From Our Conductor Roy Stratford
Berrie Norton, one of our violinists who doubles as a professional pianist, made a repertoire suggestion that prompted me to dig further into its roots as it was unusual – a female composer – and I hadn’t heard of either the composer or the work. It turned out that, as a teenager, Berrie had been taught piano by Dorothy Howell, who in her early years had been a very promising composer – so promising in fact that her orchestral tone poem Lamia had been premiered by Sir Henry Wood at the 1919 Proms and was repeated at the same festival in 1921, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1930 and 1940. Relative compositional obscurity followed but in 2010 Lamia was performed again at the Proms and in November it will be performed it in our concert. Lamia is a colourful and gorgeously orchestrated piece and Howell’s music does not deserve its neglect.
Tchaikovsky’s Fourth is certainly not neglected but its extraordinary melodic and rhythmic power combined with an enormously passionate emotional landscape make it one of the most compelling of all 19th century symphonies. Emma and Joy Lisney, on violin and cello respectively, performing Brahms’s last orchestral work, the Double Concerto, will ensure this is an unmissable concert.
In March we will visit France. Debussy’s first great orchestral masterpiece: Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, an extraordinary evocation of the symbolist poet Mallarmé’s poem, will warm us up for Saint-Saëns’ most popular piano concerto: his Second, which ‘begins like Bach and ends like Offenbach’. Our guide to this capricious and extremely entertaining work is Manchester based pianist Will Bracken. Debussy and Saint-Saëns both sought refuge from Wagner’s influence, yet we complete the evening with the Symphony in D minor by César Franck – Belgian born but completely French in musical culture – who fully embraced the German giant and whose symphony demonstrates fully how such an unholy alliance can work to dazzling effect.
Béla Hartmann has proved one of our most popular piano soloists and has performed concertos by Beethoven, Brahms, Dvorak and Liszt over the past few years. He will return in June to play a work that I have wanted to programme since I got to know it as a student: the Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments by Igor Stravinsky. Although a product of Stravinsky’s ‘Neo-Classical’ period, in this case a better term might be ‘Neo-Baroque’ because it is so strongly influenced by Bach. It also has a wonderfully jazzy feel and is extremely foot-tappingly rhythmical, a hugely enjoyable and fascinating piece. The concert begins with one of the greatest works written for strings alone, another ‘Neo-Classical’ masterpiece, Elgar’s re-imagining of the Baroque Concerto Grosso in early Twentieth Century England: The Introduction and Allegro for Strings. Dvorak’s folk inspired Symphony No.6 finishes the evening in energetic style.
Our family concert features Britten’s ever popular Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, and young pianist, Max Pemberton, joins us for the first movement of Grieg’s Piano Concerto.
Woking Symphony Orchestra tries to mix favourite classical masterpieces with more exotic works. I think that our 2018–2019 season achieves this magnificently. Please come and support your local orchestra!