The Full Works Concert: Tuesday 31 March 2015, 8pm

Jane Jones celebrates the anniversary of Haydn’s birth, and has treasures galore from Brahms, Yo-Yo Ma, and Tchaikovsky.

Joseph Haydn's so-called Surprise Symphony includes probably the composer's most famous musical joke: a sudden loud chord at the end of the otherwise quiet opening theme in the second movement. The music then reverts to its original dynamics, as if nothing had happened. When Haydn was asked whether he wrote this 'surprise' to wake the audience up, he replied, "No, but I was interested in surprising the public with something new." 

French Romantic music is often distinctive for its particularly delicate qualities and nowhere is this more evident than in the 'Méditation' from Massenet 's Thais . The indulgent solo, cushioned by dream-like harmonies, perfectly embodies the sound of French music at the time. It's played tonight by cellist Yo-Yo Ma with the pianist Kathryn Stott.

Both of Brahms’s piano concertos are gargantuan works. At nearly 50 minutes in duration, his second lasts longer than any other major Romantic piano concerto by quite some stretch. In it Brahms was able to blend beauty with fire and tenderness with drama in the most remarkable of ways. From the rich, spacious opening of the first movement, we become immediately aware that Brahms is going to take his time to unveil his musical themes and ideas. The most well-known section – a thrilling, energetic finale – is very much the summit of the piece, the culmination of everything that has come before.  

The second of Tchaikovsky's ballets, Sleeping Beauty has become one of the most famous and popular ballets in the repertoire. At the premiere though, Russia's Tsar Alexander III summoned Tchaikovsky and said, 'Very nice', which seemed to have irritated the composer who was expecting something more effusive. By 1903, ten years after Tchaikovsky's death, The Sleeping Beauty was the second most popular ballet  in the repertory of the Imperial Ballet, having been performed 200 times. But it was not until 1921 that, in London, the ballet finally gained wide acclaim and eventually a permanent place in the classical repertoire. 

Joseph Haydn: Symphony No.94 in G major (‘Surprise’)
Howard Shelley conducts the Orchestra of Italian Switzerland

Jules Massenet: Thais – meditation 
Cello: Yo-Yo Ma
Piano: Kathryn Stott

Johannes Brahms: Piano Concerto No.2 in B-flat major
Piano: Stephen Hough
Mark Wigglesworth conducts the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Sleeping Beauty – Suite
Alexander Lazarev conducts the Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra