Brahms Night with Bernard Haintink and Emanuel Ax BBC Proms

Brahms Night with Bernard Haintink and Emanuel Ax

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Tonight at the Proms, one of the world's finest forecasters --


orchestras celebrating one of them titans of the Romantic period,


Johannes Brahms. Two concertos to with into, that capsule late


perfectly the imaginative and sensitive assets of his personality.


Who better to give voice is to these works than the wonderful


Chamber Orchestra of Europe, conducted by Bernard Haitink? This


is surely as good as it gets. Joining as backstage throughout the


evening, Ritula Shah. Since its foundation 30 years ago, the


Chamber Orchestra of Europe has become one of the world's most


exciting performing ensembles. It is a real event. Drawn from


orchestras around the European Union and further afield, these are


some of the best musicians around and I will be speaking to some of


them during the interval. Thanks. First up, Brahms's Third Symphony,


written when he was 50 and already established as one of Europe's


leading composers, but the symphonic landscape this time was


still dominated by Beethoven's towering legacy and so it was in


1883, with his Third Symphony, Brahms proved once and for all that


he had last found his own unique symphonic voice. Let's hear what


some of tonight's players had to say. If I think Brahms was at peace


with himself more so for this symphony than the others. He seems


to present beautiful themes in a It is beautifully reflective and it


is almost autumnal in the colours and the emotional content.


Something intimate and very personal, like someone's private


Full of life! Full of emotion and passion and beauty and sadness.


Just all the things that we play with the music instead of saying it


with words. Maybe the things we cannot say with words. Some of


tonight's musicians at rehearsals earlier in the week. As you can see,


the orchestra on stage. If you would like to read a complete list


of the members of this Chamber Orchestra of Europe, you can do so


If in the music you would like to see a dedicated shot of the


wonderful conductor, Bernard Haitink, along with expert


commentary, just press the red You can see the leader, Marieke


Blankestijn, co-ordinating the tuning of the orchestra. With


something like 250 recordings and a string of illustrious prizes, the


Chamber Orchestra of Europe is celebrating their 30th anniversary


in style. They have a core membership of 50 players but


tonight it expands to 60, just to fill the stage up at the Royal


Bernard Haitink, making his way The extraordinary thing about this


orchestra, how they play, they are not full-time. They organised 10-15


projects a year, ranging from a conference to us, recordings and


operas, alongside have been busy solo and change their careers and


been professions of music at the leading conservatories of the world.


A Rolls Royce of an institution, you might say. -- as well as being


the professors of music. APPLAUSE. Here he comes now.


Bernard Haitink. Joining the musicians of the Chamber Orchestra


of Europe and together, we will hear their befall Brahms's Third


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2365 seconds


Brahms's Third Symphony. The COE When I look at the Third Symphony


of Brahms, I feel like a tinker, so wrote no less a symphonist than it


Sir Edward Elgar. Brahms has secured himself a place in the


musical panoply as one of the three Bs alongside Beethoven and Bach.


Averill performance of serenity, a kind of gentle poetry. This great


conductor, Bernard Haitink, has been conducting Brahms for over 50


years. He summed up his sense of Brahms remarkably well. He said he


thought that Brahms thought with his heart and fault with his brain.


I am delighted to be joined now by the composer and a professor from


Oxford, Robert Saxton. Can you tell a bit about what was going on at


the time of this symphony? Yes, this was Brahms at the age of 50.


He lived until he was just over 60. At that time, Gladstone was the


prime minister in England, Freud had just qualified in Vienna as a


neurologist, where Brahms lived. The internal combustion engine had


just been invented and tried out! It is interesting because you


mentioned Edward Elgar. He conducted at Symphony a lot. I


think that looking forwards, we will look backwards later, the


opening of that symphony is related to the opening of Elgar's second


and the tune in the last movement is very similar. What other music


was Brahms listening to in 1880? Brahms was listening to a


relatively new opera, Carmen. Didn't he claimed to have seen it


21 times? I did not know that! He loved Carmen, he loved Johann


Strauss, he famously wrote on a copy of the Blue Danube, alas, not


by Johann Strauss! The fact that died the year after that Symphony


was written. He knew Liszt's music. Marlowe was beginning to get going


at that time and Brahms knew him. The what do you think about the


Chamber Orchestra of Europe? 12 first violins, ten-seconds, eight


viola. It is a real challenge. This is more Brahms's size, like? Yes,


in fact the orchestra that gave the first performance of the Fourth


Symphony some years later than this had only 49 players and apparently,


Brahms said he liked that size of orchestra. Although of course he


did have bigger orchestras available but he seemed to like his


chamber music quality, which certainly came out there. It seems


to me that is what Bernard Haitink is so hot on. A kind of restraint.


