Haydn – Tchaikovsky – Lindberg

Father of all contemporary music

Written byBart de Vries


Sinfonieorchester Basel
26 juni 2019

Pacho Flores, Trumpet
Michal Nesterowicz, Conductor

Christian Lindberg - Akbank Bunka
Joseph Haydn - Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Symphony No. 5

Although Tchaikovsky’s fourth and sixth symphony may to this day be held in higher regard than his fifth, it is hard to imagine that the latter was initially received with a fair amount of criticism in Russia and elsewhere.
For most modern listeners, the fifth will be a joy of recognition, not in the least because of the main theme that is introduced by the clarinets at the outset and keeps on recurring throughout – for instance halfway through the second movement in the brass section, at the end of the third movement in the bassoons and the clarinets, and at the start of the fourth movement in the strings -, thus forging coherence and unity in the composition.

The main theme is sometimes referred to as the “fate” theme, although there is no conclusive evidence that there is a program underlying the symphony. According to some Tchaikovsky’s hidden homosexuality has to be understood as the composer’s fate, but others assert this shouldn’t be overemphasized, just as it is doubtful if the composer deliberately contracted and subsequently died of cholera.

After having worked as a civil servant for three years, Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893) entered the Russian Musical Society, which later turned into the conservatory. Here he learned how to integrate European and Russian elements into his compositions, setting himself apart from the dominant group of composers who championed purely Russian music.

Although Tchaikovsky held Mozart in higher esteem, he called Haydn (1732 – 1809) the father of all contemporary music. Introducing the last program of the season with the latter’s festive trumpet concerto is hence a compelling choice. The concerto follows the traditional form consisting of a slow middle movement flanked by two more upbeat allegros and is written for small orchestra as was common in those days.

Perhaps more challenging for the ear, but certainly very exciting, is Christian Lindberg’s (Sweden, 1958) trumpet concerto Akbank Bunka, a showpiece giving the trumpettist the opportunity to display all his qualities, from the rendering of lyrical melodies to finger twisting virtuoso passages. Like Haydn’s concerto it is written for chamber orchestra, including a particularly large percussion section. Influenced by jazz, Sergio Leone (film music), the Japanese perception of Nordic music, Sibelius, Turkish music and Eminem, the concerto is not only a tour de force, but also a trip around a vast geographical world of music. The name Akbank Bunka is the synthesis of the name of a Turkish bank and the Japanese word for culture (Bunka). It emphasizes the wide-ranging and all-embracing heterogeneity of the piece. Pacho Flores, the Venezuelan soloist who grew up in the ranks of the famous “El Sistema” musical education organisation, has performed the work with the composer as the conductor many times, and may therefore currently be the ideal performer of this whirlwind of musical ideas. He will dazzle you with his four-valve trumpet and make you look forward to the next season, the last one before returning to the Stadtcasino.

These English program notes have been published in the magazine (No. 9, 2018/2019) of the Sinfonieorchester Basel.


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