Choral Concert Thielemann

Christian Thielemann talks about Gurre-Lieder (in German)

Gurre-Lieder for soloists, chorus and orchestra
Text by Jens Peter Jacobsen (translation: Robert Franz Arnold)

Camilla Nylund Tove
Christa Mayer Waldtaube
Stephen Gould Waldemar
Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke Klaus-Narr
Kwangchul Youn Peasant
Franz Grundheber Narrator

Bavarian Radio Chorus
(Chorus master: Howard Arman)
Prague Philharmonic Choir
(Chorus master: Lukáš Vasilek)
Members of the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester
Christian Thielemann Conductor

Tuesday, 7 April, 18:00
Friday, 10 April, 18:00
Grosses Festspielhaus




Arnold Schoenberg’s Gurre-Lieder, first performed with triumphal success in the Musikverein in Vienna in 1913, is truly monumental. Schoenberg worked on it between 1900 and 1911. This was a period when his style was moving radically away from any notion of major and minor, towards atonality and thence, in time, to the twelve-note technique. The late-Romantic Gurre-Lieder thus represents a magnificent final flowering of a creative period that Schoenberg had in fact already left behind him.

This cantata was perhaps written ‘in answer to Mahler’s Eighth Symphony’, says Christian Thielemann in conversation about Gurre-Lieder (see the video above right). It is a work that has long fascinated him. But he is no less fascinated by the development of its composer and by his personality, too. ‘Schoenberg saw himself as the culmination of Bach, Brahms and Beethoven’, says Thielemann. He had grasped the fact that after ‘the excess of the Tristan harmonies’ and the vast sound-worlds that had ensued, music could not develop any further in the same direction. In this sense, Schoenberg’s stylistic break after Gurre-Lieder was completely comprehensible.

The text of Gurre-Lieder was by Jens Peter Jacobsen (in a German translation by Robert Franz Arnold) and takes us into a world of legend and fairy tales. The first part depicts the forbidden love between King Waldemar and Tove, a beautiful young girl of the people. The jealous Queen Helwig has Tove murdered, which is then related by the Wood-Dove. In the second part, Waldemar accuses God of having taken away the last thing that had made him happy. In the third part, Waldemar and his men ride through the night after death, all of them unredeemed spirits.