May 21 2023

Belgian National Orchestra

Chin, Mozart, Beethoven

After initial studies in Seoul, the South Korean composer Unsuk Chin moved to Hamburg in the 1980s, where she was taught for three years by none other than the Hungarian composer György Ligeti. One of her most recent pieces is Subito con forza, a concert opener she wrote in 2020 on the occasion of Beethoven Anniversary Year. Unsuk Chin incorporated various motifs from Beethoven’s oeuvre into an aggressive, disorienting but also highly entertaining piece that pays homage to Beethoven’s sudden and powerful musical outbursts. In stark contrast to this is Mozart’s Harp and Flute Concerto, a soft and melodious double concerto that he wrote in 1778 during a short delay in Paris. The combination of both instruments was unusual in Mozart’s time, and both the harp and the flute were still in their developmental phase. The rationale for this three-movement piece was a French duke and his daughter who played the flute and harp respectively. However, Mozart was never paid for the commissioned work and the composition lessons he gave to the daughter were ultimately a cold shower, both financially and in terms of results – according to Mozart, the daughter had no talent at all. Mozart would never compose for the harp again. “A slender Greek maiden between two Norse Gods,” is how Robert Schumann described Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4, a carefree and vibrant piece that he was very enthusiastic about. Berlioz, too, thought that Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 was highly successful: “Not a lamentation, not an ode to a hero, but everything a little less elevated, a little less sombre … this score is particularly lively, alert, joyful and of a heavenly sweetness!” Are the beautiful melodies in the adagio a reflection of Beethoven’s state of mind in 1805, when he was happily in love with Josephine Brunsvik, a young woman to whom he gave piano lessons and whose much older husband had just died?

Belgian National Orchestra (orchestra), Anja Bihlmaier (conductor), Emmanuel Pahud (flute), Anneleen Lenaerts (harp)

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