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Vaughan Williams' atmospheric London Symphony is the climax of tonight's Concert of classical greats.
Tonight's Concert opens with the 'Polovtsian Dances' from Prince Igor by Borodin. Despite spending some 18 years working on the opera, Prince Igor was still incomplete at the time of Borodin's death; Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov began the hugely unenviable task of sifting through Borodin's unfinished business. Rimsky-Korsakov later wrote in his memoirs, ‘Glazunov ... was to fill in all the gaps in Act III and write down from memory the Overture played so often by the composer, while I was to orchestrate, finish composing, and systematise all the rest that had been left ...’ All things considered, they did a wonderful job.
Next up tonight, Beethoven's evergreen Moonlight Sonata played by the up-coming piano sensation Ji Liu. Beethoven composed the sonata in the summer of 1801 in Hungary. It was dedicated to Beethoven’s pupil and passion, 17-year-old Countess Giulietta Gucciardi. The title was given to it by the poet Ludwig Rellstab who was inspired by a moonlit night on the banks of the Lucerne River. The image probably has no connection with the composer's intentions. For Beethoven it may not have been an evocation of a romantic moonlit night at all but rather of a solemn funeral hymn.
A violin and piano interlude follows. Tchaikovsky's three-movement Souvenir d'un lieu cher, written between March and May 1878. The first movement was originally intended as the slow movement of his violin concerto, but Tchaikovsky realised it was too slight for a concerto, so he discarded it and wrote another. In 1880, this movement was published separately, and became well known as the Meditation in D minor.
A London Symphony, which closes our Concert tonight, was the second symphony composed by Vaughan Williams. It was composed from 1912 to 1913 and dedicated to Vaughan Williams's fellow composer George Butterworth who had encouraged Vaughan Williams to write a purely orchestral symphony. The work was first performed on 27 March 1914 and shortly afterwards the composer sent the score to the conductor Fritz Busch in Germany, but it disappeared in the upheaval of the outbreak of World War I. The composer had to reconstruct the score from the orchestral parts, and it was performed again in 1915 by the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra.
Alexander Borodin: Prince Igor - Polovtsian Dances
Herbert von Karajan conducts Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata No.14 in C# minor Opus 27
Piano: Ji Liu
Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky: Souvenir d'un lieu cher Opus 42
Violin: Baiba Skride
Andris Nelsons conducts City of Birrmingham Symphony Orchestra
Domenico Cimarosa: Oboe Concerto in C minor (arranged for clarinet)
Clarinet: Andreas Ottensamer
Yannick Nezet-Seguin conducts Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Ralph Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony
Roger Norrington conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra