Rudi De Bouw is a musician, conductor and composer. He attended the Conservatoire Royal de Liège in Belgium and at the Conservatoire de Luxembourg where he studied euphonium, tuba, psychology, pedagogy, music theory, harmony, chamber music, music history, reading and transposition. After graduating he began work at the Theatrer de la Monnaie in Brussels, as well as at the Orchester Philharmonie de Liège. In 2006 he commenced his studies in orchestral conducting with specialisations in concert ensemble, brass ensemble and symphony orchestra. He has been a lecturer at the Conservatory in Esch-sur-Alzette in Luxembourg, since 1996 and in 2009 he became Professor of Orchestral Conducting for Union Grand Duc Adolphe, in Luxembourg.
Christian Danowicz was born in 1983 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At the age of four, he moved with his family to France. His father was his first violin teacher. He is a graduate of the Conservatory in Toulouse where he studied with Gilles Colliard. He completed his Master’s studies at Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw, under the tutelage of Julia and Krzysztof Jakowicz, in 2010. The same year, he completed a Bachelor’s Degree from the opera and symphonic conducting class of Antoni Wit. He now studies conducting under the direction of prof. Tomasz Bugaj, at Fryderyk Chopin University. He is also pursuing doctoral studies at the Wroclaw Academy of Music under violin professor Jaroslaw Pietrzak. Danowicz is a laureate of the Tadeusz Wronski International Solo Violin Concourse in Warsaw and received first prize in the chamber music competition of the Duxbury Music Festival, in 2010. Since 2010, he has held the position of concertmaster of the Leopoldinum Chamber Orchestra, in Wroclaw. He performs regularly as a soloist and conductor with the ensemble, and as a member of the Leopoldinum Soloists Trio, he has received a scholarship to study for one year at the Escuela Superior de Musica Reina Sophia in Madrid, in the chamber class of G. Pichler.
Ralph Vaughan Williams is one of the most popular English composers of the twentieth century. He studied composition with Parry and Stanford at the Royal College of Music in England, and travelled to Europe where he studied with Max Bruch in Germany and Maurice Ravel in France. Williams collected more than 800 folk songs and their variants during his life, in 1893 he came to know and like the “Dives and Lazarus.” The tune had been known and sung in England since the end of the sixteenth century. There are several variants, in both words and music, though the story remains based on the Gospel of Luke. A rich man drives the beggar Lazarus away from his door, and after the man dies, he burns in Hell, begging for a taste of water from Lazarus. Williams begins his Five Variants of “Dives and Lazarus” with a simple form of the melody, and then poses five variants of the tune. He wrote in the score, “These variants are not exact replicas of traditional tunes, but rather reminiscences of various versions in my own collection and those of others.”
Mieczysław Weinberg wrote Concertino for Violin and Strings in 1948. In January Weinberg’s father-in-law had been assassinated by Stalin’s secret police, shortly after which the Soviets issued a resolution in which, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Khachaturian and other composers were denounced as “formalists.” However, they ignored the 29-year-old Weinberg for the time being. In the serenade-like Concertino, no traces exist of these events, it is as though the composer had been concerned with seeming calm. The piece is a lyrical work with an innate simplicity and structure, in three movements. Lyricism and folk elements inundate the breath of his compositions. In 1953, Weinberg was arrested and underwent an eleven-week interrogation process, brought to an end by the death of Stalin in March. Though throughout these years, he continued to compose prolifically, adapting to cultural pressures, and moderating his style in the process.
Gustav Mahler composed his Fifth Symphony in 1901 and 1902, and he conducted its first performance in Cologne on October 18, 1904. Having come from humble beginnings, Mahler had reached the pinnacle of his profession by 1901. He was serving as principal conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic and director of the Vienna Court Opera, in Europe’s musical capital. That summer he began work on his overwhelming Fifth Symphony. Of all Mahler’s symphonies, this is the one most rooted in Viennese tradition. He stylistically swings every rhythm in the Viennese style, which is decidedly different from the German tradition. It is his first purely orchestral work since the First Symphony written in 1888 and his first orchestral work to dispense with both the human voice and programmatic elements.
Work progressed smoothly on the composition of the Fifth, but a breakthrough occurred when the composer met Alma Schindler and fell completely in love. The couple met on November 7, 1901, and after only three weeks the composer proposed marriage. They were married in less than four months. Thus, the central reason for the lasting popularity of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony is that it famously includes a love-poem and declaration of adoration for Alma. The fourth movement, Adagietto, is scored only for strings and harp. Its gentle melody and romantic appeal of the movement is beloved by audiences both within and apart from the greater work.
Richard Strauss composed Metamorphoses during the closing months of the Second World War, from August 1944 to March 1945. The work was commissioned by and dedicated to Paul Sacher, the founder and director of the Basler Kammerorchester and Collegium Musicum Zürich. It was Sacher who conducted the first performance on January 25, 1946, in Zurich. Strauss was unfortunate to live at a time when his creative abilities were pitted against his understanding of larger world issues. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda, had appointed him president of the new state music bureau, without the composer's agreement. From that point, Strauss became stranded in a country where music and politics became inseparable. Yet it was during World War II, that ultimately Strauss came to terms with the devastation of Nazi power through music.
Strauss wrote, “The burning of the Munich Court Theater, where Tristan and Die Meistersinger received their first performances, where I first heard Freischütz seventy-three years ago, where my father sat at the first horn desk for forty-nine years… it was the greatest catastrophe of my life; there is no possible consolation, and, at my age, no hope.” Shortly after the bombing of Dresden, the last German city to fall, Strauss began sketching a Trauer um München (Mourning for Munich), a requiem for German civilisation, written solely for strings.
Strauss favoured quotation and integration and he recognised the likeness of one of his main musical ideas to the infamous funeral march from Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. He also recalls, in another passage, a theme from act 2 of Tristan and Isolde. His Metamorphosen melody embodies four repeated notes and then a descending minor scale. Along with three other main themes, the piece is developed polyphonically. Strauss made the most of the utter coincidence and allows the cellos and basses to quote Beethoven’s theme in the finale. Here, at the pieces’ end, he wrote in the manuscript, “In Memoriam!” The memorial, it is widely accepted, was not just for the bombed opera houses, but for the shattered culture that they represented. A few days after the completion of Metamorphosen, Strauss wrote in his private diary, "The most terrible period of human history is at an end, the twelve-year reign of bestiality, ignorance and anti-culture under the greatest criminals, during which Germany's 2000 years of cultural evolution met its doom".
Alixandra Porembski, English Language Annotator