Delius: Summer night on the river

Summer Night on the River is the second of the Two Pieces for Small Orchestra. Delius had moved to a villa in the French village of Grez, which backed onto the river Loing, and this tone poem was the result of many contemplative hours spent there. In contrast to the melodic On Hearing the First Cuckoo … Read more

Brahms: Variations on a Theme by Haydn

Brahms was born into intense poverty in Hamburg in May 1833. He revealed his musical gifts as a small child, making up his own melodies which he recorded with his own notation. In his teens he earned much needed cash playing the piano in taverns and giving piano lessons. Later he was accompanist to the … Read more

Sibelius: Finlandia

Sibelius’ best works are to be found in his seven symphonies and symphonic poems. However, he is probably most renowned today for his tone poem Finlandia which he composed in 1899. At this time the Grand Duchy of Finland was struggling for independence from the Russian Empire. Sibelius was invited to write music for a … Read more

Strauss J. II: Blue Danube Waltz

Written in 1867, this famous piece, better known as the Blue Danube Waltz, has endured for more than a century. Written for symphony orchestra, the waltz is a regular feature of New Year’s Concerts in Vienna. It also happens to be the waltz whenever one is needed, and you have heard it in the movies … Read more

Dukas: Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Dukas was a French composer who studied harmony and composition at the Paris Conservatory where he associated with Debussy and Ravel and later became professor of composition. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a vivid descriptive symphonic scherzo, which is one of his best-known orchestral pieces. Although giving the impression of a moderate tempo, it is in … Read more

Mozart: Adagio from Serenade No. 10

This Serenade (which is also referred to as the Gran Partita or the Serenade for 13 wind instruments) has 7 movements of which the Adagio (in E flat major) is the 3rd. It was probably written in Vienna during 1781-2, and its performance may have been intended for Mozart’s wedding (August 1782). However the earliest … Read more

Ravel: Bolero

Born in the Basque country near the Franco-Spanish border, Ravel was the progeny of French-Swiss and Spanish parents. It was not a musical family but he was encouraged to pursue and develop his early musical talents. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire and befriended Erik Satie, who was experimenting with new styles of harmonic progression. … Read more

Fauré: Pavane op 50

Gabriel Fauré was born in 1845 in the Ariège district of the south of France, the son of a village schoolteacher. He showed early talent, and was sent to Paris to receive a musical education from the Swiss composer Louis Niedermeyer, who specialised in church music. Fauré held various posts as organist in Rennes and … Read more

Saint-Saëns: Danse Macabre

Saint-Saëns’ most popular composition was inspired by a poem of Henri Cazalis describing the Medieval superstition that at Halloween ‘Death’ (or the Devil) has the power to summon the dead from their graves to dance until dawn: Zig, zig, zig, Death in a cadence, Striking with his heel a tomb, Death at midnight plays a … Read more

Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending

This meditative piece was written in 1914. With the onset of the Great War, Vaughan Williams was soon to enlist as an orderly in the Royal Army Medical Corps, and composition and premières were on hold for the duration. The piece takes its name from the title of a poem by George Meredith (1828-1909) and … Read more