Never pent up but it is letting the music speak. Those two middle


movements, they had such space and light to them, where another


conductor, probably myself included, might have gone for the hot spots


slightly hard to! It is almost as if he is playing them to himself on


the piano, which one suspects is a Brahms first brought them up, as


inspirations and improvisations which he then worked out formally


on his long and famous walks around Vienna, and yet that did come


across. Thank you. Time to join our a backstage with the musicians.


eye am joined by William Conway, principal cello, and one of the


newer members of the orchestra, Thomas Djupsjobacka.


William, how did the orchestra come into existence? In the late 70s, a


large group of the founding members became members of the European


Community's Youth Orchestra, as it was known then, now the European


Community's Union Orchestra, and we met to get there for the first time


and we had such a wonderful time playing together and discovering


this new world, you know, speaking personally as a teenager coming


from Glasgow where I was born to suddenly be in the European


orchestra with one of the world's greatest conductors standing in


front of you, and many European musicians around me, it was really


a huge thing and at that time a lot of the European ideas were just in


their early stages, of the orchestras and even in politics.


you all carried on and you formed the Chamber Orchestra. What would


you say is its special characteristic? The special


characteristic of this orchestra is its listening quality. Through the


music, Willie Thorne to one another and also, -- We listen to one


another and we are a very listening orchestra with one another and from


a musical point of view, that listening enables us to take in a


lot of good information from the good people around us and we build


on that. Thomas, you weren't there 30 years ago. What brought you to


the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. first touch on it was recordings. I


loved the quality of the orchestra and the Chamber music quality, and


I thought it would be amazing to be a part of it and luckily enough it


happen. Many of them are all do their new. Is there a sense of


mentoring was mad I would say there is a sense of being a colleague.


are a different age but we learn from each other. The younger


members like me learn from the wealth of experience and the


quality of the playing that is around me in every position of the


orchestra. Obviously I learned from that. I hope there is some kind of


exchange that every member brings his own and her own energy and play


in quality and style to the group. Would you agreed? Absolutely. We


learn just as much from the new people coming in. It is like a bank


that we all seeded to and take from. Thank you both very much.


An army of generals, you might say. The Chamber Orchestra of Europe


often play without a conductor but when they play with a conductor,


they certainly call on the very best. Speaking of which, I caught


up with Bernard Haitink, who has along and distinguished


relationship with the COE, and I are asked him what the attraction


was. It is quite a problem for me to be honest. I love the music


making so much that I am getting a bit suspicious of all these


official, big symphony orchestras. It sounds... It is strange. But


there is this incredible alertness... Sometimes I compare it


to a huge ocean steamer, who goes a long and then you want to change


course, you have to in advance make sure, and these are like a


speedboat! The commitment is enormous. They do it for love. Of


course I'm afraid they don't earn that much. It is a labour of love.


It is fantastic. Do you think there is something special about playing


Brahms with an orchestra of this size? Yes. Very special. Because


Brahms had most of his works, I even think the symphonies, perform


exactly the same as we have, so that was also at food for thought.


The speedboat analogy is quite interesting. Because it is a small


orchestra, there is more of a sense that everybody is playing like a


soloist, less room for cover. but they also have to be an


ensemble and they have very good years, they are excellent musicians.


I don't want to say anything about official symphony orchestras. They


are also excellent musicians. But the Chamber Orchestra has more


chance to hear each other, to relate to each other, because they


are small. They can make a lot of noise! If necessary! That's for


sure! Can you remember the first time you heard Brahms was mad that


is a long time ago. -- can you remember the first time you heard


Brahms? That is a long time ago. I am such an old time. I even think


it was during that time that... I was born in Amsterdam, I am Dutch...


That during the occupation time, we were not allowed to listen to the


radio but we all had of course a little radio, and at that time, I


think it was 1944, imagine! I heard one of my first Proms, and I even


think I headed debut of Handel. I think it was Brahms. I even think


that I heard Beethoven's 7th. And I listened to a lot of Proms, it was


totally different to what it is nowadays. On Monday night you had


Wagner, Basil Cameron, then you had Bach and Handel, it was an


incredible institution, and here we are. When you open a school of


Brahms, you have been conducting Brahms to the most extraordinary


degree for so many years, how much do you feel you have been on a


constant personal odyssey of his music in terms of your


interpretation? How different is the Third Symphony now than it


was...? The wide interpretation should be commit in a way, -- the


word "interpretation" should be forbidden. People say, that is my


interpretation. I get seasick in my stomach. We have these wonderful


scores and we have to try to make it work and we have wonderful


musicians, so what is the problem? Just make music. Use the wonderful


score which Brahms and which all composers have written. With Brahms,


it is a special thing because very often, one confuses Brahms we've


blown up, -- with being blown up but when you look at it, it is so


often little piano, intermittent, he was a man in between colours.


That fascinates me. I am very intrigued, the make-up of this


programme is quite unconventional in the sense that we have the Third


Symphony and after the interval we have the First Piano Concerto. It


was written 25 years earlier. Why that way round? Well, in a way, I


am the same sort of conductor as many of my colleagues who do not


want to finish with the Third Symphony because it finishes piano.


