The Full Works Concert - Tuesday 19 November 2013

Three Russian giants - Shostakovich, Rachmaninov and Mussorgsky - are featured in tonight's Concert.

Sergei Rachmaninov

Tonight's concert opens with Dmitri Shostakovich's Festive Overture. It was begun by the composer in 1947 to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution which brought Lenin's Bolshevik party to power and deposed the ruling Romanov dynasty. But soon afterwards Shostakovich became a victim of Stalin's cultural commissar and was branded as a peddler of 'the cult of atonality, dissonance and discord.' The Overture was not premiered till 1954, after Stalin's death, and Shostakovich had to pretend he had only just written it.

Franz Krommer wrote two Oboe Concertos - both in F major - and both are good examples of his composing skills. The composer, who largely worked in Vienna, wrote some 80 string quartets and numerous works for wind instruments, all of them flowing, lyrical and enjoyable but not as weighty as the works of Krommer's better remembered contemporaries.

Until 1996, the third piano concerto by Rachmaninov was largely eclipsed by its older sibling, the famous Piano Concerto No. 2 – but the gap between the two narrowed with the release of the film Shine. The movie told the true story of the Australian concert pianist David Helfgott, who suffered a mental breakdown and abandoned his career for many years. ‘Rach 3’, as it’s often referred to by pianists, is used powerfully on the soundtrack and the Oscar-winning success of the film ensured a new audience for this muscular, Romantic work. 

Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition was written in honour of the composer's friend - a painter called Vladimir Hartmann who died at the peak of his career, aged just 39. The loss of not just a close friend but an artistic inspiration had a deep effect on Mussorgsky - pictured above. By way of a tribute, he decided to compose his set of piano pieces Pictures at an Exhibition. Nowadays, however, Pictures at an Exhibition is most often heard not in its original piano version but in orchestrated form. Many musicians, from Henry Wood to Leopold Stokowski, have arranged the work for full orchestra, but it’s far and away the 1922 version by Maurice Ravel that receives the most regular performance and praise today. It's the version we will hear tonight.


Dmitri Shostakovich: Festive Overture
John Williams conducts the Boston Pops Orchestra 

Franz Krommer: Oboe Concerto in F major
Oboe: Sarah Francis 
Howard Shelley conducts the London Mozart Players

Sergei Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor
Piano: Lilya Zilberstein
Claudio Abbado conducts the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Modest Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition
Riccardo Muti conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra

The Full Works Concert