Dvořák’s profound love of his native Bohemia inspired his three concert overtures, which are united by a nature motif. Tonight, the RSNO perform the second of the trilogy, Carnival, which was first performed in 1892. It evokes the exuberance of a Bohemian country life, before settling down to a pastoral scene with lots of dreamy solos for winds. The orchestra give it a stirring performance.
We stay with pastoral themes in the second of tonight’s works, Vaughan Williams’ Concerto for Oboe and Strings, played excellently by the orchestra’s principal oboist, Adrian Wilson. It was originally composed for the British oboist, Léon Goossens, who was famed for his tone. Over its three movements, all the qualities of the oboe are explored. There are reminisces the superior The Lark Ascending, but overall it cannot really be considered Vaughan Williams at his best.
There are few works that have changed the course of musical history: we may count among them Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, and Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony is another such work, and was originally entitled Buonaparte, in dedication to Napoleon. However, when Napoleon named himself Emperor of France, Beethoven in his fury at this turn of events renamed it Eroica.
From its two enormous, opening chords, we certainly are in for a heroic journey, which includes contrapuntal struggles and sharp dissonances that must have shocked audiences of the time. The Marcia funebre of the second movement is a sombre affair, but builds to a terrifying climax (the double basses are excellent). The Scherzo is a glorious dance, with Beethoven making much use of the pack of three horns, in some amazing writing. The variations in the Finale are clever, and lead back to the opening music at its end.
It is superbly played, and conducted by 27 year old Israeli conductor Lahav Shani, who seems to have boundless energy. On the basis of tonight, he certainly has a bright future! An enjoyable evening of music.