About the program
Ernő Dohnányi: Symphonic Minutes
The “muse” of the Symphonic Minutes comprising five short movements was the composer’s second wife, Elza Galafres, who previously enjoyed success in Vienna with the pantomime the Veil of Pierrette. Together with the Ruralia Hungarica movements, this work provided the music for the dance legend “Szent fáklya” (The Holy Torch).
Symphonic Minutes was heard for the first time on the eightieth anniversary of the Budapest Philharmonic Society Orchestra, together with five folk song arrangements by Bartók, accompanied by the orchestra, and Zoltán Kodály’s Dances of Galánta. Aladár Tóth wrote about Dohnányi’s composition: “This splendid bagatelle is nothing but harmony, shape and fluidity, where it is mischievous or capricious, it is still full of song; his esprit is always enthusiasm too, i.e. a divertimento which entertains the spirit but also refreshes the soul. It enchains and liberates…”
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No 1 (C-Major)
Although the numbering of the Piano Concerto in C-major places it as the first of the piano concertos, based on its date it was by no means the composer’s first creation written in this genre. However, he was still polishing the second when the first piano concerto was already published and performed: the concerto in C-major premiered in April 1800 in the Burgtheater in Vienna.
Béla Bartók: Concerto
The Concerto for Orchestra, Sz. 116, BB 123, is a five-movement musical work for orchestra composed by Béla Bartók in 1943. It is one of his best-known, most popular and most accessible works. The score is inscribed “15 August – 8 October 1943″. It was premiered on December 1, 1944, in Symphony Hall, Boston, by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Serge Koussevitzky. It was a great success and has been regularly performed since. It is perhaps the best-known of a number of pieces that have the apparently contradictory title Concerto for Orchestra. This is in contrast to the conventional concerto form, which features a solo instrument with orchestral accompaniment. Bartók said that he called the piece a concerto rather than a symphony because of the way each section of instruments is treated in a soloistic and virtuosic way.
The work was written in response to a commission from the Koussevitzky Foundation (run by the conductor Serge Koussevitzky) following Bartók’s move to the United States from his native Hungary, which he had fled because of World War II. It has been speculated that Bartók’s previous work, the String Quartet No. 6 (1939), could well have been his last were it not for this commission, which sparked a small number of other compositions, including his Sonata for Solo Violin and Piano Concerto No. 3. Bartók revised the piece in February 1945, the biggest change coming in the last movement, where he wrote a longer ending. Both versions of the ending were published, and both versions are performed today.