The Full Works Concert: Friday 13 February 2015, 8pm

Our year-long series of concerts celebrating the RLPO's 175th anniversary continues with Vasily Petrenko conducting Wagner, Mussorgsky and Prokofiev.

Catherine Bott presents the latest in Classic FM's year-long tribute to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Classic FM's Orchestra in North West England, in its 175th anniversary year.

This evening's concert kicks off with Wagner 's Prelude to The Mastersingers of Nuremburg . Wagner began writing the libretto in 1862 and followed this by composing the Prelude which received its first performance, conducted by the composer, in November of that year. But the whole opera was not finished until five years later. 

The first Violin Concerto by Max Bruch (pictured) - a former No. 1 in the Classic FM Hall of Fame - has fallen from grace a little in the last few years, but still remains one of the most popular and most beautiful of all violin concertos. For violinists, one of its most obvious redeeming qualities is the degree to which it acts as a profound showcase for the instrument. The dazzling, virtuosic passages, particularly in the glorious finale, really do make the violin sing as it soars again and again, almost from within the orchestra, to ever loftier heights. The second movement, meanwhile, is pure romance: beautiful, heart-breaking themes, woven delicately within soulful orchestral accompaniment.

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. 

Dvořák also initially wrote the American Suite for piano while in New York, between 19 February and 1 March 1894. He orchestrated it more than a year after his return to the United States but the orchestral version was not published until 1911, seven years after the composer's death in 1904. While known as the American Suite, it's never quite clear whether Dvorak's themes come from the typical folk music of the New World as he experienced it, or from the music of Czech emigrants he liked to listen to during his stay in the United States. This mix of American influence with Slavic tradition is particularly apparent in the rhythm of the third movement. It is typical of Dvořák who, even when he encouraged his pupils to work on their own folk melodies, was always after the authentic recreation of popular folk music.

Prokofiev wrote his Overture on Hebrew Themes during a trip to the United States. Early in 1919, he was commissioned by a Russian sextet called the Zimro Ensemble, which had just arrived in America on a world tour sponsored by the Russian Zionist Organization. They gave Prokofiev a notebook of Jewish folksongs, though the melodies he chose to include have never been traced to any authentic sources. It has been suggested that the ensemble's lead clarinettist had actually composed them himself in the authentic style. It received its premiere at the Bohemian Club in New York, on 2 February 1920, with Prokofiev as guest pianist. He did not regard the work very highly.

Wagner: The Mastersingers of Nuremburg
Vasily Petrenko conducts the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Bruch: Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor
Violin: Tasmin Little
Vernon Handley conducts the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition
Vernon Handley conducts the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Dvorak: American Suite
Libor Pesek conducts the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Prokofiev: Overture on Hebrew Themes
Vasily Petrenko conducts the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra