From Our Conductor Roy Stratford
Two of Stravinsky‘s great balletic masterpieces – The Firebird (1910) and Petrushka (1911) – will feature this season. In November we’ll perform Petrushka in its revised 1947 version while our family concert in January will include excerpts from The Firebird as well as other selected works from the BBC’s ‘Ten Pieces’: a scheme that aims to open up the world of classical music to children. Both of these concerts offer incredible orchestral colour and virtuosity and are a wonderful introduction to what is now music from the last century.
Elgar and Mahler
In March we’ll play the work that so decisively lifted English music out of its post-Purcellian torpor: Elgar’s ‘Enigma Variations’ (1899), dedicated by the composer to his ‘friends pictured within’ and based on a theme whose origins are clouded in a mire of mystery, hence ‘Enigma’. It’s a work of extraordinary originality and contains music of incredible variety, ranging from the sublime ‘Nimrod’ to a portrait of a favourite dog scampering up the riverbank. It’s interesting to compare this work with the first major symphony of Gustav Mahler (the main work in our June concert), which was composed some ten years before the Elgar. Mahler believed the symphony should ‘be like the world, it should contain everything’ and even his relatively small scale First Symphony has huge range: the opening depicts nature awakening, the scherzo is an Austrian Ländler, and the slow movement contains klezmer music and a very familiar nursery song. It’s a great introduction to the work of this wonderful symphonist.
Three Extraordinary Concertos: Brahms, Prokofiev and…
We also offer three concertos, each extraordinary in its own right. Dominic Doutney, winner of Woking Young Musician of the Year 2016, plays Brahms‘s epic Second Piano Concerto in November. This is more symphony than concerto; it has four rather than the usual three movements as well as a monumentally demanding solo part. Mention of concertos as symphonies leads to our March soloist: cellist Joy Lisney who makes a welcome return to play the Symphony–Concerto Op.125 by Prokofiev, a reworking (and great expansion) of an earlier concerto into one of the most extraordinary and demanding instrumental works of the twentieth century.
Finally, possibly the greatest concerto by the greatest composer of concertos (and possibly everything else), Mozart‘s dark, dramatic and intense Piano Concerto in C minor K491, a work that had a profound effect on Beethoven, will precede Mahler‘s First Symphony in our June concert. We’re delighted to welcome back pianist John Paul Ekins – it’s always a pleasure to follow the burgeoning careers of our young soloists.
I’m very excited about our next season; it offers a great range of ambitious music. Please come and support us – our concerts have a great buzz and we want to make you as enthusiastic about us as we are about playing for you.