ENGLAND IN THE EDWARDIAN ERA
Our season opener would have featured works from the age of Downton Abbey: Elgar’s richly lyrical Cello Concerto in E minor, with 2019 Concert Artists Guild Winner Jamal Aliyev, plus Vaughan Williams’ mellifluous Symphony No. 2, the “London Symphony,” with its references to Hampstead Heath, Bloomsbury Square, and the Westminster Quarters.
* As a reminder, all season and family concerts have been canceled due to COVID-19. However, if you would like a sneak peek at the virtual concert experiences that will be created this year, here is a copy of our season brochure.
Please stay safe and we look forward to welcoming you back to Wentz Concert Hall soon!
Jamal Aliyev is an Azerbaijani cellist who is rapidly becoming one of the most sought after cellists of his generation. In 2017 he made his solo debut at the BBC Proms with the BBC Concert Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall—London live on radio and TV, won the "Arts Club—Sir Karl Jenkins Music Award" and his debut CD with pianist Anna Fedorova, "Russian Masters," was released by Champs Hill Records to critical acclaim. In 2019 Jamal Aliyev performed Elgar’s well-known Cello Concerto with BBC Scottish Symphony live on BBC Radio 3 and with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on a 4-concert tour.
Please read Jamal Aliyev's full biography here.
Listen & Watch here: Listen to Aliyev play on his YouTube channel.
A London Symphony (Symphony No. 2)
Ralph Vaughan Williams
DSO violist Andy Dogan provides an introduction to "A London Symphony".
Ralph Vaughan Williams, who was born in Gloucestershire, England, in 1872, is considered the founder of the nationalist movement in English music, a musical renaissance that Elgar exemplified. Vaughan Williams’ compositions include orchestral, stage, chamber, and vocal works. Especially popular is his second symphony, “A London Symphony,” which incorporates the typical sounds of Edwardian London, including street vendors’ calls and the Westminster chimes.
The first movement evokes a “Bank Holiday” in London’s 800-acre Hampstead Heath, one of London’s best loved green spaces with some of the best views of London. By contrast, the second movement is reminiscent of London’s oldest square, the elegant Bloomsbury Square, on a crisp November day. Movement three recreates the atmosphere of the Westminster Embankment and the Strand at night. And finally, the fourth movement brings to mind the flowing of the River Thames and the symbolic passing of the glory days of London’s Edwardian era.
Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85
Sir Edward William Elgar was born in 1857 in Worcestershire, England. The first English composer of international stature since 17th century composer Henry Purcell, his works in the orchestral idiom of late 19th century Romanticism – characterized by bold tunes and striking color effects – stimulated a renaissance of English music that would later become known as the national school of English music.
Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85, is a somber work intended to reflect the sorrows England faced in the closing months of World War I. Within Elgar’s body of work, it is unusual. Instead of the hearty and self-assured nature of his well-known Pomp and Circumstance marches, this music is much more introspective and restrained.
The concerto is structured in four movements rather than the customary three, opening with a dialogue between cello and clarinet before the strings introduce the first of several flowing, sorrowful themes. Each theme is then passed to the soloist. The second movement begins in an elegiac mood, and eventually more restless tempos are introduced. The third movement returns to the slow, brooding style of the first, while the final movement pushes ahead with a greater sense of motion than the earlier ones and requires that the soloist perform the sort of quick-fingered passagework typically associated with concerti.
Downton Abbey: Suite
The music of Glasgow-born John Lunn possesses a wonderfully unique voice that spans a wide spectrum of musical styles. Classically trained but contemporary in attitude, he combines an intelligent and sensitive approach with a sound that always hits the emotional heart of a piece. Lunn is probably best known for his scoring of the highly successful TV and film drama, Downton Abbey, which chronicles the lives of a British aristocratic family and their servants in the early 20th century – the Edwardian Era. Lunn received two Primetime Emmy Awards (2012 and 2013) and two BAFTA Nominations (2012 and 2016) for his work on the TV series. He also created the score for the more recently released Downton Abbey movie.
Lunn’s “Suite from Downton Abbey” consists of soaring strings beneath a simple piano refrain. Notably, however, the iconic title theme nearly didn’t make it into the show! Lunn explained that there was no title sequence in the first episode of the TV series. Instead, it began with a telegram and then cut to a close-up of the train. Lunn said the scene with the motion of the train inspired his vision of the opening theme. When that opening scene then cut to a lonesome servant, Bates, arriving at Downton, Lunn chose a high piano tune with a more solitary feel to reflect the servant’s forlorn look. Finally, the music broadens when the scene transitions to a sweeping picture of the fictional Crawley estate, set at England’s famous Highclere Castle.