On May 17, The Philadelphia Orchestra performs its final program at Carnegie Hall this season. The orchestra's principal trumpeter David Bilger discusses highlights of the season and this concert program, which includes works by Webern, Berg, Ligeti, and Beethoven.
Clearly the 2012–2013 had many highlights for me, many of which
centered around the arrival and artistic vision of our new Music
Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Getting to grow a new relationship
with the maestro who will be leading the orchestra into the future
is of paramount importance, and the musicians of The Philadelphia
Orchestra, critics, and audiences have all embraced Yannick and
heard what a wonderful match he is for the orchestra.
Sir Simon Rattle's programs with the orchestra were the other
huge highlight of my season. He is a longtime podium guest, and the
significance of his regular and continued presence in front of the orchestra is not lost on me. We are truly fortunate to get to
experience his music making, and as usual, his programming this
year has been a fascinating mix of old and new.
When I saw the program that we are bringing to Carnegie Hall on
May 17, what immediately jumped off the page was Ligeti's Mysteries
of the Macabre. I have a strong connection with the piece, as
there is a trumpet solo version (with piano and percussion), but my
experiences with the piece, up until now, have been limited to this
smaller-scale arrangement. A fine video of trumpeter Brian McWhorter
performing the trumpet reduction is worth experiencing:
Mysteries of the Macabre is an excerpt from Ligeti's
opera The Grand Macabre. Barbara Hannigan is extraordinary in
the way she brings this score to life, combining the requisite
vocal gymnastics with attitude and drama. She "owns" the piece, and
I can't wait to perform it with her and Sir Simon Rattle. Watch an
excerpt of the two of them collaborating:
As I looked at the first half of the program that Maestro Rattle
has assembled, it was even more fascinating to me. The program
begins with Webern's Passacaglia, which is actually his Op. 1.
This work blends a traditional musical form of the passacaglia, but
takes the harmonic language to the fringe of atonality and back
again, all wrapped in the colorful orchestration that marks
Webern's personal compositional style. This is the kind of music
that Rattle brings to life in a unique and personal way, and to
experience how he shapes the phrasing and colors helps to remind me
of what is possible to say through music.
The Three Fragments from Wozzeck that follow the Webern are
both the perfect introduction to Ms. Hannigan's voice and a
fitting transition from the loose tonality of Webern to the Ligeti
that follows in the second half. As an orchestral performer, I
don't often get the chance to perform opera like Wozzeck, and
getting to do these three scenes with Simon Rattle is a rare treat.
He has a way of making the harmonic language of serialism connect
to the musical expression that is contained within. That is no
small feat and is an experience that I will treasure.