Morceau de concours Gabriel Faure
In tonight’s Hall of Fame concert, Jane has masterworks from Brahms, Debussy and Mozart.
Tonight's concert begins with Debussy's Prelude a l’apres midi d’un faune, first performed in 1894. It was planned originally as the first part of a trilogy. It was originally to have been followed by an Interlude and a Paraphrase finale. in the end, for reasons best known to himself, Debussy decided to confine all his thoughts on a poem by Stéphane Mallarmé to just one single movement. The composer was 32 years old when he wrote it and it was 18 years later that it was adapted into a ballet, when Vaslav Nijinsky danced to it in Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes production in Paris. This piece is a big turning point in music, perhaps allowing us to hear the traditional system of keys and tonalities being stretched to their limit for the first time.
Beethoven’s popular Bagatelle No.25 in A minor is rarely referred to in such grandiose terms; instead, all who know and love it refer to it simply by its nickname, 'Für Elise'. It's a nickname that, frankly, should never have existed. Beethoven did indeed include a dedication on the manuscript, but it was ‘Für Therese’. Poor Therese must have been slightly miffed when, thanks to a rather slapdash copywriter, the dedication on the published version of the work was to someone quite different.
Brahms lived and worked under the shadow of Beethoven throughout his career and, in the case of his violin concerto, there is an obvious parallel to be made between the two composers’ works. Both wrote only one concerto for the violin and neither had any personal experience of playing it and therefore had to rely heavily on others to interpret the music and to guide its progress. In Brahms’s case, the inspiration and guide for the piece was his great friend, the violinist Joseph Joachim. The raw and rugged sound of the outer movements is contrasted with an Adagio of exquisite, silky beauty, with an intimacy that very few composers have truly been able to create. Nowadays, it remains as one of only a handful of violin concertos that, along with Beethoven’s, simply has to be performed by any world-class violinist.
Mozart's Flute and Harp Concerto in C major has a central slow movement which must surely be one of the most glorious melodies not just in Mozart’s output but, possibly, in all music. Written as it was for a father and daughter combination to play (Mozart was trying, yet seemingly failing by all accounts, to teach composition to the daughter of the Duc de Guines), it represents the only time Mozart ventured to write for the unwieldy harp.
The beautiful Four Last Songs are a highpoint of Richard Strauss's final years. At the end of 1946, Strauss read a poem in which an aged couple look at the setting sun and ask, 'It that perhaps death?' The words matched precisely Strauss' feelings of those years, and he determined to set the poem for soprano and orchestra. At the same time, a friend sent Strauss a volume of poems by Hermann Hesse, and from that collection he chose four verses to add to the original setting. He never completed the last of the Hesse songs. One critic described Four Last Songs as 'the most consciously and most beautifully delivered farewell in all music.'
Discover Richard Strauss's Four Last Songs - a swansong of sublime beauty >
Claude Debussy: Prélude à l’apres-midi d’un faune
Michael Tilson Thomas conducts the London Symphony Orchestra
Ludwig van Beethoven: Bagatelle No.25 in A minor
Piano: Ji Liu
Johannes Brahms: Violin Concerto in D major
Violin: Lisa Batiashvili
Christian Thielemann conducts the Staatskapelle Dresden
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Flute and Harp Concerto in C major
Flute: Patrick Gallois
Harp: Fabrice Pierre
Swedish Chamber Orchestra
Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs
Soprano: Felicity Lott
Neeme Jarvi conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra