Concert Overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage
Concert Piece for four horns and orchestra in F major
Symphony No. 5 in D minor Reformation
A Berliner Festspiele/Musikfest Berlin event
Robert Schumann’s Concert Piece for Four Horns and Orchestra is one of the first great works to explore the technical possibilities offered by the valve horn, an instrument that was gradually gaining popularity in Germany at the time. Due to the complex technical requirements and the virtuosity expected of the four horn soloists, the composition was for a long time considered unplayable. It premiered in 1850 at the Gewandhaus Leipzig.
The two works by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy deal with other great themes of 19th century music: the baroque musical tradition – in Mendelssohn’s Fifth Symphony it was the church music of its time – and, primarily, how extra-musical content could be translated into music, how composers could play with musical images, approach an extra-musical poetic idea in a musically autonomous manner, without degrading the music itself to a mere illustration.
Eduard Devrient, a friend of Mendelssohn Bartholdy, recalled that the “composition of his second character piece, The Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, evoked almost as great a sensation among his followers as A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In one, the striking concept and portrayal of a completed poem was to be admired, whereas in the other it was the independent [musical] inventiveness portraying the impression that natural phenomena have on us.”