Richard Wagner – Wesendonck-Lieder (21’)
Anton Bruckner – Symphony No. 5 in B flat major (70’)
From the grandiose to the delicate, this wide-ranging BBC Philharmonic programme features two 19th century giants at the heights of their powers.
20 years elapsed between the completion of Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony and its premiere in 1894. By then, the composer was nearing death and too frail to attend. Alas, he would never know how fondly treasured this monumental work would grow to be. Grandiose in every way, its greatest achievement is the wonderful sense of unity it manages between movements. Another is its thrilling trajectory.
From the first notes of its stalking pianissimo opening, the whole symphony grows inexorably towards its finale – an intellectually and emotionally thrilling Adagio whose coda brings down the curtain in triumphant style. Australian conductor Simone Young, a Bruckner specialist whose 2015 recording garnered rave reviews across the board, should bring the very best from it here.
Before she does, we’ll hear soprano Sally Matthews takes on the five-song cycle of Mathilde Wesendonck poems composed by Richard Wagner, Bruckner’s musical idol. Of this lieder series, Wagner wrote: “I have not written anything better than these songs and very few of my works will be remembered besides them.” Though proven wrong in that latter point, the Wesendonck-Lieder are indeed some of Wagner’s finest creations, showing the composer at his most delicate.
They were inspired by a passionate affair between Wagner and Mathilde Wesendonck, to whom he wrote the above words. The wife of Wagner’s friend and sponsor Otto Wesendonck, Mathilde was Wagner’s creative muse, and the intensity of the passion he felt for her is enshrined forever in these five love songs. We can’t wait to hear them interpreted by one of Britain’s finest sopranos, Sally Matthews, who is perfectly placed to do them justice.
From Bruckner at his most grandiose to Wagner at his most delicate, this BBC Philharmonic programme promises to delight at The Bridgewater Hall.
Sally Matthews – soprano
Simone Young – conductor