The Full Works Concert - Tuesday 4 March 2014

Beethoven, Bruch and Brahms make up tonight's classical swarm of Bs, for conductor Bernard Haitink's 85th birthday.

It's the conductor Bernard Haitink's 85th birthday today and Jane Jones celebrates with a swarm of Bs - Beethoven, Bruch, and Brahms - all conducted by the great man.

Beethoven's Eighth Symphony is something of a curiosity in the composer's output. It was one of the composer's favourites - he called it 'my little symphony in F' - and it features some delightful themes. He knocked it out in four months and claimed it was better than the Seventh but it got a fairly 'polite' response at its premiere. But we recommend turning the volume right up for the first movement to get a real appreciation of how wide Beethoven's dynamic range had become by this point.

The first Violin Concerto by Max Bruch (pictured) - a former No. 1 in the Classic FM Hall of Fame - has fallen from grace a little in the last few years, but still remains one of the most popular and most beautiful of all violin concertos. For violinists, one of its most obvious redeeming qualities is the degree to which it acts as a profound showcase for the instrument. The dazzling, virtuosic passages, particularly in the glorious finale, really do make the violin sing as it soars again and again, almost from within the orchestra, to ever loftier heights. The second movement, meanwhile, is pure romance: beautiful, heart-breaking themes, woven delicately within soulful orchestral accompaniment.

Johannes Brahms was an absolute master of writing for the piano. He knew the instrument so well. As the expansive, four-movement Piano Concerto No.2 in Bb demonstrates, 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.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No.8 in F major Opus 93
Bernard Haitink conducts the London Symphony Orchestra

Max Bruch: Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor Opus 26
Violin: Itzhak Perlman
Bernard Haitink conducts the Concertgebouw Orchestra

Johannes Brahms: Piano Concerto No.2 in B-flat major Opus 83
Piano: Vladimir Ashkenazy
Bernard Haitink conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra