Overture: Beatrice and Benedict
Hector Berlioz 1803 – 1869
This overture is based on two themes from the comic opera ‘Beatrice and Benedict’
which was commissioned by the Baden-Baden Opera in 1860, first performed two
years later and turned out to be the last work of Berlioz. The idea of an opera based
on Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ was not new to Berlioz.
earlier he had sketched a libretto when it seemed likely that the venture might be
acceptable to the authorities in Paris.
However, nothing came of it, but some musical
fragments were saved for later.
The overture begins impetuously with a gay dance-like tune in triple time …
Piano Concerto No 5 in E flat, Opus 73, Emperor
Ludwig van Beethoven 1770 – 1827
While the nickname ‘Emperor’ is thoroughly appropriate to this grand concerto, it was
not Beethoven’s own, for it was conceived by the publisher, composer and piano-maker
Johann Cramer. The music was composed from 1809 and the first performance took
place in Vienna in November 1811, when the pianist was Friedrich Schneider and not
Beethoven himself, as had been the case in each of the four previous piano concertos.
The reason was the composer’s deafness, which by this time was so acute that he could no
longer perform in public. Thereafter he wrote no more concertos, although he continued to
compose in all the other important genres save opera.
The first movement is constructed on the grand scale, and in fact is longer than the other
movements combined …
Symphony No 2 in D, Opus 43
Jean Sibelius 1865 – 1957
In 1901 a wealthy aristocrat, Baron Axel Carpelan, provided funds to enable Sibelius to
devote himself wholly to creative work for up to a year and that autumn the composer
set off with his family to stay in Italy where he planned to write a new symphony.
Progress proved rapid and by the time Sibelius returned to Finland his 2nd Symphony
was complete, the Helsinki Orchestra giving the first performance in March 1902. The
nationalist overtones, which are so implicit in the finale’s romantic triumph, ensured an
immediate success and this was soon mirrored elsewhere particularly in England and
The Symphony is a work of the utmost mastery, ingeniously adapting the classical
four-movement design …