Zygmunt Noskowski’s The Steppe, Op. 66, referring to Henryk Sienkiewicz’s With Fire and Sword, depicts the landscape of central Ukraine, full of boundless open spaces, stubbornly resisting colonialisation. Written in 1895–1897, this symphonic poem is one of the most important works in the genre within the Polish late Romantic tradition. Noskowski not only displayed a perfect command of the harmonies characteristic of the neoromantics, but was also a master of orchestration. He skilfully captured the character of the steppes’ ecosystem and also sought to illustrate the tumultuous history of that land.
The Second Violin Concerto by the Ukrainian composer Yevhen Stankovich (b. 1942), written in 2006, is a work filled with tragedy. The soloist in our concert, the outstanding Ukrainian violinist Dima Tkachenko, has repeatedly demonstrated his ability to draw truly moving sounds from his instrument.
Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in C minor, Op. 67, which opens with the famous ‘fate motif’, cannot be denied a distinctive character. After its first performance, in December 1808, in the cold, unheated Theater an der Wien, this work gained the esteem of critics and audiences alike. Despite the menace exuded by the colours of Beethoven’s sound, the Fifth was dubbed a ‘symphony of victory’, vanquishing the darkness and difficulties of human existence.