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In tonight’s Full Works Concert Jane Jones treads the boards in a concert of music written for, or inspired by, the theatre.
Henry Purcell wrote the incidental music for a revival in 1695 of the play, Abdelazer or The Moor's Revenge by Aphra Behn, first performed 19 years earlier. The famous second movement rondeau was used by Benjamin Britten as the theme for his set of variations, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra in 1946.
Aside from the Overture which was written when the composer was 17, Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night’s Dream was written in 1842. His challenge was, essentially, the 19th century equivalent of composing a film score: to write music that reflected, enhanced and enlightened the acting, while never detracting from it. From the triumphant Wedding March to the impish Scherzo, via the shimmering Intermezzo and the enchanting Nocturne, this is music of which Shakespeare would surely have approved.
GALLERY: If music be the food of love…Classical music inspired by Shakespeare >
In 1951 the British Federation of Music Festivals - of which Vaughan Williams was president - held its annual National Competitive Festival during the Festival of Britain. It included a choral competition in which choirs from around the United Kingdom would demonstrate their technical abilities by performing test pieces. Vaughan Williams offered Three Shakespeare Songs, comprising three short settings of text from Shakespeare's The Tempest and A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Tonight's concert ends with the world premiere recording of the complete incidental music that Elgar wrote in 1923 for the poet Laurence Binyon’s 1919 verse play, King Arthur. The play had a short run in London in March 1923 and then both play and music seem to have been largely forgotten. The full score was not heard in concert until the 2012 English Music Festival when it was played by tonight's performers, the Orchestra of St. Paul's under Ben Palmer. The score consists of 25 short pieces; 13 of them are less than one minute in length – and the two longest movements are just over five minutes each. Because the music had to be performed by a theatre pit band, only 14 players are required. Yet, although he was writing on such a small scale Elgar’s music is certainly very spirited and interesting.
Henry Purcell: Abdelazer (incidental music)
Christopher Hogwood conducts the Academy of Ancient Music
Felix Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night's Dream - Incidental Music
Philippe Herreweghe conducts the Orchestra of the Champs Elysees
Ralph Vaughan Williams: 3 Shakespeare Songs
Jeremy Summerly conducts the Schola Cantorum of Oxford
Edward Elgar: Arthur: A Tragedy
Ben Palmer conducts the Orchestra of St Paul's