From Our Conductor Roy Stratford
The Jazz Age
Woking Young Musician 2017, Angela Lau, suggested programming Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major for her appearance with the orchestra in November. This wonderful piece is strongly influenced by jazz (the first movement has some notably ‘bluesy’ moments and the jazz pianist Herbie Hancock used the second as a basis for improvisation), so I thought I’d surround it with other great pieces influenced by jazz and popular music, including Gershwin’s An American in Paris in which the composer sought to ‘portray the impression of an American visitor in Paris as he strolls about the city and listens to various street noises and absorbs the French atmosphere’. West Side Story was Leonard Bernstein’s greatest hit and from some of its best tunes he fashioned a marvellous symphonic suite – perhaps the ultimate ‘crossover’ masterpiece! The irresistibly jazzy ‘Dance Episodes’ from the musical On The Town complete what promises to be a most entertaining evening
Music from the Movies
Great film music is the theme of our summer concert. Maurice Jarre’s score for David Lean’s epic Lawrence of Arabia has one of the most haunting and memorable tunes in all film music and will make a stunning opening. In The King’s Speech, Beethoven’s 7th Symphony is used to help cure the stammer of the future King George VI. Described by Wagner as ‘the apotheosis of the dance’, this extraordinary piece is bursting with an almost daemonic energy. Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto didn’t need Shine to promote it but I’m sure it helped it reach an even wider audience. We’re delighted to welcome back Dominic Doutney as soloist – he made a great impression in November 2016 with another titanic concerto: Brahms’ 2nd.
Sibelius’s 2nd Symphony – the main work in our spring concert – has an extraordinary finale. It is based on a very simple rising three note figure which develops into a theme which is accompanied by music that sounds like the icy northern wind whistling through the Finnish forests. The music builds to a tremendous climax, and then seems to stand still in a passage of awesome power. Sibelius seems to capture the essence of the natural world in this music, its elemental power and ability to strike awe into the onlooker. Contrast is provided by the intimate world of Richard Strauss’s Concerto for Oboe, written in 1945 and prompted by a suggestion from the American oboist John de Lancie. Richard Lines-Davies is our soloist for this lovely piece, which looks back to classical and Romantic models in its musical language and has a wonderful fresh melodic invention and lightness of touch.
Pictures at an Exhibition
Our family concert features Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s highly colourful piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition, based on paintings by Viktor Hartmann – a work that offers great opportunities to both the audio and visual imaginations. The young pianist Noah Zhou joins us for the finale of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 – a mixture of folk melody and pianistic bravura that is not to be missed.