The Full Works Concert - Friday 20 September 2013

Dancing gnomes and witches feature in tonight's Full Works Concert.

Smetana's The Bartered Bride is a comic opera which tells the story of how, after a late surprise revelation, true love prevails over the combined efforts of ambitious parents and a scheming marriage broker. The overture, often performed as a concert piece independently from the opera, was, unusually, composed before almost any of the other music had been written.

Gnomenreigen was one of two concert studies for piano composed by Liszt in Rome around 1862-63. It's known for its technical difficulty, especially where the pianist imitates the sound of dancing gnomes. The piece was heard as part of the Little Mermaid Ballet in the 1952 Danny Kaye film, Hans Christian Andersen. 

Written over six consecutive weeks, it's possible that Mozart conceived his last three symphonies as a trilogy, but they were never published during the composer's lifetime. The first of the three, the Symphony No.39 is the least performed. It has often been noted that the work's slow and tense introduction is similar to the overture of Mozart's opera Don Giovanni.

Totus Tuus was written in 1987 by the Polish composer Henryk Gorecki to celebrate Pope John Paul II's third pilgrimage to his native Poland that summer. The libretto was taken from a poem written by a contemporary writer which is addressed to the Virgin Mary, the patron saint of Poland. 

The grandest and most ambitious work featured in tonight's concert – and certainly the longest – is Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique. This was the first of four symphonies that Berlioz composed and with it he firmly made a break from the norms established by Beethoven for the symphonic form. Berlioz moved the symphony into something altogether more like story-telling. Symphonie Fantastique was premiered in 1830 during one of Berlioz’s periods of intense infatuation with the actress Harriet Smithson. It’s really one long, musical expression of his passion, embodied in the person of a struggling artist who is mired in depression and seeking solace for the fact that his cries of desire go unanswered. When it was first performed, the piece was so novel and so shocking that it immediately caused an uproar.

Bedrich Smetana: The Bartered Bride – Overture

James Levine conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

Franz Liszt: Gnomenreigen
Piano: George Bolet

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony No.39 in E flat major
Charles Mackerras conducts the Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Henryk Gorecki: Totus Tuus
Harry Christophers conducts The Sixteen

Hector Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique
Charles Dutoit conducts the Montreal Symphony Orchestra