Soloists: Alexander Toradze
The Mariinsky Orchestra
Conductor: Paavo Järvi
Piano Concerto in G major
Symphony No 7 in E Minor
The two Piano Concerti by Maurice Ravel (1875–1937) are among the most significant works in the genre. First turning to the concerto genre towards the end of his career as late as 1929-1931, Ravel was drawn by the search for various possible resolutions within one and the same genre. He worked on both concerti at the same time. Ravel found this to be particularly engaging.
It is interesting that when he was in the process of composing the First Concerto in G Major the composer’s plans were constantly changing. It is known, for example, that he initially proposed to conclude the concerto with pianissimo and trills, while in fact it ends with forte and octaves. The composer himself said of his work that “This is a concerto in the precise meaning of the word, in the spirit of the concerti of Mozart or Saint-Saëns.” According to Ravel, the music in a work of this genre “may be merry and dazzling; but it is not a necessity that it must claim depth or drama.”
It is my finest work, moreover
it is primarily light in character.
This epigraph, taken from a letter from Mahler to Emil Gutmann, the impresario and director of a concert agency which was preparing for the premiere of Mahler’s Seventh and Eighth Symphonies, is rather typical of many (if not all!) artists and creators. An opus being created today holds complete sway over the composer’s thoughts, he will be sincere in his love of the score he is writing.
Mahler’s Tragische Sixth Symphony is framed by two heroic, life affirming symphonies – the Fifth and the Seventh. But any parallels with Beethoven are approximate: this is not Beethoven’s heroic struggle and triumph. The contrasts between people’s moods, embodied in natural rotations, were closer to Mahler – rotations such as the changing seasons, day and night, light and darkness… The twilight of consciousness, fatalistic doom and the hero’s romantic searches are contrasted with a classical clarity in the abridged pages of the symphonic cycles. “… The sunlight of the finale (in the Seventh, I. R.) also has its own cultural and historical starting point. It is, as in the Fifth Symphony, “the golden age of the classics” (Inna Barsova). Arguably, the Seventh Symphony, like no other of Mahler’s symphonies, is picturesque, like no other appealing to visual images – be it natural scenes or picturesque panoramas. This dictates the inventiveness of the sound, which at times reaches staggering effects, close, on one hand, to the art of Rembrandt and, on the other, to the paintings of the Impressionists.