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Honens discovers, nurtures and presents Complete Artists—21st century pianists for 21st century audiences. Honens Radio features performances by Laureates and Prizewinners of Canada's Honens Piano Competition.
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  • The history of the BBC Proms on TV | Thu, 23 May 2019 09:00:00 +0000


    BBC television barely had time to say hello in the 1930s before shrugging its shoulders and muttering a frustrated au revoir. The little matter of another world war getting in the way. Radio was the priority as the established medium.

    Television programmes, in black and white, could only be seen with tolerable reliability within a 40-mile radius of the sole transmitter (and studio) at Alexandra Palace, up on a north London hill.

    Those pre-war few who tuned in regularly saw plenty of live studio-based music-making of various genres. Classical music performers included the likes of harpist Sidonie Goossens and Austrian violinist Lisa Minghetti.

    Lighter classical offerings came, for example, from the BBC Midland Orchestra. The performance on 5 June 1937 of part of Gounod’s Faust – complete with rickety set – was the first opera to be televised in the UK… possibly, in the world.



    In 1938, a number of Proms were relayed to TV subscribers in sound only via the ‘seven-metre television wavelength’, which offered an ‘exceptionally high standard of sound-reproduction’. So much for that experiment, as Hitler intervened.

    A Mickey Mouse cartoon cheekily heralded the re-launch of BBC Television in June 1946. Transmitter-reach was still feeble. Cash was tight. ‘Compared to radio, television was a Cinderella operation,’ recalls Harold Beck, a pre-war Promenader and avid listener to the concerts on the wireless. ‘Sets were expensive for most people. Only around 15,000 TV licences had been sold. I remember how large and cumbersome the cameras were, and tricky to operate.’

    The BBC authorities hesitated before making only a late decision to give the Proms a television debut in 1947 – on the Last Night, 13 September. Threadbare resources were stretched to the point of embarrassment. A camera had to be rushed from the Oval when cricket coverage (of Middlesex versus The Rest of England) concluded. That doubled the camera count at the Albert Hall.



    Why the reluctance to follow through on the initial success of Proms televising? There was feedback from sweaty members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra that the television lights were too hot, too bright – objections that were duly noted. Members of the BBC Music Department whinged that radio was a superior medium for superior music, and hadn’t televising the Proms encouraged Promenaders to be even more tastelessly boisterous than usual?

    There continued to be internal BBC spats over the alleged intrusion of television into Prom goers’ personal space, elbowing ostentatiously into what some continued to reckon should be considered ‘concerts for radio’.

    Although UK television transmitter coverage improved, a must-see event of national significance was urgently needed to whip up public interest. Famously, the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 provided just that. Despite their midget screens, TV sets flew off the shelves.



    Television coverage of the Proms has progressively played a significant role in establishing the BBC’s cultural identity in the UK and worldwide. It can be argued that far from disseminating perceptions of the elitism of classical music, Proms televising has dissipated it.

    Purists may huff and puff, but who would not celebrate the fact that the power of television has encouraged thousands of rookie concertgoers to get off their sofas and smartphones and come to the Albert Hall? They may clap between movements and cough at inopportune moments, but that’s hardly anything new in the history of concerts. And for those who can’t hope to be Prom goers themselves, television remains a brilliant alternative for experiencing the magnetism of the Proms. 


    This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of BBC Music Magazine.

  • Philharmonia Orchestra names Santtu-Matias Rouvali as new principal conductor | Wed, 22 May 2019 11:16:50 +0000


    Santtu-Matias Rouvali will take on the role of principal conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in the 2021/22 season, taking the reins from fellow Finn Esa-Pekka Salonen, who has held the title since 2008 and will continue with the orchestra as conductor emeritus.

    Rouvali has been principal guest conductor of the orchestra since 2017. His five-year contract will see him leading the orchestra in its residency at the Southbank Centre, as well as joining them on international tours and recording projects. 

    The Finnish conductor is currently the chief conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in Sweden, a role he will continue alongside his new position at the Philharmonia.

    ‘This is the start of a great adventure,’ says Rouvali. ‘London is such an exciting place for orchestras, and the Philharmonia is at the heart of classical music life in this city. There is huge possibility with this orchestra, and we will do great things together.’

  • When are the BBC Proms on TV? | Wed, 22 May 2019 10:00:18 +0000


    If you’re unable to makeit to the Royal Albert Hall for this year’s Proms, you can catch up on what you’ve missed by tuning into BBC Radio 3 or visiting the Proms website and BBC Sounds, which will have broadcasts of every single Prom. As usual, BBC TV will be televising concerts every Friday and Sunday throughout the season, accompanied by Katie Derham’s revamped BBC Two magazine show on Saturday nights.

    The Proms season on TV will kick off with a live broadcast of the First Night, split between BBC Two and Four. Also on BBC Four, the BBC Philharmonic’s first performance under their new chief conductor, Omer Meir Wellber (26 July), as well as Joshua Bell (21 July) and Nicola Benedetti (28 July) in Dvořák and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concertos respectively. A handful of Late Night Proms will also broadcast, including a live performance of Public Service Broadcasting’s concept album The Race for Space. The CBeebies Proms will be filmed for future broadcasts on the CBeebies channel. 



    The full programme of BBC Proms broadcast this year is as follows:

    19 July: First Night of the Proms
    Part 1 will be broadcast on BBC Two, and Part 2 on BBC Four.

    21 July: Prom 2
    Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Jakub Hrůsa

    26 July: Prom 7
    BBC Philharmonic/Omer Meir Wellber

    26 July: Prom 10 (Late Night)
    Public Service Broadcasting/The Race for Space

    28 July: Prom 12
    National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain/Mark Wigglesworth

    2 August: Prom 18
    BBC Symphony Orchestra/Edward Gardner

    2 August: Prom 16 (Late Night)
    Angélique Kidjo

    4 August: Prom 22
    BBC Philharmonic/John Storgårds

    9 August: Prom 30
    John Wilson Orchestra/The Warner Brothers Story

    9 August: Prom 27 (Late Night)
    The Sound of Space: Sci-Fi Film Music

    11 August: Prom 26
    BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Nathalie Stutzmann

    16 August: Prom 32
    National Youth Orchestras of the USA and Great Britain/Antonio Pappano

    18 August: Prom 40
    Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Adám Fischer

    23 August: Prom 44
    London Symphony Orchestra/Simon Rattle

    25 August: Prom 46
    City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla

    30 August: Prom 17
    Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Mariss Jansons

    30 August: Prom 45 (Late Night)
    Mississippi Goddam: A Homage to Nina Simone

    1 September: Prom 56
    BBC Concert Orchestra/Bramwell Tovey

    6 September: Prom 57
    Shanghai Symphony Orchestra/Long Yu

    6 September: Prom 54 (Late Night)
    Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music

    8 September: Prom 35
    BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins

    13 September: Prom 72
    Aurora Orchestra/Nicholas Collon

    13 September: Prom 70 (Late Night)
    BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Hugh Brunt


  • The best recordings of Elgar's Symphony No. 1 | Wed, 22 May 2019 09:00:00 +0000


    As its early champion, the conductor Hans Richter prepared Elgar’s First for its London airing after the Manchester premiere, welcoming the players to ‘the greatest symphony of modern times, and not only in this country’.

