The dazzlingly virtuosic Clarinet Concerto in F minor by the 25-year-old Carl Maria von Weber, Classical in form but pre-Romantic in expression, is among the fabulous fruits of the composer’s collaboration with outstanding virtuosos. In this case, it was Heinrich Bärmann, the most prominent clarinettist of his day, who inspired many new works dedicated to him (and also composed his own).
From his incidental music to Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt (1876), Edvard Grieg put together two concert suites (1888, 1891), selecting for each of them four distinctive orchestral miniatures. Those from the first suite in particular became ‘hits’, familiar not just in concert halls, but also from their frequent use in other contexts, including film.
To mark the 65th anniversary of the death of Jean Sibelius, we will be hearing his Fifth Symphony, the composition of which was also linked to an anniversary – the Finnish master’s 50th birthday, in 1915. That was an initiative from the government of Finland, which wished to express with its commission the esteem in which the nation held one of its greatest sons. The first version of this symphony, although faithful to a neoromantic idiom, includes tentative innovations in form and sound, which were tempered through successive revisions.