The Two Guitars Anonymous
Tonight's featured works have all been eclipsed by their composers' other successes – but are still very much worth exploring.
Beethoven’s Third and Fifth Symphonies are among his most popular works. But what happened to the Fourth? Similarly, Bruch’s Violin Concerto No.1 is a concert hall favourite – but it’s easy to forget that the composer wrote two further concertos for the violin. Tonight we present music which has to some extent been eclipsed by its composer’s other successes – but is still very much worth exploring.
The concert kicks off with the overture to Mozart's The Impresario. It's a comic Singspiel written by Mozart in February 1786 as his entry for a competition sponsored by Emperor Joseph II at the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. The competition was to pit a German singspiel against an Italian opera, and Mozart's opposition was none other than Antonio Salieri. Mozart's overture is similar to the one he wrote for The Marriage of Figaro, written at the same time, premiered later the same year, which of course has eclipsed The Impresario ever since.
Beethoven wrote his Symphony No. 4 in B-flat major in the summer of 1806. It was dedicated to Count Franz von Oppersdorff, a relative of Beethoven's patron, Prince Lichnowsky. The Count met Beethoven when he traveled to Lichnowsky's summer home where Beethoven was staying. Von Oppersdorff listened to Beethoven's Symphony No. 2 and liked it so much that he offered a large amount of money for Beethoven to compose a new symphony for him. The dedication was made to "the Silesian nobleman Count Franz von Oppersdorf". Hector Berlioz was so enamoured with the symphony's second movement that he claimed it was the work of the Archangel Michael, and not that of a human. You can deduced for yourself tonight.
The Violin Concerto No.1 by Max Bruch - pictured - is an all-time favourite for many, but what of the composer's other violin concertos? The third which we'll hear tonight was composed in 1891 and was dedicated to the violinist and composer Joseph Joachim, who had pursuaded Bruch to expand what had started out as a single movement piece into a full concerto. Despite being advocated by Joachim and Pablo de Sarasate, the concerto somehow never attained the success it deserved. In recent years the piece has even been described as 'a musical unicorn: since it has almost never been played, its existence is for many the stuff only of musicological folklore.'
Saint-Saens' Symphony No.3 is another Classic FM Hall of Fame favourite but few people have heard his second. It is certainly not as difficult or well developed as the third - after all Saint-Saens was only 24 when he wrote it. It's a large-scale composition with many bright ideas often playing fast and loose with the norms of symphonic construction.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: The Impresario – Overture
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No.4 in B flat major
Daniel Barenboim conducts Staatskapelle Berlin
Max Bruch: Violin Concerto No.3 in D minor
Violin: Chloe Hanslip
Martyn Brabbins conducts the London Symphony Orchestra
Camille Saint-Saens: Symphony No.2 in A minor
Jean Martinon conducts the French National Radio Orchestra