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Wolfgang Rihm has always been fascinated by the world of the late works of Friedrich Nietzsche. In this piece, it is the visionary power of the Dionysos Dithyrambs which particularly inspires Rihm's creativity. Nietzsche identified strongly with Dionysos, even signing his letters with the name. He believed in the Dionysian mission to change the world and bring peace. Nietzsche considered himself to be as strong as Dionysos. “He superimposed Dionysos over his own personality”, says Rihm. They melded into a single person, like a double-exposed film. Thus, we can see the writer himself in “N”, the main character of Dionysos. Some scenes also have parallels with his life: a journey over Lake Lucerne, a scene in a brothel, the famous meeting with the horse on the marketplace in Turin. But Dionysos is not a biography of Nietzsche. This operatic fantasia is more of a game, on many levels: playing with the operatic genre itself. But also a playful exploration of the Dionysos myth, and what it might mean for us today. Wolfgang Schaufler

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Alban Berg

Violin Concerto

for violin and orchestra

In February 1935 Alban Berg was approached by the American violinist Louis Krasner with a request to write a violin concerto. Although reluctant to stop working on Lulu, Berg’s financial position made the refusal of such a commission almost impossible. Having jotted down some preliminary ideas for the piece in mid-March, Berg proposed to devote the summer, which he spent at this house near Velden in Carinthia, composing the Concerto. On 22 April, a few days before Berg left Vienna for Velden, a tragedy occurred that would determine the final shape of the Concerto. Manon Gropius, the daughter of Alma Mahler and Walter Gropius, died of poliomyelitis. Berg wrote to Alma Mahler that he intended to dedicate his work dem Andenken eines Engels [to the memory of an angel], in memory of Manon. The Concerto was written at the Waldhaus in Carinthia between May and August 1935. In July, shortly after Berg had finished the composition of the piece and was about to start work on the full orchestral score, he was stung by an insect at the base of his spine, and the sting gradually developed into an abscess. Returning to Vienna in early November in ill health, he was able to attend the Viennese première of the Symphonic Pieces from “Lulu” on 11 December, but, less than a week later, had to be taken to hospital. He died of blood poisoning at the Rudolfspital in Vienna on the night of 23 to 24 December.

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From a letter Béla Bartók wrote during World War I: “I consider it my goal in life to continue my study of Romanian folk music, at least in Transylvania, and carry it to its end …”. However, the war initially forestalled publication, planned for 1914-1915, from the Máramaros county collection; it was issued in 1967. The 1115 instrumental melodies include the seven which Bartók assembled to form the cycle Romanian Folk Dances from Hungary. He enqueued the seven melodies into one and the same category; they all have a solid, closed form, mostly in four lines, shaped into seven airs around six different dances originating in four areas of Transylvania. He selected the pieces from a large region, also altering their sequence according to his own conception. First is The Dance with the Staff, performed by one youth alone; it is embellished with complicated steps, finishing – as Bartók notes – with a leap so high that the youth can kick the low ceiling. The second is a round dance called Brâul, which a 30 ear-old man played for Bartók on a shepherd’s flute. Bartók likely learned the third dance from the same flutist. The name The Stomper refers to the choreography; a pair of performers clops out the dance on the spot. The fourth dance, The Dance of the Butschumers, comes from the Romanian village of Bucium (Butschum). Bartók heard this beautiful andante theme, rocking in 3/4 time, played by a gypsy on the violin. The Romanian polka (poarga romancasca, allegro) is rhythmically the most interesting piece in the cycle, thanks to its constant alternation of 2/4 and 3/4 metre. It begins the sequence of finale dances. The cycle closes with two rapid dances, called m?runtel. Only those who have heard and revelled in the Romanian folk dances in Transylvania can truly appreciate Bartók’s arrangements; the entire wealth and colourful variety of village life come alive in the concert hall. From: (c) Universal Edition and György Kroó, Bartók Handbuch

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