Antonio Pappano conductor
Stefano Bollani piano
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Arnold Schönberg Pelleas und Melisande
Franz Lehár Gold und Silber Waltz
George Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue
commissioned by Spoleto 59 Festival dei 2Mondi
production Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
The famous musicians Antonio Pappano and Stefano Bollani - together for the first time - with the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, will be the protagonists of the Final Concert for the 59th edition of the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, in Piazza Duomo, on Sunday, July 10th at 8pm. The program, which is very original and has a varied layout, starts with the dense and sometimes overwhelming sounds of the symphonic poem Pelleas und Melisande (1903) by Arnold Schönberg, moves on to the glittering yet heartbreaking waltz Gold und Silber Waltz (1902) by Franz Lehár and closes with the explosive and arduous score - especially for the technical difficulty of the piano part - of Rhapsody in Blue (1924) by George Gershwin.
At first, the pairing of these two figures of musicians who are so distant may seem hazardous: Schönberg, the inventor of the twelve-tone technique and thus foster father of modern music and Gershwin, the brilliant author of musicals and the jazzy Rhapsody in Blue. Instead the two, after Schönberg’s arrival in the USA which occurred in 1933, became close friends, spent much time together and never failed to pay homage to one another. There is a short film, as well as an oil portrait, made by Gershwin himself and dedicated to Schönberg’s daily activities; while Schönberg does not fail to compile a passionate tribute to the young American composer on the occasion of his premature death. He was supportive of Gershwin, describing him as a "serious" musician whereby, for this quality, Schönberg acknowledges the American colleague’s natural ability for creating something brand new and accomplished, expressive and original: "I do not speak here as a musical theorist, nor am I a critic, and hence I am not forced to say whether history will consider Gershwin a kind of Johann Strauss or Debussy, Offenbach or Brahms, Lehár or Puccini. But I know that he is an artist and a composer: he expressed musical ideas and they were new - as was the way in which he expressed them." And again: "His melodies are not products of a combination, nor of a mechanical union, but they are complete units and therefore could not be taken to pieces."
Perhaps because of his Jewish origin, Gershwin actively participated in the aid which Schönberg received, enabling him to leave Europe following the Nazi racial persecution. In turn, Schönberg often went to listen to Gershwin’s musical performances, once he had taken up residence in the United States.
It is worth noting that the inventor of serial music, the Viennese Schönberg, was a man and musician who lived the musical experience of his city to the fullest. In Pelleas und Melisande, his great youthful symphonic poem which was encouraged by Richard Strauss, he still seems tied to a pompous tradition, yet at the same time he is a lover of "high" consumer music consisting of waltzes, polkas and melodies of the Strauss family for whom he produced transcripts for small ensembles. As well as for Lehar….
Here the weak links of this program are clarified with historical evidence and with equally weak plots full of considerations not only on a timeframe of the history of music which crosses the first part of the twentieth century, but also on the music itself, without barriers or labels, without styles or programs, which however brings together such diverse musicians only on the basis of its intrinsic quality.