Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Leonore Overture No 2, Op 72a
Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)
Symphony No 8 in G, Op 88
Allegro con brio
Allegretto grazioso – Molto vivace
Allegro ma non troppo
Ryan Wigglesworth conductor
Academy Symphony Orchestra
Da Som Jeong
Da Som Jeong
Maria Ferreira Gomes
Ryan Delgado Barreiro
Adam Wood (offstage)
Alberto Belzunegui Moreno
Maria Espino Codes
Matilde de Pinho
Inis Oírr Asano
Lon Fon Law
Ryan Wigglesworth is established as one of the foremost composer-conductors of his generation. He was Principal Guest Conductor of the Hallé Orchestra from 2015 to 2018 and Composer in Residence at English National Opera. He held the Daniel R. Lewis Composer Fellowship with The Cleveland Orchestra from 2013-15 and was Composer-in-Residence at the 2018 Grafenegg Festival. In close partnership with the Royal Academy of Music, where he is Sir Richard Rodney Bennett Professor, he recently founded the Knussen Chamber Orchestra which made its Aldeburgh Festival and Proms debuts in the summer of 2019.
Recent opera engagements include a new production at the 2019 Glyndebourne Festival, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the 2019 Aldeburgh Festival.
Recent concerts include performances with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Seattle Symphony, and the Royal Concertgebouw, Bavarian Radio Symphony, Finnish Radio Symphony, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Bamberg Symphony, Bergen Philharmonic, Swedish Radio Symphony, Vienna Radio Symphony, Tokyo Symphony, Melbourne Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony, London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Philharmonia, BBC Symphony and BBC Scottish Symphony orchestras, and at the BBC Proms with both the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Britten Sinfonia. Also active as a pianist, recent concerts include Schubert's Winterreise with Mark Padmore, Mozart’s Concerto for two pianos with Paul Lewis, and Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto, directed from the keyboard. He opened the Snape Maltings summer season in May 2021 with the BBCSO in a programme in which he play-directed Mozart’s Twelfth Piano Concerto.
One of the leading composers of his day, his first opera, The Winter’s Tale, was premiered by English National Opera in February 2017 and other recent works include commissions from the Royal Concertgebouw and The Cleveland orchestras, BBC Symphony (BBC Proms), and song cycles for Sophie Bevan (Wigmore Hall/Grafenegg) and Mark Padmore (Aldeburgh Festival/Wigmore Hall). Current projects include a piano concerto which was premiered at the 2019 Proms by Marc-André Hamelin, and a large-scale work for chorus and orchestra, co-commissioned by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hallé.
Fidelio was for Beethoven a complicated work. Not a natural man of the theatre, his only opera had a complicated gestation period. This is most famously expressed by the four extant versions of the overture, three of which bear the opera’s original title, Leonore. Confusingly, the numbers of the Leonore overtures do not refer to the order in which they were composed; the piece known as ‘Leonore No 2’ was, in fact, the first version to be composed.
One of the most striking things about this overture is its length. In the course of the eighteenth century, the instrumental music played before an opera had morphed from a brief flourish to quiet the crowd, to Mozart’s experiments with cyclical motifs in Don Giovanni. Here, however, Beethoven provides a full fifteen minutes of orchestral exploration, nearly ten minutes more than the final overture to Fidelio. It’s a grand conception of what an overture can be, but not the most practical.
Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony, composed in 1889, is perhaps the best-known of his orchestral works apart from the ‘New World’. It is the summation of his engagement with creating a Bohemian infusion of the orchestral tradition and folk idioms. It’s also an unabashedly cheerful work, refraining from much of the angst common in contemporaneous symphonies from the late nineteenth century (around this time, Mahler was in the midst of writing his colossal ‘Resurrection’ Symphony, and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony had just been premiered).
One of the most compelling things about Dvořák’s orchestral music is its tightness of writing, where very little music feels like filler, or biding time towards a rhetorical climax. Although the melodic writing is less memorable than the Ninth Symphony’s (in fairness, this is the case for most symphonies), each movement draws out a satisfying whole, aided by Dvořák’s command of orchestration.