The Full Works Concert - Tuesday 12 November 2013

Jane Jones marks the passing of British composer Sir John Tavener, as well as the 180th birthday of the great Alexander Borodin.

Jane Jones pays tribute to Sir John Tavener, who died today and also celebrates great Russian composer Alexander Borodin was born on this day 180 years ago. 

The concert starts with Steven Isserlis' stunning performance of Sir John Tavener's masterpiece for cello and strings. Each section of this based on an "icon" in the life of the Virgin Mary. It's a work which is by turns meditative, contemplative and ecstatic. Tonight's cellist gave the world premiere of this haunting work in 1989. Tonight's broadcast will be a moving tribute to the great composer, who will be much missed

Mozart premiered his Piano Concerto No. 20 in a casino of all places - but it should be noted that casinos in Mozart’s day were venues where one often heard concerts. Correspondence from the time suggests that Mozart went up to the wire when it came to putting in the composition work on this piece. The ink was, literally, still wet on the page when he gave it his first public performance. His father Leopold wrote in a letter to Mozart’s sister, '... An excellent new piano concerto by Wolfgang, on which the copyist was still at work when we got there, and your brother didn’t even have time to play through the rondo because he had to oversee the copying operation.' 

Elgar's Variations on an Original Theme for Orchestra , commonly referred to as the Enigma Variations, is a set of 14 variations on a hidden theme that is, in Elgar's words, 'not played'. Elgar dedicated the piece to 'my friends pictured within', each variation being an affectionate portrayal of one of his circle of close acquaintances. The most famous is Nimrod - a variation dedicated to his music editor Augustus J. Jaeger. After its 1899 London premiere, the piece achieved popularity and was performed internationally. 

Borodin returns to close tonight's concert. It was written when the composer was in his late 40s and at exactly the period when finding time for music was becoming nigh on impossible. As a successful chemist, he felt compelled to devote more and more of his time to his important scientific work, at the expense of his music. Nevertheless, just one year after the composition of In the Steppes of Central Asia, he found himself with a free summer to compose. In between visiting the odd festival and his friend Liszt, he composed his String Quartet No. 2. As with most things Borodin wrote, it is not short of tunes, something that proved a blessing when the writers of the musical Kismet came to use his music. The jaunty second movement provided them with ‘Baubles, Bangles and Beads’, while the third stumped up the show-stopping ‘This is My Beloved’.


Alexander Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia
Neeme Jarvi conducts the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concerto No.20 in D minor
Piano: Alfred Brendel
Charles Mackerras conducts the Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Edward Elgar: Variations on an Original Theme (‘Enigma Variations’)
Leonard Slatkin conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra

Alexander Borodin: String Quartet No.2 in D major
Borodin String Quartet