Teenager. A person aged between 13 and 19 years. Synonyms: youth, adolescent, juvenile, minor. Associated with late nights, lie-ins, partying, and composing history-making music? Not entirely what you expect to hear of teenagers, but that is exactly what these composers did. Each of the five pieces we hear in this concert were written before the composer turned 19, and each staggering achievement paved the way for their future careers.
Mendelssohn penned his Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream when he was just 17, having been impressed by Schlegel’s translations of the Shakespeare work. Richard Strauss was even younger when he wrote his groundbreaking Serenade for Winds. Aged just 16, the young composer impressed renowned conductor Bülow so much, he agreed to take the piece on tour with his orchestra. Sadly, Strauss was more dismissive of the piece in later life, calling it “nothing more than the respectable work of a music student.” We aren’t sure we agree there!
Clara Schumann, long associated with supporting her husband Robert and editing his works, was a Teenage Genius in her own right. Before taking to composing, she made her first appearance as a pianist aged 9, then went on to give her first solo recital aged 11 before touring Europe. A little while later, but still only aged 14, she began to write the Piano Concerto in A minor and was the soloist in its first performance. Schubert had a musical upbringing typical of his time. He began his career as a boy soprano but, once he started to develop as a composer, recognised that opera would be a fast-track to success – both musical and financial! In 1812, aged just 15, Schubert began to work on Der Spiegelritter but he eventually abandoned the project, without even completing the first act. This does not detract from the quality of the overture however!
Mozart was the ‘eldest’ composer of our collection for this concert. But even he was still only 18 years old when he wrote Symphony No.29. Mozart had spent some of his formative teenage years in Vienna attempting to win a place at the imperial court. Whilst he wasn’t successful in this, he did learn a lot about entertainment music, including string quartets, and you can clearly hear the influence of chamber music in this symphony, with its intimate interplay between instruments.
This concert celebrates youth alongside experience. The energetic enthusiasm of youth is abundant in this music, and conductor Sir Roger Norrington is sure to prove that this enthusiasm only increases over time!