Pablo González first captured international attention with victories in the Donatella Flick and Cadaqués International Conducting competitions. Following terms at the helm of the London and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestras and as Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestra of the City of Granada, he was Music Director of the Barcelona Symphony for five years. Pablo is proud of his Spanish roots and of his contribution to the discography of his country’s music (three discs of works by Enrique Granados, for example). Spain, he says, is where he was born and began his studies. When he went abroad, it was always good to return to Spain and to help its orchestras grow and develop.
Pablo González is also an active opera conductor and has been Music Director of such varied repertoire as Poulenc’s La voix humaine, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Richard Strauss’s Ariadne and Wagner’s Rienzi in Barcelona and Oviedo (where he was born), and L’elisir d’amore and Don Giovanni at Glyndebourne.
Follow Pablo González on Twitter @pgconductor
American pianist Mackenzie Melemed (b. 1995) is already familiar to Helsinki audiences as the winner of the Maj Lind Piano Competition in 2017. At the time, reporters were surprised to hear him answer their questions in Finnish. One of the prizes in a competition he had won in 2012 had been a foreign tour, during which he included a stop in Finland. Having listened to the strange language, he decided to study Finnish alongside the piano at the Juilliard School of Music. He is still a student there, while actively touring the world, in particular performing recent and seldom-heard repertoire.
As a youngster, Melemed had all sorts of hobbies, one of which was acting. He often appeared in TV ads, and even played the harpsichord wearing a wig as Mozart in a documentary. At age nine, he was already entertaining audiences at the giant Tropicana Hotel in Atlantic City, leading to an invitation from George W. Bush to perform at the White House in five consecutive years.
W.A. Mozart: Symphony No. 35 “Haffner”
On taking his leave of the Archbishop of Salzburg and his court, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) was at last free from the demands of his patron and his father’s guiding hand. Life in Vienna was not, however, easy for a freelance artist. In addition to composing and teaching, he had to find somewhere to live for himself and his soon-to-be wife. Among his first works in Vienna was, however, a big, six-movement serenade commissioned by one of the Salzburg’s leading families, the Haffners, for the festivities in connection with the ennoblement of their son. He later rearranged this as a symphony in four movements suitable for his own use; the two he discarded have been lost. The Haffner Symphony (KV 385) of 1782 should not be confused with the Haffner Serenade (KV 250) composed six years earlier for the wedding of that family’s daughter. The symphony got an ecstatic reception, even from the Emperor Joseph II, and earned Mozart a sum roughly equivalent to six months’ commissions.
Samuel Barber: Piano Concerto
Samuel Barber (1910–1981), a leading name in American music, composed a lot more than the early Adagio for Strings for which he is possibly best known and familiar from numerous films and solemn occasions. His Piano Concerto of 1962 won him his second Pulitzer Prize, the first having been for his opera Vanessa in 1958.
Barber was given three years to write a Piano Concerto for the centenary of his publisher, G. Schirmer. The first two movements posed no problems, but the designated soloist, John Browning, claimed the finale was impossible to play at the speed required. Browning nevertheless went on to perform the concerto for decades, and no wonder, for Barber had designed the virtuosic parts specifically to do justice to his playing. Works tailor-made for particular artists were typical of Barber, examples being his Piano Sonata for Vladimir Horowitz and his Cello Concerto for Raya Gorbusova. In the singing second movement of the Piano Concerto, Barber quotes from his own Canzone (Elegy) for Flute and Piano. The metallic crashing of the finale is enough to make even Sergei Prokofiev sound tame.
Robert Schumann: Symphony No. 4
Having devoted the 1830s almost entirely to music for the piano, Robert Schumann (1809–1856) then turned his manic attention first to songs and then symphonies. His first symphony, written in a mere few weeks, was a great success and encouraged him to believe that writing a symphony was child’s play. His second, clearly influenced by Beethoven’s fifth, soon proved him wrong, however. Its premiere was a disaster, it got banished from sight and would be left to gather dust for the next ten years. It then reappeared in 1851, its errors corrected and with lighter instrumentation under the title of Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 120.
In writing a symphony with movements linked together without a break, Schumann took symphonic unity further than any of his predecessors had done. Whereas Berlioz, for example, in his Symphonie fantastique, kept coming back to his theme either as such or with only minor changes, Schumann in practice based the whole of his D-minor symphony on a single motif first heard in the slow introduction to the first movement. The result was a homogeneous work in a single movement abounding in familiar melodies.