Friday, January 11, 2013

Great Britten

The strings of the Knoxville Symphony Chamber Orchestra are gearing up for an all-English program to be played on Sunday, January 13 at 2:30 at the Bijou Theatre. Soloists for Benjamin Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings will be Jeffrey Whaley, horn, and Cody Boling, tenor.

We will start with a neo-renaissance work by Peter Warlock, Capriol Suite. Similar in character to Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances and Strauss’ Bourgeois Gentilhomme Suite, Warlock draws from a collection of courtly dance tunes entitled Orch├ęsographie, assembled in 1589 by French cleric Jehan Tabourot, under the nom de plume of Thoinot Arbeau. As with these other composers, Warlock makes use of some “dirty” chords to somewhat modernize the tunes. The titles of the six brief movements have given us quite some amusement; Basse-Danse, Pavane, Tordion, Bransles, Pieds-en-l’air, and Mattachins (Sword Dance). Someone comically suggested that the fourth movement, Bransles, is what happens when you eat too much bran.

Next up will be the Britten Serenade. Mr. Whaley will begin the piece off-stage with a horn-call played on a natural (valveless) horn. The nature of this instrument will render some of the pitches a little flatter than where a valved horn would play them, setting a very pastoral musical table. Mr. Boling, another in a series of fine singers reprised from Sweeney Todd, was memorable in his portrayal of the Beadle Banford. There is again a neo-renaissance feel to some of the movements of the Serenade, some of the lyrics of which date from 17th century English poetry. Tennyson, Blake and Keats are also tapped for lyrics. If you wish that the Barber Adagio for Strings had words, or even if you don't, then you will surely enjoy this work. "Ahh, one of mother's favorites!"

After intermission, the Britten keeps coming with the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge. I have spoken of this work in a previous post; suffice it to say that the Gothic lusciousness that ended the first half will continue. The fugue near the end of the work is a feisty game of “bloody knuckles” which gives way to a deeply moving ending. Ending the afternoon will be Gustav Holst’s St. Paul Suite, another dance suite that has nothing to do with the his Planets that we played last March. This is the most famous of many works he wrote for his students during his tenure at the St. Paul’s Girls’ School between 1905-1934.


I am both sorry and pleased to announce that BOTH performances of next week’s Concertmaster Series are sold out. I apologize for any confusion that may have arisen after saying that some tickets were still available.

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