    The international fortunes of a true giant among symphonies have been variable. Many potentially ideal interpreters, from Furtwängler and Toscanini to Karajan and Claudio Abbado, never touched it.

    That’s a shame, for its epic battle between security – as represented by the noble ideal at the start – and doubt, is etched in a sensitively scored musical language which cries out for a true master’s flexibility.

    Still, we’ve had plenty of great and sometimes unexpected champions, including Solti, Sinopoli, Haitink and Previn.

    If British national treasures Boult, Barbirolli and Davises Colin and Andrew tend to have dominated, that’s not to suggest that there is anything remotely parochial or cosily English about this very emotional masterpiece.


    The best recording…


    Sir Adrian Boult
    London Philharmonic Orchestra (1977)
    EMI 382 1512 

    A young Adrian Boult was there at the rehearsal of Richter’s first London performance of the Symphony in 1908, and prepared it for the composer to conduct in 1932. He made three studio recordings; the second from 1966, currently available on the Lyrita label, has plenty of the Toscanini-like energy he could conjure up in younger days, but can be a bit dry, an impression reinforced by the sound.

    It’s the 87-year-old Sir Adrian’s 1977 EMI recording which trails clouds of glory and catches that sense of the numinous at the heart of the work which evades all but the most sensitive Elgar interpreters.

    There’s nothing rigid about this performance: indeed, the anxieties and terrors of the first movement unfold at a more fluid pace than in the interpretations of many younger conductors, and if the finale is stately compared to some, the grandeur of the victory is backed up by full, brass-gilded LPO tone reinforced by the classic production team of Christophers Bishop and Parker.

    What sets this performance apart is the tenderness with which Sir Adrian unfolds Elgar’s most secret visions: the dreamy string reveries wrapped around the first-movement development, the river-music rippling at the heart of the otherwise embattled scherzo and, above all, what many (and I’m one) believe to be the most serene and introspective of symphonic Adagios.




    Three more great recordings…


    Sir Edward Elgar
    London Symphony Orchestra (1930)
    Naxos 8.111256

    Elgar as conductor shows us what it is to live the whole human experience of the First Symphony with electric intensity. He stresses the spring in his noble ‘motto’ theme rather than any false grandeur, and in the buffets of the first movement his tempo variations are elastic but not exaggerated; he catches the delicacy of the scherzo’s ‘water-music’ more carefully than anyone else, and provides a uniquely propulsive drive towards the exuberance of a true symphonic triumph.

    Others, like Solti, have emulated his nervous tension, but fail to match the sheer poetry between the lines. And it all sounds remarkably good for 1930, with exemplary balances and only a bit of smudging in the ensembles.




    Sir Andrew Davis
    Philharmonia Orchestra (2007)
    Signum Classics SIGCD168

    There are still those who find Sir Andrew Davis just a touch safe, but he’s lived with this music for decades, so give me this security and handsome blend any day over the brute force of his elder counterpart (and no relation) Sir Colin’s performance with the Staatskapelle Dresden.

    The conflicts are unusually light and springy. I also hear more of Elgar’s dynamic injunctions realised here than in any other version – especially the return of the first movement’s disquiet over a second, louder stalking theme in the bass – and real pianissimos in the most refined of all Adagios.

    Handsome Philharmonia strings are one decisive gain over their slightly scrawny BBC Symphony counterparts in Sir Andrew’s first recording.




    Sir John Barbirolli
    Philharmonia Orchestra (1963)
    EMI 968 9242

    If I’m going to reject Sir Colin Davis, Mark Elder and Giuseppe Sinopoli for heavy-handedness, Barbirolli should be outlawed too; all his tempos are slower than Elgar would have countenanced.

    But there’s something so heartfelt about his emotional approach – and it’s the one I came to first, just the last few minutes on an EMI compilation called ‘Your Kind of Elgar’.

    I’ve never found this final ‘swimming in the soup’, as Sibelius once said of his own very different blend, more exciting than here. Nor is the studio mix overflattering; Barbirolli conjured the same rich sound from his own Hallé Orchestra in a live BBC Legends recording from 1970. For a smoother ride, though, this is the one.



    Original text by David Nice

  • The best recordings of Wagner | Wed, 22 May 2019 05:00:09 +0000


    Die Meistersinger
    Gerald Finley et al; LPO, Glyndebourne Chorus/Vladimir Jurowski 
    Opus Arte OA1085D (DVD)

    An intimate, glowing performance, with Gerald Finley on form as Hans Sachs.




    Die Walküre 
    Matthias Goerne et al; Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra/Jaap van Zweden
    Naxos 8.660394-97

    A high-quality performance of the most passionate Ring opera at a bargain price.




    Overtures & Preludes 
    Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
    Chandos CHSA5126

    From Die Feen to Die Meistersinger, an orchestral disc that shows Wagner at his most vivid.




    The Ring Cycle
    Birgit Nilsson, Hans Hotter et al; Vienna PO/Georg Solti
    Decca 478 8370

    The most spectacular Ring of all and a landmark of recorded music history.




  • Free Download: Handel's Recorder Sonata in C with harpsichord | Tue, 21 May 2019 09:00:00 +0000

    'A most agreeable surprise, providing constant pleasure'

    This week's free download is the third movement, Larghetto, of Handel's Recorder Sonata in C, HWV 365, performed by Stefan Temmingh on the recorder, with harpsichordist Wiebke Weidanz. It was awarded five stars for both performance and recording in the May issue of BBC Music Magazine.


