It seems fitting that Beethoven composed his First Symphony at the dawn of a new century. Despite its homages to the older generation, it is very much a forward-looking work. Whereas Mozart delighted, Beethoven confounded and his epic Eroica, the longest of its genre yet composed, proved to be the watershed between the Classical and Romantic periods.
Although his earlier works had shown flashes of what was to come, the Third Symphony, by contrast, opens with two staggering chords that announce to the world the arrival of a new talent, a forceful personality, a man never to be forgotten. From that point on Beethoven was no mere composer – he was a creator of monuments.
Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto contains some of his most beautiful lyrical music shining with brilliant instrumental theatre, full of gestures, dynamic exchanges, pulsating time changes and capricious, irregular rhythms. Its tightly packed inventiveness leaves no room for empty filler. The four contrasting movements – Toccata, Aria I, Aria II and Capriccio – point to a Baroque model, but as with all of Stravinsky’s appropriations of past manners and methods, there is never a question of simple imitation: this is Baroque remade in Stravinsky’s image.