Unheard-of! Swiss Romanticism
19 May – 2 June 2024
August Walter (1821 – 1896 Basel)
Concert Overture in D major op. 16
Marguerite Roesgen-Champion (1894 Genf – 1976 Genf)
Concertino for Harpsichord and Orchestra No. 1
Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)
Symphony No. 2 in D major op. 73
In the spring of 1846, the composer August Walter – the son of a Stuttgart confectioner – was asked if he would like to apply for the post of Music Director in Basel. He replied: “As it happens, I have no desire to bury myself in a Swiss town where […] the cows are driven in from the fields on an evening!” Walter had to take back these bold words not long after, when he rescinded his rejection and accepted the post after all. And Switzerland ultimately seems to have appealed to Walter, because he spent almost all his remaining 50 years in Basel. He played a significant role in establishing a lively music scene in the city, and repeatedly organised performances of the music of his colleagues Hans Huber and Friedrich Hegar. His delight in promoting Swiss Classical and Romantic music is a trait he shares with today’s Swiss Orchestra, whose latest programme “Unheard-of! Swiss Romanticism” opens with Walter’s own, spectacular Concert Overture in D major.
This highly Romantic opening is followed by a Harpsichord Concertino by the Genevan composer Marguerite Roesgen-Champion. She was an absolutely remarkable composer. Quite apart from her ability to assert herself in a field that in the 20th century was still largely dominated by men, she was also one of the driving forces behind the rediscovery of late Baroque music and of the harpsichord as a solo instrument. She published over 300 works and was in demand as a harpsichord virtuoso throughout Europe. Ample proof of her ability is provided by her many recordings for radio stations in Western Switzerland and elsewhere, playing her own works and those of other composers. The solo part in her Concertino will here be played by the gifted Masato Suzuki, a master of the harpsichord.
Our programme closes with the 2nd Symphony of Johannes Brahms – a work that is unusually light and accessible by the composer’s own standards. He wrote it in the space of just a few months in the late summer of 1877. After spending 14, immensely exhausting years writing his First Symphony, composing his Second must have seemed soothingly therapeutic to him. And we can hear this in the music itself, which exudes warmth and a closeness to Nature, and (again, unlike much of Brahms) bubbles over with a sense of joie de vivre.
A multifaceted musician, Masato Suzuki appears on the concert platform in the capacity of conductor, composer and keyboard player. On the conducting podium, this season sees Suzuki return to both the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony and Tokyo Symphony Orchestras as well as making his debut as a conductor with the NHK Symphony Orchestra, having performed Copland’s ”Symphony for Organ and Orchestra” with them last season. His repertoire is varied with many programmes featuring contrasting composers including works by Bach, Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Prokofiev, Rameau, Stravinsky and Takemitsu.
As Principal Conductor of Bach Collegium Japan, Suzuki made his subscription series conducting debut with the ensemble directing Bach’s ”St John Passion” and Monteverdi’s” L’Incoronazione di Poppea”; on tour, he has taken them to the Thüringen Bachwochen and last season to the Varazdin Baroque Festival. 2019 sees BIS release the first disc of the complete Bach Harpsichord concerti Suzuki has recorded with Bach Collegium Japan leading from the keyboard. Suzuki makes his conducting debut with the Singapore Symphony and the Academy of Ancient Music in London this season following his debut at the Edinburgh Festival with musicians from the Dunedin Consort. Other festival appearances as a recitalist and chamber musician include the Chofu International Music Festival (of which he is Artistic Director and Executive Producer), Schleswig Holstein and Verbier. He continues a collaboration with violist Antoine Tamestit touring an all Bach programme centred on the three viola da gamba sonatas; their recording of these works was released by Harmonia Mundi in 2019.
Suzuki studied Composition and Early Music at the Tokyo University for Fine Arts and Music before studying Organ and Improvisation at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague.