Performance Thursday, February 14, 2013 | 8 PM

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Treat your loved one this Valentine’s Day to "the world's greatest orchestra,” as crowned by Gramophone magazine. This concert features two remarkable works of late Romanticism, performed by Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra: Strauss’s mercurial musical meditation on death, and Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony—a towering work that was the composer’s springboard to international success.


  • Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
    Mariss Jansons, Chief Conductor


  • R. STRAUSS Death and Transfiguration
  • BRUCKNER Symphony No. 7 (Edition Nowak)


  • Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam

    The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is one of the very best orchestras in the world, having collaborated with leading conductors and soloists since it was founded in 1888. Indeed, such composers as Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler conducted the orchestra on more than one occasion, often in performances of their own works. To this day, the orchestra continues to foster long-term relationships with contemporary composers through such initiatives as its AAA Music and Arts Festival, a thematically programmed festival series that explores present-day extramusical trends and contexts.

    Since its inception, the orchestra has cultivated a very distinct, individual sound-one which is due in part to the unique acoustics of the Concertgebouw itself. The influence of the musicians and the orchestra's chief conductors, of whom there have been only six in the last 125 years, has also been important. Willem Kes introduced audiences to a varied repertoire, including many contemporary works. Willem Mengelberg laid the foundation for the orchestra's acclaimed Mahler tradition. Eduard van Beinum introduced Bruckner's symphonies and French music. The Christmas matinee concerts conducted by Bernard Haitink were televised in many European countries, earning him wide acclaim. During his tenure, Riccardo Chailly gave great impetus to the performance of contemporary music and opera. Under the direction of Mariss Jansons since 2004, the orchestra has focused on composers such as Bruckner, Mahler, Strauss, and Brahms, as well as a number of major 20th-century composers.

    On the occasion of its 100th anniversary in 1988, the orchestra officially received the appellation "Royal." Her Royal Highness Princess Máxima is the orchestra's patroness. The orchestra has its own Orchestra Academy, which provides instruction in orchestral playing to young, talented musicians. Each year, the orchestra reaches some 250,000 concertgoers through approximately 90 concerts in Amsterdam and 40 performances in some of the world's leading concert halls. The orchestra participates in residencies in Paris (Salle Pleyel), Brussels (BOZAR), and London (Barbican Centre). RCO societies of friends have been established in the United States, Switzerland, France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. In 2004, the orchestra launched its own in-house record label, RCO Live.

    In 2013, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra celebrates its 125th anniversary with an exciting array of special activities in Amsterdam and a world tour.

    Mariss Jansons

    "It's my task to find out the orchestra's special qualities and preserve them. Then, if through a natural process my own individuality adds something-and theirs to me-that will be fine," said Mariss Jansons. And fine it most certainly is, a fact that became readily apparent after his appointment as chief conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 2004. Music is in Mr. Jansons's blood. His father was a conductor and his mother an opera singer in his native Latvia. He studied violin and conducting in Leningrad, continuing his studies with Hans Swarowsky in Vienna and Herbert von Karajan in Salzburg. In 1973, Mr. Jansons was appointed Yevgeny Mravinsky's assistant with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, which Mr. Jansons's father Arvīds had also conducted. From 1979 to 2000, he served as music director of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, bringing it great international acclaim. He has made numerous appearances throughout the world as a guest conductor of the Berlin, Vienna, and London philharmonic orchestras, as well as the leading orchestras of the US.

    Mr. Jansons was appointed music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 1997 (a post he held until 2004) and music director of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in 2003. Making his first guest appearance with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1988, he returned nearly every year thereafter and was appointed its chief conductor in 2004. He is the sixth conductor to hold the post since the orchestra was founded in 1888. Mr. Jansons has received various distinctions for his achievements, including honorary membership of the Royal Academy of Music in London and the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna. He is also the recipient of the Austrian Decoration of Honour for Science and Art, the Latvian Three-Star Order, and the Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art. In June 2013, Mr. Jansons will be awarded the prestigious Ernst von Siemens Music Prize for his life and work in the service of music.

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R. Strauss's Death and Transfiguration

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra | Bernard Haitink, Conductor

At a Glance

The Seventh Symphony is one of Anton Bruckner's best-loved works, and its magnificent second-movement Adagio, partly a memorial to Wagner, is considered by many to be the greatest music he ever wrote. Rich in heart-stirring melodies, this symphony encompasses everything from somber yet consolatory mourning to an uninhibited celebration of life's joys. Even Bruckner—whose doubts about his works and susceptibility to the suggestions of others led him to drastically revise many of his symphonies—realized he'd gotten it right the first time with the Seventh and refused to overhaul it.

Listening to a Bruckner symphony has been likened to wandering in a great cathedral, leisurely taking in its many and varied splendors. Just as we allow our pulse to slow when sitting in a cathedral, so must we turn off our phones and surrender ourselves to a world beyond time to fully appreciate this composer.

Much easier to assimilate is Richard Strauss's tone poem Death and Transfiguration. In contrast to the traditional four-movement symphony laid out according to formal structural principles and intended to express purely musical ideas, Strauss's tone poems were loose in form and aspired to tell in graphic detail a non-musical story through the most advanced use of a very large orchestra. Strauss once bragged he could even describe a knife and fork in music. In Death and Transfiguration, the composer, then only in his mid-20s, conjured a scene in which an old man lies on his deathbed and reviews the events of his life, then dies to the noble strains of a beautiful "transfiguration" theme. 
Program Notes
This performance is part of International Festival of Orchestras I, and German Masters.