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The centrepiece of tonight's concert is a Schubert symphony that could have remained unknown.
After completing his fourth piano concerto in 1806, Beethoven struggled to find anyone to perform it. So the work sat on a shelf, gathering dust, until its public premiere on 22 December 1808. The eventual soloist? One Ludwig van Beethoven. The man clearly had astonishing stamina. In the same concert, he conducted the premiere performances of his Symphony No. 5 and No. 6! Beethoven has Felix Mendelssohn to thank for the continued popularity of his Piano Concerto No. 4. The piece was in danger of being eclipsed by the many other great works being composed by Beethoven at the time – not least, those two symphonies. Some 25 years after its composition, though, Mendelssohn championed it in concert halls across Europe, performing it in England in 1847. In many ways, it remains eclipsed today, primarily by the Emperor Piano Concerto that was to follow it. But Beethoven has only himself to blame for that.
Known to Austrians as the Unvollendete (‘Unfinished’), the Symphony no.8 by Schubert - pictured - might easily have been the Unbekannt (‘Unknown’) were it not for fate. A full 37 years after Schubert’s death, the world counted Schubert’s symphonies on just eight fingers, rather than nine. Then, in a case reminiscent of a rediscovered Picasso, a 76-year-old man, possibly in the belief that he was on his way out, came forward to a Viennese conductor with the astonishing news that he had a Schubert symphony. Well, part of one. Schubert had sent it to him, some 43 years earlier. Why had he not come forward before? Was it anything to do with the fact that the music was incomplete with evidence of pages simply having been ripped out? It is still as much of an enigma as anything Elgar ever came up with. Schubert had some six years of his life remaining after he started working on the piece, but he never completed it. One theory, still argued over today, is that the missing fourth movement is alive and well-known now as the Entr’acte from Schubert’s incidental music to the play Rosamunde. Who knows?
The Requiem by Maurice Duruflé was commissioned in 1947 by the French music publisher Durand and is written in memory of the composer's father. The work is for choir with mezzo-soprano and baritone soloists. At the time of commission, Duruflé was working on an organ suite using themes from Gregorian chants. He incorporated his sketches for that work into the Requiem, which uses numerous themes from the
Gregorian "Mass for the Dead." Nearly all the thematic material in the work comes from chant.
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.4 in G major
Piano: Maurizio Pollini
Claudio Abbado conducts the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Franz Schubert: Symphony No.8 in B minor (‘Unfinished’)
Giuseppe Sinopoli conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra
Maurice Durufle : Requiem
Soprano: Sarah Connolly
Baritone: Christopher Maltman
Jeremy Backhouse conducts the Vasari Singers