An Evening of Eric Coates, Played by the BBC Philharmonic and Conducted by John Wilson, Salford, 8 January 2019

After he finishes his JWO “At the Movies” gig touring the isle with his eponymous orchestra, which consists of cracking waaay off-the-beam jokes between numbers about Now, Voyager (Glasgow’s The Herald deems his whippersnapper remarks “camp wit”!) and playing Fred Astaire’s ballet number from The Bandwagon in order to pay homage to Gene Kelly(!), my bonny gets back to business in Salford performing and recording a program of Eric Coates: The Merrymakers Overture; The Jester at the Wedding Suite, “Dancing Night”; Ballad for Strings; “I Heard You Singing” from 2 Symphonic Rhapsodies; and for the last number, London Everyday Suite (and you know what that means! It means “Knightsbridge”!! That farkochta earworm I can’t get out of my head!!!) Now for goodness’ sakes John, just play the music and ditch the fatuous pronouncements and the wisecracking. You’re at your best when you’re a musician and not some cheap showman.

John Wilson Vaughan Williams 2nd
At his best: John conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in Vaughan Williams’s Symphony no.2 (“London”), Birmingham, 2014.

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Tintagel by Arnold Bax, Played by the London Symphony Orchestra and Conducted by Sir John Barbirolli

Arnold Bax

Between 1910 and 1920 Bax wrote a large amount of music, including the symphonic poem Tintagel, his best-known work. During this period he formed a lifelong association with the legendary pianist Harriet Cohen—at first an affair, then a friendship and, always, a close professional relationship. In the 1920s he began the series of seven symphonies which form the heart of his orchestral output, and in 1942 was appointed Master of the King’s Music.

My beloved John conducted this in Sydney in 2016.

Second Rhapsody by George Gershwin: Wayne Marshall, Piano; John Mauceri, Conductor, with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra

Premiered at Symphony Hall, Boston, on 29 January 1932, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra; Serge Koussevitzky, Conductor and George Gershwin, Piano.

Gershwin Second Rhapsody
George Gershwin
NBC-Radio Studios (with pickup orchestra?)

In November 1930, George and Ira Gershwin arrived in Hollywood to write the score for their first movie, Delicious. Besides the songs, George was asked to compose an instrumental piece to underscore a sequence where the film’s immigrant heroine wanders through a somewhat menacing Manhattan. In the end, only six minutes of what was originally entitled “Rhapsody In Rivets” was used but George, never wanting good work to go to waste, believed that his score deserved an additional life as his next work for the concert hall. Upon his return to New York, while also working on the score for Of Thee I Sing (which was to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1932) he completed the Second Rhapsody and prepared it for its Boston debut under the baton of Serge Koussevitzky (Leonard Bernstein’s mentor).

Gershwin Second Rhapsody
Wayne Marshall
The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra

Wayne Marshall Conductor

Pictured above is Lancashire-born conductor/organist/pianist Wayne Marshall, 57—with credits as Chief Conductor of WDR Funkhausorchester; Organist and Associate Artist of the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester; Principal Guest Conductor of Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi; and as an acclaimed interpreter of George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein—who I’d put money on to become one of the top-ranking conductors in the world.

The form most commonly heard today is a re-orchestrated version created fourteen years after Gershwin’s death. Since this version is the only one offered by the publisher, it has been almost impossible for orchestras to perform the piece as Gershwin envisioned it. However, the 1931 recording (above) of a run-through of the music, with Gershwin playing the solos and conducting the orchestra, gives some idea of the original version. Michael Tilson Thomas has been a promulgator of Gershwin’s original 1931 version. He sought out the original manuscript in the library as the basis of his 1985 recording and for his later performances.

Gershwin Second Rhapsody
Michael Tilson Thomas
The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra

John Wilson‘s latest CD release, The Best of the John Wilson Orchestra, recycles some of the song hits from his BBC Proms shows—but it also includes his never-heard-before version of Gershwin’s Second (here called “New York”) Rhapsody.

Gershwin Second Rhapsody
Ian Buckle
The John Wilson Orchestra

Ralph Vaughan Williams Conducts His Symphony No. 5, 1952

Ralph Vaughan Williams

This recording was made off-air by a sound engineer using state-of-the-art recording equipment for the time that used rare and expensive long-playing acetate disks. The symphony was first performed in June 1943 (at the height of the blitz) but this recording captures a later performance in September 1952. There are four movements: Preludio 0:00 Scherzo 11:40 Romanza 16:40 Passacaglia 26:42.

My beloved John is slated to conduct this symphony with the Royal Northern Sinfonia also at The Sage in his home town of Gateshead in March 2019.

Serenade for Strings by Lennox Berkeley, Performed by the LSO and Conducted by the Composer

The most intriguing piece in the programs of John’s upcoming concerts is this one, Serenade for Strings op.12, which he’s conducting at The Sage in Gateshead, his home town, in March 2019.

While sojourning in Europe Berkeley studied under Maurice Ravel and fell in love with Benjamin Britten, which actually would make your typical 45-minute afternoon drama on BBC Radio 4…

Lennox Berkeley.jpg

Nope. That’s it. I’m dry.

Emperor Waltz, Conducted by Daniel Barenboim with the Berliner Philharmoniker, 2013

In the Revolution of 1848, Johann Strauss Jr had sided with the dissidents—the anti-Habsburg faction—while Strauss Sr his father had been an avowed royalist, composing the “Radetsky March” in honor of the great general who played a large part in suppressing the Revolution. For some time the court looked with misgivings and suspicion at Strauss Jr, however important he proved to the Austrian image.

There’s a file of a police interrogation where the younger Strauss was asked why he had dared to play the ‘Marseillaise’. In an Austria of strict censorship, that was a loaded question. Strauss answered, ‘Because it is good music and good music is what concerns me’.”

But the wounds of the revolution gradually healed. Soon Austria had a new emperor. When the emperor celebrated the 40th anniversary of his accession in 1888, Strauss composed a waltz in honor of Franz Josef.

Daniel Barenboim Strauss.jpg

My signal, my flame, my beloved John Wilson is slated to conduct this piece in Stockholm 29 March 2019.

Ottorino Respighi’s The Pines of Rome, with John Wilson Conducting the NYO of Great Britain

John conducted this Respighi piece with the National Youth Orchestra of GB (who The Guardian described as “a fearless young army on the move”) in 2015.

john-wilson-and-the-nyogb2

In his last non-JWO concert of the year, John is slated to conduct this piece on the 29th of November in Glasgow with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (along with other Respighi tone poems as well as the Overture from Gaetano Donizetti’s Don Pasquale.