About the program
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.
Brahms: Symphony No. 4
“A pair of Entr’actes are to hand – such as together one commonly calls a symphony… I can’t stop thinking of the pleasure of starting the rehearsals with you. I don’t know whether a wider public will get to hear it. I fear it has the taste of the climate here – where the cherries never become sweet enough to eat!” – Brahms wrote to his friend Hans von Bülow about his fourth symphony he was preparing. The fears transpiring from the composer’s words, caused by the sombre notes of the piece, proved to be unfounded. Bülow’s famous orchestra from Meiningen performed the Symphony in E-minor in 1885 with great success, the last of the composer’s works in this genre.