Claude Debussy (arr. B. Sachs): Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
Arnold Schönberg: Chamber Symphony No. 1 in E major, Op. 9
Gustav Mahler (arr. A. Schönberg): »Der Abschied« from Das Lied von der Erde
In all probability, every ideology has its own more or less complete ending. The striving for complete fulfillment or, conversely, for complete dissolution, characterised the evaporation of 19th century Romanticism—which in music dragged on deep into the next century. All three composers featured on this concert devoutly drank from the intoxicating wellspring of Richard Wagner’s music during their youth, believing in both the mission of the composer as savior and in the indisputable power of music to influence emotions and to persuade. It was Claude Debussy who most decisively turned away from this ideal, creating a distinctive musical language that paints a dizzying range of harmonic and acoustic colours. Even this, however, was achieved in the shadow of Wagner. In his musical dramas, the German composer expanded the tonal space to its extremes with thick chromaticism and leading to unprecedented sounds.
This was carried over the boundaries of what is ‘permissible’ (in musical terminology, tonality) by Arnold Schönberg. The highly expressive music of his early period gradually transformed into (still intensely expressively charged) atonal music, finally settling into twelve-tone technique—although the composer never really gave up the distinctive emotional power of Expressionism. Schönberg’s first Chamber Symphony comes from this intermediate period, a very densely woven piece that wrests everything and more from the musical stye of the past, and from performers and listeners.
This ‘authentic’ Romantic period most probably ended somewhere around the time of the utopian and shocking music of Gustav Mahler. Mahler’s world-views are repeatedly expressed his works, but throughout his music there is also no shortage of traces of Mahler’s more private character—of the man who loved the world that he knew and yet often felt like a foreigner in it. One of the most beautiful and most elusive statements in all of his music is the final movement of Das Lied von der Erde (‘The Song of the Earth’), a large work originally for symphony orchestra and two vocalists based on texts from classical Chinese poetry, heard here in the arrangement for chamber ensemble by Schönberg and Rainer Riehn. This is a farewell from the world, a farewell from life and beauty, a crossing over the threshold into the unknown. It is also a farewell to the period of ‘beautiful’ music and a transition towards an unknown, unexplored and limitless field of new music.
All the pieces on this concert will be performed by the Maribor Festival Chamber Orchestra, an ensemble that knows how to communicate the countless nuances of works that were originally intended for performance by a larger symphony orchestra.