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Bridging Europe: Haydn, Britten, MacMillan

Program

Joseph Haydn: March for the Prince of Wales, Hob. VIII:3

Benjamin Britten: Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, Op. 33aSerenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 31

INTERVAL

James MacMillan: Cumnock Fair

Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 104 in D major, Hob. I:104 (“London”)

Other information

Season tickets

  • Solti A
  • Solti B

The event is about 2.5 hours long.

About the event

The Bridging Europe festival brings music from England, Wales and Scotland through the works of Haydn, Britten and MacMillan. Haydn, much admired in London, composed the march in honor of the Prince of Wales, successor to the British throne. The interludes of Britten’s opera Peter Grimes tell us of the sea, while the Serenade set poems by famous English poets including Tennyson, Blake and Keats to music. James MacMillan’s piece is reminiscent of Scottish folk dances, while Haydn’s last symphony was created in London, giving it its name. All this exemplifies the cultural diversity and inclusion that has always characterized the United Kingdom. The songs in Serenade are performed by British tenor Andrew Staples, a former student of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.The concert opens with jubilant fanfares. Every once in a while, Haydn composed a new piece to dazzle the British royal family. His March was originally composed for brass instruments in 1792. The same year, he revised his piece for the annual charity concert of the (still active) Royal Society of Musicians by adding a string section and timpani.The two works by Britten featured in today’s concert are strikingly different in character. Peter Grimes, completed in 1945, is the first English opera aspiring to international acclaim after Purcell. In this tragic story of the morose fisherman from a small English village the sea itself becomes one of the protagonists. The interludes––customarily employed to help change scenes––here become meaningful bits, conveying emotions and suspense. The brilliant “Dawn” is followed by “Sunday morning” portraying the bustling of the church-goers. After the mysterious “Moonlight,” it is a “Storm,”—raging and then dying away—that concludes the work.The Serenade explores another much-admired, though at the same time also feared trope––the night. The theme of the Prologue, performed by the horn alone, emerges off-stage in the Epilogue, framing settings of six poems by British poets. “Pastoral,” “Nocturne,” “Elegy,” “Dirge,” “Hymn,” and “Sonnet” each present different aspects of night.The most recent piece featured in the concert is Cumnock Fair, premiered in 1999. It takes its title from a sprightly Scottish dance and was commissioned by the prestigious Cumnock Music Club for its Golden Jubilee concert. The work, scored for piano and string orchestra, is based on dance melodies by an 18th-century composer from Cumnock, John French. Though archaizing in style, it is an unquestionably contemporary piece of music.“The new symphony in D major is the last I’ve composed for England” Haydn wrote in his notebook in 1795, perhaps suspecting that this might have been his final symphony, which encapsulates his entire life. The first movement linking the slow introduction and fast main section, the uncluttered middle movements and the finale featuring a folksong-like melody with horn accompaniment are a fitting conclusion to the composer’s symphonic oeuvre.

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