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Masterpieces from Haydn, Handel, Bruch and Brahms make up tonight's Full Works Concert.
Tonight's concert opens with Joseph Haydn's Trumpet Concerto in E flat major. Despite having his own highly virtuosic orchestra, Haydn wrote the concerto for an old friend called Anton Weidinger, who was a member of the Imperial Court Orchestra in Vienna. Weidinger was also something of an inventor and Haydn composed the concerto for a brand new trumpet, which could play more notes than ever before. But Haydn also had an ulterior motive for writing for Weidinger. He had managed to poach him from the orchestra in Vienna, persuading him to join the band of musicians which Haydn headed in the employ of the Austro-Hungarian Esterházy family. Weidinger premiered the work on his arrival, changing bits of the music as he did so.
Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks was written as a political gesture. In 1748, England and France had signed the Treaty of Aix la Chapelle to mark the end of the War of Austrian Succession which involved just about everyone - the Prussians, the Spanish and the Austrians themselves, as well as the two signatories to the peace treaty. To celebrate the peace, a spectacular display was to be held in London’s Green Park and Handel, the King’s chosen composer was the man to write the music. Sadly the real losers were the thousands of people who flocked to Green Park for the firework display who had to wait for hours and hours because of carriage traffic jams and queues, even for the rehearsal. On the night of the grand display, a wayward firework set light to the specially built Pavilion, which then caused a fight to break out amongst the organisers.
Max Bruch's Scottish Fantasy received its UK premiere while Bruch was rather grumpily in charge of the Liverpool Philharmonic in 1881, some 17 years before he took over at the Scottish Orchestra. Despite the fact that the composer was a virtual stranger to Scotland at the time he wrote his Scottish Fantasy, there is nothing to suggest that the work is based on anything other than wholly authentic Scottish melodies. Its opening movement uses ‘Auld Rob Morris’; from there, we move on to ‘Dusty Miller’, before ‘I’m down for lack of Johnnie’ in the third movement and, to conclude, the ebullient ‘Scots Wha Hae’ in the finale.
It might have taken Brahms some 15 years to write a symphony but once he had premiered No.1 in 1876, there really was no stopping him. By 1884, he was penning his fourth and final one. There’s an evergreen feeling to this work – an almost autumnal sound. Having struggled for so long to find his own authentic voice amid the noise that followed Beethoven’s death, Brahms sounds musically liberated here. Rich orchestral colours abound, and melody after melody flows right across the orchestra. The triumphant sound of the finale is impossible to avoid, with Brahms using every instrument of the orchestra to drive onwards to the most thunderous and joy-filled conclusion.
Joseph Haydn: Trumpet Concerto in E-flat major Hob.VIIe:1
Trumpet: John Wallace
Christopher Warren-Green conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra
George Frideric Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks
John Eliot Gardiner conducts the English Baroque Soloists
Max Bruch: Scottish Fantasy Opus 46
Violin: Itzhak Perlman
Zubin Mehta conducts the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Johannes Brahms: Symphony No.4 in E minor Opus 98
Daniel Barenboim conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra