To say that chief conductor Alexander Briger has the music of Leoš Janáček in his DNA isn’t too fanciful. Alex’s uncle the late Sir Charles Mackerras did more than anyone else to bring the early 20th-century Czech master’s operatic masterworks to the rest of the world.
What is something of a family legacy will be on display in The SYO’s 2019 season opening concert. Janáček’s orchestral rhapsody Taras Bulba floods the Verbrugghen Hall with sound, helped by the venue’s impressive pipe organ.
“If ever music was a direct reflection of the rhythms and modulations of its composer’s native language, it has to be Janácek’s,” says Briger. “His sound world is unique, his corpus of work a tribute to the benefit of being a late bloomer. Although its premiere took place just before his 70th birthday in 1924, Taras Bulba is Janáček’s first really significant orchestral piece, something I find amazing.”
Not that this sounds at all like an ‘old’ piece. Based on the Gogol tale of a short-lived Cossack dynasty in the 16th century, the music blazes with passion as the patriarch’s 2 sons and then Taras himself all meet a violent demise – in Taras’ case, burned at the stake, the music rising up at the work’s end with bells and blazing organ chords.
The rest of a powerhouse program is almost a declaration of war. The sweep of Brahms’ Third Symphony – deemed by the ruthlessly self-critical composer to be ‘nearly perfect’ – so enraged the fans of Brahms’ supposed enemy Richard Wagner at the work’s premiere in 1883 that members of the opposing factions challenged each other to duels.
This is a take-no-prisoners program of big sounds and big emotions: classical music designed to stir the soul and placate no-one. Perfect for a stellar youth orchestra, in other words.
- Mobility access
- Hearing loop