NEW YEAR’S GALA CONCERT: Dances for Your Soul

Riječki simfonijski orkestar

December 27, 28, 29 and 30, 2020

For years, the brilliant Rijeka Symphony Orchestra has successfully provided its audience with a fresh New Year’s concert experience, with each year featuring a new, exciting program and lively performance. The very end of this uncertain year will continue the tradition even as we fight alongside our audience against spiritual distance. This is also the year in which we celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of the musical genius Ludwig van Beethoven, so we have decided to include one of his most popular works – his Seventh Symphony – in the program of the New Year’s gala concerts. This symphony, Wagner wrote, is “the apotheosis of dance: dance in the most sublime sense, the most sublime act of bodily movement incorporated into an ideal tonal form.” The program will also include the inevitable Strauss, as well as compositions by Dvořák and Tchaikovsky.

The elegant and energetic maestro Valentin Egel will lead you into the new year with two Rijeka Symphony Orchestra ensembles. We have decided to use two orchestras, so that, in addition to the measures we are already implementing, we further reduce the risk of infection as well as the cancellation of the program. Furthermore, by hiring external collaborators, we are supporting freelancers, especially young and highly talented artists.


Johann Strauss: The Blue Danube, waltz, op. 314
Antonín Dvořák: Slavonic Dance op. 72, no. 2.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Suite no. 4 for Orchestra, op. 61 – Mozartiana
           I. Gigue. Allegro
          II. Menuet. Moderato
         III. Preghiera. Andante ma non tanto
         IV. Thème et variations. Allegro giusto

* * *
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony no. 7 in A Major, op. 92
          I. Poco sostenuto – Vivace
         II. Allegretto
        III. Presto – Assai meno presto
        IV. Allegro con brio


If the waltz is the dance of dances, the Blue Danube is the waltz of waltzes. No other piece sums up and exaggerates more the special atmosphere of nostalgia we connect with waltz-music from the 19th century. Already in the very beginning of it’s unprecedented history the Blue Danube was the first musical composition to be called a “hit”. It’s popularity comes not only with this waltz’s beautiful melodies and the comforting spirit of their simplicity. It is also the artistry in composition and instrumentation that ensured the way of this dance into the hearts of everybody. Even Johannes Brahms, one of the most important composers of classical music, referred to the Blue Danube with the words “leider nicht von mir” – “sadly not (composed) by me”.

It was also Brahms who initiated the composition of Dvoràk’s Slavonic Dances. Impressed by the talent of the young composer and determined to help his career, Brahms persuaded his own publisher to order these dances from Dvoràk. The first series (op. 46) was such a massive success that Dvoràk composed a second, more serious number of Slavonic Dances (op.72). The Dance you will hear today is a slow, nostalgic dance from the Lachia in Czech Republic. Not only is it one of the most famous of Dvoràk’s Slavonic Dances, it is also one of the most beautiful and touching.

One of Tchaikovsky’s first contacts with music was a mechanical piano that played Mozart. This initiated his determination to devote his life to music. Mozart remained a god-like subject of adoration throughout the whole life of the great Russian composer. With this Orchestral Suite Tchaikovsky wanted to set a memorial for his idol – in the year of the 100th birthday of his favorite opera “Don Giovanni”. He did this by orchestrating lesser known piano pieces by Mozart (the first two are baroque dances) thus giving these pieces his own coloring without taking away the lightness of the original. An exception is the third movement “Preghiera” in which Tchaikovsky chose a rather romantic way to set Mozart’s “Ave verum corpus” in a new light.

Whereas the first half of the program dealt with nostalgia, the beauty of the past and looking back, Beethoven’s 7th Symphony is about departure and a fresh-start. First performed right after the Wars of Liberation against Napoleon in 1813, this music strikes us with it’s energetic atmosphere and a sense of relief. The symphony is dominated by rhythm and forwardness thereby moving us in a similar way as dances do. It was Wagner who labeled this piece as the “apotheosis of dance”.

With this one of the best symphonies of all time we celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven and direct our gaze with positivity towards a new year.

Valentin Egel

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