19 May 2018

Berlioz Béatrice et Bénédict Overture
Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3, Op. 25 in C major
Brahms Symphony No. 4, Op. 98 in E minor 
Saturday 19 May 2018, 7:00pm
St James's Church, 197 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9LL

Michael Seal, conductor
Chris Hopkins, piano

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Berlioz captures the essence of Shakespeare’s comedy, Much Ado About Nothing, in this delightful

Overture, much of it in the playful introduction, where the silences are as witty as the dialogue between woodwind and strings.   It is a sparkling introduction to the tale of love gone wrong–and love gone right.

The exuberant, brash Piano Concerto No. 3 drew thunderous applause from American audiences in 1921 but it received rather tepid reviews. Neither in Chicago nor in subsequent New York performances did the concerto arouse much enthusiasm.  Prokofiev said the American public "did not quite understand the work."  Nevertheless, it went on to become one of the half a dozen or so most popular piano concertos of the entire twentieth century.

Similarly, the premiere in 1885 of Brahms’s Symphony No. 4 had a cool reception.  Audiences found the symphony’s strangeness difficult to deal with on first acquaintance.  Its strangeness lies in its combination of modern (for 1885) harmonies and suggestions of old music (in particular the passacaglia in the final movement).  Now the symphony is firmly a concert favourite.