Kirill Petrenko, conductor
Hartmann | Stravinsky
Stravinsky achieved fame virtually overnight at the age of 27 with the Paris premiere of his ballet music “The Firebird”. Around 30 years later, Karl Amadeus Hartmann composed his highly expressive “Concerto funebre”, which in turn never stood a chance of being performed during the National Socialist era.
Stravinsky’s often overlooked late work is the focus of this year’s Musikfest Berlin. The Berliner Philharmoniker, under their principal conductor, provide a foil for comparison: the complete ballet music “The Firebird”, which made its composer famous at a young age and allowed him to remain famous. The anecdote that he was addressed as Mr. Firebird in the USA remains indelible. It was Karl Amadeus Hartmann who, in a radio contribution on Stravinsky’s 80th birthday, passionately advocated the perception and thinking of both creative periods as one. “One cannot appreciate the audacities of the young Stravinsky at all without an understanding of his late style.”
The two composers knew each other – at least since Hartmann championed the elder composer’s works as the music director of the Juryfreie Kunstausstellung in Munich in the early 1930s. In the concert series musica viva , which he founded in the autumn of 1945 and directed until his death in December 1963, the full range of Stravinsky’s oeuvre was featured, for the first time on 7th June 1946, with the “Soldier’s Tale”. He himself was a guest in Munich several times. He appreciated Hartmann’s humanity, his moral character and his music. The Munich composer was probably the only composer of note who was able to achieve the much-vaunted internal emigration: none of his works was performed in Germany during the Nazi regime. Not even the “Concerto funebre” written in 1939.
The highly expressive Trauermusik for string ensemble and concert violin contains insightful allusions: to the Hussite chorale, to Hindemith’s Trauermusik for viola and strings from 1936, to Hartmann’s own First Symphony and his first, “Jewish” string quartet, to a funeral march of the workers’ movement engaged in dialogue with inflections and ornaments familiar to Hartmann from Jewish music and theatre groups. The victims of Nazi violence are commemorated in the panorama of mourning: occupied Czechoslovakia, people in exile, the workers’ movement and the victims of the Shoah. The composer takes the demanding solo part to heights where even singing with instruments hardly seems possible any more.