An Introduction to the Hunts Phil 2012-2013 Season
from our Musical Director, Adrian Brown
Date: 4 September, 2012
We begin my sixth season with the Society with a programme to tie up a year of British Celebration. Parry’s rousing I was Glad has, of course, become a major part of the Coronation ritual. The opening itself is enough to rouse pride in the British musical heritage.
It is hard to believe that Vaughan Williams produced his Fifth Symphony in War time such is the general spiritual quality of the work, material coming as it does from his yet to be produced opera A Pilgrim’s Progress. There are nevertheless malign elements in the score especially future references to the war strewn Sixth symphony to come. It means much to conduct a work that was championed by my teacher Sir Adrian Boult.
We celebrate the Delius 150th anniversary by offering Sea Drift, a narration in music if you like of loss. The story of two nesting sea birds and the tragedy of one of them, never to return, eloquently put in words by Walt Whitman and inspirationally set in a rhapsodic and emotional way by Delius, is his masterpiece. The loss reflects loss for us all. I eagerly look forward to our chorus rising to the heights of this challenge. Our solo baritone is Laurence Meikle, returning to Huntingdon for a third time to sing the demanding and powerful poetry of Whitman.
The Christmas Concerts will see an emphasis on celebrating the skill of our first Musical Director and now President of Hunts Phil, Christopher Brown. We also perform the most famous musical story of all. Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. Remember the Duck, played by the oboe, does get eaten, but at the end survives the Wolf’s indigestion system. A lesson for all wind players!
Because we want time to learn the depths of Tippett’s A Child of Our Time, we are holding our purely orchestral concert in March. We celebrate the Britten Centenary with Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes. I first played for Britten at the Aldeburgh Festival on June 24th 1963. It was the day I decided to be a musician. It is a real honour to play his scores that take me back, as does this work, to home for me on the Suffolk Coast. The persecution in the story is pertinent. The sound, smell, fear of the sea and coast bring back many memories.
In complete contrast we perform Liszt’s Symphonic Poem Les préludes in partnership with a Symphony from his great friend Berlioz. Two works that try to portray images, actions, events and stories. Berlioz was massively inspired by literature, much British including Scott and Shakespeare. He also admired Byron, whom for many, including Berlioz, represented a certain freedom and romantic heroic qualities. Byron’s ‘Childe Harold’ was reflected in Berlioz’ journeys out of Rome (where he studied in 1830) to the Abruzzi Mountains. He lived with peasants and the bandits as did Byron, and the whole of Harold in Italy portrays this. The work was written for Paganini’s newly obtained Stradivarius Viola!!! The violist was perplexed at the number of rests for the viola and declined to perform it, but respected Berlioz’ genius. The viola really personifies both Harold and Byron, the instrument as were taking a spiritual journey through the ‘narration’ of the work. Diana Mathews has performed this with me before with great success and we are in for a real treat.
English music again brings us to another highlight in our season with our May joint choral and orchestral programme. I had the good fortune to know Michael Tippett very well. He heard me conduct some four of his works, was questioning of one’s intellect and was a joy to be with. Never was there a man of such principle. A Child of Our Time could be for today; albeit it narrates the true story of a Jewish boy who shoots a Nazi Official in desperation in World War II. There follows a trial and terrible retribution. “One man stood for all”. The words by Tippett poetically describe the world “turning on its dark side”. The form is tight; Oratorio/Passion, aria, recitative and chorus take the action forward. The genius is the ‘chorales’. But no, not chorales; these are Spirituals and they comment with devastating simplicity on the truth of the cruel human condition for all ages of Man. From 1944, after A Child of our Time, Michael’s musical language changed radically over future years. He was shunned and ridiculed but in the end he quietly accepted every honour from an adoring music world in later years admiring of his technique, his utterance and his total immovable beliefs.
The concert will begin with Elgar’s Concerto for Cello, completed in 1919, is another response to War, this time the First, and it is really the final poignant swansong of Elgar’s golden career as composer. The rest of his years produced nothing of this significance. Unusually in four movements and equally brilliantly and effectively scored to hear the cellist for once, the whole work sums up the day dreaming skittish nature of Edward in the scherzo, his vulgarity at times in the finale and his deep feelings in the eloquent adagio slow movement that returns at the end of the finale before the work is despatched in a rather typical brusque Elgarian manner. Our soloist is Daniel Benn who has ‘grown up’ with me in my Youth Orchestra at Stoneleigh, and has performed it four times not least in Bayeux Cathedral. At Oxford he intends a musical career I am sure – and not a political one!!!
Our summer Concert is of a lighter nature. Two works of Borodin, never short of a melody in spite of his inability to finish compositions! His career as a respected Professor of Chemistry together with an interest in Women’s Suffrage stood in the way of his musical gifts and it was left often to Rimsky Korsakov and Glazunov to finish his works for him.
We play the humorous side of Britten in his Soirées Musicales and we finish a very English season with Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music in its full choral version. The setting of text from The Merchant of Venice has long been regarded as a masterpiece, written for Sir Henry Wood’s Jubilee in the 1940s.
There is no better ‘thank you’ for music than this work. As the long sustained violin solo dies away played by our brilliant leader, Jane Foottit, we can think how lucky we are to have ‘live’ music so near us, never letting us down, whatever the emotion. A season of variety and challenge for music lovers and children of all ages!