The Full Works Concert - Friday 11 October 2013

This week's Concerts opens with Wagner's Flying Dutchman and climaxes with Schubert's extraordinary last piece of chamber music.

Tonight's Full Works Concert opens with Richard Wagner's overture to The Flying Dutchman, pictured. The composer claimed that he had been inspired to write the opera following a stormy sea crossing he made from Latvia to London in July and August 1839. In the opera, Wagner uses a number of leitmotifs associated with the different characters and themes. They are all introduced in the overture, which begins with a well-known storm motif before moving into the Dutchman and Senta themes.

String instruments and especially the violin demanded a key position in Baroque music particularly in Italy. Like many of his contemporaries Tomaso Albinoni composed a large number of pieces for string ensemble and many concertos for the violin. With his concertos for one and two oboes Albinoni more or less introduced a new genre. He did not copy Vivaldi's violin concerto form but for both form and style drew on his vast experience as an opera composer. Tonight we hear Albinoni's Concerto in F major for 2 Oboes.

The success of Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor was undoubtedly down to his passionate relationship with Clara Wieck, who was to become his wife. In 1837, some three years before they would marry, Schumann penned a letter to Clara in which he outlined his thoughts for a grand work for piano. It would, he said, be ‘a compromise between a symphony, a concerto and a huge sonata’. The ambition of the young composer was evident – but little did he know that it would take a further eight years before the concerto was ready to be premiered. The work first existed as a single-movement fantasia for piano and orchestra – and both the Schumanns, who were married by the time this fantasia was written in 1841, were pleased with the result. Robert’s publishers, however, were not. And, try as they might, neither he nor Clara could convince anyone to champion the work. It lay rejected for a further four years until, in 1845, he started adding to the original fantasia. The work became what we now know as the Piano Concerto, which is brimming with joy and melody from start to finish. it was premiered on 1 January 1846, with Clara at the keyboard.

Inspired by quintets by Mozart and Beethoven, Franz Schubert's deeply sublime String Quintet in C major was the composer's final work for chamber ensemble, written just two months before his death. It's considered special for its unconventional instrumentation, deploying two cellos instead of the usual two violas, and today it's thought of as a high point in the entire chamber repertoire with moments of unique transcendental beauty.


Richard Wagner: The Flying Dutchman – Overture
Daniel Barenboim conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Tomaso Albinoni: Concerto in F major for 2 Oboes
Oboes: Heinz Holliger, Maurice Bourgue
I Musici

Robert Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor
Piano: Krystian Zimerman
|Herbert von Karajan conducts the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Franz Schubert: String Quintet in C major D.956
Cello: Heinrich Schiff
Alban Berg Quartet