Berlin-based Orchestras

Staatskapelle Berlin

Past Dates

Luigi Nono counted Maurizio Pollini among his close friends since the 1960s. Nono had great esteem for Pollini’s playing, and the two were also connected by joint projects. Bereavement – the death of a child in the Pollini family and the death of Nono’s parents, two painful losses within a few months – found expression in the piano piece … sofferte onde serene … (“Serene waves endured”), dedicated to Maurizio and Marilisa Pollini. “This experience in common”, Nono remarked, “brought us even closer together in the endless grieving smiles of ‘...serene waves endured’.” The piece, music of mourning and memory, was composed for solo piano and two-track tape. Maurizio Pollini will perform it in the concluding concert of musikfest berlin. The sounds to be heard over loudspeakers, in part manipulated electronically, were recorded by Pollini himself in the RAI Studio di Fonologia.

Contrary to the image of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as a prolific composer, who tossed off his music easily and rapidly, he took two years to compose his Piano Concerto No. 23. This is an exceptional piece in several respects. Apparently Mozart was using the piano concerto genre as a platform for experimentation: instead of the customary oboes, he introduced the colour of clarinets. In contrast with other concertos dating from that time, this one is marked by transparency, with Mozart heightening the symphonic contrasts against that chamberlike backdrop. And instead of merely repeating them, he continues to develop the themes. The slow movement is like an aria without words, and Mozart re-interprets the final rondo, whose high-spirited coda here suggests the finale of an opera buffa.

Liszt was already planning a “Dante Symphony” while still touring extensively as a virtuoso. From first sketches to completion, however, over 15 years would pass. To his friend Richard Wagner, he confided: “I have long been carrying a Dante Symphony around in my head. There are to be three movements, Hell, Purgatory and Paradise – the first two for orchestra alone, the last with chorus.” Wagner had serious reservations: “That ‘Hell’ and ‘Purgatory’ will succeed I do not call into question for a moment, but as to ‘Paradise’ I have some doubts, which you confirm by saying that your plan includes choruses.” Daniel Barenboim and the Berlin Staatskapelle will perform what is probably Liszt’s most ambitious work.

Concert Programme

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart [1756–1791]
Concerto for piano and orchestra No. 23 in A major KV 488 [1786]

Luigi Nono [1924–1990]
… sofferte onde serene …
for piano and tape [1976]

Franz Liszt [1811–1886]
A Symphony for Dante’s Divina Commedia
for orchestra and ladies’ choir [1855/56]
1. Inferno 2. Purgatorio


Maurizio Pollini piano
André Richard sound direction

Experimentalstudio des SWR

Damenchor der Staatsoper
Eberhard Friedrich coach

Staatskapelle Berlin
Daniel Barenboim conductor

An event of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in cooperation with the musikfest berlin | Berliner Festspiele