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Tonight’s Full Works Concert is bookended by dances, though of rather different varieties.
Tonight's Concert opens with the Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor by Borodin. Despite spending some 18 years working on the opera, Prince Igor was still incomplete at the time of Borodin's death; Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov began the hugely unenviable task of sifting through Borodin's unfinished business. Rimsky-Korsakov later wrote in his memoirs, ‘Glazunov ... was to fill in all the gaps in Act III and write down from memory the Overture played so often by the composer, while I was to orchestrate, finish composing, and systematise all the rest that had been left ...’ All things considered, they did a wonderful job.
J. S. Bach composed his Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello between 1717–23, based on six dance movements. They are, without a doubt, some of the most emotionally intense pieces in the Baroque repertoire, making the most of the emotional depth of a solo cello and using a wide range of complex playing techniques. The most famous movement, the 'Prelude' from Suite No. 1 in G, which we hear tonight, is a great example of Bach's genius; there's no accompaniment, but the harmony plays out note-by-note like a musical journey, as chords are implied over the course of a bar rather than played.
Film music legend wrote Nino Rota - best known for The Godfather and Franco Zefirelli's Romeo and Juliet - wrote his Symphony on a Love Song while still a young man. Largely forgotten now, some of the themes from the first movement were later used by Rota for the film score of The Glass Mountain. The last two movements are among his best compositions, full of lyricism and classical depth.
The Irish pianist and composer John Field - inventor of the 'Nocturne' - gave the first performance of his own Piano Concerto No.6 in C major in 1819 and it was published in Moscow and Leipzig in 1823. It follows the expected form, but the slow movement is a transposed version of his Sixth Nocturne of 1817, lightly orchestrated, and is followed by a final Rondo with plenty of opportunities for the soloist to show off.
The ballet Giselle tells the story of a lovely peasant girl who has a passion for dancing. When she finds out the man she loves is engaged to someone else she dies of a broken heart. Then, in the ballet's second act, she finds herself among the Wilis - spirits of women jilted by their lovers and who died before their weddings. They haunt the forest at night to seek revenge on any man they encounter, forcing their victims to dance until they die of exhaustion. The role of Giselle is naturally one of the most technically demanding in ballet, requiring outstanding grace and lyricism, as well as great dramatic skill. In the first act the ballerina has to convey the innocence and love of a country girl and the heartbreak of being betrayed. In the second act the ghostly Giselle must seem otherworldly but ultimately forgiving.
Alexander Borodin: Prince Igor - Polovtsian Dances
Herbert Von Karajan conducts the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Johann Sebastian Bach: Cello Suite No.1 in G major BWV.1007
Cello: Jacqueline du Pre
Nino Rota: Symphony on a Love Song
Marzio Conti conducts the Symphony Orchestra of the Masimo Theatre of Palermo
John Field: Piano Concerto No.6 in C major
Piano: Benjamin Frith
David Haslam conducts the Royal Northern Sinfonia
Adolphe Adam: Giselle, Suite
Eugene Ormandy conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra