Hartmann and Dalbavie (Proms 2005 – Week 5)

Written by: Colin Anderson

Ingo Metzmacher discusses Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s Symphony No.6, and Marc-André Dalbavie introduces his new Piano Concerto written for Leif Ove Andsnes…

The coming week at the Proms includes a revival (11 August) and something brand-new (16th). The revival is Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s Symphony No.6, last heard in the Albert Hall Proms when Colin Davis conducted it, what, twenty years ago? This time Ingo Metzmacher leads the work. He has ensured full coverage for Hartmann during his centenary year. “His music has been played more often this year, that’s good, and the public usually like it very much”, says Metzmacher, who actually doesn’t need an anniversary to conduct this significant German composer, who died in 1963. Indeed Metzmacher has already recorded all eight Hartmann symphonies (EMI CDS 5569112, 3 CDs).

Metzmacher introduces Hartmann’s Symphony No. 6 as being in “two movements. Formally it’s a kind of torso; it’s the two inner movements of the traditional symphony-form that he uses as a model. So, in the Sixth, the first movement is slow, an Adagio. It’s like an arch and goes towards the climax and then there is a sort of remembering passage. That is followed by a Scherzo, which is very fast and very virtuoso, difficult to play, and is marked by two fugues, both started by the violas; the second fugue is even faster than the first, and the piece gets wilder and wilder to its finish.”

Apart from Colin Davis, Hartmann No. 6 has attracted the likes of Erich Kleiber and Hermann Scherchen, and Rafael Kubelik made the first recording. As Metzmacher says, “the big effect of the close always leaves an impression.” This notable work closes a Prom including Beethoven, Brahms and Wagner. “It’s a very German programme! Hartmann has a lot to do with Brahms, and in the Lohengrin Prelude it’s good to have a quiet piece before the storm of Hartmann 6.”

Tradition also concerns French composer Marc-André Dalbavie. His Color (for orchestra) was warmly received at Proms 2002. He has now written a Piano Concerto; there’s been a few of those over the centuries! Do achievements of the past affect him? “Yes, of course, but I hope this is not a traditional piano concerto. I used the title because I wanted to visit the traditional form.” He tells me that his recent works include a concerto for orchestra, a symphony, and a violin concerto, and that “a concerto for piano is natural for me in taking a classical form and transforming it into my language.”

Leif Ove Andsnes has inspired Dalbavie’s new work. “That was very important. Leif Ove is a rare pianist for today; he has a very lyric way of playing, and his sound is deep and powerful and never hard; even his fortissimos are round and open.” His timbre is created from inside the piano? “Exactly. His lyric playing is rather Germanic but with a lot of colour, which is also important for me, and I wanted to reintroduce some lyricism to my music, but not like a sweater or a jacket; this is the lyricism that also comes from inside. Leif Ove is the pianist who can play what I imagined in my head.” Dalbavie says that his Piano Concerto is in (the traditional) three movements, linked, but the structure is an intriguing one. Material that forms the second and third movements is also heard, anticipated, in the first; “it’s a mixing technique”, says the composer, who advises careful listening.

For the record, literally, there’s a CD of Dalbavie’s music on Naïve MO 782162, which includes Color and the Violin Concerto. For his world premiere Piano Concerto, Dalbavie has used a full orchestra (the BBCSO under Saraste) to accompany the soloist. Andsnes is a true virtuoso. “You can write him the most demanding music because he has no limits, but I didn’t want to write just a piece of bravura. For me the most important thing is the relationship between the soloist and the orchestra. But there are certainly some parts that are very difficult to play and that are also spectacular!”

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