Michał Klauza currently serves as the Artistic Director of the Polish Radio Orchestra in Warsaw and the Music Director of the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic in Bialystok. Klauza completed his studies at the Fryderyk Chopin Music Academy in Warsaw and the Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg State Conservatory. He joined the Polish National Opera in 1998. Between 2005 and 2008 he held the post of Associate Conductor for Welsh National Opera. Klauza has been the Associate Conductor of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra since 2009.
A native of Malaysia, pianist Mei Yi Foo now resides in the United Kingdom. She completed her studies at the Royal College and Royal Academy of Music in London with Yonty Solomon, Chris Elton and Alexander Satz. She currently holds a teaching position at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Mei Yi also enjoys performing chamber music and is a champion of new music. She was the winner of the Maria Callas Grand Prix’08 in Athens and in 2013, she was awarded the BBC Best Newcomer of the Year award.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote his opera Die Zauberflöte, The Magic Flute, between April and July 1791, to a libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder, who also commissioned the piece. Mozart and Schikaneder had had regular contact since 1780 and when a company Schikaneder directed appeared in Salzburg, the pair renewed their friendship. The work was intended for performances in a small theatre in the suburbs of Vienna, for middle-class “family audiences.” In crafting the libretto Schikaneder had drawn on several collections of stories and fairytales popular in Germany and Austria at the time. The world premiere was given only two days after Mozart had entirely completed the opera, at Vienna’s Freihaustheater auf der Wieden. Though it happened to be Mozart’s final opera, The Magic Flute did represent an important new path for the composer. It was the first stage work he had written for the commercial theatre, rather than an aristocratic court. Mozart died mere months later, on December 5, 1791.
Die Zauberflöte is an example of Singspiel, which is a blend of singing and spoken text. The work also served as an allegory of Mozart’s Masonic associations and beliefs, the composer had joined a Masonic lodge in 1784 and Schikaneder too, was a Freemason. The number three said to hold mystical significance to Freemasons, is represented by the overriding key of E-flat major, which has three flats in the key signature. Three chords, additionally, begin the overture in direct tribute to the Masonic themes of the opera.
Frédéric Chopin composed his Piano Concerto in E-minor in 1830 and performed the solo at its premiere on October 11, later that year in Warsaw. When Chopin had given the first performance of his F minor concerto, the first public concert of his own music, in Warsaw, on March 17, he had been instantaneously acclaimed as a national hero. This, as it turns out, was Chopin's final appearance in Warsaw, which he left soon afterwards, never to return. Thus, he was already somewhat of a celebrity when he moved to Paris in 1831. His first appearance in Paris, on February 26, 1832, drew both Liszt and Mendelssohn who were full of praise for his extraordinary sensitivity to touch and colour and his delicately shaded dynamics.
Chopin was scarcely twenty when he composed his E-minor concerto, having composed his F-minor work slightly earlier. The two piano concertos were written strictly as showcases for his own use and he never considered composing a symphony, in fact, these two concertos are the only works for which he ever attempted to write for orchestra. After all, he was almost exclusively a piano composer and it is his E-minor Piano Concerto that contains his greatest material, in the piano part. Chopin generally preferred to enforce clarity by writing widely spaced textures indicative of a Mozartian Classicism, rather than compose virtuoso effects and repetitive torrents of notes. Consequently, the role given to the orchestra is generally modest.
Ludwig van Beethoven began to sketch the Fifth Symphony in 1804 and completed the score in the spring of 1808. The composer conducted the first performance on December 22 the same year as part of the famous Akademie concert in the Theater an der Wien. Symphony V was written during Beethoven’s prolific middle period which began in 1804 with the beloved Waldstein Sonata. Marked by the composers’ return to Vienna from Heiligenstadt, this period represents a significant change in musical style, now designated his "heroic" period. Beethoven had lobbied for the organization of the event to showcase his Pastoral Symphony, Fourth Piano Concerto and the Fifth Symphony as well as several movements of the Mass in C major for many months and expressed frustration at what he perceived to be the theatre directors procrastination. Ultimately, Beethoven got his way and the concert took place, but only after threats of departure from Vienna and the intimidation of a lawyer. Beethoven’s biographer Barry Cooper refers to the historic event, in terms of its content, as the "most remarkable" concert of Beethoven's career.
Indeed one can say without a doubt the most famous opening bars of any symphony are those of Beethoven’s Fifth. Phillip Huscher, musicologist of the Chicago Symphony, professed “This is the symphony that, along with an image of Beethoven, agitated and dishevelled, has come to represent greatness in music. Perhaps we are speaking only of the very opening seconds... It’s hard to know how so few notes, so plainly strung together, could become so popular.” Beethoven’s contemporary, Robert Schumann, also foresaw with great lucidity that “this symphony invariably wields its power over men of every age like those great phenomena of nature… This symphony, too, will be heard in future centuries, nay, as long as music and the world exist.” The Fifth was eventually overshadowed by the Ninth Symphony, which pointed to the culmination of the nineteenth century and reinvigorated generations of composers to expand their concept of the symphony, but it continues to be much-loved by audiences. Beethoven’s conception of the path from strife to triumph, personified by the Fifth Symphony, became a model for symphonic writing and continues to affect contemporary composition.
Alixandra Porembski, English Language Annotator