    If you'd like to enjoy our free weekly download simply log in or sign up to our website.

    Once you've done that, return to this page and you'll be able to see a 'Download Now' button on the picture above – simply click on it to download your free track.

    If you experience any technical problems please email Please reference 'Classical Music Free Download', and include details of the system you are using and your location. If you are unsure of what details to include please take a screenshot of this page.

    read more

  • The best Proms for newcomers... | Mon, 20 May 2019 23:00:00 +0000


    Okay, so you’ve never been to the BBC Proms before. You know when it is… you know where it is… but with so many concerts, what should you start with?

    The following is by no means definitive, but it might help!


    Go big…

    The Last Night of the Proms is the BIG one and a bit of a party, so what’s not to love? Tickets have probably sold out already, but there’s always the promming tickets on the door if you’re willing to arrive early and queue up! Don’t forget your flags, and your voice for Rule Britannia.



    Go outside…

    Proms in the Park is an altogether different experience and with regional concerts taking place simultaneously in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, it might even be easier for you to get to.

    Hyde Park welcomes the BBC Concert Orchestra, presenter Michael Ball and a host of famous faces… and fireworks!



    Go to the movies…

    If you love a bit of film music, there are two Proms that might offer a good introduction to the Proms.

    First up is The Sound of Space: Sci-fi Film Music (7 August), a ‘Late Night Prom’ featuring music from films like Interstellar, Moon, Under the Skin, Alien: Covenant, Gravity and Sunshine.

    Then there’s The Warner Bros. Story with the John Wilson Orchestra, a thrilling ride through some of Hollywood’s golden age greats. (9 August)



    Go with the kids…

    Why not take the little ones along as well? That way you’ve got someone to experience the Proms with and they get an early classical music experience that they’ll never forget.

    The CBeebies Prom is the obvious choice, featuring characters and presenters from the small screen (21 & 22 July).



    Go and hear something familiar…

    A Prom with at least one familiar classic might be a great way in, too. How about Holst’s The Planets (21 July), Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake (5 August) Elgar’s Cello Concerto (22 August) or Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (13 September)?



    Go with the flow…

    If you’re an adventurous type, why not just pick a date, queue up for a cheap promming ticket and have a new experience? 






  • The BBC Music Magazine Playlist | Mon, 20 May 2019 14:11:40 +0000


    Every Monday, the BBC Music Magazine team choose their favourite new recordings of the past week. The tracks are compiled into The Playlist, which can be accessed via the BBC Music Magazine's Apple Music page


    This week's playlist:


    The listings for previous playlists are featured below.



    Vol. 22

    JS Bach Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C minor: I. Allegro (Isabelle Faust, Xenia Löffler, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin/Bernhard Forck)

    Messiaen Preludes for Piano: VII. Plainte calme (Alexandra Dariescu)

    Purcell Hear My Prayer, O Lord (Gabrieli Consort/Paul McCreesh)

    Mahler Symphony No. 7: III. Scherzo, Schattenhaft (Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer)

    Arensky Piano Trio No. 1: III. Elegia (Smetana Trio)
    Brad Mehldau The Garden

    Stravinsky Le Sacre du Printemps, Pt 1: L’Adoration de la Terre: Rondes printanières (New York Philharmonic/Jaap van Zweden)

    Elgar Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36, ‘Enigma’: XIV. Finale: Allegro Presto ‘E.D.U’ (Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko)

    Massanet Le Poète et la Fantôme (Sandrine Piau, Le Concert de la Loge/Julien Chauvin)

    Esa-Pekka Salonen Cello Concerto: III. (Yo-Yo Ma, Los Angeles Philharmonic/Esa-Pekka Salonen)

    Britten 3 Divertimenti: II. Waltz. Allegretto (Doric String Quartet)


    Vol. 21

    Gesualdo O vos omnes (Monteverdi Choir/John Eliot Gardiner)

    William Alwyn 3 Winter Poems: No. 1, Winter Landscape (Tippett Quartet)

    JS Bach Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1008 (Transcribed by Rachel Podger for violin) (Rachel Podger)

    Prokofiev Piano Sonata No. 7 in B-flat: I. Allegro inquieto – Andantino (Martin James Bartlett)

    Shostakovich Symphony No. 7 ‘Leningrad’: II. Moderato (poco allegretto) (Live at Symphony Hall, Boston) (Boston Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons)

    John Sheppard Missa Cantate: Gloria (The Sixteen/Harry Christophers)

    Busoni Piano Concerto: II. Pezzo giocoso (Live) (Kirill Gerstein, Boston Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo)

    JS Bach The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Fugue No. 15 in G (Steven Devine)

    Kaija Saariaho Petals (Wilhemina Smith, Kaija Saariaho)

    Mozart Piano Sonata No. 13 in B-flat ‘Linz’: I. Allegro (Lars Vogt)


    Vol. 20

    James MacMillan Saxophone Concerto: III. Jigs (Amy Dickson, Adelaide Symphony Orchetra/Nicholas Carter)

    Steve Reich Clapping Music (Live (Colin Currie, Steve Reich)

    Stravinsky Three Movements from Petrushka: II. Petrushka’s Room (Alexander Ullman)

    Raaf Hekkema Dido’s Lament (Eric Vloeimans, Calefax Reed Quintet, Jasper van Hulten, Gulli Gudmundsson)

    Gabriel Jackson The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ: II. Anointing at Bethany (Emma Tring, Choir of Merton College, Oxford, Oxford Contemporary Sinfonia/Benjamin Nicholas)

    Poulenc Flute Sonata (arr. for flute and organ): I. Allegretto malincolico (Erica Nygård, Niels Burgmann)

    Roxanna Panufnik Love Abide – I. Love is the Master (Colla Voce Singers, London Mozart Players)

    Niels Rosing-Schow #ViolaSounds (Rafael Altino)

    Eric Whitacre Sainte-Chapelle (The Sixteen/Harry Christophers)

    Couperin Pièces de viole, deuxième Suite: III. La Pompoe funèbre (Christophe Rousset, Atsushi Sakaï, Marion Martineau)


    Vol. 19

    Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No. 2: III. Finale. Presto scherzando (Kristian Bezuidenhout, Freiburger Braockorchester/Pablo Heras-Casado

    Mahler Symphony No. 3: Part II, No. 5. Lustig im Tempo und keck im Ausdruck (Sara Mingardo, Gürzenich-Orchester Köln/François-Xavier Roth)

