Course – Malvern School
Orchestral Performance – Malvern School Concert Hall
Date – Sunday 15th July 2001
Letter from course director
“NSSO has been running for eight years and was originally little more than a ‘dare’. I was approached by the IAPS Orchestral Board to set up a ‘continuation orchestra’ for the ‘retired’ 14 year olds that were no longer eligible for IAPS courses. The first orchestra had 78 musicians and was supported by professional orchestral musicians. Each of the 14 sections was individually tutored for the first three days of the course and on the fourth day by three sectional coaches: strings, woodwind and brass under the direction of a professional conductor. NSSO courses have maintained this level of support from day one. We believe that in order to get the best out of young musicians individual sectional support by some of the country’s top musicians it vital whatever the cost.
The first course broke even (£27 surplus), subsequent years made a little more and as the orchestra became more established a small financial cushion emerged and one course supported the next. This surplus was used to support individuals who otherwise would not be able to attend on financial grounds. The 1999 and 2000 courses however both had a greater expenditure than income and so the level of financial cushion has little padding remaining.
Most of us do this because we believe in what we are doing, and those of you who have played in Youth Orchestras will look back on those days with great affection, may realise what a fantastic experience that was and understand how educationally important a good residential course can be.
The aim is to expand NSSO; to have a training orchestra, a main orchestra and a Chamber Orchestra. We founded the latter and broadcast from Liverpool Anglican Cathedral in December last year. In order to achieve the training orchestra we need to increase the number of applicants and thus the profile, advertising and administration must move forwards. Presently a ‘cottage industry’, NSSO seeks a more professional approach as its second decade is in sight. We need to help in supporting the costs of:
- A new part-time fund-raising administrator
- The audition process
- The advertising
- A substantial endowment to support those who for genuine reasons cannot afford the full cost of the courses.
As I move to Uppingham as Director of Music in the next few weeks I would be delighted to hear from anyone who has offers of financial help in order to assist in securing the future of this orchestra. Please give it some thought, help us to ensure that NSSO is available for all long into the future.
We wish to express our thanks to HSBC for their kind generosity in sponsoring the conductor for this year’s course.
David R. Evans”
Conductor – Mark Shanahan
Mark Shanahan was born in Manchester and studied at Chetham’s School of Music. He took his Bachelor of Music degree at London University before joining the postgraduate conducting course at the Royal Academy of Music, London where he was awarded the Sir Henry Wood Scholarship and went on to win First Prize in the NAYO Conducting Competition in its inaugural year.
Mark began his association with English National Opera in 1991 where he conducted Jonathan Miller’s production of The Mikado. He was then invited to conduct performances of Nicholas Hytner’s new production of Verdi’s The Force of Destiny and has since returned to conduct Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.
Concert performances include regular engagements at the Royal Festival Hall where programmes have included Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust, Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, Mahler’s Das Lied von Der Erde and Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben and Alpine Symphony. He frequently conducts for the RTE Broadcasting Corporation. Film credits include Lucia, based on Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.
Engagements this season have included a revival of The Barber Of Seville and performances of Verdi’s Otello at ENO and tours to the Far East and Scandinavia. Future plans include a Verdi Gala Evening at the Royal Festival Hall, Puccini’s La Boheme at ENO and a new production of Leoncavallo’s La Boheme at ENO in the 2001/2001 season. Educational work includes conducting the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra, Welsh College of Music and Drama and the Royal Scottish Academy.
This is the second time that Mark has conducted NSSO. We thank him for his professionalism, direction and humour.
Leader – James Good
James Good was born in London in 1983. He joined the Andrea Nicolaou School of Violin at the age of six. In 1994 he was awarded a music scholarship to Colfe’s School. Since then he has performed at many interesting venues such as the Banqueting House Whitehall, Finchcocks and Pebble Mill Studios. Having been awarded a Leaving Exhibition from Colfe’s School by the Leathersellers Company, James intends to study Mathematics at Bath University next year.
Overture: Cockaigne (In London Town) – Op 40 Edward Elgar
It is very fitting that the concert should open with the music of Elgar. The NSSO Course has been held at Malvern Girls’ College, where Elgar taught the violin and where one of the present violin teachers refers to him as “my illustrious predecessor.” Despite its subtitle, this overture was written in Malvern and the autograph score has a quotation from Piers Plowman: ‘Metelees & monelees on Malverne hulles’.
The work was written in 1900 and comes from that incredibly productive period which saw Elgar catapulted to fame through Enigma Variations, and Dream of Gerontius. It was dedicated to ‘my friends the members of British orchestras’ and certainly gives each section of the orchestra plenty of opportunity. Tovey says that in the work “Elgar expressed his love of London in an overture neither more nor less vulgar than Dickens” and this portrait of London contains a ‘cheeky Cockney’ opening phrase; unmistakable sounds of marching brass bands; quiet spaces reminiscent of some of the capital’s more tranquil squares; a touch of whistling barrow boys and more than a suggestion of the bells of London.
Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune – Claude Debussy
In December 1894 came the crowning achievement of Debussy’s early, Bohemian years – the first performance of the Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune. He had spent several years at the Paris Conservatoire, had won the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1884, travelled to Russia with Madame von Meck (Tchaikovsky’s patron), heard Wagner at Bayreuth and been captivated by exotic eastern music at the Paris Exhibition in I889.
Paul Griffiths says: ‘If modern music may be said to have had a definite beginning, then it started with the flute melody which opens L’apres-midi’. It is a languorous work, thoroughly French in its sensuous use of sound, texture and line, and very innovative in its day for the use of chords and scales which blur traditional concepts of harmony and mode and produce sound pictures analogous to the Impressionist paintings of the same period. There were originally to have been three movements, of which this is the Prelude, giving a picture in sound of the poem of Mallarme where the faun dreams away the afternoon in a lazy heat.
Barcarolle from The Tales of Hoffman – Jacques Offenbach
The original Barcarolles came from the songs of the Gondoliers in Venice, which were generally sentimental and lilting. Undoubtedly the best known of the operatic Barcarolles is this one by Offenbach. The Tales of Hoffmann is one of Offenbach’s more serious operas – his operettas were outstandingly successful and established a genre of light opera which could be said to have evolved into the twentieth century musical. The Hoffmann of the title was a German Romantic author whose stories form the basis of the work. The Barcarolle (based on a melody composed in 1848) comes from Act II. Offenbach died before the opera was completed and the orchestration is by Guiraud.
Symphony No. 2 in D Op. 73 – Johannes Brahms
Brahms saw himself very much as a traditional composer of symphonies in the mould of Beethoven. “A symphony is no joke” he said, and it took him an astonishing 21 years, from 1855 to 1876, to complete his first symphony. Once the step of composition had been taken, Brahms’ other three symphonies followed quite soon. The second was begun during the following summer in Portschach on Lake Worth and finished in time for its first performance in Vienna on 30 December 1877.
It is the largest of his four symphonies, though its orchestration is still classical with the addition of the tuba. The 1st movement Allegro non troppo begins gracefully with themes which permeate the whole work and a second theme of great beauty on the violas and cellos. The opening material is developed and repeated (a sonata form movement). The slower 2nd movement, Adagio non troppo, begins with two themes at the same time – a downward cello phrase and upward bassoon phrase – and continues, as one music critic puts it “with moments of rare beauty to which no mere verbal description can do justice”. The 3rd section, marked Allegretto grazioso, is graceful and delicately scored, almost like a gentle minuet. In the last movement (Allegro con spirito), we have one of Brahms’ busy, energetic, bustling finales.