Walton’s Symphony No.1 and Dmitri Kabalevsky’s Overture to Colas Breugnon, Played by the BBC Philharmonic and Conducted by John Wilson

My bonny John Wilson conducted this overture, along with William Walton’s Symphony no.1, on 21 September 2019 at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester (broadcast on the 24th followed by 30 days of streaming, till 23 October). Only thing I know about Dmitri Kabalevsky (1904 – 1987), that old Communist, is his “Comedians” Suite—which John may very well end up doing sometime, if he hasn’t already—and the dauntingly massive bildungsroman Jean-Christophe by Romain Rolland, who also wrote the original novel the opera Colas Breugnon is based on. (Never finished Jean-Christophe, may yet. Let you know.) This piece is typical of the kind of repertoire John is getting known for: bright, busy, theatrical, uncomplex, and quite entertaining.

Kabalevsky.jpgOverture to Colas Breugnon by Dmitri Kabalevsky, played by the BBC Philharmonic, Vassily Sinaisky, conductor (Chandos, 2003).

It was also pleasing to hear the BBCCO playing under John’s baton a creditable rendition of Walton’s first and most frequently programmed (as a matter of fact, Vasily Petrenko conducted this in London back in March) and recorded symphony. This is a good gig for John, the first concert of the season at Bridgewater Hall. Quite an honor, in fact.

Here’s Bryden Thomson conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra in William Walton’s Symphony no.1 in B-flat minor.

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Royal Gala at Windsor Castle for the Royal College of Music, May 2019

One little bad review doesn’t phase my bonny, bless him. On Thursday 16 May 2019, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, President of the Royal College of Music (RCM), held a special gala concert at Windsor Castle. The concert showcased some of the RCM’s most acclaimed alumni, including Sir Thomas Allen, Dame Sarah Connolly and Conductor John Wilson, performing alongside Maxim Vengerov, Polonsky Visiting Professor of Violin, and the talented young musicians in the RCM Chamber Orchestra. The evening included a performance of George Frideric Handel’s Overture to an English Opera (here played by the Little Orchestra of London).

Windsor Castle Gala 2019 news itemI’d know the back of that head anywhere.

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Serenade for Strings by Lennox Berkeley (1938-39), Performed by the LSO and Conducted by the Composer

The composer who wrote this piece has obviously been in love. It’s in the music.

In fact, while sojourning in Europe Berkeley studied under Maurice Ravel and did fall in love with Benjamin Britten which…hmmm…might make a good Saturday Drama for BBC Radio 4…

Lennox Berkeley Love.jpg

Anyway, the sunniest piece in the programs of my bonny John Wilson’s upcoming concerts is this one, Serenade for Strings op.12, which he’s conducting with the Royal Northern Sinfonia in a program entitled Great Britons, again at The Sage in Gateshead, his home town, 1 March 2019.

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Harriet Cohen Plays Cornish Rhapsody by Hubert Bath, Featured in the 1944 Film, Love Story

Margaret Lockwood is a dying pianist, Stewart Granger is an RAF pilot going blind in this wartime romance from Gainsborough Pictures.

Harriet Cohen Frame.jpg

Legendary pianist, anti-fascist activist and muse to Arnold Bax, Ralph Vaughan Williams and others Harriet Cohen at the piano here. “Cornish Rhapsody” was written by Hubert Bath (who also wrote, for all you English sports fans, “Out of the Blue” for the BBC5 Sports Report).

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Joan Sutherland Sings a Song by Composer William Shield, Local Swalwell Lad Made Good

Dame Joan was the one who got me interested in classical singing, if not doing it myself then listening to and appreciating it. This really tasty ditty comes from the pen of William Shield of Swalwell (which is right next door to my bonny John Wilson‘s childhood neighborhood of Low Fell), Gateshead, who rose to be the king’s Master of the Musicians and was buried in Westminster. From his comic opera Rosina (1782).

Wiliam Shield.jpg

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The Rio Grande by Constant Lambert, Broadcast Live from the Royal Albert Hall, 12 September 1959

A very nifty, lively, jazzy modernist piece written by Constant Lambert (The Who manager Kit Lambert’s dad) in 1927. Australian virtuoso Eileen Joyce, who famously played the heart-wrenching Rachmaninoff in the film Brief Encounter, is at the piano here. County Antrim-born Jean Allister, contralto soloist, joins her with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Chorus. At the podium is Sir Malcolm Sargent.

lambert piccadilly arcade

Composer-novelist Anthony Burgess, in his autobiography Little Wilson and Big God (Burgess was christened John Burgess Wilson and his confirmation name was Anthony) wrote,“Lambert, who admired Duke Ellington and proclaimed his harmonic roots in Frederick Delius (who in his turn had taken them from Debussy), was a fearless reconciler of what the academies and Tin Pan Alley alike presumed to be eternally opposed. I was present at that first performance, and so was my father. And, in 1972, on a plane from New York to Toronto, I found myself sitting next to Duke Ellington, who spoke almost with tears of the stature of Lambert, admitted that he had learned much from both Delius and Debussy, and expressed scorn for the old musical division, which had been almost as vicious as a colour bar. He had lived to see it dissolve and jazz become a legitimate item in the academic curricula.” [More Burgess on Lambert here.]

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Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor: Jacqueline Du Pre, Cellist; Daniel Barenboim, Conducting the London Philharmonic

du pre, barenboim
Jacqueline Du Pre (1945-1987) and her husband Daniel Barenboim—the most romantic, tragic musical love story of my generation

Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, op 85, his last notable work, is a cornerstone of the solo cello repertoire. Elgar composed it in the aftermath of the First World War, when his music had already gone out of fashion with the concert-going public. The piece didn’t achieve wide popularity until the 1960s, when a recording by Jacqueline du Pré caught the public imagination and became a bestseller. This film recording is from a 1967 program from the BBC.

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