Archived Concerts 2005 – 2006

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2005 – 2006

150th Season – Walton BELSHAZZAR’s FEAST
Saturday 12th November 2005 7:30pm
Royal Concert HallWALTON
Belshazzar’s Feast
Coronation Te Deum
Peter Savidge – baritone

Piano Concerto No. 3
Alexis Ffrench – piano


Neil Page – conductor


Thus promises to be an evening of excitement and passion. Belshazzar’s Feast is a tour de force of vivacity, energy and dramatic characterisation – Walton at his best. As an added bonus the concert includes Walton’s celebratory Coronation Te Deum, written for the ceremony in 1953 – described as “a shatteringly apt display of pomp and circumstance!

For Rachmaninov’s wonderful Piano Concerto No. 3 we have an absolute treat in store with the renowned pianist Alexis Ffrench. He is a classical pianist, improviser and composer of rare distinction. The combination of these gifts gives his performances an arresting individuality and an air of spontaneous sensitivity to a degree which is rarely heard nowadays. In recitals and concertos he has proved to be a born performer, responding at his best before an audience.
He has a true performer’s flair and his playing is marked by an inspired individuality, a quality that has become rarer and rarer in recent times.

Mr Ffrench is obviously deeply musical; he has a natural empathy with the keyboard, and can project his personality through it. His performances are always live and exciting, his technique impressive and his tone warm and communicative
Christopher de Souza

For all those who read in the histories of great pianists of legendary feats of improvisation, technique and panache but who think that is all long past and perhaps exaggerated-I can say that the performances of Alexis Ffrench whether of his own music, improvised or written down, or of the standards and classics, are truly in the line of those legendary figures, and will assure his place in that select group that deserves the epithet ‘great‘ – a unique, thrilling and compelling artist of originality, brilliance and personality
John York
York Piano Trio

150th Season – Handel MESSIAH
Saturday 3rd December 2005 7:00pm
Royal Concert HallHANDEL
Jacqueline Dias – soprano
Heather Shipp – mezzo soprano
Sean Clayton – tenor
William Gaunt – bass


John Keys – organ continuo

Neil Page – conductor


This concert comes at the start of Advent, when we are all finally becoming aware that it really isn’t long until Christmas, even though the shops have been anticipating it for months. Come and have an evening to escape from the bustle and let Handel’s glorious music wash over you and renew you.

Handel’s inspired Messiah, written in only 21 days, also looks forward to Christmas, telling the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection, through prophetic, narrative and explanatory extracts from the Bible.

Although Messiah is the work by which most people in the world know Handel, it is almost a misfit in his output. He was not generally a religious composer and was not employed as a church musician, but rather wrote operas and music for royal occasions. His oratorios appear to be simply operas with religious themes, which at that time in England were not allowed to be acted or staged. They could only be performed in a church, not in a theatre.

Handel’s operatic techniques are apparent in Messiah. The choir plays parts ranging from a vituperative mob hurling insults round the Cross to a choir of angels singing of Jesus’ birth and praising Him in Heaven.

Many of the soloists’ arias are familiar and well-loved, but they make even more impact in the context of the whole work. If you have never heard the whole of Messiah before, or have only heard versions which are heavily cut and there is no sense of continuity, come and be prepared for a totally different, thrilling, emotional experience!

Monday 19th December 2005 7:00pm
Wednesday 21st December 2005 7:00pm

Neil Page – conductor

Martin Heartfield – conductor

John Keys – organ

These ever-popular family concerts come in the often frenetically busy, but expectant in-between time after the end of school term just before Christmas. It is a good time to make space to relax and enjoy enthralling Christmas music in a warm, friendly atmosphere.

The Thoresby Colliery Band is one of the most exciting brass bands in Europe, and regularly wins countless accolades for its inspirational playing. Even if you think you don’t like brass bands, this one will convert you. Over the years they have played pieces ranging from Frosty the Snowman to Rossini’s William Tell Overture, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and Wagner’s Procession to the Minster. If you get seats close enough to watch their percussion section, it is an amazing sight and sound.

