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A classic Hoffnung work written for that occasion is the brilliant and ridiculous Concerto Popolare, the piano concerto to end all piano concertos, composed with glee by Franz Reizenstein. It is a truism that all concertos are battles between soloist, conductor and orchestra, but so much conflict has rarely been expressed with such clarity on the concert platform as in this work. Trouble looms from the start when the orchestra playing the opening bars of Tchaikowsky's Piano Concerto No 1 is confronted by the pianist determinedly entering with Grieg's Piano Concerto. Battle wages until the bitter end, when pianist and orchestra vie for the final chord.
Donald Swann was aware that Haydn had written the fortissimo tutti chord into his Surprise Symphony to awaken somnolent audiences suffering dreadfully from over-eating at those gourmet banquets held at the Esterhazy Court. Donald Swann also knew that having been awakened, the audience immediately fell fast asleep again. With this in mind, he inserted a series of additional surprises into this work, guaranteed to keep an audience awake throughout. Another highlight of the repertoire is the opera, again by Reizenstein, with libretto by William Mann. Entitled Let's Fake an Opera and subtitled Tales of Hoffnung, it incorporates spectacular opera singers and juxtaposes dozens of familiar operas with ridiculous incongruity. The opening with Beckmessser wooing a very sexy Azucena outside a cigarette factory in old Nurenberg sets the scene.
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