Berliner Philharmoniker I
Daniel Harding, conductor
Berg | Beethoven
Alban Berg described his “Lyric Suite as” a “small monument to a great love”. In it, the composer musically encoded his passion for the married Hanna Fuchs, interweaving the tonal equivalents of the initials of them both, creating a highly personal piece of music. Beethoven’s symphony known as the “Pastoral” is also programme music, in which he expresses his love for nature – with bird calls, the splashing of streams and thunderstorms. A joyful homage to country life, conducted by Daniel Harding to mark the Beethoven anniversary year.
The “Pastoral Symphony” reveals a side of its composer Ludwig van Beethoven that was often forgotten in popular iconography. Beethoven, the lover of sound and colour: where elsewhere contrasts and conflicts would be portrayed firmly and in great detail, he expresses the ideas of the opening movement in shifting keys without changing them substantially. Beethoven the sonic researcher: in the second movement, the “scene by the brook” his orchestra sounds unlike it does anywhere else. And Beethoven, the lover of natural sound (birdsong) and human beings calling out in nature (the horns in the finale): sounds that he has heard supplement his own musical training. This lyrical symphony also contains its dramatic moments: these are particularly vivid in the thunderstorm of the penultimate movement.
Alban Berg could have called his “Lyric Suite” a symphony because it offers everything that belongs in such a work: depth, expression, great contrasts, formal perfection and a wealth of elaborate detail. He wrote it for a string quartet but then adapted movements two to four for a string orchestra. Others subsequently arranged the other sections for larger ensembles. Theodor W. Adorno, who knew of the autobiographical background to the work (Berg’s love for Hanna Fuchs-Robbetin), called it a “latent opera”, a kind of instrumental “Tristan”, and thought: “While the lyric nature of the suite is best served by a quartet, its drama comes to the fore with a body of strings: only then do the contours run into each other in excited complexity […]; only then […] does the outburst have its full catastrophic violence.” The tension of this confessional composition lies in the fact that something always remains of what is genuinely unfulfilled.