Why do concerts always start with the 'little' pieces and end with the 'big' ones? That's what we've been wondering this week as we plan programmes for next season. What if we put the biggest piece at the start of the programme? That way, it comes when we and the audience are at our freshest, with the added advantage that we get a nice substantial piece to settle us into the programme. Then, after the interval, the audience can settle down with a glass of wine and enjoy some lighter fare! Think of is as a 'front-loaded' programme, rather than one 'based fundamentally on the idea of crescendo' (to misquote Tony Pay)
The idea isn't new, by the way: in the 19th century, it was common to have the substantial music in the first half. This Proms programme from 1896 features the Wieniawski Violin Concerto AND Dvorak Symphon No. 9 (or No. 5 in the old numbering) in the first half, followed by a second half of fantasias and songs. Maybe they recognised something obvious: no-one's concentration gets better as the evening wears on!