Karol Kurpiński, a composer, conductor and impresario active during the early decades of the nineteenth century, left us piano music and orchestra works, a Clarinet Concerto that still holds its place in the repertoire, and a ‘military’ symphony devoted to the Battle of Borodino. Yet he saw his main calling to be the composing of (now forgotten) operas. The overture to one of them, the particularly popular The Charlatan, will remind us of this important strand to the work of the conductor and director of opera at the National Theatre.
The titular ‘eroe’ of Beethoven’s Third Symphony is not a specific figure, but an idea, while the music symbolises the universal message of good and beauty, love and self-sacrifice, that recurs in the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus (a motif from which is quoted in the Symphony’s finale), the opera Fidelio and the Ninth Symphony. This work adheres to a Classical design, but it also abounds in formal innovations; for listeners at the time, most controversial of all were the monumental scale of the Symphony and the power of its musical expression: pathos, passion, mighty sounds and dramatic contrasts.