Brahms Night with Bernard Haintink and Emanuel Ax BBC Proms


Brahms Night with Bernard Haintink and Emanuel Ax

The Chamber Orchestra of Europe conducted by Bernard Haitink perform Brahms's Third Symphony and Piano Concerto No 1. Presented by Charles Hazlewood, who also talks to Haitink.


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

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orchestras celebrating one of them titans of the Romantic period,

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

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perfectly the imaginative and sensitive assets of his personality.

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

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Chamber Orchestra of Europe, conducted by Bernard Haitink? This

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

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

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

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

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orchestras around the European Union and further afield, these are

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

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

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

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leading composers, but the symphonic landscape this time was

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

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

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

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

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

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

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is almost autumnal in the colours and the emotional content.

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Something intimate and very personal, like someone's private

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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wonderful conductor, Bernard Haitink, along with expert

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

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

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

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Chamber Orchestra of Europe is celebrating their 30th anniversary

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

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

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Bernard Haitink, making his way The extraordinary thing about this

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bernard Haitink. Joining the musicians of the Chamber Orchestra

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

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2365 seconds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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neurologist, where Brahms lived. The internal combustion engine had

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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did have bigger orchestras available but he seemed to like his

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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inspirations and improvisations which he then worked out formally

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

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

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

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newer members of the orchestra, Thomas Djupsjobacka.

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

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large group of the founding members became members of the European

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

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

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and we had such a wonderful time playing together and discovering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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you say is its special characteristic? The special

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characteristic of this orchestra is its listening quality. Through the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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members like me learn from the wealth of experience and the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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up with Bernard Haitink, who has along and distinguished

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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are also excellent musicians. But the Chamber Orchestra has more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Brahms, you have been conducting Brahms to the most extraordinary

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

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constant personal odyssey of his music in terms of your

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interpretation? How different is the Third Symphony now than it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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about it but the First Piano Concerto is so enormously dramatic

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

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

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West has this morning was the extraordinary synergy and rapport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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musicians. Bernard Haitink speaking after

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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relationship musically consists of such a beautiful balance. He is

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The First Piano Concerto is a heritage of Beethoven, looking

:02:15.:02:20.

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

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

:02:25.:02:34.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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different period, this is Brahms before the internal combustion

:03:09.:03:15.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:03:58.:04:02.

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

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

:04:07.:04:13.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:04:51.:04:57.

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

:04:57.:05:00.

piano consent with material that the orchestra has not played and

:05:00.:05:03.

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

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

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

:05:12.:05:21.

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

:05:21.:05:26.

In the first of a pair of Brahms Proms, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe conducted by Bernard Haitink, perform Brahms's Third Symphony and Piano Concerto No 1. Haitink describes the COE as 'a group of exceptionally talented musicians', which would also apply to the soloist who joins them in the second half, pianist Emanuel Ax. Presenter Charles Hazlewood also talks to Haitink during a break in rehearsals.


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