Guitar Concertino in A minor Opus 72 (2) Salvador Bacarisse Download 'Guitar Concertino in A minor Opus 72 (2)' on iTunes
Katherine shares some of the great pieces in her collection that have come out of Britain.
'Benjamin Britten was one of the great British composers of the 20th century,' says Katherine, 'and when he came to write the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra in 1946 for an educational documentary film, he went all the way back to draw inspiration from the 17th century English genius, Henry Purcell.' The tune is a simple hornpipe from Abdelazer, a play for which Purcell composed incidental music in 1695.
'This is just beautiful,' says Katherine. 'Dido and Aeneas dates from the 1680s and is an important landmark in the history of English musical theatre. And for 200 years, Purcell remained unsurpassed as the most famous English composer.'
'I often think of Elgar as being at the heart of the British establishment but he actually came from very humble origins in Worcestershire,' says Katherine. 'He was a Catholic in a protestant country, and in a profession dominated by academics, he was a self-taught composer.' The Variations were scored over two weeks in February 1899, dedicated by Elgar “...to my friends pictured within” and entitled Variations on an original theme, Op.36 – no mention of “Enigma”, though the word appears in pencil on Elgar’s autograph score. Elgar was 42, and the work finally sealed his fame.
'Lesser known than Elgar is a contemporary of his,' says Katherine, 'someone he admired and who also had a big influence on Elgar’s own music. Sir Hubert Parry is known best for his setting of the hymn Jerusalem. But I am particularly partial to his coronation anthem I was Glad.'
'I love Vaughan Williams’ music and can’t think of anyone else whose music better evokes our glorious rolling countryside,' says Katherine. The Lark Ascending is notoriously difficult for the violinist to play, but the best performances of it are seemingly effortless and free. It remains the composer’s most popular work, and seems certain to grace the highest echelons of the Classic FM Hall of Fame for many years to come.
Holst’s 1914 masterpiece The Planets is not about astronomy. Rather, it’s about astrology. So we are not hearing a suite of tributes to, say, Saturn, the planet with rings around it. Instead, Holst was writing about Mars, the bringer of war; Venus, the bringer of peace; Mercury, the winged messenger; Jupiter, the bringer of jollity; Saturn the bringer of old age; Uranus, the magician; and Neptune, the mystic. 'Holst’s The Planets is an essential work if you want to experience the brilliance of all the instruments of the orchestra and what they’re capable of doing together,' says Katherine. Photo by JPL-Caltech/SSI/NASA/ABACAPRESS.COM
'The current Master of the Queen’s Music is Sir Peter Maxwell Davies,' says Katherine. 'One of his most popular compositions is Farewell to Stromness. It was composed in 1980 as a response to the discovery of uraniam near Stromness in Orkney. You wouldn’t know that to hear it though. To me it just simply sums up the beauty of the Scottish islands.'
Not since Henry Purcell some 250 years earlier had a British composer really written an opera of real significance. Then in 1945, Britten’s masterpiece Peter Grimes was premiered at Sadlers Wells in London. It has stayed in the international repertoire ever since. Katherine says, 'It contains, I think, some of the most brilliant music depicting the sea ever composed.'
'Karl Jenkins has made an indelible mark on British music for the past 20 years or so,' says Katherine. 'And this was his piece that topped the classical album charts in 1995.' Picture: Richard Johnson