Sullivan: The Merchant of Venice Suite

It would pain Sullivan greatly to know that his posthumous reputation exists almost solely alongside that of the dramatist William Schwenck Gilbert, with whom he collaborated so successfully in the genre of light opera. His scores for HMS Pinafore, The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance and many others were so extravagantly successful that his more … Read more

Prokofiev: Montagues and Capulets (The Apprentice Theme)

Sergei Prokofiev was born in Sontsovska in the Ukraine, on April 22nd, 1891, and died in Moscow, on March 5th, 1953. He composed Romeo and Juliet in 1935/6. In 1934 Prokofiev began discussions with the Kirov Ballet about composing a lyrical ballet for them. The Kirov wanted him to use Romeo and Juliet as his … Read more

Bizet: Carmen Suite No. 2

Carmen was first performed in Paris in 1875. Although now one of the best-known works of Georges Bizet (1838-1875), it was initially far from popular as the controversial main characters shocked and scandalised audiences. Bizet died following the 33rd performance so never lived to see the success this opéra comique achieved in Vienna later that … Read more

Holst: The Planets

Gustav Holst was an early 20th-century British composer. He was born in 1874 to a Swedish father and an English mother and spent his childhood surrounded by music. From the age of 19, he studied at the Royal College of Music in london. Although he was initially drawn to composition, his works failed to attract … Read more

Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition

Tonight you will hear Ravel’s masterly orchestration of Mussorgsky’s piano suite: Pictures at an Exhibition. Mussorgsky was one of the Russian “Five” with a deep belief in Nationalism in art in all its forms. He was a close friend of artist Victor Hartmann who died in 1873. A Memorial Hartmann Exhibition was organised by Stassov … Read more

Debussy: L’Apres-midi d’un faune

This composition was inspired by the poem l’après midi d’un faune by Stéphanie Mallarmé. It is a symphonic poem for orchestra and was first performed in Paris in 1894. It is called a prelude because Debussy originally planned to write a suite of three movements – Prelude, Interlude and Final Paraphrase – but the last … Read more

Vaughan Williams: English Folk Song Suite

This ever-popular set of quintessentially English tunes first appeared in 1923, written at the request of the Royal Military School of Music at Kneller Hall.  The suite as you will hear it this evening is a transcription from military band to orchestral score made the following year by Vaughan Williams’ pupil Gordon Jacob, but not … Read more

Coates Eric: London Suite

Although he was born in the country in a village near Nottingham, Coates spent a large part of his later life in London. He began to learn the violin at the age of six. In 1906 he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London where he studied the viola and composition. … Read more