Alban Bergs expressionistic master piece

Wozzeck

Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Choir, Netherlands National Children’s Choir

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Alban Berg’s Wozzeck is one of the 20th century’s groundbreaking operas alongside Berg’s Lulu. If you saw William Kentridge’s triumphant direction of Lulu at the festival last year, Wozzeck is a must see for this year, with star performers Florian Boesch (bass-baritone) and Asmik Grigorian (soprano) playing Wozzeck and his wife Marie. Broadcast in the NTR Saturday Matinee, the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, the Netherlands Radio Choir and the Netherlands National Children’s Choir will give a concert performance of the opera, with conductor Markus Stenz at the helm.

Background information

When Schoenberg (and a few others) introduced their atonal music a century ago, it was met with precious little sympathy. Schoenberg's student Alban Berg however achieved great success with his atonal opera Wozzeck, based on Georg Büchner’s 1837 drama Woyzeck. Through the tragic Wozzeck, the opera shows us the abuse of power by society's elite and the misery of the common people. It was a topical theme in the socially turbulent 1920s.


With the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra's chief conductor Markus Stenz at the helm, you will be able to experience how Berg's expressionist music perfectly matches the tragic story. The score is an expressive, highly effective soundtrack, yet at the same time the music has a sensual late-romantic glow about it. The extensive symphonic intermezzos the composer uses to connect the separate scenes betray Wagner's influence. The scenes themselves however are generally compact and succinct, almost neo-classical in nature. The same can be said about the complex musical structure, full of archaic musical forms, including passacaglias, fugues and baroque dances.

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Biografieën

The Austrian composer Alban Berg (1885 – 1935) was, with Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern, a member of the Second Viennese School. He produced compositions that combined Mahlerian Romanticism with a personal adaptation of Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique. Today, Berg is seen as one of the most prominent and influential composers of the 20th century. 

Being more interested in literature in his younger years, Berg did not start to compose until he was fifteen years of age. He had had little formal music education before he became a student of Arnold Schoenberg in 1904, at the age of 19. He studied counterpoint, music theory and harmony at first, before moving onto his composition lessons a few years later, in 1907. His student compositions included five drafts of piano sonatas, which eventually culminated in his first Piano Sonata Op.1, one of the most formidable 'first' works ever written. Berg studied with Schoenberg for six years until 1911. In 1913, the premiere of two of Berg's five Altenberg Lieder, aphoristic poems by Peter Altenberg set to music, caused a complete scandal. After serving in the First World War between 1915 and 1918, he continued work on his first opera, Wozzeck, which was premiered in 1925 and brought him his first public success. Today, it's still seen as one of the 20th century's most important works. Other well-known Berg compositions include the Lyric Suite (1926), the Chamber Concerto (Kammerkonzert, 1923–25) for violin, piano, and 13 wind instruments, and perhaps his best known and most beloved work, the Violin Concerto dedicated to the memory of an angel from 1935. Berg completed the orchestration of only the first two acts of his three-act opera Lulu before he suddenly died of blood poisoning in 1937. Although he had also finished the third act in short score, his widow Helen Berg imposed a ban on any attempt to complete the final act for a full performance. When soon after Mrs. Berg's death the complete opera was finally performed under Pierre Boulez in 1979, Lulu rapidly entered the repertoire as one of the landmarks of twentieth century music.

Markus Stenz is Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra (since 2012) and Principal Guest Conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra from the 2015/2016 season onwards. Trained at the School of Music in Cologne and at Tanglewood with Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa, he was Principal Conductor of the London Sinfonietta (1994-1998), Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (1998 – 2004) and General Music Director of the City of Cologne and Gürzenich-Kapellmeister (2003-2014). 

Stenz made his debut as an opera conductor at La Fenice in Venice and has since conducted many world premieres and first performances including Henze’s Das Verratene Meer (Berlin), Venus und Adonis (Munich) and L’Upupa (Salzburg Festival). Markus Stenz has appeared at many of the world’s major opera houses including La Scala (Milan), La Monnaie (Brussels), Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Stuttgart Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Bavarian State Opera Munich, State Opera Hamburg, Frankfurt Opera, and festivals such as Glyndebourne, Edinburgh, Bregenz and Salzburg. 

Markus Stenz conducts many of the world’s leading orchestras including the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig, Berlin Philharmonic, Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and the most prominent German radio orchestras. In the United States, he worked with orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. This season Stenz, Fellow of the Royal Northern College of Music, will conduct all over the world, from São Paulo to Shanghai, among others with the German premiere of a Cello Concerto by Pascal Dusapin.

The Radio Filharmonisch Orkest (RFO, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra) occupies a prominent position in Dutch music. With an unfailing commitment to artistic excellence and a balanced programme, the one hundred strong orchestra has grown into one of the Netherlands’ best orchestras. The orchestra was formed in 1945 by Albert van Raalte, who was succeeded by an impressive roll call of conductors, including Bernard Haitink, Jean Fournet, Willem van Otterloo, Hans Vonk, Edo de Waart and Jaap van Zweden. In 2012, Markus Stenz was appointed Chief Conductor. Since August 2013, the RFO has been part of the Stichting Omroep Muziek (Music Broadcast Organisation), along with the Groot Omroepkoor (Netherlands Radio Choir) and the production department of Dutch public broadcasters NTR and AVROTROS Radio 4's concert series.

