Schubert was among the many Rossini enthusiasts, and in 1817, he set to work on a pair of overtures that evoke the world of the great opera composer. While the title they have since acquired, “in the Italian style”, didn’t come from Schubert himself, it is entirely appropriate. Born out of his love of Italy and suffused with Italianate warmth and a lyrical, singing quality, Walton’s Violin Concerto is a crafty tour de force that Lady Walton said her husband often humbly (and paradoxically) referred to as “rather intimate.” Daunted by the prowess of its commissioner, the celebrated violinist Jascha Heifetz, Walton struggled more than usual, ultimately enlisting Heifetz himself to help ‘jazz up’ the fruits of his limited technical knowledge which might explain some of its volatility from melancholic introspection to choleric rage. Mendelssohn’s Fourth Symphony is extrovert from the outset, conjuring up the sunny skies and landscapes of the Italian countryside in a virtually flawless assembly of airy and fiery dances, never letting the excitement lapse for a moment. Inspired by his travels across the country in the 1830s, Mendelssohn wrote in his letters that it was “the jolliest piece I have ever done”, and his clear joy in evoking the soul of Italy is present throughout.
Enjoy the furious finale of Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony peformed by the BSO during lockdown in 2020.