The Second Symphony, from its first performance to today, remains one of Sibelius’ most popular works. Its importance at the time was also due to the Finnish struggle for independence and early reactions to the work included some efforts to read into it an overtly nationalistic, patriotic programme. Much attention was focused on the heroic finale, of course, but also on the long, anguished slow movement, music of great passion and pain, surging along in dramatic waves toward a grim conclusion.
Walton’s Cello Concerto is introspective and reflective. Wistful romanticism and lush harmonies evoke the peace of the English countryside. It is a carefully balanced work; sizzling virtuosity is occasionally interrupted by moments of poignant lyricism. The overture to Tannhäuser presents a kind of synopsis of the operatic action, interweaving the struggle between sacred and profane love.