MUSIC IN BRITAIN AND GERMANY BEFORE AND AFTER 1914
The theme for this concert is the sense that music transcends the demarcation lines of geography and language, promoting peace and harmony across national boundaries. This is a particularly appropriate theme to explore for the centenary of the start of the First World War.
Britain and Germany have been linked musically over many centuries. Johann Christian Bach made his home in London in 1762, and both Handel and Haydn exemplify these links, sitting comfortably within the context of the British royal family’s relationship with Germany from the times of the Hanoverians onwards.
The concert takes its title from the poem of the same name by Siegfried Sassoon. A setting of the poem was commissioned by the Chorus in 2012, as part of its contribution to the Cultural Olympiad. It was composed by then Chorus member Yaron Hollander, who will once again be in the audience on 7 June.
The programme begins and ends with pieces composed in memory of friends: “So Sing”, by Max Taylor, commemorates long-standing SPC member, George Swindells, who died last year aged 94 after singing with the Chorus for 66 years. The piece is based on the final chorale of Bach’s St John Passion and is a setting of a poem by Joyce Grenfell. Gerald Finzi composed the final piece in the programme, his Requiem da Camera, in memory and honour of his composition teacher and friend, Ernest Faraar, who was killed in action in September 1918.
The concert reflects the British-German link through some beautiful and fascinating repertoire. Mendelssohn’s Hear My Prayer was composed at the request of William Bartholomew of Hackney, who translated a number of the composer’s works, and is heard on this occasion in a very rarely-performed version for choir and orchestra, rather than with the more usual organ accompaniment.
Brahms’ Four Songs for Women’s Chorus,harp and horns are also very rarely performed, which is a pity since the settings are probably one of Brahms’ most hauntingly beautiful works. The songs in themselves have links with Britain: number 2 being a setting of Shakespeare’s “Come Away, Death” from Twelfth Night; and number 4 being based on “The Song of Fingal”, a pseudo-legend of ancient Ireland composed by James Macpherson in the mid 18th century, and purporting to be a translation from an Irish epic.
Holst’s settings of psalms 86 and 148 form a strong ending to part one of the concert, and part two opens with Elgar’s Serenade for Strings – Elgar’s connections with Germany being well-known. Parry’s “There is an Old Belief” and Finzi’s (again rarely performed) “Requiem da Camera” bring us closer to thoughts of the First World War. Finzi set to music three poems: John Masefield’s poem from August 1914, Thomas Hardy’s “In time of ‘The Breaking of Nations’”, and Wilfrid Wilson Gibson’s “Lament”. Having written the work between 1923-24, (Prelude was performed in 1925) Finzi subsequently reworked the third movement. The orchestration of the draft score of this movement remained incomplete during Finzi’s lifetime, and was Completed by Philip Thomas in 1984, and Requiem da camera received its full premiere on 7 June 1990 under the baton of Richard Hickox.
This rich tapestry will be further enhanced by poetry and prose presented by former Chorus member Sue Morton. A not-to-be-missed evening of beautiful and unusual repertoire in the wonderful acoustics of the Victoria Hall.
Tickets are available from Chorus members at £12 (£7 for full-time students and young people aged 16 and under), or online (plus surcharge) from http://sivtickets.com/event/everyonesangmusicinbritainandgermanybeforeandafter1914