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Jacqueline Du Pre plays Dvorak's Cello Concerto in tonight's 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.
For much of his life, Tchaikovsky was inspired on both an emotional and financial level by his patron, Nadezhda von Meck – whom he never met. Indeed, this was a condition of her patronage. In the summer of 1888, Tchaikovsky wrote one of his many letters to her, in which he commented, "I don’t know if I have already written that I have decided to write a symphony. At first progress was very arduous, but now illumination seems to have descended upon me. We shall see!" The work in question was his Symphony No.5. It had been 10 years since the fairly unsuccessful premiere of the Symphony No.4 – admittedly punctuated by the composition of the Manfred Symphony in 1885 – and Tchaikovsky worked painstakingly hard to ensure that his latest symphonic creation received a favourable response. Sadly, the reaction to the four-movement Symphony No.5 was, at best, muted. Tchaikovsky felt incredibly dejected, even going so far as to distance himself from it for quite some time. After his death, however, the work grew in popularity, with audiences and critics alike acknowledging Tchaikovsky’s great skill as an orchestrator and his powerful evocation of the idea of fate throughout the symphony. Today, it stands as one of his most loved large-scale creations.
Dvorak's Cello Concerto - like the New World Symphony - is another work hailing from Dvorak's American period. It's infused with the same sense of homesick longing that pervades the symphony. Yet there is far more to the Cello Concerto than initially meets the ear. Homesickness tells only half the tale. With Dvorak in America was his wife Anna, whom he had married only after courting and being turned down by her elder sister, Josefina. At that time, he had started but not finished an early cello concerto as an expression of his love. Now, in America, he learned that Josefina was seriously ill – and began another cello concerto. Into it, he wove Josefina’s favourite of his songs, called ‘Leave Me Alone’. It is heard in the wonderful slow movement.
Joseph Haydn: Trumpet Concerto in E flat major
Trumpet: John Wallace
Christopher Warren-Green conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra
Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.5 in E minor
Daniel Barenboim conducts the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
Antonin Dvorak: Cello Concerto in B minor
Cello: Jacqueline du Pre
Daniel Barenboim conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra