In his essay “On the Overture”, Richard Wagner strongly advised his composer colleagues against “wandering off to the wearisome painting of minor plot details”. Ultimately the composer would no longer be able to “carry out his dramatic idea” if details of the action were already revealed in the prelude. Accordingly, in his Tannhäuser prelude, Wagner limited himself to a chorale-like trombone choir (Wartburg), shimmering chromaticism (Venusberg) and a tremendous final apotheosis to suggest the story’s key points, beginning with “the orchestra alone imitating the chanting Pilgrims”.
To complement Wagner’s spatialised musical scene, Andris Nelsons turns to a work that Mozart composed in 1779 in Salzburg, the Symphony in B flat major, K 319. Described by Ludwig Finscher as an “extraordinarily subtle chamber symphony”, it was originally in three movements, the minuet being added later for a performance in Vienna. It was published along with the Haffner Symphony in 1785 by the Viennese firm of Artaria, and their popularity with the public has endured to the present day.
To conclude the concert, Nelsons conducts Shostakovich’s Sixth Symphony in which the composer, to quote Leopold Stokowski, proves himself to be “a master who was constantly growing in creative imagination and musical self-confidence”.