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Dvorak looks longingly back to Bohemia from the New World and Tchaikovsky brings Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers to life.
Tonight's concert opens with Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 and the work's subtitle is important: it’s not ‘To the New World’; it’s ‘From’. This is very much a symphony that looks back, from the USA to Dvořák’s native Bohemia. It was the lure of an amazing fee that persuaded the composer (pictured with his family in the USA) to venture to New York. From his house overlooking Stuyvesant Park, he appeared to spend much of his time pining for home, rarely going out and taking every opportunity to remind himself of home. When he premiered this work in Carnegie Hall in 1893, critics disagreed over whether it was an all-American symphony (as he’d promised) or just more of Dvořák’s usual fare. What is certain is that it has lived on its myriad merits ever since, remaining one of the most popular symphonies of all.
Next up tonight, Johann Sebastian Bach's Keyboard Concerto in F minor is played by the peerless Murray Perahia with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Written during Bach's period in Cöthen, the concerto is in three movements; each of them based upon a single theme restated in various orchestrations at the opening, the closing, and after each exploratory section.
Tchaikovsky's famous Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture is based on three main strands of the Shakespeare story. The first represents the saintly Friar Laurence. The second agitated theme evokes the warring families, including a reference to a sword fight, depicted by crashing cymbals. Thirdly, the love theme for Romeo and Juliet is passionate and yearning in character but always with an underlying current of anxiety.
Felix Mendelssohn's Symphony No.5 in D major (‘Reformation’) was composed in 1830 in honour of the 300th anniversary of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, a key document of Lutheranism. But the work had an unfortunate start. Ill health delayed the composition and Mendelssohn completed it too late for the Augsburg commission to recognize the work for the celebrations. It was then turned down by an orchestra in Paris as being 'too learned'. He revised the symphony in the summer of 1832 and a performance finally took place. But Mendelssohn dismissed his composition as a piece of juvenilia and it was not performed again until 1868, more than 20 years after his death.
Antonin Dvorak: Symphony No.9 in E minor (‘From the New World’)
Colin Davis conducts the London Symphony Orchestra
Johann Sebastian Bach: Keyboard Concerto in F minor
Piano: Murray Perahia
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Karl Jenkins: Ave Verum Corpus
Bass-baritone: Bryn Terfel
Baritone: Simon Keenlyside
Barry Wordsworth conducts the London Symphony Orchestra
Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky: Romeo and Juliet
Leonard Bernstein conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Felix Mendelssohn: Symphony No.5 in D major (‘Reformation’)
Emmanuel Krivine conducts La Chambre Philharmonique