From Our Conductor Roy Stratford
Some of our most exciting and well received concerts have contained masterpieces from the 20th Century. Any trepidation on the part of the players or audience vanishes quickly when it becomes apparent that ‘modern’ music isn’t as frightening as they thought! The great Hungarian composer Béla Bartók (1881–1945) certainly wrote some tough music, but so did Beethoven. The Concerto for Orchestra, which we are performing in November, was written in 1943 during his exile in America and it is Bartók’s most accessible and popular work. It is a dazzling score, full of colour and brilliant folk-like melodies and also a very cheeky parody of the march from Shostakovich’s 7th.
Sophie Kauer, Woking Young Musician 2019, joins us for Elgar’s elegiac Cello Concerto, written soon after the end of the First World War and in many ways a lament for the immense sense of loss felt by the composer in its aftermath. Bartók was greatly influenced by his hugely charismatic and extraordinary countryman Liszt whose best symphonic poem Les Préludes is our ‘overture’.
I make no excuses for a Beethoven evening. Our March concert contains his Leonora Overture No.3, a mini-symphonic poem in its own right complete with a ‘rescue scene’ and an electrifying coda; his Piano Concerto No.4, with pianist Evgenia Startseva; and his ‘Pastoral’ Symphony No.6, perhaps the first overtly programmatic symphonic work.
Thomas Hardy’s vivid description of Egdon Heath in his great novel The Return of the Native provided the inspiration for Gustav Holst’s eponymous symphonic poem. We’ll open our June concert with this work, which is regarded as Holst’s masterpiece for its unflinching individuality and perhaps a welcome change from the ubiquitous Planets – marvellous as that work is. Sibelius’s 5th Symphony seems to paint an awe-inspiring landscape, but it is also a masterpiece of compressed symphonic thought. The finale with its unforgettable horn theme was inspired by a flight of swans: ‘The Swans are always in my thoughts…strange to learn that nothing in the whole world affects me – nothing in art, literature or music – in the same way as do these swans and cranes and wild geese.’
We are joined for Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto by Emma Lisney who made a great impression in Brahms’s Double Concerto with her sister Joy. We very much look forward to her solo debut with us.
Our family concert features Paul Patterson’s Three Little Pigs, a piece for narrator and orchestra based on Roald Dahl’s hilarious retelling of the nursery story. Our speaker is the brilliant Richard Lines-Davies – a wonderful oboist whose engaging narration inspired 500 children at our family concert last January in Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. Talented young cellist Felix Waller joins us for Bruch’s Kol Nidrei. This promises to be a great afternoon for children and adults alike. We very much hope you can join us and support your local orchestra.