The concert of music by Beethoven, Prokofjev and Britten includes both joy and sorrow. The solo performance is by the amazing pianist, Nikolai Demidenko.
Beethoven never wanted to be repetitive. So having completed his gentle Pastoral Symphony, he set his mind to creating something more raw and passionate. The metronome had just been invented and Beethoven experimented eagerly with different tempo indications. The result was his powerful Seventh Symphony, described by Wagner as “the apotheosis of dance”. Each movement is based on a single rhythm that repeats itself continuously, almost like a mantra. The best-known section of the piece is its gentle second movement, which is often used as funeral music.
It was at a time of great sorrow that Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953) wrote his Second Piano Concerto. He dedicated the work to a close friend who had just committed suicide. He finished the concerto that same year, and Prokofiev himself played at its première. Its dramatic music caused very strong reactions among its audience; the majority were positive, while others expressed scepticism about its modern tone. Its solo part is incredibly challenging from a technical standpoint, with long and difficult cadences.
The soloist for this performance is Nikolai Demidenko, who has recorded all of Prokofiev's piano concertos together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of English composer Benjamin Britten's (1913–1976) birth. His Courtly Dances is taken from the opera Gloriana, which portrays Queen Elisabeth I's relationship with the charming but impulsive Earl of Essex. Once hailed a war hero, Essex ultimately defied Elisabeth after a failed battle campaign and was executed for treason. Britten wrote the opera in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953.
Britten: Courtly Dances
Prokofjev: Piano Concerto no 2
Beethoven: Symphny no 7
Conductor: Rumon Gamba
Soloist: Nikolai Demidenko (piano)