The overture of Verdi’s opera—an orchestral tempest, with its constantly changing climate and architecture of a mini-symphony—sets the tone for this flamboyant programme centred around… the force of destiny.
Added by Verdi for the reopening of Milan’s La Scala opera house in 1869, the Overture of The Force of Destiny, a favourite in cinema, is a mix of dramatic horns and gripping waves, barely contained by a famous melody—plaintive and elegiac.
In counterpoint to this sombre revenge tale is Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.5, with its four movements on a single theme, at times rhythmic and fateful, and elsewhere raised in noble chorus. For this score with its powerful contrasts in sound, dramatic climaxes, pastoral lyricism and even the unquiet elegance of the waltz, Tchaikovsky had imagined a storyline—which remained latent—involving a struggle with fate and ultimate resignation to it.
The crowning piece, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.3 offers its own dramatic and emotional power: before returning to joviality in the final Rondo, it explores the tragedy of the human condition, exquisitely expressed in the martial energy of the Allegro and in the nocturnal dreaminess, as if a gentle settling, of the splendid Largo.