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Berlioz's grand Symphonie Fantastique is the gruesome climax to tonight's Concert.
Tonight's concert opens with Finlandia by Jean Sibelius. He wrote this patriotic tone poem in 1899 as a protest against increasing censorship in his home country. The piece virtually shouted 'Russia out of Finland' for all those who were in the know to hear. Sibelius later reworked the central part of the piece into the Finlandia Hymn, with the words, 'Oh, Finland, behold your day is dawning.'
Luigi Boccherini admired Haydn greatly and was strongly influenced by Haydn's style. This influence was so obvious that music lovers of the day dubbed Boccherini 'Haydn's wife'! He was extraordinarily prolific - writing some 91 string quartets, 137 quintets, as well as trios, keyboard quintets, sextets, sonatas and 30 symphonies. These suffer in comparison with Haydn's and Mozart's but they are often quite inventive. Tonight we hear Boccherini's Fifth Symphony in Bb.
The light music composer Eric Coates is best-known for his march for The Dambusters. His suite, The Three Elizabeths begins with a piece called 'Halcyon Days', which was used as the theme to the popular 1967 TV series The Forsyte Saga. It was later used as a celebration of the Coronation of HM the Queen Elizabeth.
The grandest and most ambitious work featured in tonight's concert – and certainly the longest – is Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique. This was the first of four symphonies that Berlioz composed and with it he firmly made a break from the norms established by Beethoven for the symphonic form. Berlioz moved the symphony into something altogether more like story-telling. Symphonie Fantastique was premiered in 1830 during one of Berlioz’s periods of intense infatuation with the actress Harriet Smithson. It’s really one long, musical expression of his passion, embodied in the person of a struggling artist who is mired in depression and seeking solace for the fact that his cries of desire go unanswered. ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼When it was first performed, the piece was so novel and so shocking that it immediately caused an uproar.
Jean Sibelius: Finlandia Opus 26
Paavo Jarvi conducts the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and Male Choir
Luigi Boccherini: Symphony No.5 in Bb major Opus 12
Raymond Leppard conducts the New Philharmonia Orchestra
Eric Coates: 3 Elizabeths Suite
Reginald Kilbey conducts the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Hector Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique Opus 14
Robin Ticciati conducts the Scottish Chamber Orchestra