Join us for a BBC Radio 3 Invitation Concert: Embracing New Horizons at the Ulster Hall, Belfast on 14 December 2023!
This show celebrates creative firsts for 2 contemporaries: Ralph Vaughan Williams and Carl Nielsen.
Early in 1950, 3 English music educators approached Vaughan Williams to write a large work for the string students of the Rural Schools Music Association. The idea intrigued him and he treated their modest abilities as a challenge to his skills: to express his musical ideas within the framework of their capabilities. Written for 3 string orchestras, the Concerto Grosso was premiered that November at the Royal Albert Hall, with Sir Adrian Bolt conducting. Since then, however, most performances have omitted the easiest (ad libitum) parts, leaving just 2 ensembles working together in the traditional fashion of a baroque Concerto Grosso. It is a wonderful and rarely experienced listen.
Nielsen’s wrote his First Symphony between 1891 and 1892, after completing his violin studies at the Copenhagen Conservatoire and joining the ranks of the Royal Danish Orchestra. While drawing its inspiration from Brahms and Dvorák, it also contains hints of the progressive writing for which he was later celebrated. In fact, one critic at its premiere in 1894 described the work as "ruthless but innocent - like a child playing with dynamite." That premiere was directed by the Norwegian composer-conductor Johan Svendsen, with Nielsen playing 2nd violin in the Royal Danish Orchestra itself.
The Franco-British conductor Stephanie Childress makes her Ulster Hall debut.