The Full Works Concert - Friday 14 June: English Discoveries

Jane Jones presents the second of two concerts showcasing some extraordinary, little-heard music from famous and not-so-well-known English composers.

Tonight's concert begins with an orchestral arrangement of Ralph Vaughan Williams's Serenade to Music. Originally composed in 1938 for 16 vocal soloists and orchestra, the text is an adaptation of the discussion about music in Act V Scene 1 of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. Vaughan Williams wrote the piece as a tribute to the conductor Sir Henry Wood to mark the 50th anniversary of his first concert. The composer, realising the difficulty of assembling 16 soloists for future performances, subsequently made this one for orchestra alone. 

The next piece in the concert is a discovery from the great English baroque composer Henry Purcell. His Trumpet Sonata No.2 in D major is played by the great Wynton Marsalis.

So many English composers from the earlier part of the twentieth century have been inspired by the children’s verse of Walter de la Mare. De la Mare’s collection, 'Peacock Pie: a book of rhymes', from which Cecil Armstrong Gibbs takes his title, first appeared in 1913. Each of the three movements of Gibbs’s work takes its name and mood from the de la Mare poem reproduced at the head of the music. The first is 'The Huntsman', the second - ‘The Sunken Garden’, and the third, ‘The Ride-by-Nights’.

John Garth (1722-1810) is mainly remembered for an eight-volume edition of The First Fifty Psalms Set to Music. But he also composed a set of cello concertos and five sets of harpsichord sonatas. The Cello Concerto No.2 in B flat major is a good example of how concerto form in the 18th century developed from the Baroque concerto grosso. It is played tonight by Richard Tunnicliffe with the Avison Ensemble.

John Foulds (1880-1939) was a largely self-taught composer of light music and theatre scores. His Keltic Lament was hugely popular in the 1920s, scheduled on the radio on a daily basis. It has now found new popularity thanks to Classic FM in recent years.

Music for Shakespeare’s Love’s Labours Lost by Gerald Finzi, pictured above, one of his least-known works that deserves wider performance, was created soon after the end of World War II and represented something of a compositional watershed. Writing short items to the tight three-week deadline of a broadcast proved to be a liberating experience for a composer so used to revisiting and refining works over decades.

Sir Donald Francis Tovey was an Englishman who settled in Scotland as a Professor at Edinburgh University's Reid School of Music. His piano concerto of 1903 sounds uncannily like Brahms. It's characterized by great rhythmic energy and superb, rich orchestration. Not just another piano concerto, but a major and unaccountably neglected symphonic work.


Ralph Vaughan Williams: Serenade to Music
Richard Hickox conducts Northern Sinfonia 

Henry Purcell: Trumpet Sonata No.2 in D major
Trumpet: Wynton Marsalis
Anthony Newman conducts the English Chamber Orchestra

Cecil Armstrong Gibbs: Peacock Pie - Suite for String Orchestra and Piano
Piano: Martin Roscoe
Guildhall Strings 

John Garth: Cello Concerto No.2 in B flat major
Cello: Richard Tunnicliffe
Avison Ensemble 

John Foulds: Keltic Lament
Sakari Oramo conducts the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Gerald Finzi: Love’s Labours Lost
William Boughton conducts the English Symphony Orchestra

Donald Francis Tovey: Piano Concerto in A major
Piano: Steven Osborne
Martyn Brabbins conducts the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra