A fantastic opportunity to hear a remarkable musician with a unique life story
Felix Klieser was born with no arms, so uses his feet to do most things, including playing the French horn as a professional musician. In two exclusive performances for “No Limits”, Klieser will play four works as part of a duo, and two in a trio with Martina Filjak on piano and Andrej Bielow on violin. He will perform major horn repertoire by Beethoven, Brahms and Schumann etc.
Having taken up the instrument at the age of five in his native Germany, Felix Klieser has enjoyed a meteoric rise, attaining critical and popular acclaim, and winning the prestigious Leonard Bernstein Award at the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival.
Approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes
Approximately 45 minutes for each programme
Conducted in English with Chinese and English subtitles
- Robert Schumann
- Adagio and Allegro for Horn and Piano, Op 70
- Paul Dukas
- Villanelle for Horn
- Richard Strauss (1864-1949)
- Andante for Horn and Piano in C major
- Ludwig van Beethoven
- Sonata for Horn and Piano in F major, Op 17
A Century of Classics for the Horn
Although ancient in its origins, the horn began catching up with the modern European orchestra in the 19th century. A wider spectrum of pitches became more easily accessible with the invention in 1814 of a type of valve—the piece of metal that the player presses to control the air flow. Composers like Robert Schumann gave special attention to the horn and contributed to its identification with the Romantic perspective. He was also among the first to explore the new potential of the valve horn in such unusual pieces as the Adagio and Allegro for Horn and Piano, Op 70 from 1849. One of his goals was to expand the chamber music literature for combinations of piano and underrepresented instruments like the horn. Schumann was often drawn to the drama generated by two vastly contrasting characters within his imagination. He gave them the names Eusebius (symbols for his introspective, dream-oriented side) and Florestan (a passionate, bold, agitated personality). This pair shapes the alternating spirit of restless energy and soulful warmth that shapes this music. “Never have I been more active, never happier in my art,” Schumann wrote about this period in his life.
Felix Klieser leaps ahead to 1906 for the Villanelle for Horn by the French composer Paul Dukas. This is another landmark of the horn repertoire. Dukas wrote it very quickly as a competition piece for horn students at the Paris Conservatoire (where he became a famous teacher). It therefore contains many technical challenges. The word “villanelle” refers both to a type of poetry similar to a ballad and to a genre of song (for unaccompanied voices) based on lyrics describing an idyllic setting. Dukas remakes this idea into an instrumental piece that has no words or voices but overflows with delightful melodies.
Richard Strauss grew up as the son of one of the most famous horn players in European music history—his father performed at numerous Wagner premieres in Munich—so it is no wonder that the instrument helps define the signature Strauss sound. We encounter magnificent solo parts for the horn throughout his career, in his orchestral masterpieces and great operas alike. Indeed, Strauss composed the Andante for Horn and Piano in C major specifically to honour the silver wedding anniversary of his father in 1888; in 1889, Papa Strauss would retire from his post as principal hornist of the Munich Court Orchestra. Richard Strauss originally intended the Andante for Horn and Piano in C major to be part of a sonata for horn and piano but never completed it. But, even on its own, the Andante’s glowing lyrical flow more than satisfies.
Ludwig van Beethoven also had a particular musician in mind when he composed his Sonata for Horn and Piano in F major, Op 17: the virtuoso Jan Vaclav Stich—better known as Giovanni Punto (the Italian version of his Czech name). This is an early piece, dating from 1800, which means it was written before the appearance of the valve horn. Punto would have played it with a so-called “natural horn”, which requires a different technique of placing the hand in the horn to manipulate air control, which Punto had mastered.
Beethoven had made his name in Vienna as a brilliant pianist who loved to push the instrument’s limits. Punto inspired him by doing the same with the horn. Beethoven wrote this piece—in one night, he claimed—to show off Punto’s range of performance styles (along with his own at the piano). These include alert horn calls in the first movement, songlike phrasing in the short second movement, and dancing energy in the finale. At the premiere in Vienna, the audience loved the sonata so much that they demanded an encore of the entire piece.
Programme Notes by Thomas May
- Frederic Duvernoy
- Trio for Horn, Violin and Piano No 1
- Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
- Trio for Horn, Violin and Piano in E-flat major, Op 40
Finale (Allegro con brio)
An Ancient Instrument Evolves along with Classical Music
The ancestors of the horn can be found among the very earliest instruments known to humans. They were likely created from using the literal horns of various animals. The horn later became associated with hunting and other activities that required strong signals (such as travel and postal delivery). But, as more sophisticated techniques evolved, the instrument became an important member of the European orchestra.
The French horn player and composer Frederic-Nicolas Duvernoy played a major role in this development. Born in 1765, he grew famous through his expressive mastery of the instrument. Duvernoy belonged to the opera orchestra in Paris and was better known even than some of its singers. He could name Napoleon among his fans.
Duvernoy had taught himself to play the horn. The dominant tradition divided players into those who focused on the instrument’s high range and others who were more comfortable with its low notes. Duvernoy pioneered a more advanced technique centred in the middle range, which was especially suitable for warm melodies. This charming Trio for Horn, Violin and Piano No 1 is the first of three chamber compositions for horn, violin and piano from after 1820. It is a brief work containing only two movements, the first slow and calm and the second at a faster pace.
