Conductor: Michael Bell, MBE
Violin: Gillian Bradley
A programme of British music, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Vaughan Williams.
- Holst – A Somerset Rhapsody
- Iestyn Harding – Song at the Year’s Turning
- Vaughan Williams – The Lark Ascending
- Vaughan Williams – Symphony No 5
Usually our programmes include music from many countries, but this time we have more of a home grown feel, focusing on British music. This year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ralph Vaughan Williams, and we have two of his most popular compositions.
The Lark Ascending has been a concert favourite for decades, and we are delighted to welcome back Gillian Bradley as soloist in this wonderfully evocative work. Gillian, along with her mother Jean, was a member of this orchestra in her teens, before embarking on a career as a professional musician.
Symphony No 5 was completed in 1943, and represented a haven of serenity in the midst of the violence and chaos of the war raging at the time, harking back to the earlier pastoral symphony rather than the dissonance of the fourth. It’s premiere at a Prom in 1943 was conducted by the composer. Sir Henry Wood, the founder and presiding figure of the Proms, was originally intended to conduct the performance but was not well enough and RVW was persuaded to take the baton.
Our concert opens with Gustav Holst’s Somerset Rhapsody. Holst and RVW were lifelong friends, contemporaries at the Royal College of Music and also united by their interest in folk music. The Rhapsody was written at the suggestion of the folk-song collector Cecil Sharp and made use of tunes that Sharp had noted down. Holst described its performance at the Queen’s Hall in 1910 as “my first real success”.
We are also very pleased to be able to include an original Welsh composition too, from our very own resident composer Iestyn Harding. Song at the Year’s Turning was written as a commission for Tŷ Cerdd, the organisation supporting and promoting music and musicians in Wales. In contrast to the folk song we played last time, this piece explores a wide variety of styles and rhythms.