    Bach BWV 974 – II Adagio (Rework) (Víkingur Ólafsson, Ryuichi Sakatmoto)

    Bach Violin Concerto in D minor, BWV 1052R: III. Allegro (Isabelle Faust, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin/Bernhard Forck)

    Bruckner Locus iste (Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge/Andrew Nethsingha)

    Mozart Symphony No. 40 in G minor: I. Molto allegro (Live) (NDR Radiophilharmonie/Andrew Manze)

    Myaskovsky Cello Sonata No. 1 in D, Op. 12: I. Adagio – Andante (Bruno Philippe, Jérôme Ducros)

    Falla La vida breve, Act 1: Ah, ande la tarea, que hay que trabajar! (Gustavo Pena, Cristina Faus, Spanish Radio and Television Chorus, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Juanjo Mena)

    Victoria Alma redemptoris mater (I Fagiolini/Robert Hollingworth)

    John Harle RANT! (Jess Gillam, BBC Concert Orchestra/Jessica Cottis)


    Vol. 18

    John Williams The Raiders March (from ‘Raiders of The Lost Ark’) (Los Angeles Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel)

    Robert Schumann Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70 (Richard Watkins, Julius Drake)

    Edmund Finnis The Air, Turning (BBS Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Ilan Volkov

    Will Todd Songs of Renewal: I. Me renovare (Bath Camerata, Benjamin Goodson

    Rachmaninov String Quratet No. 1: I. Romance (Orava Quartet)

    Richard Barbieri Vibra (Richard Barbieri)

    Offenbach Les Bavards, Acte I Scène 3: Air d’Inès ‘Ce sont d’étranges personnages’ (Jodie Devos, Münchner Rundfunkorchester/Laurent Campellone)

    Caroline Shaw Plan & Elevation: IV. The Orangery (Attacca Quartet)

    JS Bach Oboe Concerto in D minor (Performed on Recorder): I. Allegro (Lucie Horsch, The Academy of Ancient Music/Bojan Cicic)

    Berlioz L’Enfance du Christ, Pt. 3 ‘L’arrivée à Saïs’: Trio des Ismaélites (Prudence Davis, Sarah Beggs, Yinuo Mu, Andrew Davis)

    Henry Cowell Banshee (Wilhem Latchoumia)


    Vol. 17

    Sibelius Symphony No. 1: III. Scherzo (Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Santtu-Matias Rouvali)

    Brahms Die schöne Magelone: Traun! Bogen und Pfeil sind gut für den Feind (John Chest, Marcelo Amaral)

    Danny Elfman Violin Concerto ‘Eleven Eleven’: III. Fantasma (John Mauceri, Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Sandy Cameron)

    Verdi Macbeth: Patria oppressa! (Live) (Chicago Symphony Chorus, Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Riccardo Muti)

    Camus Airs, à deux et trois parties: Laissez durer la nuit, impatiente Aurore (Anna Reinhold, Les Arts Florissants/William Christie)

    Schubert Piano Sonata in B, III. Scherzo Allegretto (Paul Lewis)

    Britten Five Flower Songs: IV. The Evening Primrose (RIAS Kammerchor/Justin Doyle)

    Schumann Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor ‘Concerto Without Orchestra’: IV. Prestissimo possibilie (Jean-Efflam Bavouzet)

    Rameau Hippolyte et Aricie: ‘Espoir, unique bien…’ (Karine Deshayes, Le Concert Spirituel/Hervé Niquet)

    Janáček String Quartet No. 2 ‘Intimate Letters’: I. Andante (Wihan Quartet)

    Lutosławski Partita: V. Presto (Maksim Štšura, Michael Foyle)


    Vol. 16

    Handel Concerto Grosso for Oboe and Strings in D minor: V. Allegro (Le Consort, Marta Paramo, Emilia Gliozzi, Johanne Maitre)

    Michael Nyman The Diary of Anne Frank (arr. Richard Boothby): If (Iestyn Davies, Fretwork)

    Reger Piano Concerto, Op. 114: III. Allegretto con spirito (Markus Becker, NDR Radiophilharmonie/ Joshua Weilerstein)

    Gabriel Jackson The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ: VI. Crucifixion (Emma Tring, Guy Cutting, Choir of Merton College, Oxford)

    Karl Jenkins The Armed Man – A Mass for Peace: XII. Benedictus (Karl Jenkins)

    Liszt Sardanapalo: Sotto il tuo sguardo (Joyce El-Khoury, Airam Hernández, Staatskapelle Weimar/Kirill Karabits)

    Musorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition: No. 10, The Great Gate of Kiev (London Symphony Orchestra/Gianandrea Noseda)

    Bruno Sanfilippo Doll (Bruno Sanfilippo)

    Liszt Ständchen (transc. From Schubert’s Schwanengesang No. 4) (Khatia Buniatishvili)

    John Williams The Imperial March (from Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back) (Los Angeles Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel)


    Vol. 15

    Florence Price Symphony No. 1: IV. Finale (Fort Smith Symphony/John Jeter)

    Chopin Mazurka in B, Op. 56 No. 1 (Maurizio Pollini)

    Berlioz Le Carnaval Romain: Overture (Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Paul Paray)

    Reinecke Cello Sonata No. 1: III. Finale. Allegro molto ed appassionato (Martin Rummel, Roland Kruger)

    Mozart Piano Sonata No. 2: III. Presto (Peter Donohoe)

    Nils Frahm Sweet Little Lie (Nils Frahm)

    JS Bach Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C minor: I. Allegro (Isabelle Faust, Xenia Löffler, Bernhard Forck, Academy for Ancient Music)

    Zemlinsky Clarinet Trio in D minor (Version for Violin Cello & Piano): III. Allegro (Stefan Zweig Trio)

    Jean Français Imromptu for Flute and Strings: III. Scherzando (Ransom Wilson, BBC Concert Orchestra/Perry So)

    Robert Schumann Phantasiestücke, Op. 88: II. Humoreske. Lebhaft (Live) (Gautier Capuçon, Martha Argerich, Renaud Capuçon)

    Max Bruch Die Loreley, Op. 16, Act I: Ave Maria! (Michaela Kaune, Philharmonischer Chor Prag, Müncher Rundfunkorchester/Stefan Blunier)

    Anon Ther is No Rose of Swych Virtu (The Telling)


