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Cambridge live

Dresden Philharmonic Preview

Monday 23 April 2018

On 20 May the Dresden Philharmonic makes a welcome return to Cambridge as part of this season’s classical music series at The Corn Exchange.

Performing with the orchestra will be the acclaimed violin soloist Jennifer Pike who in 2002, at the age of only 12, was at the time the youngest ever winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition.

Jennifer Pike plays Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, a work written in less than 2 weeks and, by all accounts, amidst deep-seated feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy on the part of its composer.

Such wonderful achievement can only intrigue the rest of us (the second movement was written in a single day!) who struggle to understand this degree of creativity. Handel’s Messiah, an oratorio composed in only 3 weeks, is another example that comes to mind.

The Violin Concerto is a real virtuoso’s challenge. Like that of his famous first piano concerto, Tchaikovsky’s opening melody is never heard again. And there is another strange parallel. Amazingly, both these works, now celebrated as supreme examples of the composer’s genius, were unenthusiastically received at their first performances.

In the Violin Concerto there is no break between the second movement and the finale, but the conclusion with its passionate and headlong vitality - sometimes folksy, even dance-like and rustic in tone - could not be more different from the melancholy Canzonetta which precedes it.

Jennifer Pike’s performance of this celebrated composition will be eagerly awaited by Corn Exchange concert-goers.

The Dresden Philharmonic begins and ends the evening’s programme with German composers. The short Overture to Weber’s infrequently performed opera, Euryanthe (1823), opens the concert with its stirring introduction and passages of vigour alternating with melodic and more reflective intervals that could easily be mistaken for Rossini’s operatic mode.

Finally, comes the 5th Symphony of Beethoven whose opening is one that we all know, whether we’re musical or not.

Less often recognised though is how, with those famous four notes, Beethoven builds the entire structure of the symphony. This is a work which sets the classical symphony off in a completely different direction from the one pursued by such composers as Mozart and Haydn.

It contains everything we most identify with the Romantic Movement, of which it is of course one of the greatest products: revolution and calls to liberty with echoes of French patriotic songs, titanic gestures of defiance, and passages of intense personal drama.

The symphony is not of great length, but it has a relentless drive that arrests us from the start and sweeps us with it as it builds inexorably towards the terrific crescendo of its finale.

Like many other very well-known compositions, however, Beethoven’s 5th is still capable of taking us by surprise; its power, its pace and interpretation being always, as with all musical compositions, in the hands of a particular performance.

Judging though by all previous experience of the Dresden Philharmonic’s contributions to The Corn Exchange classical programmes, the audience on Sunday 20 May will have more than good cause to anticipate one of this season’s most exciting evenings.

JOHN GILROY

Book tickets to see the Dresden Philharminic in concert HERE