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Franz Welser-Möst in Conversation about „Die Liebe der Danae“ by Richard Strauss

posted in: Opera

( 29 Mar 2016 ) This Festival summer, Franz Welser-Möst will conduct the Strauss opera Die Liebe der Danae, a work closely linked to Salzburg Festival history: in 1944, the Festival was cancelled after the dress rehearsal for the opera had taken place; the work only saw its world premiere in 1952. Since then, the opera appeared on the Festival programme one more time – in 2002. Now it will be shown in a new production. In an exclusive interview, Franz Welser-Möst discusses the serenity in the music of Die Liebe der Danae, the role Strauss plays in his repertoire and his work with singers. Together with his Cleveland Orchestra, he also gives two concerts this Festival summer, conducting not only Richard Strauss, but also works by Thomas Adès and Béla Bartók. We spoke to him about the sound of the Cleveland Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic, about Salzburg, Krassimira Stoyanova, Anja Harteros and violinist Leila Josefowicz.

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Motive Guest Orchestras, © Luigi Caputo


Grosses Festspielhaus


Some of them have long become beloved, indispensable guests – while others appear more rarely, but are no less welcome: orchestras from five European metropolitan centres, one from the USA and three international ones appear under outstanding conductors with choirs from Munich and Vienna as well as with prominent soloists. With the repertoire they present, ranging from the late 18th to the early 21st century, the orchestras contribute to the distinctive profile of the Festival’s concert programme. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra under Daniel Barenboim reflects the full breadth of this repertoire, performing Mozart’s three last symphonies and joining contemporary music by Jörg Widmann and concert excerpts from Tannhäuser, Götterdämmerung and Meistersinger on its second evening. The Filarmonica della Scala under its new chief conductor Riccardo Chailly also presents operatic repertoire, juxtaposing Wagner’s exalted and profound dramas with animated melodies from historical operas by Rossini and Verdi. The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra also presents itself with its new chief conductor in Salzburg with allusions to the stage: Daniele Gatti leads the orchestra through the enchanting match of Debussy’s Jeux and Stravinsky’s picturesque Petrushka, the tale about a puppet which comes to life at a St. Petersburg fairground – two epochal ballet compositions of classical modernism. This vein is continued by the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra under Cornelius Meister: in Ravel’s La Valse, one can hear the Danube monarchy staggering towards its end in three-quarter time. The winner of the 2015 Young Conductors Award is also invited to lead the RSO Vienna: Lorenzo Viotti will conduct Scriabin’s Symphony No. 2, about which the conductor Lyadov wrote, tongue-in-cheek, after leading its first performance in 1901: ‘Only the devil knows what this is! Scriabin may courageously join hands with Richard Strauss… .’ Well, the Cleveland Orchestra under Franz Welser-Möst makes it possible on two evenings: Strauss’s supernal Vier letzte Lieder with Anja Harteros and two of his tone poems are the centrepieces – Tod und Verklärung, pointing to the other world, and Symphonia domestica, entirely of this world in its grand orchestral illustrations of domestic scenes. Cornelius Meister and the Vienna RSO contrast these works with the strictness rigour of Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta – colourful in its very own way – and Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra. Another focus is on Gustav Mahler. His monumental yet intractable Symphony No. 7, which seems to end in a fairground frenzy all of its own, is interpreted by Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic; the challenges of the Ninth Symphony, drunk on farewells yet struggling for coherence, will be met by the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra under Philippe Jordan. It is preceded by the actual farewell, ‘Der Abschied’, from Das Lied von der Erde, featuring master singer Christian Gerhaher.
Beethoven is the domain of a revered maestro: Herbert Blomstedt, conductor laureate of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, unleashes the rhythmic energies of Symphony No. 7. Soloists include Martha Argerich in Liszt, Khatia Buniatishvili in Rachmaninov and Sir András Schiff in Beethoven, cellist Sol Gabetta in Saint-Saëns and violinist Leila Josefowicz in Thomas Adès: after Widmann, he is the second-youngest contemporary composer in this series, complementing eminent colleagues such as Pierre Boulez, Friedrich Cerha and Henri Dutilleux.

Walter Weidringer

Translated by Alexa Nieschlag