Valery Gergiev conducts Brahms and Mussorgsky — With Yuja Wang

Every summer, Munich’s monumental Odeonsplatz transforms into an open-air concert hall with performances by some of the most celebrated musicians of the classical scene. This year, join Chinese piano superstar Yuja Wang and the Münchner Philharmoniker under its music director Valery Gergiev featuring Brahms’ First Piano Concerto and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

The program concocted for the Odeonsplatz concert bears the marks of its massive outdoor setting, featuring two monumental works of 19th century Romanticism. The first is Brahms’ 1859 Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15. Written over the course of five years, the immense and characterful work was partially inspired by the composer’s close friendship with virtuoso pianist Clara Schumann; of the Adagio movement, he wrote to her, “I am painting a gentle portrait of you.” Although a Leipzig critic wrote after the second performance that the concerto, “cannot give pleasure,” it has become one of Brahms’ most popular works.

The second monumental masterpiece of the evening is Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Conceived as a memorial to the composer’s artist friend Viktor Hartmann, each of the composition’s 10 movements represents one of the architectural studies, sketches, and stage designs displayed at a retrospective exhibit of Hartman’s work in 1873. In its orchestral version, arranged by Ravel in 1922, the majestic and powerful piece has become one of classical music’s greatest hits.

Yuja Wang appears courtesy of Deutsche Grammophon.

Broadcast date: Sunday, July 16, 2017 2:00 PM