The Full Works Concert - Monday 2 December 2013

An unknown British piano concerto features in a concert of virtuoso performances.

Tonight’s concert gets underway with the Roman Carnival Overture by Berlioz. Composed in 1843, it was written as a stand-alone work intended for concert performance, made up of material and themes from Berlioz’s opera Benvenuto Cellini, including some music from the opera's carnival scene – hence the title.

Vivaldi’s Flute Concerto in D major comes from the first collection of flute concertos ever published in Italy. Subtitled Il gardellino – or the Goldfinch - the concerto with its gentle themes for the flute and rustic harmonies for the strings, lives up to its name.

Though born in Germany, Sir Julius Benedict (pictured) settled in London in 1835, having already established a career as composer and pianist in Europe. Soon after his arrival, he was performing his two piano concertinos in A flat and E flat, the second work later being expanded into the E flat concerto we hear tonight. This brilliant virtuoso work is very much in the tradition of Hummel, who was Benedict‘s teacher.

When Khachaturian was asked to provide incidental music for the revival of a play, Masquerade by Lermontov, he quickly agreed. Soon, however, he was beginning to regret his decision as the theme for a central waltz in the production eluded him. There is a section of the plot where the principal character, Nina, says, ‘How beautiful the new waltz is!’ she goes on to describe a work somewhere between sorrow and joy. Perhaps it was the pressure of so naked a line that caused Khachaturian sleepless nights. Soon, with a little help from a friendly teacher, he had his theme – and its exuberant place at the heart of this suite is probably the biggest single reason for its success.

It’s perhaps surprising that Beethoven wrote only one concerto for the violin. Unlike many other pieces by the great composer, this work certainly didn’t become an instant hit. Beethoven took just a few weeks to compose it in the winter of 1806, and it was premiered within days of its completion on 23 December. It was a fairly rushed affair; the soloist hadn’t had time to learn his part, so spent a good deal of the concert sight-reading. It’s intriguing to wonder how he coped with the zesty, spirited finale that makes such dazzling use of the instrument’s melodic range.

Hector Berlioz: Roman Carnival Overture

Mariss Jansons conducts the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Antonio Vivaldi: Flute Concerto in D major Opus 10 RV.428
Flute: Emmanuel Pahud
Richard Tognetti conducts the Australian Chamber Orchestra

Julius Benedict: Piano Concerto in E flat major
Howard Shelley directs the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra from the keyboard

Aram Khachaturian: Masquerade Suite
Aram Khachaturian conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra

Ludwig van Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D major
Violin: Christian Tetzlaff
David Zinman conducts the Tonhalle Orchestra, Zurich