In Memoriam Kurt Sanderling
Over 40 years ago, Elliott Carter bemoaned in an essay the lack of interest in contemporary orchestral music in the USA: only composers who are “masochists with a great craving for self-denial” could subject themselves to the uncertain enterprise of writing an orchestral work. In the meantime, the concert landscape in the USA has become more open towards contemporary influences, at least regarding Elliott Carter’s works.
Over the past decade, the composer has written a whole series of new orchestral works. Born in New York in 1908, Carter was already in his nineties when he wrote his Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (2001). Today he still composes daily, and is admirable for the vigour and energy that enable him to keep producing highly complex scores. “He is America’s great musical poet”, wrote one American critic about Elliott Carter recently.
Anton Bruckner, by contrast, remained a contradictory and mysterious figure for many of his contemporaries. The contrasts and ambivalences of the three colossal movements of his Symphony No. 9, which he worked on right up to his death in 1896, were not appreciated until much later. But the deeply religious Bruckner had a musical vision that he held on to in the face of hostility, saying once: “In Beethoven’s day, they called him a musical pig, fit for the madhouse. I think to myself: head down, don’t look to the right or the left, just keep writing … Let them shout all they want”.
With Kol Nidrei op.47, Max Bruch created a pendant to his successful Violin Concerto in G Minor op. 26, casting this time the cello as soloist. In Kol Nidrei, Bruch drew on Jewish melodies, including the traditional penitential hymn Kol Nidrei, traditionally sung on the eve of Yom Kippur. “I got to know both melodies in Berlin, where I had much to do with the children of Israel in the Choral Society“, Bruch once told a friend.
Daniel Barenboim, who conducted the premiere of Elliott Carter’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in Chicago in 2001, dedicates this programme to the memory of Kurt Sanderling with the Staatskapelle Berlin and cellist Alisa Weilerstein. The 19th September 2012 would have been the hundredth birthday of the great conductor, who died last year in Berlin.