While the horn gained increasing presence in the orchestra, it remained a rarity in such chamber music genres as the trio. Johannes Brahms had a special fondness for the horn. In 1865 he wrote the Trio for Horn, Violin and Piano in E-flat major, Op 40, believed by many to be the greatest chamber composition for the instrument. Felix Klieser has a deep attraction to the Romantic tone at the heart of this Trio, which emerges in the very first movement. A playful spirit enters in the second movement, but the heart of the whole work lies in the mournful Adagio, in which time itself seems to stop. It is believed that Brahms here grieves the recent death of his mother. A folk song serves as the basis for the last movement, which leads the way beyond painful memories to a cheerful conclusion.
Programme Notes by Thomas May
An exceptional artist, born without arms, Felix Klieser, at the age of five, took his first horn lessons. Aged 13, he enrolled as a junior student at the University of Music and Theatre in Hannover. In 2014 Felix Klieser was awarded the Echo Klassik prize in the best young artist category and published his autobiography, detailing his fascinating life story. Two years later, he received the prestigious Leonard Bernstein Award from the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival.
Highlights of Klieser’s 2020/2021 season are performances with the London Mozart Players, the Camerata Salzburg, the Philharmonisches Kammerorchester Berlin, the Wurttembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.
In March 2019 Felix Klieser’s recording of the complete Mozart horn concertos with the Camerata Salzburg was released by Berlin Classics and spent three months in the Top 10 of the German classical music charts. His previous recordings include Reveries, with works for horn and piano (2013), winner of the Echo Klassik prize, and Horn Concertos (2015), his first orchestral CD, with works by Mozart and Joseph and Michael Haydn, and Horn Trio (2017), with the violinist Andrej Bielow and the pianist Herbert Schuch.
Felix Klieser has in recent years appeared as soloist with the Camerata Salzburg, the Fondazione Orchestra Sinfonica Milano Guiseppe Verdi, the Slovenska Filharmonija and the chamber orchestra of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, among others. He has also made chamber music appearances at the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival, the Glocke Bremen, the Essener Philharmonie, the Beethovenhaus Bonn and other venues.
Croatian pianist Martina Filjak has established herself internationally with her passionate, poetic playing and the brilliant technical mastery of her instrument. After graduating from the Music Academy in Zagreb, Filjak completed her studies at the Vienna Conservatory and at the Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media.
She garnered international attention in 2009 by winning first prize and the Beethoven Prize at the Cleveland International Piano Competition. Filjak has worked with renowned orchestras, particularly in the USA, Germany and Italy, and has been a guest at venues such as Carnegie Hall in New York, the Konzerthaus Berlin and the Musikverein Vienna.
She has successful chamber music collaboration with horn player Felix Klieser and violinist Andrej Bielow, with whom she performs as a trio. Recent performances include those at the Rudolf Steiner School in Grobenzell, at the event forum Furstenfeldbruck, at the Oberrheinhalle Offenburg and at the Konzertverein Ingolstadt.
Filjak’s large repertoire ranges from Bach to Berio and includes more than 30 piano concertos. In addition, she is committed to researching less well-known piano literature and various concert formats. She has recorded several albums, most recently, Light & Darkness, which was released in January 2020.
Born in 1981, Andrej Bielow is one of the leading Ukrainian musicians of his generation. As a soloist, he has collaborated with orchestras such as the New Japan Philharmonic, the Orchestra National de Radio France and the Sinfonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks.
His repertoire includes over 30 concertos and all the major sonatas. He gave his first London recital at Wigmore Hall in 2009 and performed Malcolm Arnold’s concerto for two violins at Cadogan Hall in October 2012.
Andrej Bielow has won several major prizes at international competitions such as the Long-Thibaut Paris, ARD Munich, Hanover (Joachim), Citta di Brescia and others. He has devoted much of his career to chamber music, of which he is a passionate advocate, and has recorded over 20 albums.
Since 2014, Bielow has taught violin at the University of Arts in Graz and is a regular visiting teacher at the Royal Academy of Music in London. In 2005, together with jazz guitarist Johan Weiss, he founded the MBF Foundation, which provides financial support for over 130 needy students at the Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media.
- Felix Klieser
- Martina Filijak
- Andrej Bielow
- Audio Recording
- Stefan Gawlick
- Director of Video Production and Camera
- Philippe Ohl
- Andreas Weber
- Postproduction Audio
- Stefan Gawlick
Recorded at Tauberphilharmonie Weikersheim (Germany) on 4 December 2020.
Produced by Lee Music GmbH in Berlin.
Get to know the artists and the creative ideas behind the works through exclusive interviews.
Speakers: Felix Klieser (Horn), Martina Filjak (Piano) and Andrej Bielow (Violin)
Conducted in English with Chinese and English subtitles
藝術家分享︰菲力斯・克立澤 Meet-the-Artist: Felix Klieser
藝術家分享︰安德烈．比洛 Meet-the-Artist: Andrej Bielow
藝術家分享︰瑪蒂娜．費爾澤 Meet-the-Artist: Martina Filijak