    Vol. 14

    Mozart Symphony No. 13: I. Allegro (Folkwang Kammerorchester Essen/Johannes Klumpp)

    Roxanna Panufnik The Sweet Spring (Blossom Street, Annabel Thwaite, Hilary Campbell)

    Robert Schumann Cello Concerto: III. Sehr lebhaft (Live) (Gautier Capuçon, Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Bernard Haitink)

    Weber Piano Sonata No. 2 in A-flat: II. Andante. Ben tenuto (Paul Lewis)

    Janáček String Quartet No. 2 ‘Intimate Letters’: II. Adagio – Vivace (Wihan Quartet)

    Sibelius Symphony No. 3: III. Moderato – Allegro (ma non tanto) (Orchestre de Paris/Paavo Järvi)

    André Campra Achille et Déidamie: ‘Timbales et trompettes’ (Le Concert Spirituel/Hervé Niquet)

    Corelli Concerto grosso in F: IV. Allegro (Marco Scorticati, Estro cromatico/Sara Campobasso)

    Trio Tapestry Sparkle Lights (Joe Lovano, Marilyn Crispell, Carmen Castaldi)


    Vol. 13

    Berlioz Symphonie fantastique: II. Un Bal (Transcribed for piano duet) (Jean-François Heisser, Marie-Josèphe Jude)

    Schubert Octet in F, III. Allegro vivace – Trio (OSM Chamber Soloists)

    Schumann Three Romances: I. Nicht Schnell (Stephen Waarts, Gabriele Carcano)

    Bernstein Mass: No. 2, Hymn & Psalm. A Simple Song (Arr. for voice, flute, electric guitar, harp and organ) (Anne Sofie von Otter, Sharon Bezaly, Fabian Fredriksson, Margareta Nilsson, Bengt Forsberg)

    Juan Crisostomo de Arriaga Médée: Hymen, viens dissiper une vaine frayeur (Berit Norbakken Solset, BBC Philharmonic/Juanjo Mena)

    Rzewski Four North American Ballads: No. 1, Dreadful Memories (After Aunt Molly Jackson) (Adam Swayne)

    Johannes Ciconia O rosa bella, o dolce anima mia (The Telling)

    Liszt Sardanapalo: Vieni! Risplendono festive faci (Damen des Opernchores des Deutschen Nationaltheaters Weimar, Staatskapelle Weimar/Kirill Karabits)

    Florence Price Symphony No. 4: IV. Scherzo (Fort Smith Symphony/John Jeter)

    Hoffmeister Double Bass Quartet No. 3 in D: I. Moderato (Niek De Groot, Minna Pensola, Antti Tikkanen, Tuomas Lehto)



    Vol. 12

    Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No. 2: III. Finale. Presto scherzando (Ronald Brautigam, Die Kölner Akademie/Michael Alexander Willens)

    Haydn Concerto per il Corno da caccia in D: I. Allegro (Premysl Vojta, Martin Petrák, Haydn Ensemble Prague)

    Dvořák Symphony No. 9 ‘From the New World’: III. Molto vivace (Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Jakub Hrusa)

    Vivaldi Tito Manlio: ‘Combatta un gentil cor’ (Cecilia Bartoli, Serge Tizac, Ensemble Matheus/Jean-Christophe Spinosi)

    Giuseppe Sammartini Recorder Concerto in F: II. Siciliano (Lucie Horsch, The Academy of Ancient Music/Bojan Cicic)

    CPE Bach Solo in G: II. Allegro (Anaïs Gaudemard)

    Robert O’Dwyer Act I Scene I: An tráth a mbíonn an spéir fá scáil (Imelda Drumm, Irish National Opera Chorus, RTE National Symphony Orchestra/Fergus Sheil)

    Ami Maayani Toccata (Elisa Netzer)

    Tchaikovsky Swan Lake: Act III. No. 17 Scène: Entrée des invites (Fanfares) et la valse (Allegro) (London Symphony Orchestra/Anatole Fistoulari)


    Vol. 11

    Piazzolla Tango para una ciudad (Quinteto Astor Piazzolla)

    Schumann Cello Concerto in A minor: II. Langsam (Sol Gabetta, Kammerorcheser Basel/Giovanni Antonini)

    Schumann Zwölf Gedichte, Op. 35 No. 5, Sehnsucht nach der Waldgegend (Christian Gerhaher, Gerold Huber)

    Bruch Concerto for Clarinet and Viola in E minor: III. Allegro molto (Dimitri Ashkenazy, Anton Kholodenko, Royal Baltic Festival Orchestra/Mats Liljefors)

    Schoenberg Drei Klavierstücke Op. 11 No. 1: ‘Mässige Virtel’ (Jeremy Denk)

    Verdi et al. Messa per Rossini: 11. Agnus Dei (Veronica Simeoni, Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala di Milano/Riccardo Chailly)

    Ethel Smyth Violin Sonata in A minor: IV. Finale. Allegro vivace (Tasmin Little, John Lenehan)

    Berlioz Harold en Italie: 3. Sérénade d’un montagnard des Abbruzes à sa maîtresse (Tabea Zimmermann, Les Siècles/François-Xavier Roth)

    Xenakis Pléïades: IV. Mélanges (DeciBells, Domenico Melchiorre)

    Schubert Symphony No. 3: IV. Presto vivace (City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Edward Gardner)



    Vol. 10 

    Vivaldi Il Giustino, Act II: Scene 1. Sento in seno ch’in pioggia di lagrime (Anastasio) (Accademia Bizantina, Ottavio Dantone, Silke Gäng)

    Gulda Concerto for Cello, Wind Orchestra and Band: I. Overture (Edgar Moreau, Raphaël Merlin, Les Forces Majeures)

    Roxanna Panufnik Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis: I. Magnificat (Richard Johnson, Exultate Singers/David Ogden)

    Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4: IV. Finale (London Symphony Orchestra/Gianandrea Noseda)

    Weber Piano Sonata No. 2: III. Menuetto capriccioso. Presto assai (Paul Lewis)

    Francis Lai Love Story – Theme (Arr. Campbell) (Jess Gillam, BBC Concert Orchestra/Ben Dawson)

    Berlioz Harold in Italy: II. Marche de pèlerins chantant la prière du soir (Tabea Zimmermann, Les Siècles/François-Xavier Roth)

    Arthur Lourié A Phoenix Park Nocturne (Vladimir Feltsman)

