The NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra kicks off the »Kosmos Bartók« festival with a very special guest: Igor Levit. With his intellectually reflective, emotionally profound interpretations and his commitment to social causes, the pianist has earned enormous respect both on and off the concert stage. Under the direction of principal conductor Alan Gilbert, he performs Béla Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 3, considered by many as a particularly outstanding work in the Hungarian composer’s oeuvre. The programme also includes his Divertimento for String Orchestra and the »Concerto for Orchestra«, which is undoubtedly one of Bartók’s most famous works.
»Kosmos Bartók« :Season 2023/24
Art and folk music, tradition and modernity – Béla Bartók masterfully combined all of these into a language of his own. Now Alan Gilbert and the NDR orchestras dive deep into Bartók’s musical cosmos.
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester
Igor Levit piano
conductor Alan Gilbert
Divertimento for String Orchestra, Sz 113
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 3, Sz 119
– Interval –
Concerto for Orchestra, Sz 116
About the programme
Written shortly before the composer’s death in 1945, many regard the third and final piano concerto as the culmination of Bartók’s artistic genius. The work’s sleek, melodic and captivatingly beautiful opening sets the tone. »It has a wonderful inner balance, is full of humour, is completely accomplished,« said the American pianist György Sándor about the Third Piano Concerto.
The piano concerto is framed by two works from Bartók’s later creative period: the Divertimento for String Orchestra was commissioned by Paul Sacher in 1939 as the last work in the composer’s native Hungary before he fled into exile in the USA. Bartók was inspired by the baroque form of the »concerto grosso«, which is characterised by the typical alternation of solo and tutti passages. But anyone expecting something reminiscent of Vivaldi or Bach has not reckoned with all that Bartók brings with him: rhythmic accents, folk-like characters and dynamic contrasts lend the music a typically Bartókian flavour, deviating back and forth between tradition and modernity.
The same can be said of the famous »Concerto for Orchestra«, which Bartók wrote while in exile for Serge Koussevitzky and his Boston Symphony Orchestra. This virtuosic work ranges from echoes of Hungarian folk music to quotes from the classical and popular repertoire of his time to an audibly »jazzy« finale – all giving no clue whatsoever that the ailing composer of this music was actually considering giving up composing altogether.