The Paris audience attending the 1923 premiere of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 were expecting a work driven by the same furious energy as his ballet scores. Instead, they were surprised by a beautiful concerto with a lyrical quality and a particularly rhapsodic opening solo. The 1805 audience at the first public performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 was stunned when they were presented with this truly revolutionary work. They encountered the most powerful symphony ever written. Beethoven’s mighty “Eroica” changed the face of symphonic music and heralded the age of Romanticism.
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra Mariss Jansons, Chief Conductor Frank Peter Zimmermann, Violin
Mahler’s five-movement Symphony No. 7 has its share of shadows, especially in its two mysterious “night music” movements, but all is not gloom. The massively scored symphony—it includes cowbells, mandolin, and guitar—culminates in a wildly exuberant finale where snippets of operetta, a reference to the opening of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger, and a Turkish march joyously swirl together.
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra Mariss Jansons, Chief Conductor
With a seductive whisper of winds, horns, harp, and strings, Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune ushered in a new world of music where the relationship of harmony, melody, rhythm, and orchestral color were beautifully blurred. There’s nothing hazy, however, about the visceral struggle with fate that’s the essence of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, nor in the work’s thrilling, life-affirming finale. There’s more Russian music when mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili sings Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death.
The MET Orchestra Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, Conductor Anita Rachvelishvili, Mezzo-Soprano
DEBUSSY Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
MUSSORGSKY Songs and Dances of Death (orch. Shostakovich)
Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 is an elegant work with an abundance of beautiful melodies that also shows a fascination with all things Turkish, including a section where cellos and basses slap the wooden side of their bows on the strings to create an exotic percussive sound. Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 has its own share of melodic splendor, particularly in the fourth-movement Adagietto—the gorgeous love letter he wrote to his wife, featuring strings and harp. The symphony is also dramatic with a powerful opening Funeral March and roof-raising jubilant finale.
The MET Orchestra Gianandrea Noseda, Conductor James Ehnes, Violin
A dazzling Mozart motet and Mahler’s radiant Symphony No. 4 are featured. Mozart’s Exsultate, jubilate is wonderfully exuberant and culminates in spectacular coloratura fireworks that are ideally suited to the “silky, flexible sound” (The New York Times) of soprano Pretty Yende. She also sings the child’s praise of heavenly joys in the finale of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, a work that glows with a sense of wonder and magic.
The MET Orchestra Michael Tilson Thomas, Conductor Pretty Yende, Soprano