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Brett Dean Piano Concerto – Gneixendorf Music, a Winter’s Journey – Australian premiere of MSO co-commission
Brahms Symphony No.4
Beethoven Piano Concerto No.5 Emperor
Stanislav Kochanovsky conductor
Jonathan Biss piano
About the performance
Beethoven; our contemporary.
The climax of a brilliant international experiment, Brett Dean’s Gneixendorf Music – A Winter’s Journey is his answer to a challenge thrown out by iconoclastic American pianist and curator Jonathan Biss. Over five years, Biss commissioned five composers write their own piano concertos in response to those composed by Beethoven. Dean’s is the final in the series, so be there to witness a piece of history.
One of Australia’s most successful and acclaimed composers, Brett Dean’s body of work spans 30 years and has been championed by the greatest conductors and ensembles in the world, including the Berlin Philharmonic, Concertgebouw Orchestra, BBC Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and the MSO. His most recent opera, Hamlet, premiered at the Glyndebourne Festival in 2017 and will be staged in 2021 by The Metropolitan Opera in New York.
Dean’s concerto is an attempt to enter the state of the mind of Beethoven, as he confronted some profound familial conflicts and failing health towards the end of his life. The “Gneixendorf” in the work’s title refers to a small Austrian village where Dean spent time in the summer of 2013 and unexpectedly stumbled on a relatively unknown episode of Beethoven’s life.
Though it was subsequently dubbed the Emperor concerto, in reference to then Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, it’s not a title Beethoven ever used himself. The uplifting Piano Concerto No.5 was composed while Beethoven was surrounded by destruction and despair. With his hearing fast diminishing and the Napoleonic Wars raging across Europe, including in his home city of Vienna, it’s remarkable Beethoven could create something so inspiring when surrounded by such misery.
Brahms’ Fourth Symphony is the perfect companion piece to these piano works from either end of history, as the composer first wrote it in a setting for two pianos. The initial feedback from his friends spurred him on, and the resulting symphony – his final – has become one of his most popular works.
St Petersburg-born conductor Stanislav Kochanovsky returns to the MSO, after his triumphant turn conducting Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet suite in 2019.
This concert will also be performed at Robert Blackwood Hall, Monash University on Friday 15 May.