The RFO has worked with many distinguished guest conductors, including Antal Doráti, Riccardo Muti, Mariss Jansons and Valery Gergiev. The orchestra plays contemporary music, often premieres – by composers such as Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, John Adams, Harrison Birtwistle and Richard Rijnvos – commissioned by broadcast programmes NTR Zaterdagmatinee and AVROTROS Vrijdagconcert. The orchestra performed at the BBC Proms at London's Royal Albert Hall in 2011 and at the Holland Festival in 2015.

From the 1970's, the orchestra has created an impressive discography, publishing their music under various labels. Under Jaap van Zweden, the orchestra have recorded the complete Bruckner cycle, and also committed to CD the complete symphonies of Karl Amadeus Hartmann as well as his opera Simplicius Simplicissimus. With its adventurous programming and large audience reach, the orchestra was awarded the 2014 Edison Klassiek, one of the most prestigious prizes in Dutch classical music, for playing such a vital role at the centre of Dutch music.

The sixty strong Groot Omroepkoor (Netherlands Radio Choir) is the largest professional choir in the Netherlands. Since it was formed in 1945, the choir has performed a broad repertoire, ranging from opera choruses, oratorios and cantatas to a cappella concerts.

The choir is closely affiliated to the Dutch public broadcast organisation NPO. The lion's share of their concerts includes the NPO broadcast series NTR ZaterdagMatinee, the AVTOTROS Vrijdagconcert and Het Zondagochtend Concert. The repertoire performed in these series ranges from classical to contemporary music, including commissioned works by Dutch composers such as Wagemans, Visman and Vleggaar, as well as premieres of the works of contemporary foreign composers, including MacMillan, Henze and Adams. The choir's programme also includes 'classics' from twentieth century composers, including Boulez, Stockhausen, Kagel, Ligeti and Messiaen. 

The Netherlands Radio Choir regularly performs with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. The choir has also been frequently invited by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and the Berliner Philharmoniker. The choir's first chief conductor Kenneth Montgomery was succeeded by, in chronological order, Robin Gritton, Martin Wright, Simon Halsey, Celso Antunes and Gijs Leenaars. Since March 2015, Klaas Stok has been Choirmaster. Michael Gläser has been principal guest conductor since 2010.

The choir has recorded an impressive collection of CDs, including recordings of Keuris, Diepenbrock, Mahler, Wagner, Elgar, Rihm, Poulenc, MacMillan and Rachmaninov.

The Nationaal Kinderkoor (Netherlands National Children’s Choir) was founded in 1989 by Silvere van Lieshout as part of the ‘choral singing for children’ incentive policy developed and carried out by the Foundation for Dutch Choir Organizations. Van Lieshout was also the first conductor. The Nationaal Jeugdkoor (Dutch National Youth Choir, founded in 1996) the Nationaal Kinderkoor currently constitute Vocaal Talent Nederland (foundation for Dutch Vocal Talent), an organization aiming to stimulate the development of vocally and musically talented children and young people from the Netherlands. The Nationaal Kinderkoor is comprised of boys and girls ranging from the ages of 10 to 16, who come from all over the country. The choir is also a school at the same time, where the pleasure of singing is combined with the development of musical skills such as sight-reading, phonation, choral singing and general music theory. The repertoire of the Nationaal Kinderkoor primarily consists of classical music, which is variously performed ‘a capella’, with a small ensemble, or a symphony orchestra, with or without a conductor as the case may be. Since 2000, the choir has been directed by Wilma ten Wolde. The Nationaal Kinderkoor also regularly tours abroad and participates in performances and recordings with orchestras such as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and the Berliner Philharmoniker, conducted by amongst others Sir Simon Rattle, Bernard Haitink, Jaap van Zweden, Mariss Jansons, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Philippe Herreweghe, Markus Stenz, Daniele Gatti en Jordi Savall.

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Credits

music
Alban Berg
conductor
Markus Stenz
bass-baritone
Florian Boesch (Wozzeck)
tenor
Endrik Wottrich (Drum Major)
tenor
Peter Tantsits (Andres)
tenor
Thomas Piffka (Captain)
bass-baritone
Nathan Berg (Doctor)
bass
Richard Wiegold (First Apprentice)
bariton
Florian Just (Second Apprentice)
tenor
John Heuzenroeder (Jester)
soprano
Asmik Grigorian (Marie)
alto
Cécile van de Sant (Margret)
tenor
Ioan Micu (Soldier, Fellow)
boy soprano
Mathis Raykov (Marie's child)
chorus
Netherlands Radio Choir,
National Children't Choir (Marie's children)
orchestra
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra

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