The 5th Philharmonic Concert brings together three great American composers – Leonard Bernstein, Charles Ives as well as Russian immigrant Sergej Rachmaninow. While Rachmaninow might be wondering “how to create?”, Ives might be asking “why create at all?” - and Bernstein’s answer is “yes!” The Duisburg Philharmonic and pianist Barry Douglas will try to retrace these questions – and answers. Read more in maestro Jonathan Darlington’s programme notes …
In 1973 Leonard Bernstein gave a series of lectures at Harvard University, the title of which was taken from Charles Ives – “The Unanswered question”. At the end of the series of lectures, which were subsequently published and had taken him a whole year to prepare, Bernstein reputedly said, “I’m no longer sure what the question is but I do know the answer is ‘yes’”.
Charles Ives was a highly successful life insurance executive and stopped composing for no understandable reason almost 30 years before he died. Rachmaninov did have reasons for composing so little in the last 20 years of his life (only 6 works). He was performing a lot as a pianist to earn money for his family, his health was not particularly good but above all, since his arrival in America, he was homesick for Russia. Like many others (Stravinsky, Bartok, Korngold, Schönberg etc…) he was driven by political upheavals to America and made a home and career in the new world. It was a new world with great promise and opportunity and forever asking itself “The Unanswered Question” but it was a world in which Rachmaninov felt almost unable to compose.
Bernstein for me sits in the middle of tonight’s group of 3 – and I have placed him there on purpose. Born and bred in the USA he was the son of Ukranian Jewish parents. As such, to put it simplistically, it seems to me he could understand with ease the mind-set of a native American (Ives) and that of an immigrant Russian (Rachmaninov). His career was based on an eclectic love of all things musical, from Ives’ groundbreaking modernism to Rachmaninov’s ‘old world’ traditionalism. He tried his hand at almost everything inbetween with immense skill, claiming an Oscar nomination for ‘On the Waterfront’ and creating an iconic masterpiece ‘West Side Story’.
Tonight’s composers are three of America’s ‘greats’, indigenous or adopted.
Jonathan Darlington conductor
Barry Douglas piano
The Unanswered Question
“On the Waterfront” Symphonic Suite
Concerto for piano and orchestra No. 3 d-flat op. 30
Philharmonie Mercatorhalle, Duisburg
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