On 20 April 2001, the former Principal Conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden, Giuseppe Sinopoli, died in Berlin. Since 1992 he had conducted 150 concerts in Dresden and around 215 on tour; in addition, his recording legacy with the Staatskapelle encompasses about 70 works on CD. Acclaimed as one of the 20th century’s most distinguished figures in classical music, Sinopoli was a man of many talents: Not only a conductor, he was also a physician and archaeologist, was well versed in the fields of philosophy, history and literature, and spoke numerous languages. To this day, however, the composer Sinopoli is still largely unknown; too often this side of his career was overshadowed by the internationally successful conductor.
Sinopoli seldom conducted his own works in concert, and he recorded merely a handful of pieces. For these reasons, comparatively few of his compositions were performed by the Staatskapelle: In 1994 he conducted his »Pour un livre à Venise« for chamber orchestra; in 2001 Peter Ruzicka held the baton for the world premiere of »Symphonic Fragments« from the opera »Lou Salomé«; in 2004 Peter Bruns was the soloist in »Tombeau d’Armor III« for cello and orchestra; and in 2006, Dresden music lovers got their first opportunity to hear the »Lou Salomé« Suite No. 2 at the traditional Palm Sunday Concert.
Yet Sinopoli’s works enjoyed both critical and popular acclaim. In addition to studying composition at the Venice Conservatory, his greatest inspiration doubtlessly came from his two teachers, Bruno Maderna and Franco Donatoni. Under the influence of Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen, he first came to public attention in the 1970s with his early twelve-tone electronic and serial music, presented at the Darmstadt and Donaueschingen festivals for contemporary music. With his unique concept of »sensual music that can be followed and understood«, he wrote the majority of his oeuvre by 1981, including the »Symphonie Imaginaire« for three orchestras, three choirs and soloists, the »Souvenirs à la Mémoire«, the three-part cycle »Tombeau d’Armor«, his Piano Concerto, Chamber Concerto and the opera »Lou Salomé«, a work commissioned by the Bavarian State Opera in Munich.
Dissatisfied with the musical avant-garde of his time, in particular the »disjunction between writing and the phenomena of sound«, Sinopoli turned his back on composing after 1981. His biographer, Ulrike Kienzle, believes that he simply came to the conclusion that »the most important messages about life’s calamities had already been formulated in an exemplary manner by the composers of the past: Death, loss and transience, the transformation of pain through beauty, the deep symbolism of everything in existence, pointing us towards the metaphysical – he found musical expression of all of these themes, which were lifelong preoccupations, in the scores of Schubert, Schumann and Wagner, Brahms and Bruckner, Mahler and Strauss.«
In the 2020/2021 season, Daniele Gatti and Daniel Harding are dedicating their concert programmes with the Staatskapelle to the orchestra’s former Principal Conductor. The second evening orchestral recital will feature Sinopoli’s Chamber Concerto, while his widow, the pianist Silvia Cappellini Sinopoli, will perform at the Portrait Concert in the Festspielhaus Hellerau.