    Ramin Djawadi The Rains of Castamere (Arr. Lawson) (VOCES8)

    Philip Glass Etude No. 2 (Jeremy Denk)

    Tallis Suscipe quaeso Domine (prima pars) (The Gentlemen of HM Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace/Carl Jackson)

    Debussy Livre I: II. Pour les tierces (Roger Muraro)



    Vol. 9

    Rachmaninov Prelude in G minor, Op. 23 No. 5 (Live at Philharmonie, Berlin) (Yuja Wang)

    Stravinsky The Firebird: Tableau II, XIX: Disparition du palais et des sortilèges de Kastchei, animation des chevaliers petrifies. Allegresse génerale (Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko

    Amy Beach Violin Sonata in A minor, Op. 34: II. Scherzo. Molto vivace (Tasmin Little, John Lenehan)

    Hauscha Dew and Spiderwebs (Hauschka)

    Frank Horvat The Thailand HRDs: No. 5, Boonsom Nimnoi (Mivos Quartet)

    Trad. Deep River (Arr. Coleridge-Taylor, Kanneh-Mason) (Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Isata Kanneh-Mason, Braimah Kanneh-Mason)

    Mendelssohn Lieder ohne Worte, Op. 19: No. 6 in G minor (Andante sostenuto) ‘Venetian Gondola Song’ (Jan Lisiecki)

    Wim Henderickx Nostalgia (Boho Strings)

    Mozart Così fan tutte, Act 1: Aria ‘Come scoglio’ (Héloise Mas, Alexander Sprague, Nazan Fikret, Francesco Vultaggio, European Opera Centre, Biagio Pizzuti, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Laurent Pillot)

    Philip Glass Melodies for Saxophone (arr. for trumpet): No. 3 (Craig Morris)

    Giovanni Paisiello Partimento in F minor (Nicoleta Paraschievescu)

    Ramin Djawadi The Rains of Castamere (VOCES8)

    Triumphal Parade (Scottish National Jazz Orchestra/Tommy Smith)


    Vol. 8

    Josquin Des Prez Miserere mei, Deus, IJ. 50: I. Miserere mei, Deus (Cappella Amsterdam/Daniel Reuss)

    Scriabin Sonata N. 10, Op. 70 (James Kreiling)

    Kaija Saariaho Cloud Trio: I. Calmo, meditato (Jennifer Koh, Hsin Yun Huang, Wilhelmina Smith)

    Dowland Flow, my tears (Stile Antico)

    JS Bach Keyboard Partita in D, BWV 828: VII. Gigue (Federico Colli)

    Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 2, III. Allegro ben marcato (Joseph Swensen, Scottish Chamber Orchestra)

    Bellini Norma: Casta Diva… Fine al rito (Orchestra E Coro Del Teatro Massimo Di Palermo, Jader Bignamini, Marina Rebeka)

    Lyatoshinsky Symphony No. 3 ‘To the 25th Anniversary of the October Revolution’: III. Allegro feroce (Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits)

    Handel Armida abbandonata, HWV 105: ‘Ah crudele! E pur ten’ vai’ (Emmanuelle Haïm, Le Concert d’Astrée, Sabine Devieilhe

    David Lang Mystery Sonatas: No. 1, Joy (Augustin Hadelich)

    Antheil Archipelago ‘Rhumba’ (BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/John Storgards)


    Vol. 7

    Thea Musgrave Loch Ness (Daniel Trodden, BBC National Orchestra of Wales/William Boughton)

    Cheryl Frances-Hoad Love Bytes (Verity Wingate, Philip Smith, Beth Higham-Edwards, Anna Menzies, George Jackson)

    Lutosławski Symphony No. 1: III. Allegretto misterioso (Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hannu Lintu)

    Purcell King Arthur, Z628, Act 1: ‘I Call, I Call’ (Stefanie True, Vox Luminis/Lionel Meunier)

    Finzi Violin Concerto: I. Allegro (Ning Feng, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Carlos Miguel Prieto)

    Brahms Two Rhapsodies, Op. 79 No. 2 in G minor – Molto passionato, ma non troppo allegro (Charles Owen)

    Copland Letters from Home (Version for Chamber Orchestra) (BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/John Wilson

    Szymanowski Nocturne and Tarantella in E minor, Op. 28: I. Nocturne (Jennifer Pike, Petr Limonov)

    Beethoven Fidelio, Op. 72: O welche Lust (James Gaffigan, Zürcher Sing-Akademie, Luzerner Sinfonieorchester)

    Liszt Études d’exécution transcendante d’après Paganini: No. 1 in G minor (Elisa Tomellini)

    Corelli Violin Sonata in C Op. 5 No. 3 (transcribed for viola da gamba): III. Adagio (Lucile Boulanger)

    Mozart String Quintet No. 5: IV. Allegro (Klenke Quartett, Harald Schoneweg)


    Vol. 6

    Saint-Saëns Ascanio, Acte I, Tableau 1: Scène 1 ‘Très bien!’ (Jean-François Lapointe, Joé Bertili, Chœrs de la Haute École de Musique de Genève/Guillaume Tourniaire

    Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 III. Allegro con fuoco (Xiayin Wang, Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Peter Oundjian

    Purcell Come Ye Sons of Art (Birthday Ode for Queen Mary): ‘Strike the Viol, Touch the Lute’ (Tim Mead, Les Musiciens de Saint-Julien/François Lazarevitch)

    Aleksander Sedlar Savcho 3 (Nemanja Radulovic, Double Sense, Stéphanie Fontanarosa/Aleksander Sedlar)

    Barbara Strozzi Arie, Op. 8 No. 2: ‘Che si può fare’ (Emoke Baräth, Il Pomo d’Oro/Francesco Corti)

    Josef Suk 6 Piano Pieces, Op. 7: No. 1, Liebeslied (arr. for violin and orchestra) (Eldbjørg Hemsing, Antwerp Symphony Orchestra/Alan Buribayev)

    Scheidemann Pavana Lachrymae in D minor (Yoann Moulin)

    Beethoven String Quartet in E minor ‘Razumovsky’: III. Allegretto (Elias String Quartet)

    Mozart Violin Sonata in D Major, K306: III. Allegretto (Isabelle Faust, Alexander Melnikov)

    Moteverdi Vespro della Beata Vergine: VIII. Paslmus 126. Nisi Dominus a dieci voci (Bruno Boterf, Ludus Modalis)


