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About the program

Carl Maria von Weber’s three-act romantic opera was born under a lucky star – despite the intrigue which surrounded the Italian music director, the work premiered in Berlin’s recently-renovated Prussian Court Opera House in 1820. Soon, the Freischütz was winning plaudits from operatic audiences across the Germanic world. Within a year of its premiere, the opera featured on the programme of twenty theatres, and since then it has gone from strength to strength. Considered the founding work of German romantic opera, it influenced many composers of the age, including the young Richard Wagner. Today, the Overture and the Huntsmen’s Chorus are guaranteed to be well-received by concert audiences.

In contrast to the reception received by today’s opening piece – Weber’s Overture – the premiere of the 26-year-old Johannes Brahms’ first piano concerto was anything but successful. Originally, he had in mind a piece for two pianos. However, the serene subject of the work begged to be portrayed in concerto form. To orchestrate the piece, Brahms employed the help of his friend, the great violinist of the age, József Joachim. Yet the premiere flopped as the audience at the Leipzig Gewandhaus struggled to cope with Brahms’ style. Most probably, the unconventional nature of the work took the audience by surprise. And possibly, in the shadow of Liszt’s popular concertos, Brahms’ musical language appeared dull and puritanical. What is more, the near-hour-long composition is physically and intellectually exhausting, burdening both the performers and the audience alike. However, the story does have a happy ending. Brahms was not put off by the failure, and after a few years he could be happy to see the success and growing popularity of the concerto.

“A symphony owed to the greatness of the human spirit, a song in praise of free and happy mankind. I wouldn’t dare to say that I chose the subject – rather it had been budding inside me when it finally blossomed,” wrote Prokofiev. Fifteen years after his Fourth symphony, as the second world war approached its climax, in 1944 the composer took a little over a month to write his Fifth. Reflecting contemporary world events, the work’s tone is serious, almost elevated. The 1945 Moscow premiere was conducted by the composer himself.


Program

Carl Maria von Weber: Der Freischütz (The Marksman) – overture
Johannes Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15
Sergei Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, Op. 100

conductor

Iván Fischer

Soloists

Dimitris Sgouros, piano