Inside the Music: Images and Dreams

Discover more about classical music ahead of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s Into The Light concert with our new video series and interactive programme notes.

BSO’s 125th birthday with a bang!

For their final appearance this season at Colston Hall, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra bring the most famous symphony of them all to the party: Beethoven’s awe-inspiring, game-changing Fifth. Haydn’s equally noisy Symphony No. 100 with its battery of kettledrums, cymbals and bass drum competes for attention, although Haydn leaves plenty of room for refinement… As does Beethoven, whose Second Piano Concerto sparkles in its outer movements and consoles in its beautiful middle slow movement.

VIDEO: Haydn Symphony No.100

VIDEO: The 106 Symphonies of Joseph Haydn

Moments to listen out for

Beethoven – Symphony No. 5
The key to understanding Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony are those four notes right at the start. Simply listen and marvel at what Beethoven then does to them.

Beethoven – Symphony No. 5
Five minutes into the third-movement Scherzo, you’ll hear the mood gradually change as the music creeps towards its finale. It teases you, holding back… before it suddenly erupts into a colossal fanfare – and a movement of unrestrained joy.

Haydn –  Symphony No. 100 in G Major ‘Military’
Keep alert in the second movement of Haydn’s Symphony No. 100, or else you’ll be surprised out of your skin by the bangs and crashes of the huge percussion section!

Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 2
The second movement of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 is as beautiful as anything he wrote – listen, around four minutes in, to the stripped back piano solo: just two parts, but sublimely scored.

Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 2
You can hear Haydn’s influence at every turn in the final movement of Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto as exquisite music is followed by a surprise – time and time again! Beethoven leaves the best one until last – a tiny oasis of calm before the final, crashing chords.

Beethoven’s Fifth – one of the most famous phrases in classical music

Ba-ba-ba-baaaaaaaa! Those four notes are indelibly marked on the minds, even of those who have little knowledge of classical music. But what does this famous musical phrase signify? If one of Beethoven’s biographers is to be believed, the composer sought to tackle one of mankind’s knottiest problems from the off. ‘Thus Fate knocks at the door’, he’s alleged to have said. And why not? By the time he’d completed arguably his greatest masterwork in 1808, Beethoven was on the verge of complete deafness. Seven years before, the composer had described his state of mind in a letter to a friend: ‘I will seize Fate by the throat; it shall certainly not bend and crush me completely.’

And so, if those opening hammerings do indeed represent life’s relentless, driving energy, Beethoven spends the remainder of the movement using that energy to extraordinary, positive effect. Never before had a composer wrought such massive amounts of inspirational material from so short a musical phrase – listen carefully, and you’ll hear how the opening ‘Fate’ motif is repeated, adapted, modified… It undergoes the most magical transformations.

Beethoven, however, also brings his battle with Fate to the three remaining movements, the motif’s rhythms invading an otherwise bucolic second movement theme and variations; and blazing forth on the French horns in the sinister third-movement Scherzo. Finally, Beethoven’s potential four-note nemesis is transformed into a bright major key as the music passes from darkness to triumphant light.

Beethoven completed his Second Piano Concerto (his first completed piano concerto, confusingly) almost 20 years before the Symphony No. 5, and was written to showcase his talents as a virtuoso pianist – after all, it was virtually impossible to earn a decent living simply by writing music! And there’s a good deal of Mozart’s influence in it, particularly in the upbeat orchestral opening, the nonchalance of the first movement’s piano solo writing and the second movement’s ravishing beauty which could only have been equalled by Mozart himself. But that’s where the similarities end, and throughout you’ll hear Beethoven constantly pushing boundaries as he takes the pianist to the upper and lower extremes of the keyboard, and winds through a range of keys that just a few years before would have been unthinkable. But it’s the off-kilter rhythms of the final movement that finally send Mozart scurrying for the hills…

Haydn was used to controversy, too, consistently breaking the rules, inventing genres (the string quartet and the four-movement symphony) and playing mischief with his audiences. Symphony No. 100 (he wrote 104 in total) was written for London audiences and was introduced at its premiere as a ‘Grand Military Overture’, although the real fun begins in the second movement with the addition of array of triangles, kettledrums and bass drum – introduced suddenly at various points in the movement to keep you on your toes (and those London audiences awake!). The final movement is as much ballroom as parade ground, however – a brilliantly energetic, mischievous five minutes that ends in hilarious, raucous style.

10 things you didn’t know about Haydn

1. Joseph Haydn couldn’t have come from a less musical family – his father was a wheelwright, his mother a cook. Neither of them could read music.

2. Their son was just six when his musical talents were first noticed – at which point he left home, never to return again.

3. Haydn joined the choir of St Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna at the age of five – his voice broke at 16 and he was dismissed (it didn’t help that he cut off the ponytail of another chorister as a practical joke).

4. Haydn wrote a staggering 104 symphonies, almost all of which are of the very highest quality. Haydn is often referred to as the ‘father of the symphony’.

5. He is also credited with inventing the string quartet, a genre he developed while working at the court of the Palace of Esterhazy, out in the countryside of what is now Hungary.

6. He taught the young Beethoven who once said, ‘I never learned anything from Haydn’.

7. Unlike his other pupil Mozart (and most other composers of the time), Haydn became rich from composing, always developing contacts with wealthy patrons and seeking out commissions.

8. Haydn spent several years in London – his last symphony, No. 104, was written while he was living there, and premiered at the Kings Theatre in the centre of the city in 1795.

9. Although Haydn’s final resting place was intended to be Gumpendorf, just outside Vienna, he was reburied several times, his head was cut off and stolen at one point. It would be 145 years before head and body were reunited and finally laid to rest in Eisenstadt.

10. Haydn’s music is full of wit – his String Quartet in E flat, Op. 33 No. 2, subtitled ‘The Joke’ contains false endings to try and catch the audience out!

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On Wednesday 23 September 2020 Colston Hall changed its name to Bristol Beacon.

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