    Vol. 5

    Tchaikovsky Swan Lake, Act 1 (1877 Version): No. 8, Danse des coupes. Tempo di polacca (State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia ‘Evgeny Svetlanov’/Vladimir Jurowski

    John Harbison Requim, Pt. 1: II. Sequence I. Dies irae (Nashville Chorus, Nashville Symphony/Giancarlo Guerrero)

    Richard Strauss 5 Lieder, Op. 41: No. 1, Wiegenlied (Arabella Steinbacher, WDR Symphony Orchestra/Lawrence Foster)

    Parry English Lyrics, Set 12: No. 7, The Sound of Hidden Music (Sarah Fox, Andrew West)

    Andrzej Panufnik I Kwartet smyczkowy: III. Postlude (Apollon Musagete Quartett)

    Chopin Piano Sonata No. 2: II. Scherzo (Live) (Eric Lu)

    Szymanowski Nocturne & Tarantella in E minor, Op. 28: II. Tarantella (Jennifer Pike, Peter Limonov)

    Einaudi Life (Live) (Angèle Dubeau, La Pietà)

    Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli 6 Sonatas for Violin and Continuo, Op. 3: Sonata No. 2 ‘La Cesta’ (Elicia Silverstein, Mauro Valli)

    Dvořák Piano Trio No. 4 in E minor: II. Poco adagio (Christian Tetzlaff, Tanja Tetzlaff, Lars Vogt)

    Florence Price Symphony No. 4: III. Juba Dance (Fort Smith Symphony/John Jeter)

    Mozart Piano Concerto No. 16: III. Allegro di molto (Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Manchester Camerata, Gábor Takács-Nagy

    Haydn Piano Sonata in G major, Op. 30 No. 5: I. Allegro con brio (Roman Rabinovich)

    Johann Strauss I Radetzky-Marsch, Op. 228 (Christian Theilemann, Vienna Philharmonic


    Vol. 4

    Arvo Pärt Passacaglia (Victoria Mullova, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi)

    Michael Higgins The Angel Gabriel (Sonoro/Neil Ferris)

    Debussy Cello Sonata in D minor: I. Prologue. Lent. Sostenuto e molto risoluto (Jean-Guiden Queyras, Javier Perianes)

    Massanet Hérodiade, Act 1: ‘Celiu dont la parole efface… Il est doux, il est bon’ (Salomé) (Elsa Dreisig, Orchestre national Montpellier Occitanie/Michael Schonwandt

    Poulenc Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani in G minor: I. Andante (Live) (James O’Donnell, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin)

    Schumann Fantasiestücke Op. 72: I. Zart und mit Ausdruck (Sol Gabetta, Bertrand Chamayou)

    Gurney Since I Believe in God the Father Almighty (Teberae/Nigel Short)

    Peter Gregson Bach: The Cello Suites: Recomposed by Peter Gregson – Suite No. 1 in G, BWV 1007: I. Prelude (Peter Gregson, Richard Harwood, Reinoud Ford, Tim Lowe, Ben Chappell, Katherine Jenkinson)

    JS Bach Concerto in D minor, BWV 974: III. Presto (Víkingur Ólafsson)

    Purcell King Arthur, Act 1: ‘Come If You Dare’ (Robert Buckland, Vox Luminis/Lionel Meunier)

    Messiaen La Nativité du Seigneur: V. Les enfants de Dieu (Richard Gowers)

    George Onslow String Quartet No. 29 in E-flat, Op. 73 Elan Quintet)

    Cécile Chaminade Arabesque No. 1, Op. 61 (Mark Viner)

    Enescu Strigoii, Pt. 3: Bătrânu-și pleacă geana și iar rămâne orb (Alin Anca, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin/Gabriel Bebeșelea)

    Max Richter Mary Queen of Scots: The Shores of Scotland

    Tchaikovsky Swan Lake, Act II (1877 version): No. 13a, Danses des cygnes I. Tempo di valse



    Vol. 3

    Emilie Mayer Symphony No. 4: IV. Presto (Neubrandenburg Philharmonie/Stefan Malzew)

    Weber Clarinet Quintet in B-flat Major: IV. Rondo - Allegro giocoso (Julian Bliss & Carducci String Quartet)

    John Hess Vous, qui passez sans me voir (Julien Behr, Orchestre de l'Opéra de Lyon/Pierre Bleuse)

    John Francis Wade Adeste fideles (arr. M Suzuki for Choir and Organ) (Bach Collegium Japan Chorus/Masato Suzuki & Masaaki Suzuki)

    Schumann Fantasiestücke: I. Zart und mit Ausdruck (Sol Gabetta, Bertrand Chamayou)

    Domenico Sarro Messa a 5 voci: 'Laudamus te' (Maxim Emelyanychev, Jakub Józef Orliński, Il Pomo d'Oro)

    Holst Invocation Op. 19 No. 2 (Guy Johnston, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrew Davis)

    Dowland Come, Heavy Sleep (Grace Davidson, David Miller)

    Schumann Humoreske Op. 20: II. Hastig (William Youn)

    RO Morris Love Came Down at Christmas (arr. Stephen Cleobury) (Stephen Cleobury, Henry Websdale, Choir of King's College, Cambridge)

    Tchaikovsky The Seasons Op. 37a: XII. December. Christmas (Barry Douglas)

    Berlioz Roméo et Juliette: Pt. 3, Finale - Oath of Reconciliation (San Francisco Symphony Orchestra & Chorus/Michael Tilson Thomas)

    Elgar Chanson de nuit (Hallé Orchestra/Mark Elder)

    James Burton Tomorrow Shalle Be My Dancing Day (Jack Hawkins, Michael Bell, James Adams, Joseph Wicks, Choir of St John's College, Cambridge)


    Vol. 2

    Julian Anderson Heaven is Shy of Earth: III. Gloria (With Bird) (Susan Bickley, BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus/Oliver Knussen)

    Richard Strauss Horn Concerto No. 1: III. Rondo. Allegro (Live) (William Caballero, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra/Manfred Honeck)

    Derek Bermel Murmurations: I. Gathering at Gretna Green (ROCO)

    Frank Martin Ballade for Flute & Piano (Bridget Bolliger, Andrew West)

    Debussy Violin Sonata in G minor: III. Finale. Très animé (Isabelle Faust, Alexander Melnikov)

