The Full Works Concert - Monday 11 November 2013

Alison Balsom features in a concert that looks at how the great composers were inspired by their colleagues' music.

Alison Balsom

Tonight, Jane Jones explores how the great composers of the past were inspired by the music of their contemporaries or predecessors.

Beginning with Prokofiev’s Symphony No.1 (‘Classical’) which harks back to the past throughout its four movements, Jane features all sorts of composers’ variations on other people’s themes.

Variations on a theme from Mozart's Don Giovanni was Chopin's first work in the piano and orchestra genre, a realm he was not very comfortable with from the beginning. In this work, Chopin chooses to simply focus on the innocence and romance in the operatic duet.

The theme from Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis was discovered by Vaughan Williams  when he was commissioned to put together the 1906 edition of the English Hymnal. His orchestration of it resulted in an unmistakably British sound and has remained one of his most popular pieces.

Jean-Baptiste Arban was a virtuoso cornet player who both championed his instrument and became an influential teacher. His Variations on a Theme from Norma takes the famous Casta Diva aria by Bellini and gives a trumpeter a virtuoso part. It's played tonight by Alison Balsom.

Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn is now more often called the Saint Anthony Variations. At the time Brahms discovered this original wind ensemble piece it carried an attribution to Haydn but publishers in the early 19th century often attached the names of famous composers to works by unknown or lesser known composers in order to shift copies of the music. Subsequent research has shown that the wind piece Brahms used as a source does not fit Haydn's style, hence the switch to the Saint Anthony title.

For his 12 Variations on a theme by Mozart, Beethoven turned to the Magic Flute. They are based on Papageno's aria "Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen". Four years later in 1802, Beethoven published a set of seven variations — also for cello and piano — on a duet between Papageno and Pamina, "Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen."

The Variations on a Theme of Corelli which closes tonight's concert was a set of variations for solo piano, written in 1931 by Rachmaninov while staying at his holiday home in Switzerland. The theme is La Folia, which was not in fact composed by Corelli, but was a piece popularly used as the basis for variations in Baroque music. Franz Liszt used the same theme in his Rhapsodie bespangle. Rachmaninoff dedicated the work to his friend the violinist Fritz Kreisler and it was later fully orchestrated in a version which we will hear tonight.


Sergei Prokofiev: Symphony No.1 in D major (‘Classical’)
Seiji Ozawa conducts the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Frederic Chopin: Variations on a theme from Mozart's Don Giovanni
Piano: Eldar Nebolsin
Antoni Wit conducts the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis
Roger Norrington conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra

Jean-Baptiste Arban: Variations on a Theme from Norma
Trumpet: Alison Balsom
Edward Gardner conducts the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra

Johannes Brahms: Variations on a Theme of Haydn
Yoel Levi conducts the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Ludwig van Beethoven: 12 Variations on a theme by Mozart
Cello: Antonio Meneses
Piano: Manahem Pressler

Sergei Rachmaninov: Variations on a Theme of Corelli
Neeme Jarvi conducts the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

The Full Works Concert