Thursday 20 October
Diversions in Fine Music with Peter Poole
Berlioz, H. Overture to Beatrice and Benedict
1860-62). Philharmonia O/Jean-Philippe Rouchon.

In the late 1850s, Hector Berlioz was gripped by two afflictions – a lingering and debilitating tummy upset, and the arrival in Paris of Richard Wagner, whose music was heading in a post-romantic direction that Berlioz didn’t like, and frankly admitted he didn’t understand. Then in 1860 his beloved sister died, and he found refuge from his grief in the writing, of all things, of an opera comique, taking Shakespeare’s Much Ado…. and rendering it in opera as Beatrice et Benedict. It was a great success, and after it he wrote no more major works. He said of the overture that it was “a caprice written with the point of a needle.”

Monday 24 October
Diversions in Fine Music
with Stephen Matthews
Beethoven, L. Quartet in F, op 135 (1826). Tokyo String Quartet.

To some Beethoven afficionados, the ‘late’ string quartets are the crowning glories of his late period. To many string players, they are the ideal realisation of the string quartet form. Intense and introspective, they show us the world’s greatest composer, by now profoundly deaf, ruminating and conversing, and even arguing with himself on the very nature of music itself.

Wednesday 26 October
Concert Hall with Neil McEwan
Hummel, J. Piano concerto in B minor, op 89 (1819). Stephen Hough, pf; English CO/Bryden Thomson.

Hummel shared with contemporaries such as Spohr and Weber the fate of occupying the same musical world as the towering genius of Beethoven, and his music has been damned with faint praise. This injustice is gradually being corrected, and Hummel’s reputation has enjoyed a revival over recent years. His piano concertos, in particular, embody al the virtuosity of the pianist he was, and in this performance, Stephen Hough is very evidently relishing the challenge.

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