When not joining forces with the band, or leading the audience in some of the familiar Christmas Carols, the choir provides some quieter interludes with some beautiful, though perhaps less familiar, carol settings.

There is always an opportunity for all the children to come down to the stage to sing carols. Some of them, if they are the first to answer a question, or sing really well, will get the chance to conduct the band or choir.

You are guaranteed to go home from this concert with a warm glow inside and a feeling of the fun of Christmas

150th Season – Elgar THE DREAM OF GERONTIUS
Saturday 1st April 2006 7:30pm
Royal Concert HallELGAR
The Dream of Gerontius
Margaret McDonald – mezzo soprano
Robert Johnston – tenor
Jeremy White – bass


Neil Page – conductor


The Dream of Gerontius is a setting of a dramatic narrative poem by Cardinal Newman, a copy of which Elgar had been given as a wedding gift. Elgar was clearly moved and inspired by the text to produce arguably his greatest music. Elgar’s friend Jaegar (‘Nimrod’ of the Enigma Variations) wrote of the work “The more I study the more I marvel. Gerontius is miles ahead of anything you have ever done“.

The first performance at the Birmingham Festival in 1900, was dogged by many problems, resulting in under-rehearsal of both orchestra and chorus. Elgar lost his temper with the performers at the final rehearsal, which sadly did not endear them to the work. So its now uncontroversial status, as one of the all-time masterpieces, was not recognised by the musical public until the next two performances in Germany and London. However, before long it was established as one of the annually performed works in the Three Choirs Festival and became a firm favourite with both audiences and choirs.

The Dream of Gerontius is another dramatic work, akin to opera in conception, but without the stage directions. Elgar weaves his fluid musical textures to conjure vivid images and skilfully to portray the emotional states of his characters. We do not have the musical fireworks of Walton, or the huge chordal or elaborate choruses of Handel – Elgar manages the forces differently, but to equally powerful effect.

The narrative follows an old man, Gerontius, as he nears death, and continues with the adventure of his soul as it journeys on, now accompanied by his Guardian Angel (Mezzo soprano). Together, they encounter a wide variety of characters and beings, in many different emotional states, all vividly portrayed by the choir.

At the end of the manuscript, Elgar, quoting Ruskin, wrote: “This is the best of me. For the rest I ate, I drank, I slept, I loved, I hated as another. My life was vapour, and is not. But this is what I saw and know. This, if anything of mine, is worth your memory“.

150th Season – Bach MASS in B MINOR
Saturday 20th May 2006 7:30pm
Southwell MinsterBACH
Mass in B Minor
Jeni Bern – soprano
Sarah Pring – mezzo soprano
Christopher Steele – tenor
David Stout – bass


Neil Page – conductor


Southwell Minster will be a beautiful setting for Bach’s magnificent Mass in B Minor.

It is mostly written for five parts, but some movements are for full double choir. It contains many sections which will be familiar on hearing them. The interplay of the cascading vocal parts should sound spectacular in Southwell Minster’s echoing acoustics, even if it may not have been quite what Bach had in mind when he wrote it.

Bach’s Mass in B Minor was never performed as a whole during the composer’s life. In fact it seems that he wrote only the Kyrie and Gloria for use in some of the more solemn services in his own church. Much of the rest could not have been performed in a strictly Lutheran church in those days as those parts of the liturgy had too many Catholic overtones. Equally it could not have been used in a Catholic church for similar reasons – the wording was a little too Protestant for their strict taste in those days. So, Bach seems to have written it for the pleasure of artistic creation, and as a deep study of the genre of ‘Masses’.

The result is a fantastic dichotomy of innocence – purity of line, and passion of rich orchestral and harmonic structure. It ranges eloquently over the moods in a Mass from the devout Kyrie and Agnus Dei to the exultantly festive Gloria and Santus. It is truly a monumental work.

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