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About the program

The Dutch Johan Wagenaar (1862–1941) was a popular, frequently played composer of the early 20th century. While his 1906 Saul and David, a tone poem written for the 300th anniversary of Rembrandt’s birth, is considered his most ambitious work, it was the overture now performed, the 1905 Cyrano de Bergerac, that earned him the greatest success. Somewhat reminiscent of Richard Strauss’ symphonic poems, the piece evokes both the heroic and poetic traits in the character of Rostand’s hero.

The Op. 19 piano concerto in B flat major is now commonly referred to as Beethoven’s second, though the numbering is misleading, because the composer himself stated that it was written in 1794–95. Thus, it was his first piece in the genre, apart from the attempt made a few years earlier, of which only the piano part has survived. It adds to the significance of this work that it occasioned Beethoven’s debut before a Viennese audience in March 1795, a performance that established his renown as a piano virtuoso.

Shostakovich wrote his Symphony No. 5 in D minor in 1937. The premiere took place in November, at a concert of the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, where the conductor was a young Yevgeny Mravinsky. The performance received a standing ovation that lasted for more than half an hour. That concerned the aesthetic qualities of the piece as much as the fact that Shostakovich had fallen out of favour with the regime, and his persecution was overseen by Stalin himself. Following the attack on him in Pravda, his Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk was taken off the repertoire, and he withdrew his Symphony No. 4 before it saw its premiere. He wrote the 5th instead, in a style and tone that opened a new phase in his oeuvre.


Program

Johan Wagenaar: Cyrano de Bergerac – overture
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 19
Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47

conductor

Gergely Dubóczky

Soloists

David Fray, piano