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Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Handel and Mozart get July's Full Works Concerts off to a fine start.
Tonight's concert opens with the overture to Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss II. Translated literally as ‘The Bat’, the operetta is a complete farce, focusing on mistaken identity, flirtation and a practical joke that has unforeseen consequences. It was an immediate hit, ensuring that Strauss was inspired to go on and write operetta after operetta for the next 25 years. We hear the overture tonight played by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Andre Previn.
Tchaikovsky dedicated his Piano Concerto No.2 to the pianist Nikolai Rubinstein who had insisted he be allowed to perform the première as a way of making up for his initial harsh criticism of the composer's first Piano Concerto. Rubinstein had already made amends with Tchaikovsky by learning and performing the work, adding to its popularity. Tchaikovsky wrote to his patroness, "I want to dedicate it to N. G. Rubinstein in recognition of his magnificent playing of my First Concerto and of my Sonata, which left me in utter rapture after he performed it for me in Moscow." Sadly, Rubinstein was never destined to play it as he died a few months before the première. Tchaikovsky was devastated at the news.
First published in 1739, Handel's Twelve Grand Concertos, the Concerti Grossi Op. 6 consist of 12 very fine examples of Baroque music. After a disastrous 1737 season at Handel's opera company, the composer all but abandoned Italian opera in favour of the oratorio. Worried that audiences would not appreciate his new direction, Handel wrote these 12 concertos as a kind of re-assuring support act, to be slotted in during performances of his oratorios to attract audiences. Tonight we hear the A major Concerto Grosso.
Mozart's Symphony No.40 in G minor is arguably the most popular of all of his 41 symphonies, despite the fact that its first movement became one of the most annoying mobile phone ringtones of the 1990s. Hearing that opening, you're transported to a tense world of opulence and wigs. The work was said to have soon come to the attention of Beethoven. As well as paying homage to its composition by writing out passages in his own hand, it is thought that the Master was inspired by Mozart's last movement when he wrote his own Symphony No.5.
Johann Strauss II: Die Fledermaus - Overture
Andre Previn conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No.2 in G major Opus 44
Piano: Denis Matsuev
Valery Gergiev conducts the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre
George Frideric Handel: Concerto Grosso in A major Opus 6 No.11
Neville Marriner conducts the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony No.40 in G minor K.550
Charles Mackerras conducts the Scottish Chamber Orchestra