Alex James's Date Night - Saturday 5 September 2015, 7pm

Alex James showcases the important classical music anniversaries for the coming week.

Tonight Alex plays Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, which received its first performance this week in 1910. The composer had travelled to Paris two years earlier to study orchestration with Ravel. It proved to be an inspiring experience. When he returned home, he undertook one of his most fruitful periods of composition; 1910 saw the premiere of not just his mighty A Sea Symphony but also of the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis at the Gloucester Three Choirs Festival. The main theme, heard after the hypnotic opening chords, was discovered by Vaughan Williams when he was commissioned to put together the 1906 edition of The English Hymnal. And his lush, expansive writing for string orchestra amply proves that his focus on orchestration had paid off.

Also tonight Alex finds out why Smetana had to resign from the Czech National Theatre and celebrates Classic FM’s 23rd birthday in style with the rousing choral work, which opened the station in 1992. 

There'll be birthday celebrations as well for pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and two great sopranos: Angela Gheorghiu and Classic FM’s very own Catherine Bott.