The Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra brings the 2023-24 season to an end with a concert featuring Tchaikovsky’s lovely Variations on a Rococo Theme Op 33 and the Symphony No 5 in B-flat minor by Anton Bruckner.

The concert is led by the Orchestra’s Artistic and Musical Director, Kazuki Yamada, who is also Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Permanent Conductor of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra and Guest Conductor of the Seiji Ozawa International Academy. The soloist is the Spanish cellist Pablo Ferrández whom the LA Times describes as having “Pop idol magnetism, superb technique and exhilarating musicality [which] reveal a sure star in the making”.

Recent highlights of Pablo Ferrández’s current season include his debut at David Geffen Hall in New York with the Orquesta del Teatro Real, as well as with orchestras such as the Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Tonhalle Orchestra and Orchestre Philharmonique de Liege. Return visits include those to the Rotterdam Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Dusseldorf Symphony and Orchestra National de France. Hailed by Le Figaro as a “new cello genius” and by El Pais as “A captivating performer”, Ferrández is also frequently invited to internationally renowned festivals such as Verbier, Salzburg, Dresden and the Dvorak Prague Festival.

Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme in A major, Opus 33 was the closest Tchaikovsky ever came to writing a full cello concerto, and it was his first composition for cello and orchestra. Written between December 1876 and January 1877, the work was inspired by Mozart – whose music Tchaikovsky greatly admired – and dedicated to cellist Wilhelm Fitzenhage. It would appear that, having composed the Variations, Tchaikovsky submitted the work to the cellist for checking, and Fitzhagen made some significant changes to it. Even though Tchaikovsky wasn’t entirely happy with these amendments, he nevertheless orchestrated the piece from the piano arrangement by Fitzenhagen.

This version premiered in November 1877 at a symphony concert in Moscow with Fitzhagen as soloist, given by the Russian Musical Society, conducted by Nikolai Rubinstein. Tchaikovsky was abroad at the time and missed the performance, but press comment was said to be very favourable. Tchaikovsky’s original version of the Variations was performed for the first time on 24th April 1941 in Moscow, played by Daniil Shafran, conducted by Aleksandr Melik-Pashayev.

Anton Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony is one of the grandest of his so-called ‘cathedrals in sound’ – as his symphonies were known. A monumental work, it is considered by many to be his symphonic masterpiece. He began composing the Fifth Symphony in 1875 and finished it the following year, although he did make a few minor changes over the following years. At the time of writing, he was in a state of despair, unable to settle in Vienna and missing his previous post in Linz. As with many of his works, it was greeted with indifference, and in 1893, the conductor Franz Schalk led a performance in Graz, but he apparently re-orchestrated the entire work, cut the Finale and added an extra brass band at the end. Fortunately Bruckner was too ill to attend this performance,

In fact, Bruckner never heard his symphony performed by an orchestra – just a two-piano version by Josef Schalk and Franz Zottman – and it was not until 1935, 39 years after Bruckner’s death, that the original full orchestral score was performed – as written by Bruckner with only minor amendments – in Robert Haas’s definitive edition.

Kazuki Yamada leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance of the Variations on a Rococo Theme, Opus 33, by Tchaikovsky, and Bruckner’s Symphony No 5 in B-flat major in the Auditorium Rainier III on Sunday 16 June 2024 at 18h00. Further information and details of ticketing can be found on the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic website.

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Lead image by Larisa Birta on Unsplash

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