WNO Orchestra return to Cardiff’s St David’s Hall this month with a programme of pioneering composers and a piece that changed the musical world forever. From a vivacious piano concerto to a powerful symphony marking the birth of the Romantic era, this concert will take you on a musical and emotional journey like no other.
The concert opens with a trip through the Czech countryside with Smetana’s From Bohemia’s Woods and Fields, from his highly descriptive Má Vlast (My Country), which portrays the history, legends and landscape of his native land. Soon after starting work on the cycle in 1874, Smetana lost his hearing, however, this didn’t stop him and today his collection of six symphonic poems is considered his greatest creation. He is widely regarded as the father of Czech music, weaving Czech stories and places into his work. The best example of this is Má Vlast, and who better to conduct the fourth piece in this Czech masterpiece than a Czech conductor and a veteran of Czech music, WNO Music Director Tomáš Hanus.
Next up, Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No 2, which was composed in 1957 as a birthday gift for his 19-year-old son Maxim who premiered the piece during his graduation at the Moscow Conservatory. An unrestrained delight from start to finish, Shostakovich hid all sorts of family references within the music – jokes that only he and Maxim would truly understand. The concerto stands miles apart from many of his other works in its sense of freedom and abandonment. The slow second movement of this work may sound familiar to the movie fans amongst you as it was used in Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, starring Mark Rylance and Tom Hanks. Joining the Orchestra for this piece is the phenomenal pianist Steven Osborne, who last performed with the Company during the epic re-creation of Beethoven’s 1808 concert in January 2020, which leads on to the final piece in this May’s programme.
Beethoven’s Symphony No 3 (Eroica) broke several of the traditional classical symphony characteristics – from the use of harmony to the length of the piece. Composed between 1803-04, the Eroica Symphony was premiered in Vienna on 7 April 1805 and is widely considered a landmark in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras. This was the start of Beethoven’s ‘heroic’ period of composition, in which he set out to forge ‘a new path’. There is no piece that better demonstrates his intention, or the mastery with which he fulfilled it.
These are only a handful of reasons why this concert is an unmissable experience however, if you can’t make it, fear not, WNO Orchestra will be touring Wales and England this summer with two beautiful programmes of musical delights – A Midsummer Celebration and Opera Classics – which features works by Mendelssohn, Mozart, Verdi, Vaughan Williams and a brand-new commission by Welsh composer, Owain Llwyd.