Our programme explores the expression of contrasting moods. En Saga was Sibelius’ first major tone poem. In spite of its title (‘A Story’) it is an abstract piece depicting the feelings inspired by the Finnish landscape.
Variations on a Theme by Haydn is also a rather misleading title, as the St Anthony Chorale tune on which Brahms based the work later turned out not to have been composed by Haydn — but its unique character is the basis for a set of variations exploring a wide variety of moods and colours.
Danish composer Nielsen’s Second Symphony is subtitled The Four Temperaments and follows the idea of the four humours of Greco-Roman medicine — choleric, melancholic, sanguine and phlegmatic, each of which is distinctively portrayed in music. The symphony was inspired by a comical picture the composer saw in a country pub and it quickly became one of Nielsen’s best-loved orchestral works.