Saxophone Concerto (World premiere, Co-commisioned by DSO)
Symphony No. 7 in C major, ›Leningrad‹
Giancarlo Guerrero Conductor
- Jess Gillam Saxophone
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
About the concert
The situation of a city under siege during the war, which has again acquired a sad topicality today, provided the background for the composition of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony. When the troops of Nazi Germany and its allies surrounded Saint Petersburg (then Leningrad) from 1941 onwards, the city’s probably most famous composer was among its residents. The blockade, which claimed the lives of more than a million civilians, lasted from September 1941 to January 1944. Shostakovich unsuccessfully offered several times to fight as a soldier and finally took part in extinguishing the numerous fires that broke out. While the bombs were falling, he was also working feverishly on his new symphony, for which he partly drew on older material. The work is traditionally in four movements, however, instead of the expected development of the theme in the first movement, a passage accompanied by the drum appears as what is known as an “invasion episode” and through several repetitions builds to a frightening effect. “This [...] is how war sounds to my ears,” the composer explained. Sounds of a deceptive or lost idyll, chorales and funeral music based on the Baroque model precede the monumental final turn. The symphony was interpreted not only in the Soviet Union as a gesture of resistance against international Fascism.
Several times, saxophonist Jess Gillam's debut with the DSO had to be cancelled or postponed because of the pandemic. Now she is finally a guest with the world premiere of the saxophone concerto 'Stravaganza' by Karl Jenkins, for whom the DSO is a commissioning body. The conductor is Giancarlo Guerrero, who currently holds positions in the USA, Poland and Portugal. With his stylistically diverse music spanning all genres, Sir Karl Jenkins is one of the most performed composers in the world. Hits such as 'Adiemus', 'Palladio' or the peace mass 'The Armed Man' delight a wide audience. And music by him will also be heard at the coronation of Charles III. Karl Jenkins wrote his saxophone concerto expressly for the celebrated shooting star from England. Jess Gillam is considered one of the most compelling ambassadors of the Classical music scene and one of the most distinguished representatives of her instrument thanks to her closeness to the audience and rousing interpretations.
»Stravaganza« is the Italian word for eccentric. Karl Jenkins's inspiration for the concerto is the fact that Jess Gillam initially learned the saxophone in a carnival, having first tried the stilts and then the drums before finding her musical home. The work is in four movements, and a certain eccentricity or quirkiness pervades throughout. In many ways it is programmatic but the listener may create her or his eccentric fantasies. To Jenkins's delight, Jess Gillam chose the soprano saxophone (the highest in pitch of those in common use) for this particular ‘parade’.