) with Nikolaus Harnoncourt (DVD in the Styriarte Festival Edition), the Brockes Passion by Telemann (Prix du Midem 2009), Rameau’s Pygmalion with Les Talens Lyriques and Christophe Rousset (Aparte, 2017), Mozart’s Requiem with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra and René Jacobs (Harmonia Mundi, 2017), a solo album together with the lautist Luca Pianca (“Sous l’empire d’Amour”, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, 2017), Beethoven’s 9th Symphony under Giovanni Antonini, Sony Classical 2018, and “Au coeur des Alpes” solo album with Swiss folk songs, Sony Classical 2018.