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Tonight's concert features Elgar's evergreen Cello Concerto and Schubert's marvellous Octet.
Somebody once said that the way Elgar chooses to open his Cello Concerto, with those tortured chords sounding as if they have to be excavated from the cello face, is as if Shakespeare had started Hamlet at ‘To be or not to be’. Most concertos take a little time to come to their main point. if they don’t make you wait until the slow movement – and many do – for their crux, they at least keep the listener waiting through a short orchestral introduction. Elgar was having none of it. Perhaps the timing of the composition explains it all. In 1918, and aged 61, he had gone through the period of his life where he would have been regarded as a budding composer. In fact, he had already been acknowledged as a national treasure for some time. Now, he was seriously wondering whether some critics were right to write him off as a spent force. He came around from the anaesthetic after an operation to remove an infected tonsil with this tune already in his head, so he wasn’t going to let it go to waste. he didn’t and it remains one of the most English of all pieces of English music.
The second piece in tonight's concert - Felix Mendelssohn's Octet in E flat major - is played with great vitality and precision by members of the Australian Chamber Orchestra. This superb ensemble are completely at home with Mendelssohn's breakthrough masterpiece. Conceived on a grand scale, the 16-year old composer even stated on the title page of the score that the work must be played 'in the style of a symphony'. One critic has written, 'Its youthful verve, brilliance and perfection make it one of the miracles of nineteenth-century music.'
Ancient Airs and Dances is a set of three orchestral suites by Italian composer Ottorino Respighi. In addition to being a renowned composer and conductor, Respighi was also a notable musicologist. His interest in Italian music of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries led him to compose works inspired by the music of these periods. Suite No. 1 was composed in 1917. It was based on Renaissance lute pieces by Simone Molinaro, Vincenzo Galilei (father of Galileo Galilei), Michael Praetorius, and additional anonymous composers.
John Field is known as the creator of the 'nocturne' - a form championed most notably by Chopin. And indeed Field's piano concertos bear some resemblance to Chopin's. Tonight's lively and exciting performance of his seventh piano concerto is truly outstanding. The London Mozart Players and soloist Micael O’Rourke bring out the work's glorious sense of joy.
Edward Elgar: Cello Concerto in E minor
Cello: Jamie Walton
Alexander Briger conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra
Felix Mendelssohn: Octet in E flat major
Members of the Australian Chamber Orchestra
Ottorino Respighi: Ancient Airs and Dances – Suite No.1
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
John Field: Piano Concerto No.7 in C major
Piano: Miceal O'Rourke
Matthias Bamert conducts the London Mozart Players