True to the spirit of this time of the year, BDO’s seasonal treat to the audience is a carnival-themed performance. The first number of the programme is Carnival Overture by Antonin Dvořák, one of the best-known composers of Czech music. The work was written in 1891, in one of the composer’s most prolific periods, a time when his works were widely performed and acclaimed. He was offered the post of Director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York, which he was very delighted to accept. The Carnival Overture was the last piece before his departure and it was premiered in Prague in 1892. Dvořák originally composed three overtures entitled Nature, Life and Love, which formed a symphonic poem. Only later, when the scores were published in 1894, were they given a separate opus number and a new title: In Nature’s Realm (op. 91), Carneval (op. 92) and Othello (op. 93). Dvořák also added a programme description to the works: a lonely wanderer steps into the city’s carnival atmosphere at dusk. The work features folk melodies reminiscent of the Slavic dance music so dear to the composer, the carnival crowd’s cheers of joy and the merrymakers’ high spirits, which is well counterpointed by the lonely wanderer’s musings in the middle of the piece, while at the end we return to the noisy carnival atmosphere and can rejoice at the joyful conclusion.
It is well known that BDO regularly performs works by contemporary Hungarian composers in order to make contemporary music known and loved as widely as possible. Tonight, a work by Rezső Ott will be played. Rezső Ott graduated from the Academy of Music with a degree in bassoon and later in composition. And although he graduated as a “classical musician”, pop music has been an integral part of his life since his youth; he even founded a rock band. Accordingly, in addition to composing, he often takes on orchestration tasks for well-known pop music groups and artists. His work as a classical musician and composer has also been recognised by several awards. Tonight you will hear the composer’s Bassoon Concerto performed by bassoon artist Szabolcs Kotroczó.
The final work of the evening will be Symphony No. 6 by the Czech contemporary composer Bohuslav Jan Martinů. Originally a violinist, he also studied composition in his youth. He is regarded as a prolific composer, with operas, ballets, orchestral and chamber music, vocal and instrumental works in his oeuvre. Martinů began as a Romantic composer and emigrated to France in 1923, where he was introduced to new musical styles in Paris and later composed in the Neoclassical style. In 1941 he emigrated to America, where he began writing his symphonies. Tonight’s Symphony No. 6, which he began to compose in 1951, was not completed until three years later. He dedicated the work to Charles Munch, conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, on the 75th anniversary of the orchestra’s founding, under the title “Fantaisies symphoniques”. The work, in three movements, is a departure from his earlier symphonies, which the composer himself described as “a symphony without form”.