I have done it very often in that way because I am not too upset


about it but the First Piano Concerto is so enormously dramatic


and extrovert, much more than the Third Symphony, that I thought,


well, maybe that is better. One of the thing I most enjoyed in the


West has this morning was the extraordinary synergy and rapport


between you and the orchestra but also between you, the orchestra and


Emanuel Ax. Can you tell me about your relationship with it? I love


him, he is a wonderful artist. Above that, a wonderful friend. We


know each other for such a long time. I always have good memories,


are always good memories of his playing, his musicians ship.


Sometimes he drives me mad. He is so humble, he always says before we


go on stage "will we still be friends afterwards?". He is a


wonderful person. A wonderful musician. And he loves to work with


musicians. Bernard Haitink speaking after


rehearsals this morning. With me backstage are Kate Gould, cellist,


and Matthew Wilkie, principal bassoon. The COE has got a very


special relationship with Bernard Haitink. How did that come about?


believe we started our relationship in Switzerland, where we are lucky


to go regularly as an orchestra, and Bernard Haitink came along to


one of the concerts and apparently, so the story goes, according to the


man himself, he always thought he might come to the Chamber Orchestra


later on in his career and he decided to dedicate a lot of his


time to us so we have put a relationship over the last three,


four years, and we feel very privileged to do so. The


relationship musically consists of such a beautiful balance. He is


extremely powerful musician and yet he lets the orchestra speak so it


works very well with our Orchestra, which has a lot of personalities in


it and some help there is a sense of being natural between us.


Matthew, UWE Australian. You come all the way from Australia to play


with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. -- you are from Australia.


How does it work? I have been in orchestra for 25 years. I used to


live in Germany. I left Germany ten years ago to join the Sydney


Symphony but I just couldn't bear to cut the ties with the Chamber


Orchestra, so I managed to work it out with the orchestra in Sydney


and I get on that plane five times a year and every time I get on the


plane I think, why am I doing this?! I don't know, as soon as I


arrive and start working, it is just fantastic. Of course it is a


good orchestra but there is something very special about it. I


don't know. It reminds me of, it is an orchestra but it is like a


string quartet, the way it works, and musically we are so flexible


and the way we do things together without having to say anything. It


is a great attack -- attraction. What is it like working with a


soloist, Emanuel Ax? Different. It has got very organic. Suddenly


there is a very charismatic individual thrown into the mix! We


obviously have to be on tenterhooks listening to him, following the


conductor, it is a chain of command, but actually, Emmanuel AX is so


natural and he listens so much to the orchestra, like the conductor


does, that it all works extremely organically. And the body language


It feels like a partnership that was meant to happen. Thank you both


very much indeed. Thank you. With me, Robert Saxton, we are about to


hear the voice of the 25 year-old Brahms, already very successful and


no beard. What do you think we can hear from his personality in this?


The First Piano Concerto is a heritage of Beethoven, looking


backwards and also the Third Piano Concerto and the recent tragedy of


Robert Schumann's attempts suicide and death and bronze's conflict of


his feelings about claret, he was much older. We're talking about


those almost a posing personality traits. The fact that there is his


deep sense of drama but also very intensely sensitive? What makes


Brahms so expressive is that rather like Mozart, it is tightly formal


and classical in some senses but bursting at the seams because he


suppresses and one feels that very strongly in this piano concerto,


which did not start life as a piano concerto. This is Brahms at a


different period, this is Brahms before the internal combustion


engine, this is Brahms in what we would feel as mid-Victorian world.


The symphonies, the later Victorian type, they appeared after German


unity and this is Brahms of the mid- 19th century, as the young


Turk, if you like. And as a young Turk, he had a formidable


reputation as a pianist, this was his first solo performance?


first two performances and in Leipzig, he was a pest. Why? People


cannot understand that, it was described as a symphony with a


piano and it was not what they expected. And where the piano was


virtuoso, the dense musical argument of this work and the way


the piano interacts with the orchestra, and the material, they


find it very difficult to come to terms with. To some extent, have


they forgotten bit of an's legacy because this piece is very tautly


argued as a symphonic argument? is easy to forget in the days of


the CD and the iPod, people did not hear these pieces very often so


they probably had one or two earlier Piano concerto's and this


enormous scale, this first movement, 25 minutes, it must have been


incomprehensible. We are talking about the age of the Super virtuoso


and many of them stocking the stages of Europe at the time and


Brahms included, what evidence is there in this piece of that? First


of all, you have to have a very big reach to play Brahms, the chords


are a very large. It is also the range of colour that you need. The


spacing in relation to that and the Shia grasp of the material, the


piano consent with material that the orchestra has not played and


then does all sorts of things in relation to the orchestra and


Brahms is one of these players who played very much as a composer


rather than a pianist and although he was a very great pianist, he was


not a virtuoso in that tradition. Thank you so very much. Emmanuel AX,


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