MSO Live: Nielsen's violin concerto
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- Carl Nielsen Violin Concerto
Born on the Danish island of Funen in 1865, Carl Nielsen is most recognised for his six symphonies and his many popular songs. He began his musical education at an early age by playing with folk musicians in his home village and he was already composing in his teens. After studying piano and violin in Copenhagen, in 1889 he obtained a position as a violinist with the Royal Danish Orchestra; however, in 1905 he put aside the violin to concentrate full-time on composition. In 1906, he wrote is second and final opera, Masquerade, which is generally considered to be Denmark’s national opera. He composed his Violin Concerto in 1911 for the Hungarian violinist Emil Telmányi, who would later become Nielsen’s son-in-law. It begins with a stormy praeludium, during which a beautiful and melancholic theme is presented. Note how delightfully the violinist hands this on to the strings. This is a volatile, highly strung work that clearly illustrates Nielsen’s undoubted mastery of the violin’s attributes and possibilities. The concerto premiered at the Odd Fellows Mansion in Copenhagen on 28 February 1912, on the same evening as a performance Nielsen’s Symphony No. 3, bringing together the two works that would cement his position as Denmark’s national composer.
- Richard Strauss Symphony in F Minor
Perhaps the most famous piece of music in Star Wars is the majestic "The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)”; however, the most important is undoubtedly the “Force Theme”, the leitmotif for the mystical force from which the Jedi draw their supernatural powers. This theme recurs at various key moments in the films and can be glimpsed in the first movement of Richard Strauss’ Symphony No. 2 in F Minor. Does this mean that John Williams’ drew inspiration from Strauss while composing the soundtrack in the mid 1970s? It is not inconceivable; after all, Strauss is forever linked to science fiction thanks to Stanley Kubrick’s epochal 2001: A Space Odyssey, which makes such iconic use of his “Sunrise” prelude from Also Sprach Zarathustra. A sprinkling of Straus may well have been Williams’ way of reinforcing the link to the science fiction genre.
Symphony No. 2 in F Minor is a youthful work in four movements by the then 19-year-old Richard Strauss; and yet, it is the final traditional symphony that he composed. Instead, he would spend the next three decades working on his symphonic tone poems, including Aus Italien, Ein Heldenleben, Alpsymfonin and the aforementioned Also Sprach Zarathustra.