In this first concert of our 51st season we perform just two works. We open with a performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 when the orchestra reunites with an old friend, Ian Buckle, who last played with us in 2010. Ian maintains a varied freelance career as soloist, chamber musician, orchestral pianist and teacher. He is the artistic director of Pixels Ensemble, formed in 2016, and teaches at the University of Liverpool and is an examiner with ABRSM.
We finish with Tchaikovsky's sixth symphony, also known as the Pathétique, which the composer conducted the first performance of, on 28 October 1893, only nine days before his death. It is the piece that he described in letters as “the best thing I ever composed or shall compose”.
Sinfonia's first concert in 1973 contained the jewel that is the 5th Symphony of Franz Schubert. The orchestra will play this piece in this second concert, almost exactly 50 years on!
The programme also contains two Czech rarities - works by Czech composers Bohuslav Martinů and his pupil Vítězslava Kaprálová, a young composer with a burgeoning career as a composer-conductor, tragically cut short in 1940 at the age of just 25; and also the delightful tone poem ‘En Saga’ by Jean Sibelius, which paints a strong landscape but with no programme or literary source.
Our third concert features two fascinating works by the American composer Aaron Copland, including his setting of Eight poems of Emily Dickinson with soloist Mary Plazas.
Our programme concludes with Mahler's Symphony No. 4, the last of the tetralogy known as the “Wunderhorn symphonies” because they used quotes of themes and elements of songs and poems from “Das Knaben Wunderhorn”. The last movement features the song “Das himmlische Leben” (“The Heavenly Life”) with text representing a child’s vision of heaven, and will be sung by Mary Plazas.
We conclude our 51st season with works by three giants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Two romantic works - Verdi's Overture 'La Forza del Destino' and Richard Strauss' first Horn Concerto, which is one of the most-demanding solo works for the horn, using the highest and lowest notes in the instrument’s register, often in quick succession. Joining the orchestra for the first time to play the concerto is Opera North horn player, Alex Hamilton.
We bring our season to a close with Shostakovich’s mighty Symphony No. 5, written in the 1930s. Often deemed his most popular, it was obsequiously titled “A Soviet Artist’s Response to Just Criticism,” acknowledging government criticism in Pravda, in which his music was characterized as “Chaos instead of Music”. The symphony was considered an immediate success and he was reinstated as a composer of the people.