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Ana Pereira's violin under the direction of Michael Zilm at Easter Concert of Lisbon Metropolitan Orchestra

Publicado a 12 de Abril 2022

The Passion Concert takes place this Thursday, at 7pm, in the Grand Auditorium of Centro Cultural de Belém, and marks the return to Portugal of the German maestro.

What do three composers so different and historically distant as Haydn, Brahms and Martin have in common? All three represent, in their own way, the suffering of Christ on the cross and the spirituality of the Holy Week. This is the motto for the Passion Concert that Lisbon Metropolitan Orchestra will take to the stage this Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Grand Auditorium of CCB.

Conducted by Michael Zilm, and with the violin of the soloist Ana Pereira, OML will perform Symphony No. 49, La Passione, by Haydn, Polyptych, for solo violin and two small string orchestras, by Frank Martin, and Eleven Choral Preludes (orch. Henk de Vlieger), by Brahms.

“All three works have some connotation to the Holy Week, either by the character of the work or by the contextualization at the time”, says Ana Pereira. However, according to the violinist, “the one that illustrates Christ’s passion and suffering is really the work of Frank Martin”.

“In six movements, the composer describes through his music, events of the Holy Week, from Palm Sunday to the Glorification of Jesus, through the Last Supper, the betrayal of Judas, the garden of Olives and Jesus’ trial,” she lists.

Frank Martin, says Ana Pereira, “gives the violin the difficult task of representing Jesus and through agitated tempos and mournful themes, describes all the pain He had to go through”.

Musical contrasts

For conductor Michael Zilm, Martin’s piece “is very exciting”. “I have only recently discovered it,” he admits. “It’s a suite in six movements. The first will be the crowd receiving Jesus. A very serene Jesus. The second movement will be the Last Supper – the questions, the answers. So this gives us some clues,” he tells us.

The maestro underlines that the piece is “very contrasting”. “A very difficult first movement, the meditative second movement, very beautiful. And the third movement, the Judas piece, very demanding – very arrhythmic, always in septins – very complicated”.

Then the Judgement is again a great contrast, very much in the line of Bartók, very dynamic.”

For the German maestro, who on Thursday will conduct the Lisbon Metropolitan Orchestra, “the most interesting point in Martin was that he left out the Crucifixion”. “Perhaps he felt that, after Bach, there would be no way to do it. Or perhaps, that this passage should be silent. So it goes to the Glorification – which is not actually part of the Passion. But it’s not celebratory either. It’s a Pentatonic scale, it has a lot of Messiaen, it has colours, but it’s not very effusive. It’s a positive ending to the piece. It’s a beautiful concert piece.”

The maestro, a regular presence in Portugal, says that La Passione, Haydn’s work that will be performed at CCB, “is a symphony with enormous contrasts, but at the same time it is a symphony that is totally connected by tonality. All movements are played in the same key, F Minor”.

“And this is quite unique in Haydn’s symphonies, I think. Although the character changes totally – it starts with a great lament. In the second movement we have pure stealth. Then you have a Minuetto, a sad song, because it’s also in F Minor.

The only part that is in a higher tone is the Trio. But this is for me also a kind of nostalgia, a kind of mémoire, which is not really there. The last movement is fugitive, somewhat mechanical.”

Zilm’s mastery

Michael Zilm

The reunion with maestro Zilm is “special” for Ana Pereira. “As a musician of the orchestra it is always wonderful. And as a soloist, it is another challenge that I always embrace eagerly”, she says.

“Zilm has always been a maestro who has accustomed us to his mastery and demand. This time will be no different: everything has been thought out, including the implementation on stage. For maestro Zilm, a concert is a continuous show, from the first moment we step on stage until the last applause. As such, everything has been thought through in detail. This time, it is through his conducting and the excellence of the Metropolitan Orchestra that he will take us to live the Passion of Christ, in works by Brahms, Haydn and Martin”.