Hall: Concert Hall
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Dating from around 1779, Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos in E‑flat Major belongs to his youthful, Salzburg period. At that time, the twenty‑three‑year‑old composer had already accrued a great deal of composing and concert experience and was developing his own, distinctively individual style. This charming concerto is interesting testimony to these explorations. It is possible that he was to have been partnered during the performance by his sister Maria Anna “Nannerl”. The relatively discrete orchestra makes space for the soloists’ dialogue – their beautifully balanced parts complement one another perfectly.
The piano duo was very ingenuously exploited by the Briton Sir Malcolm Arnold. His cheerful concerto was among a number of pieces dedicated to Cyril Smith – an esteemed pianist, whose arm was paralysed due to illness, but who did not give up his career and performed in a duo with his wife Phyllis Sellick. Many composers wrote new works and new arrangements for three hands specifically for the couple.
Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9 is quite uncharacteristic of his style, especially when we bear in mind both the historical context, i.e. the tragedy of the Second World War, and the artistic context – his two previous symphonies, which were replete with pathos and symbols of war, oppression and struggle. This raised expectations that the Ninth, written right after the war, would be a mighty apotheosis of the victory over fascism, and, indeed, this was the way it was officially announced. Its premiere (1945) astonished and confused everybody – the arrangement was almost akin to a chamber piece (the entire work did not last longer than the first movement of the Seventh). Moreover, it was light and cheerful, although not without Shostakovich’s characteristic contrariness and feeling for the grotesque. The reaction of the Stalinist authorities was quite hostile, and the author – as had occurred earlier with his formalist Fourth – fell into disgrace. The charm of this Symphony, which might be interpreted as an expression of escapism from the trauma of war, was only appreciated years later.