For Peter Eötvös, composing is “the enchantment of the listener through sound. I am interested in the technique of turning the unbelievable into music.” In developing this concept, he was assisted by many outstanding composers. As a 14-year-old, he was accepted for Zoltán Kodály’s composition class at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest; he later worked closely together with Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Boulez. With the premiere of his Cello Concerto Grosso, another of Peter Eötvös’ “enchantments” was performed in the Philharmonie in 2011.
The work is a play on old forms. From the Baroque concerto grosso, Eötvös adopts the combination of orchestra and a group of soloists, in this case of eight cellists. In a way that is reminiscent of the classic solo concerto, one single cellist is placed in front of the group of soloists, presenting the complete virtuoso potential of his instrument. This solo part is played by Miklós Perényi, a close associate of Peter Eövös for many years who once said of him that Perényi is “like nature, like the trees and the flowers: he just exists and radiates”.
The premiere is framed by music of Modest Mussorgsky. The concert opens with St. John’s Night on the Bare Mountain, a wild representation of a witches’ sabbath, which the composer himself described as “hot and chaotic”. The end of the evening is equally energetic with two scenes from Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, with a choir portraying the stirred up Russian people. With tempestuous music, it appears as an uncontrollable force, forming the greatest imaginable contrast to the psychological drama of the Tsar Boris, here performed by Ferruccio Furlanetto.