When Michael Sanderling (b. 1967) first appeared with the HPO in 1998, he was the soloist in the second Shostakovich cello concerto and the conductor was his father, Kurt. Back then, he had no plans for becoming a conductor himself, for he was in great demand as a soloist and winning many prestigious prizes. In 2000, he nevertheless followed the example of his father, brother and step-brother and turned to conducting. He views his 18 years as an instrumentalist in a positive light. It taught him a lot, he says; he can appreciate how the ‘other side’ feels in an orchestra and how things should – or should definitely not – be done.
Michael Sanderling is passionate about sharing his experience by working with young musicians. He teaches at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Frankfurt and regularly works with the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie, the Schleswig-Holstein-Festivalorchester, the Bundesjugendorchester and the Young Philharmonic Orchestra Jerusalem Weimar. Meanwhile, he is also in his seventh season as Principal Conductor of the Dresden Philharmonic.
Follow Michael Sanderling on Twitter @Msanderling.
Josef Špaček (b. 1986) was still only a student when he caught the attention of the Czech Philharmonic and in 2011 became its youngest ever concertmaster. He has since sought to strike a balance between his duties as his orchestra’s leader in Prague and the solo engagements that take him all over the world.
“I don’t think any other orchestra anywhere else could have supported their concertmaster as much as I have been. I am very spoiled,” he says. “When you get a job as a concertmaster, you can’t move any further within the orchestra. You can switch orchestras, but the Czech Philharmonic is one of the best in the world. It’s a marvellous orchestra. I love playing with them but there is no way of moving on. Your career is complete unless you become a conductor. But then again, there is so much more room to develop in a solo career. If you have the time and good support from people, then why not give it a try? It’s time for me to risk it.”
Josef Špaček performs on the ca. 1732 “LeBrun; Bouthillard” Guarneri del Gesù violin, generously on loan from Ingles & Hayday.
Follow him on Twitter @SpacekViolin.
Johannes Brahms: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
Having at last finished his first symphony after sweating over it for 25 years, Johannes Brahms (1833–1897) quickly followed it with another symphony, and a violin concerto that breaks with the generic tradition in that it is by nature symphonic. For instead of showcasing the soloist’s virtuosity, Brahms regarded the soloist and orchestra more as equals. He could, if he wished, compose for the most brilliant violinists of his day, such as his good friend Joseph Joachim, yet his difficult solo part always serves the music rather than the soloist’s ego. The problem was, Brahms said, not composing the concerto but leaving out the superfluous notes.
Naturally Brahms’s approach did not pass without criticism in an age that glorified its soloists. Whereas his two piano concertos are often described as symphonies with piano obbligato, the one for violin is said to be not for but against the violin.
The concerto adheres to tradition in that it is in three movements. In its sombre majesty, the first is undoubtedly indebted to the Beethoven concerto in the same key (D major). In the second, the violin shares its melodic lead with an oboe, and the final rondo pays tribute to Joseph Joachim in its Hungarian seasoning.
Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 12, The Year of 1917
Even after the death of Stalin in 1953, Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975) was still more or less obliged to toe the party line. For years, he had been forced to pay lip service to the Soviet ideology, and his membership of the Communist Party, granted in 1960, was undoubtedly not of his own choosing. He had long been planning to compose a programmatic Lenin oratorio, cantata or symphony, but quite why he decided to alter the perspective to focus on the community and an era rather than an individual is not quite sure. Symphony No. 12 “The Year of 1917” does trace the path of the revolutionary leader from adversity to victory, but the prevailing mindscape is that of the people and the tragedy of the whole period.
The first movement uses quotations from a revolutionary song Shame on you Tyrants and the Polish Warsaw March. The second, at Lenin’s country headquarters Razliv, quotes Shostakovich’s own earlier Funeral March for the Victims of the Revolution. The scherzo third movement is named after the cruiser Aurora that fired at the Winter Palace, and the finale, The Dawn of Humanity, looks ahead to life after revolution, and even the funeral marches sound jubilant.