Tuesday, 3 September 2019

The Weimar connection: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra to give UK premiere of unpublished work by Liszt

Kirill Karabits (Photo Konrad Cwik)
Kirill Karabits (Photo Konrad Cwik)
Liszt's Vor hundert Jahren is not a name that is familiar, but then again Liszt's output was so large that inevitably works slip by. The work is in fact a melodrama for actors and symphony orchestra using a text by Friedrich Hahn, what composer Gerard McBurney describes as "a high-flown libretto, in which the tragic character of ‘Germania’, left alone in the mountains, bewails the pitiful state into which the German people and their culture have fallen, before the figure of Poetry appears, to take her on a tour of Schiller’s works, showing how they offer comfort and inspiration for the nation’s future". Liszt wrote the work for the Friedrich Schiller centenary celebrations in Weimar in 1859 (where Liszt had been Grand Ducal Kapellmeister from 1848 to 1858).

Franz Liszt in 1858 by Franz Hanfstaengl
Franz Liszt in 1858 by Franz Hanfstaengl
So it is prime-period Liszt, and the score has lain strangely unpublished in Weimar. Kirill Karabits, who is music director of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, was General Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Deutsches Nationaltheater and Staatskapelle Weimar from 2016-19 and discovered the score in the Weimar library last year. And Karabits is conducting the work as the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra's season opener, using an English translation by Richard Stokes, with actors Sara Kestelman and Jemma Redgrave. The orchestra is performing the work at the Lighthouse, Poole on 2 October 2019 and at the Cadogan Hall, London on 4 October 2019. Vor hundert Jahren will be performed in a dramatic conception by Gerard McBurney with Sara Kestelman as Germania, and Jemma Redgrave as Poesie, and students from the BA (Hons) Acting course, Arts University Bournemouth. Melodrama was a popular form in the 19th century, though nowadays rarely performed so it is heartening to see the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra bringing a major example to fruition.

The complete programme builds on the Weimar connection, as Johann Nepomuk Hummel was Grand Ducal Kapellmeister from 1819-37 and Richard Strauss was second Kapellmeister from 1889-94, so the orchestra is playing Hummel's Freudenfest Overture and Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier Suite.

Full details from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra's website.

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