MUSIC OF GERMAN HEAVYWEIGHTS:
Gunther Herbig, conductor
May 19 at 8 PM & May 20 at 2 PM
Roy Thomson Hall
Toronto, Ontario – For fans of the Germanic
repertoire, this is a concert to savour. Wagner was the high priest
of the German Romantic era; his Siegfried Idyll was written to
be played on the steps leading to his wife’s bedroom, to gently awaken her.
Romantic indeed; as is the name of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4.
Gunther Herbig, the former Music Director of the TSO, returns to Toronto
to conduct these two fine compositions.
Gunther Herbig was the TSO’s Music Director from 1989 to
1994, bringing acclaim and a sense of the European tradition to the TSO.
Maestro Herbig has established himself as a prominent conductor in the
international music world in particular, building a strong career in America
since 1980. Previous to his reign here, he was Music Director of the Detroit
Symphony Orchestra for six years. After Toronto, he gave up his position to
enable him to work in Europe more often. He continues to live in Michigan.
Gunther Herbig’s first opportunity in the West came in 1979 when he was
invited to be Principal Guest Conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
Since moving to the USA in 1984, he has appeared with all the great
American Orchestras, and has toured internationally, including the Far East
and Europe with the TSO. From 1990 to 1997 he was the visiting Professor of
Conducting at Yale University. He has recorded more than
100 works, some of which were with the East German orchestras with whom he
was associated prior to moving to the West. Since then he has made
recordings with several of the London orchestras, the BBC Philharmonic
Orchestra and others. Toronto is pleased to welcome him back to the podium
of Roy Thomson Hall.
Richard Wagner (1813-1883) dominated the second half of
the Romantic period – he simply picked up the reigns left by Beethoven and
assumed the role of successor. The 19th century established art
as religion; Wagner declared himself the high priest. Others wrote large,
ambitious works; Wagner wrote epic music dramas with world-transforming
intentions. He was photographed in silks and satins. "By nature," he once
wrote, "I am luxurious, prodigal, and extravagant, much more than Sardanap
and all the other old emperors." He might have said the same of his own
music. The Siegfried Idyll is Wagner’s most popular orchestral work,
and his most intimate. It is tranquil and introspective, a clear reflection
of the contentment he found in his newly established home with his wife
Cosima. Other themes in the piece come from a German nursery rhyme and a few
ideas from his opera Siegfried, Wagner created a loving, gentle
orchestral lullaby for a miniature orchestra. Both Wagner and Cosima felt
that this work was something connected to the intimacy of their marriage, so
it was with some pain that Wagner, in a time of financial difficulty, sent
it off to a publisher in November 1877. Cosima was saddened, but resigned.
She confided to her diary, "The secret treasure is to become public
property." It was her loss, but definitely our gain.
Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) was a little, timid organist
with gargantuan ideas. He idolized Wagner, at whose feet he once fell
crying, "Master, I worship you!" But for all his prolixity and his
obsequiousness to Wagner, Bruckner had a singular and powerful musical
personality, and a contrapuntal mastery that makes his nine symphonies into
densely woven polyphonic designs. Public reception of his works were hit and
miss; at the premiere of his Third Symphony in Vienna, he conducted with a
large house and by the work’s end all but twenty-five of the audience
members skipped out. Bruckner cried on the podium. But the 1881 premiere of
his Fourth Symphony was a major victory, and he won public acclaim. All nine
of his symphonies are somewhat similar – large, brassy in the manner of
Wagner, but with a uniquely Brucknerian lyricism, notably in the expansive
slow movements (big adagios were among the propensities his pupil Mahler
picked up). The "Romantic" Symphony is relatively light – for Bruckner.
These concerts are sponsored by Acura as part of the Acura
May Concert Series.
Tickets: $98, $77, $65, $32.
Call the Roy Thomson Hall box office at 416 593 4828.
Mon-Fri, 9-8. Sat, 12-5. Sun, 2 hrs prior to concert start.
Toronto Symphony Orchestra
#550 – 212 King Street West, Toronto, ON, M5H 1K5
Marketing fax: 416 593 8660 www.tso.ca