    Anonymous Now May We Singen (ORA Singers/Suzi Didby)

    Rachmaninov Prelude in G minor Op. 23 No. 5 (Live at Philharmonie, Berlin/2018) (Yuja Wang)

    James Newton Howard Violin Concerto: II. Andante semplice (James Ehnes, Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Cristian Măcelaru)

    Sally Beamish In the Stillness (Sonoro/Neil Ferris)

    Parry Suite moderne (arr. J Dibble for Orchestra): III. Romanza. Lento (BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Rumon Gamba)

    Jonathan Dove A Brief History of Creation: X. Whales Return to the Sea (Hallé Children's Choir, Hallé Orchestra/Mark Elder)

    Purcell King Arthur, Act 1: 'Come if You Dare' (Robert Buckland, Vox Luminis/Lionel Meunier)

    Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 4 (Live at Kimmel Center, Philadelphia) (Daniil Trifonov, The Philadelphia Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin)

    Fagerlund Höstsonaten, Act 1: charlotte Andergast! Vilken konstnär! (Krista Kujala, Mari Sares, Jere Martikainen, Jarmo Ojala, Finnish National Opera Chorus, Finnish National Opera Orchestra/John Storgards


    Vol. 1

    Julian Anderson Heaven is Shy of Earth: III. Gloria (With Bird) (Susan Bickley, BBC Symphony Chorus, BBC Symphony Orchestra/Oliver Knussen)

    Zemlinsky Albumblatt (Erinnerung aus Wien) (William Youn)

    Schreker The Birthday of the Infanta: Suite I. Reigen (Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/JoAnn Falletta)

    Mozart Violin Concerto No. 1 K.207: III. Presto (Nikolaj Znaider, London Symphony Orchestra)

    Tchaikovsky The Seasons, Op. 37a, TH 135: XII. December. Christmas (Barry Douglas)

    Holst In the Bleak Midwinter (Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Isata Kanneh-Mason)

    Glazunov The Seasons ‘L’été: No. 9, Scène de l’été (Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra/Dmitri Kitayenko

    JS Bach Prelude & Fugue BVW 855a: Prelude No. 10 in B minor (Vikingur Ólafsson)

    Magnus Lindberg Tempus fugit Pt. 1 (Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hannu Lintu)

    Gurney Since I Believe in God the Father Almighty (Tenebrae/Nigel Short)

    Tchaikovsky The Nutcracker Act 1: No. 6 Clara and the Nutcracker (Los Angeles Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel)

    Ravel Ma mère l’Oye Suite, M. 60: V. Le jardin féerique (Prague Philharmonia/Emmanuel Villaume)

    Eric Whitacre Deep Field: Earth Choir (Eric Whitacre Singers, Virtual Choir 5, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Eric Whitacre)

  • A guide to Vaughan Williams's Symphony No. 2 'A London Symphony' | Mon, 20 May 2019 09:00:00 +0000


    After a series of long-awaited successes, Vaughan Williams (VW) creates the atmospheric four-movement symphony that celebrates his adopted city. Outwardly a four-movement orchestral portrait of the composer’s much-loved adopted city (complete with ‘Big Ben’ chimes), this idea broadens out to encompass a tragic vision culminating in the Finale’s Epilogue, which then dissolves into nothingness.


    Previous works

    Just six weeks before presenting the Sea Symphony, Vaughan Williams had conducted another major premiere. This was a work that was not only English to the marrow, but also, at a single stroke, renewed and redefined what ‘English music’ itself meant.

    The Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis for strings was first heard at the 1910 Three Choirs Festival in Gloucester Cathedral. Its roots can be traced back to VW’s editing of The English Hymnal  from 1904 onwards –an experience through which he rediscovered the riches of English music in the Tudor and Elizabethan eras.



    As with folksong, he again sensed that the melodic shape and colouring – pre-classically modal, rather than classically tonal – of Tallis’s wonderful tune were qualities that might germinate a much larger form. That this was achieved so remarkably owed much to an inspired reinterpretation of the visual aspect of cathedral architecture in musical terms. The Tallis Fantasia  is scored for a string quartet and two string orchestras, the second one smaller and more distant, so that the musical perspectives shift through and across these spatially deployed forces.

    Nothing succeeds like success – especially when you’ve had to wait for it. The next year’s Three Choirs Festival, in Worcester, featured another major Vaughan Williams premiere, the Five Mystical Songs for baritone, chorus and orchestra. He was also working on another symphony.



    VW was happy in the company of other composers, particularly Gustav Holst, and he very much enjoyed the Yorkshire-born forthrightness of George Butterworth – the gifted creator of the Housman-inspired A Shropshire Lad  for orchestra. ‘George… had been sitting with us one evening, smoking and playing,’ he later wrote. ‘And… as he was getting up to go, he said in his characteristically abrupt way, “You know, you ought to write a symphony.” …I showed the sketches to George bit by bit as they were finished.’



    What Butterworth had evidently meant was a purely orchestral symphony. What, in fact, emerged in A London Symphony was a four-movement work, which, outwardly at least, was an affectionate, atmospheric, teemingly detailed orchestral portrayal of its composer’s adopted city.

    It is all of those things, and something more – something unmistakable and difficult to pin down, as the finale’s procession-like progress grows in power while darkening in tone, and vast and desolate spaces open out around the music.

    In the symphony’s Epilogue, it is not just a musical work, but a whole world that seems to be passing away as we listen. We are left with an uncanny sense of a prescient memorial to the imminent destruction of a whole generation – including George Butterworth, killed in action in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.


    Recommended recordings: 

    London Symphony Orchestra/Richard Hickox

    CHAN CHSA5001 (currently unavailable)



    BBC Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Davis

    WCJ 2564 69848-3 (6 discs)





  • Five of the best: celebrity saxophonists | Fri, 17 May 2019 09:00:00 +0000


    1) Bill Clinton US President

    Music’s loss was politics’ gain in 1962, when the first tenor saxophone in the Arkansas state band decided he’d gone as far as he could with the instrument. ‘I loved music and thought I could be very good,’ wrote Bill Clinton many years later, ‘but I knew I would never be John Coltrane or Stan Getz.’


    2) Alastair Cook Cricketer
    A chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral as a youngster, England’s cricket captain went on to take up the saxophone at school. He still plays today and, in 2008, gamely put his skills to the test by agreeing to record a solo for the soundtrack of the BBC’s animated TV series Freefonix.



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