The Full Works Concert - Monday 17 February 2014

Wagner, Haydn, Debussy, Beethoven and Handel are the great composers on tonight's menu.

Tonight's show opens with Wagner's overture to Tannhauser, the opera's most famous section: the shimmering, dramatic chords give way to a series of thrilling and expansive themes, which very much set the scene for the action that follows. The woodwind convey chanting pilgrims (listen out for the sombre sound of the clarinets and bassoons), while the aching and arching string lines allude to sexual temptation and lust. In just under 15 minutes, Wagner certainly manages to cover a lot of ground!

The radiantly festive Violin Concerto No. 1 in C major by Haydn was written in the 1760s for a well-known violinist of the time, Tomasini who was just back from Italy and shortly afterwards became the concertmaster of the Esterházy orchestra. The Finale in particular is full of fast runs, double stops and major changes in both volume and pitch, clearly conceived to display the particular skill of Tomasini.

Debussy started to compose his famous Suite Bergamasque in 1890 at the age of 28, as he struggled to make ends meet in what was considered to be his more Bohemian period. He finally finished writing it all of 15 years later. But it's a good job he revised it so heavily before it was published, as it contains some of the most famous piano music written by the composer. Still, some confusion remains over what was composed originally in 1890 and what in 1905. In those intervening years, the movement 'Pavane' had been retitled 'Passepied', and the 'Promenade Sentimentale' became the famous 'Clair de lune'. Today the work consists of four movements: a lively contrasting 'Prélude', a playful comedic 'Menuet', the gorgeous 'Clair de lune' and the staccato 'Passepied'.

Handel wrote organ concertos as interludes for his oratorios — playing the organ part himself while directing the orchestra. Some are arrangements of his earlier works, or of works by other composers. It is generally accepted that he wrote 16; tonight we hear the 14th - his Organ Concerto in A major HWV.296a.

Beethoven's Second Symphony was written during 1802, at a time when his deafness was becoming more apparent. The work was first performed in Vienna on 5 April 1803, and was conducted by the composer. During that same concert, the Piano Concerto No.3 and the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives were also premiered. It is one of the last works of Beethoven's so-called "early period". The scherzo and the finale are filled with musical jokes, which shocked the sensibilities of many critics. One famously wrote of the Symphony that it was "a hideously writhing, wounded dragon that refuses to die, but writhing in its last agonies and, in the fourth movement, bleeding to death."

Richard Wagner: Tannhauser – Overture
Daniel Barenboim conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Joseph Haydn: Violin Concerto in C major Hob.VIIa:1
Rachel Podger directs the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment from the violin

Claude Debussy: Suite Bergamasque
Piano: Jean-Yves Thibaudet

George Frideric Handel: Organ Concerto in A major HWV.296a
Organ: Richard Marlow
Stephen Layton conducts the Academy of Ancient Music

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No.2 in D major Opus 36
Osmo Vanska conducts the Minnesota Orchestra