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About this performance

Purcell The Fairy Queen (excerpts)
Vaughan Williams Five variants of Dives and Lazarus
Britten Les Illuminations
Holst St Paul’s Suite
Emily Howard Passacaglia
Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending

Dale Barltrop director
Stephen Newton tenor

The concert
The crown jewels of British music!

MSO Concertmaster Dale Barltrop takes us on a journey through the greats of English composition.

Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending is tainted by the sadness and sacrifice of war in a myriad of ways. Composed in 1914, the premiere was put on hold after the outbreak of World War I, the composer himself serving in France. The premiere was eventually given in 1921, when Vaughan Williams yearned for a time and a world that no longer existed. This nostalgia is reflected in the score. It is a musical response to overwhelming loss, created before Vaughan Williams ever knew how much he, and the world would need it.

Vaughan Williams’ output is steeped in the stoicism, poise and reticence we’ve come to associate with the English disposition, and it’s something Barltrop champions in throughout this program. Along with Lark is Williams’ Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus, based on a 16th century folk song. It is awash with the emerald green of the English countryside, lush and accommodating.

The giant of 20th century English composition, Benjamin Britten, is represented by Les Illuminations, his 1940 song cycle with text taken from a collection by French poet Arthur Rimbaud. Multi-musically-skilled MSO Double Bassist Stephen Newton performs this cycle as Tenor soloist.

The MSO also performs the St Paul’s Suite, by Gustav Holst, a composer most renowned for the legendary orchestral suite The Planets.

Running time
1 hour & 39 minutes, including a 20-minute interval.

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