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Music for the Spring Equinox, that special moment when night and day are exactly the same length all over the world.
The concert opens with Johann Strauss II's Voices of Spring, a waltz that celebrates spring and is one of the most famous waltzes of all. The piece is sometimes even used in the act 2 ball scene of Strauss' operetta Die Fledermaus.
In 1949, the National Federation of Women's Institutes wanted to commission a work for a special occasion and Vaughan Williams was their first choice to write it. Composing a 'Folk-Song Cantata' enabled him to draw on his deep love and knowledge of English folk-song. He picked songs from his own collection, gathered more than 40 years earlier, as well as some discovered by friends such as Cecil Sharp and George Butterworth. The first performance took place at the Royal Albert Hall on 15 June 1950, with the Women's Institute members - no less than 3,000 of them - singing away, joined by the LSO, under Sir Adrian Boult. In 1952, Vaughan Williams created the orchestral suite we'll hear tonight, drawn from the cantata.
The Four Seasons is Vivaldi's most famous work. It was published in 1725 in a set of twelve concertos titled, 'The Test of Harmony and Invention'. The four concertos representing each of the seasons especially appealed to French audiences. For example, King Louis XV reportedly ordered 'Spring' to be performed at some unexpected moments. Vivaldi also wrote individual poetic sonnets to go along with each concerto of the Four Seasons which are sometimes read along with performances of the work.
Delius’ compositions were strongly influenced by Grieg, and it's said that On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring is a sort of reflection on one of Grieg’s Norwegian Folk Tunes. It dates from the happy period of Delius' life and is one of his most impressionistic works with the clarinet repeating the cuckoo’s familiar call.
Schumann's ‘Spring’ Symphony was the composer's first symphonic work, written shortly after his marriage to his beloved Clara. He sketched the symphony in four days from 23 January to 26 January 1841 and completed the orchestration by 20 February. The premiere took place under the baton of Felix Mendelssohn and was warmly received. Schumann said he was inspired by his own Liebesfrühling (spring of love).
Johann Strauss II: Voices of Spring Opus 410
Mariss Jansons conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Folk Songs of the Seasons – Suite
Martin Yates conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Antonio Vivaldi: Four Seasons Opus 8
Violin: Sarah Chang
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Frederick Delius: On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring
Thomas Beecham conducts the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Robert Schumann: Symphony No.1 in Bb major, Opus 38 ‘Spring’
Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducts the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique