The Full Works Concert - Monday 14 April 2014

It's cellist Julian Lloyd Webber's birthday today. Jane Jones celebrates with his recording of Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme.

Beethoven struggled to produce an appropriate overture for his only opera Fidelio and ultimately went through four versions. His first attempt, written for the 1805 premiere, is believed to have been the overture which we now know as Leonore No. 2. Leonore No. 3 is considered to be the greatest of the four, but as an intensely dramatic, full-scale symphonic movement it had the effect of overwhelming the initial scenes of the opera. Finally, for the 1814 revival Beethoven began again, and with fresh musical material wrote what we now know as the Fidelio overture - the one we hear tonight.

Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme was the closest the composer ever came to writing a concerto for cello and orchestra. It was inspired by Mozart but does not employ a genuine Rococo Theme - rather Tchaikovsky created his own theme in the Rococo style. It's played tonight by Julian Lloyd Webber who celebrates his 63rd birthday today.

Schubert did not live to see the publication of his 3 Impromptus, composed in May 1828. He died six months after writing them and they were not printed until 40 years later when Johannes Brahms edited them for publication. They are not often heard in the concert hall or recorded but tonight we are in for a treat when we hear Mitsuko Uchida's superlative performance.

The grandest and most ambitious work featured in tonight's concert – and certainly the longest – is Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique. This was the first of four symphonies that Berlioz composed and with it he firmly made a break from the norms established by Beethoven for the symphonic form. Berlioz moved the symphony into something altogether more like story-telling. Symphonie Fantastique was premiered in 1830 during one of Berlioz’s periods of intense infatuation with the actress Harriet Smithson. It’s really one long, musical expression of his passion, embodied in the person of a struggling artist who is mired in depression and seeking solace for the fact that his cries of desire go unanswered. When it was first performed, the piece was so novel and so shocking that it immediately caused an uproar.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Fidelio – Overture

Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducts the Chamber Orchestra of Europe

Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme Opus 33
Cello: Julian Lloyd Webber
Maxim Shostakovich conducts the London Symphony Orchestra

Franz Schubert: 3 Impromptus D.946
Piano: Mitsuko Uchida

Hector Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique Opus 14
Valery Gergiev conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra