›Werther‹ – Melodrame after Goethe for narrator and orchestra
Giovanni Antonini Conductor
- Sabin Tambrea Narrator
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
About the concert
Since the 18th century, melodramas have been understood to mean works that combine instrumental music with the spoken word in various ways; the Greek components of the term mean “sound” and “action”. While Wagner described the genre as a “genre of the most unedifying variety”, some modern composers discovered an appealing potential in the juxtaposition or simultaneity of music and language. Both Schoenberg’s ‘Pierrot lunaire’ and Stravinsky’s ‘The Soldier’s Tale’ are in the tradition of melodrama. The DSO concert, conducted by Giovanni Antonini, one of the most distinguished interpreters of 18th-century music, provides an encounter with Gaetano Pugnani’s ‘Werther’, which is based on Goethe’s epistolary novel.
Although the poet published ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’ as early as 1774, the story of the hero unhappily in love, which ends in suicide, is often understood as an anticipation of the Romantic attitude to life. The most famous musical adaptation to date is Massenet’s opera from the end of the 19th century. All the more interesting, then, is the performance of an adaptation that was composed barely 20 years after the novel was written. The score by the Italian composer, known primarily as a violin virtuoso, was only discovered in 1996 in the archives of the Vienna Philharmonic. The reference to the text is made clear through several movement titles, in which the date of the respective letters “set to music” is indicated. Thanks also to the colourful instrumentation, this atmospheric and varied work is one of the interesting contributions of the Classical age and of programme music avant la lettre.
The actor Sabin Tambrea, who comes from a family of musicians, can be heard in the speaking role. He was one of the central protagonists of the Berliner Ensemble theatre company for many years and has recently appeared in leading roles in film productions such as ‘Narcissus and Goldmund’.