Wagner was reading Gervinus’s book on German national poetry during a holiday in Marienbad in 1845, and it was in this book that he first encountered the work of the master-singers. He was fascinated by their story, and soon conceived the idea of a new opera about the competition between the master-singers. He started writing the libretto himself and composed the overture immediately afterwards. For various reasons, however, he was not able to start writing the rest of the opera until years later, and the work was only premièred in 1862. It was worth the wait, however, as Wagner’s only comic opera was a huge success. The story is set in the 16th century and tells of a competition between master-singers, the protagonist of which is young Walther, who competes to become a master-singer. Tonight’s performance features the overture to the opera.
After the overture, we continue our concert with a piano concerto, Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major. Ravel began writing this work in the 1930s and initially intended the piece just for himself. Due to technical difficulties that went beyond his piano skills, he finally dedicated the work to pianist Marguerite Long, and eventually it was performed by her at the première. The first and last movements are excerpts from an earlier work: he had originally intended to dedicate a work to his homeland, the Pyrenees, for which he had put sketches on paper. Later he used these sketches in the piano concerto. He had originally intended to call the work “Divertissement”, but changed it to a concerto because of its cheerful, sparkling character. The work will be interpreted by Fülöp Ránki this evening. The young pianist, winner of the Junior Prima Prize, regularly appears as a soloist with leading orchestras and has played with Budafok Dohnányi Orchestra several times, most recently at the Zemplén Festival in 2022.
The second half of the evening will feature Mahler’s Symphony No. 4. This symphony was written for a smaller orchestra during one of the happiest and most successful periods of Mahler’s life, which distinguishes it in character from his other symphonies. He began writing the work in 1899, and it fits in well with his other song symphonies, as the last movement features music composed to the poem Das himmlische Leben, which is performed by a soprano soloist. The title of the poem translates as “Heavenly Life”, showing the abundance of heavenly life through the eyes of a child. The four-movement work is interspersed with serene, joyful images of nature and it concludes with the song.