This trio of classics represents three great composers during emotional periods of their working life channeling their personal struggles through their music, opening with Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Haydn. Composed just a few years after the death of the composer’s mother, it is a delicate work built on his long-standing interest in earlier music of the Baroque and Classical eras.
From here we move on to Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. Described by the composer as being written in “a phase of spiritual life in which composition completely loses the character of work”, his jubilant enthusiasm for the art form is felt in every note. Written shortly after he fled from a disastrous marriage, Tchaikovsky is perhaps never more emotive than here – his lyrical passion translated to near-impossible performance.
And then there is the most famous opening notes in musical history. As Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony begins, it carries with it an imposing stature. Known as the Symphony of Fate and written while Beethoven was already hard of hearing and suffering from tinnitus, he is known to have said of this piece that he wished to “grasp fate at the throat”, a passion which reverberates throughout the piece. This emotion is still felt over two centuries later, adapted as it has been by everyone from Disney to Electric Light Orchestra.