Gordan Nikolić violin, conductor
Alejandro Cantalapiedra conductor
Antonio Vivaldi Sinfonia in B Minor, RV 169 “Al Santo Sepolcro” [7’]
I. Adagio molto
II. Allegro ma poco
Arnold Schönberg Verklärte Nacht for string orchestra, Op. 4 [30’]
Johann Sebastian Bach Die Kunst der Fuge, BWV 1080: Contrapunctus XIX (arr. for orchestra by Luciano Berio) [8’]
Alban Berg Violin Concerto [22’]
I. Andante – Allegretto
II. Allegro, ma sempre rubato, frei wie eine Kadenz – Adagio
Among the means of musical rhetoric often used in the Baroque era, pathopoeia was particularly important – a musical symbol of pain and suffering, usually taking the form of a sequence of chromatically consecutive (usually descending) notes and dissonances resulting from harmonic delays. This figure was often used in passion pieces (e.g. Crucifixus from Bach’s Mass in B minor), and was also used by Antonio Vivaldi in Sinfonia al Santo Sepolcro (literally: Sinfonia at the Holy Sepulchre). An introductory adagio full of surprising rough consonances is followed by a polyphonic allegro, whose opposing chromatic themes are interpreted as a symbol of the cross. Little is known about the circumstances of the work’s composition and performance. Perhaps it accompanied the faithful at the visitation of the Lord’s tomb during the Paschal triduum in the chapel of the Ospedale della Pietà orphanage, where Vivaldi taught music? It has also been hypothesized that this piece (along with the sonata of the same title) may have been written for performance in Vienna. It was there that composers such as Caldara and Fux created a special type of oratorios called sepolcri, performed during the adoration of the Lord’s tomb, whose instrumental introductions had a similar two-part structure to Vivaldi’s piece.
The young Arnold Schönberg did not receive a conservatory education, but his immense talent and self-taught passion allowed him to quickly acquire a fine compositional skill and attract the attention of Vienna’s demanding musical community. The string sextet Verklärte Nacht, written in 1899, aroused admiration but also controversy among his contemporaries with its strong expressiveness and over-emphasized chromatic harmonics. Single-movement but divided into five sections, the free-form composition resembles a symphonic poem. The piece refers to a poem by Richard Dehmel from the morally controversial volume Weib und Welt (Woman and World, 1896) – a difficult dialogue between a couple in love on the titular “illuminated night” by moonlight (a translation is sometimes suggested: “transfigured night”). Marked by anxiety and gloom, the beginning in D minor with a persistent descending gesture (again an echo of the old pathopoeia) and the subsequent episodes full of drama, changing tempos and harmonic extravagances, is a reference to the Woman’s confession to her lover: I’m carrying a child, and not yours, | I walk in sin beside you… This mood is overcome or rather transformed by a luminous D major, a symbol of love and forgiveness, referring to the words of the Man: May the child you conceived | Be no burden on your soul. Look | how the universe shines on you | and on everything… The reception of the premiere was rather cold – there was criticism of the very concept of “programmatic chamber music” and, above all, of the eccentric harmonics. However, the work was quickly appreciated, appearing very “traditional” in light of the author’s later achievements. His arrangement of the work for string orchestra in 1917 (revised in 1943) was particularly popular.
Italian Luciano Berio was one of the most prominent figures of the international music scene of the 20th century, and in his rich oeuvre – not shying away from avant-garde explorations – quotations, rearrangements, transcriptions, creative dialogue with the musical past were of particular importance. The transcription of an unfinished masterpiece – a complicated triple fugue, which as Contrapunctus XIX was to crown Bach’s monumental treatise on polyphony, written by him at the end of his life with sounds alone: Kunst der Fuge (The Art of Fugue) – is also part of this trend. The second of the fugue’s themes is the name noted in sounds: B-A-C-H. The manuscript contains poignant words inscribed by the composer’s son, Carl Philipp Emanuel: “Über dieser Fuge, wo der Nahme BACH im Contrasubject angebracht worden, ist der Verfaßer gestorben” (“In the midst of this fugue, where the name BACH is applied in countersubject, the composer died.”)… Berio faithfully follows Bach’s notation, orchestrating the piece colorfully with 23 instruments, but in the final passage, where the counterpoint lines break off, he combines them into a halting consonance, further arranged into a dissonant chord in which the notes corresponding to the letters of Cantor’s name ring out.
Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto, completed in August 1935, achieved the status of one of the most important works of its genre in the 20th century, or perhaps in its entire history. This was determined both by the work’s tonal beauty and elaborate technical and formal principles, as well as its moving personal contexts and symbols. For it was dedicated to the “memory of an angel” – the prematurely deceased, beautiful and talented Manon, daughter of Walter Gropius and Alma Mahler. Shocked, Berg began composing immediately after her funeral (it was speculated that he may have been her father). Also contributing to the legend was the fact that the composer died the same year, eight months after Manon, and the Concerto was to become his last work. In order to complete it, the composer interrupted his work on the Lulu opera – as it turned out, never to return to it again. The piece combines genre traditions and innovations in a fascinating way. Its two featured movements by Berg comprise an arrangement that is essentially made up of four sections: a prelude, a scherzo and a variation finale preceded by a cadenza. The composition makes use of the twelve-tone technique, which Berg creatively adopted from his master, Arnold Schönberg, seeking ways to combine dodecaphony (which by definition rejects thinking in terms of tonal centers and gravities, consonances and dissonances) with the euphonic sound of tonal harmonics. Thus, from the twelve-tone series, he often chooses tertian tones, common chords and their triads, corresponding to the quintic tuning sequence of the violin’s empty strings (demonstrated in the soloist’s first passage) and at the same time to the B-A-C-H tones. The musical tribute to the Baroque composer also includes a quotation from the famous chorale Es ist genug (elaboration of the melody by Johann Rudolph Ahle) ending the cantata O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort BWV 60 – first in the form of a peculiar sequence of three whole-tone steps within the tritone interval (F-G-A-H) from the beginning of the chorale, to go on to give a straightforward Bachian harmonization of the song.
Spanish conductor Alejandro Cantalapiedra (1994) is raising attention already as an architect of sound. His structural vision of musical works combined with charismatic musicianship enable him to give special character to the great symphonic repertoire.
As of the 2023-24 season, he is assistant conductor to the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and to Dutch National Opera. In the summer of 2022, he made his debut at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam with the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra and Toonkunstkoor Amsterdam, where is he a regular choirmaster. He has been chief conductor of Utrecht Young Orchestra since 2019 and was chief conductor and founder of the Orquesta Sinfónica de la Universidad Politécnica de Madrid from 2016-2023. With these youth orchestras, he has conducted in important concerts halls such as the Auditorio Nacional in Madrid, TivoliVredenburg and De Doelen Rotterdam.
Since 2022, he has been assisting at Dutch National Opera in the productions of Salome, Königskinder and Der Freischütz, working with Cornelius Meister, Marc Albrecht and Patrick Hahn and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and the Rotterdam Philharmonic.
Alejandro won the first prize at the II International Conducting Competition in Estoril, conducting the Orquestra de Camara de Cascais e Oeiras as guest conductor, as well as the Varna Symphony orchestra.
Since his residency in Madrid as a student of architecture at the Universidad Politécnica, Alejandro has been developing his artistic career, complementing his musical training in parallel with the creation of youth orchestras, with the aim of attracting an audience that is initially distant from the formalities of the classical concert scene. The JOECOM and Orquesta Sinfónica UPM, both in Madrid, were born out of this endeavour. With these youth orchestras, Alejandro reached in a short time an artistic level that is unimaginable for a musician of his age at the head of such heterogeneous groups. With his great energy, he has guided the youth orchestras to performances of Beethoven’s Eroica and Symphony No. 9 and Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 at the National Auditorium of Spain, receiving overwhelming acclaim from the audience and the press.
Alejandro started his conducting studies with Juan María Esteban del Pozo and Miguel Romea, before moving to the Netherlands where he continues to study at Codarts Rotterdam with Hans Leenders, Sander Teepen, and Wiecher Mandemaker. He attended masterclasses of Antony Hermus and Karel Deseure, among others.