Christiane Karg, soprano City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, conductor
Oliver Knussen: The Way to Castle Yonder op. 21a (1988/90) Benjamin Britten: Quatre Chansons Françaises (1928) Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 4 G major
The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) is one of the leading symphony orchestras in Great Britain. For many years, the likes of Andris Nelsons, Sakari Oramo and Simon Rattle were chief conductors and had a lasting influence on the sound culture of this British orchestra. It is now led by a young Lithuanian chief conductor, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla. In 2016, the appointment of the brilliant musician, who was 29 years old at the time and the first woman in that position, caused a big sensation. In spite of her young age, she has worked with a large number of renowned orchestras, such as the HR Symphony Orchestra Frankfurt, the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe (at the Lucerne Festival), the RSO Vienna, the Camerata Salzburg, Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic, San Diego Symphony Orchestra and Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla combines dynamic youthfulness with enormous depth. Under her baton, the CBSO gives proof of its versatility: The Way to Castle Yonder is a medley from the enchanting children’s opera Higglety Pigglety Pop by the British composer Oliver Knussen. Knussen, who passed away in July 2018, wrote two children’s operas in the 1980s. They are considered his main works and they are based the books Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop! by Maurice Sendak, which are also enormously popular in the German-speaking countries.
The CBSO accompanies soprano Christiane Karg in the four French songs by Benjamin Britten, lyrical masterpieces which he composed in his youth; in their melodic beauty and profundity they are highly reminiscent of Debussy and definitely remarkable pieces, according to singer Christiane Karg. Writing about the soprano, Die Zeit says: “Karg’s silvery lyrical soprano and her beguilingly clear intonation express many emotions, her voice can be mellow, erotic, attacking and witty, and – something so rare nowadays – it does not allow itself any hidden agenda”. All these features are particularly required for the high point of the programme, Gustav Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, with the soprano solo Das himmlische Leben from Des Knaben Wunderhorn: “Kein’ Musik ist ja nicht auf Erden, Die uns’rer verglichen kann werden.” (“No music on earth can be compared with ours”). Mahler originally called his fourth symphony – probably his most popular today, the cheeriest, brightest among his symphonies – a “humoresque.” And yet, in what is perhaps his most idyllic composition, there is always also an abyss hidden behind the idyll.