Opening Concert

Monday December 27 | 15:00 hr

This afternoon Amihai Grosz will make his debut as guest programmer of the International Chamber Music Festival Utrecht! And on this special first afternoon he will bring his colleagues from the world-famous Berliner Philharmoniker. With Schubert’s Octet in F, the leaders of this top orchestra present a ‘standard’ from the chamber music repertoire. We kick off the concert with the sextet as it was incorporated by Richard Strauss in his last opera ‘Capriccio’. In this opera too, the sextet ‘on stage’ gives the starting signal for a special musical experience!

R. Strauss – Sextet from ‘Capriccio’, op. 85
F. Schubert – Octet in F major, D. 803

Clara-Jumi Kang – violin
Guy Braunstein – violin
Daishin Kashimoto – violin
Romano Tommasini – violin
Amihai Grosz – viola
Sara Férrandez – viola
Pablo Férrandez – cello
Zvi Plesser – cello
Esko Laine – double bass
Wenzel Fuchs – clarinet
Mor Biron – bassoon
Stefan Dohr – horn

With Amihai Grosz as guest programmer of the International Chamber Music Festival Utrecht, the Utrecht audience will have a unique opportunity to get acquainted with the musicians of the world famous Berliner Philharmoniker. Amihai is the leader of the viola group of this top orchestra and of this top orchestra and together with a number of colleagues he will play Schubert’s beloved Octet in F major during the opening concert. Something less well known is Strauss’ Sextet, the overture to his last opera Capriccio.

Richard Strauss is best known for his operas Salome, Elektra and Der Rosenkavalier and his colorful symphonic poems such as
Ein Heldenleben and Don Juan. Of his limited oeuvre for chamber music, Metamorphoses from 1945 is perhaps the best known; an impressive piece for 23 stringed instruments that is seen as a sort of as a kind of requiem for the destruction of his hometown Munich and of German musical life in general. Four years earlier Strauss wrote his charming Sextet four years earlier and although the war was was also raging in full force then, this music has nothing to do with the grim atmosphere in Europe. Although there is still a precarious anecdote attached to this precarious anecdote surrounding Strauss’ controversial collaboration with Nazi regime: the sextet first sounded at a private concert given by a high Nazi official in Munich. A gift from Strauss to this influential military officer, out of gratitude for the protection he offered to his son and his partly Jewish daughter-in-law. The sextet was originally intended as an overture to Strauss’ last opera Capriccio, a play about the importance of the arts and the difference between words and music. Is it now ‘prima la musica, e poi le parole’ (first the music and then the words) or the other way around? In the story, a musician and a poet compete for the honor and the hand of a rich widow, who at the end
cannot choose between the two art forms nor between the two gentlemen. Strauss chose not to perform an overture for the full orchestra, but for a ‘Streichsextett auf der Bühne’. The first violinist sets a striking and compelling melody and then engages in a busy conversation with his five colleagues. A conversation without words, although in the original opera version voices do sound at the end of the sextet: instead of ‘first music or first the word’ the musician the musician and the poet that ‘music and word’ are like ‘brother and sister’. Although the sextet itself seems to prove otherwise, because even without words and without knowledge of the libretto, this music sounds very this music sounds very attractive and you don’t miss the spoken word for a second.

Franz Schubert wrote his magisterial Octet in F major in 1824, at the same time as his famous string quartet. ‘Rosamunde’ and
‘Der Tod und das Mädchen’. Schubert had been very ill the previous year and been ill and had not written any chamber music for a while, but in a letter to a friend, he announced at the beginning of 1824 that he was going to begin writing two string quartets and an octet. “In this way I hope prepare myself optimally for the writing of a great symphony,” Schubert informed. The same letter also contains an often quoted excerpt from a very somber Schubert, who due to his illness seems to have lost his zest for life and who considers himself “a miserable and unhappy man”. This somber mood is evident in many of Schubert’s late compositions and the in the Octet elegant entertainment and deep content vie for honors. The scoring for string quartet, double bass, clarinet, horn and bassoon seems quite original, but Schubert hadn’t quite conceived. He wrote the six-movement Octet on commission from Count Ferdinand von Troyer, who himself played the clarinet during the first private performance in the spring of 1824. At the explicit request of the Count’s explicit request, Schubert drew inspiration for this composition from the Septet, which was extremely popular at the time. At the count’s explicit request, Schubert drew inspiration for this composition from the Septet, op. 20 by Ludwig van Beethoven from 1800. To Beethoven’s scoring, Schubert only added an additional violin, making the work sound fuller and more symphonic. The is intimate and delicate music, in which the melodies are sometimes in the first violin, the clarinet or the horn, then again in special duos or trios, and that interspersed with orchestral harmonies of the winds and strings together. Airy? No, rather deep and resigned.