The Full Works Concert - Thursday 24 October 2013

Favourites from Mendelssohn, Grieg and Debussy are among the popular pieces in tonight's concert.

Grieg countryside dog

Tonight's concert gets under way with Debussy 's Prelude a l’apres midi d’un faune . Debussy's symphonic poem, first performed in 1894, was planned originally as the first part of a trilogy. It was originally to have been followed by an Interlude and a Paraphrase finale. in the end, for reasons best known to himself, Debussy decided to confine all his thoughts on a poem by Stéphane Mallarmé to just one single movement. The composer was 32 years old when he wrote it and it was 18 years later that it was adapted into a ballet, when Vaslav Nijinsky danced to it in Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes production in Paris. This piece is a big turning point in music, perhaps allowing us to hear the traditional system of keys and tonalities being stretched to their limit for the first time.  

How, you wonder, would Grieg  - pictured - feel about the fact that many of us associate his Piano Concerto in A minor with Morecambe and Wise? Eric’s version of the piece, conducted by ‘Andrew Preview’ is one of the most memorable TV sketches of all time. The concerto itself was no laughing matter for Grieg, though. Instead, it was a pretty weighty, serious affair. At the age of 25, the young Norwegian was determined to make his mark on the world with this, his first work to employ an orchestra. From the thunderous roll of the timpani in the opening bars, Grieg sounds totally assured and in command of his orchestral writing – and yet, he was far from experienced in composing for such large forces. The driving, anthemic outer movements, sandwiched either side of the most beautiful Adagio, combine to create a stunning work that’s hard to beat.

Beethoven 's Symphony No.8 in F major was fondly referred to by the composer as 'my little Symphony in F,' distinguishing it from his Sixth Symphony , which was also composed in the key of F major. The Eighth is generally light-hearted, though not lightweight, and in many places cheerfully loud. Various passages in the symphony are heard by some listeners to be musical jokes. As with various other Beethoven works such as the Opus 27 piano sonatas, the symphony deviates from Classical tradition in making the last movement the weightiest of the four. When asked by a pupil why the Eighth was less popular than the Seventh, Beethoven is said to have replied, "because the Eighth is so much better." 

An Iberian interlude follows in tonight's concert as the guitarist Eduardo Fernandez plays six Catalan folksongs. 

A century and a half after its composition, Mendelssohn ’s Violin Concerto remains one of the most regularly performed and most loved of all instrumental concertos. And ever since its birth, the work has had a rather special affinity with very young soloists. When Mendelssohn was a teenager, he forged a very strong friendship with fellow composer Ferdinand David. As well as being a fine writer of music in his own right, David was also one of the most accomplished violinists of his day, so Mendelssohn composed this concerto for him. It took Mendelssohn five years from start to finish, during which time he would regularly seek David’s advice on revisions, themes and structure. Its premiere in 1844 featured David at the fiddle and another composer, the Dane Neils Gade, conducting. The teenage Mendelssohn, who was inspired to compose this piece, would surely have been proud that, centuries on, it is still often the first choice for budding young soloists today.

Claude Debussy: Prelude a l’apres midi d’un faune
Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra

Edvard Grieg: Piano Concerto in A minor
Piano: Leif Ove Andsnes
Dmitri Kitaienko conducts the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No.8 in F major
Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducts the Chamber Orchestra of Europe

Anon: 6 Catalan Folksongs
Guitar: Eduardo Fernandez

Felix Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E minor
Violin: Renaud Capucon
Daniel Harding conducts the Mahler Chamber Orchestra

The Full Works Concert