Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

In 1825 the 16-year-old Mendelssohn stunned the musical world with his String Octet. This was followed a year later by a second, equally stunning piece – the overture A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The plays of Shakespeare were a source of delight to the Mendelssohn family. The piece was originally written as a piano duet, but … Read more

Fauré: Dolly Suite

Born in 1845, Gabriel Urbain Fauré is considered to have been one of the greatest French composers of the 19th century, and is probably best known for his Requiem. He was the only musician in the Fauré family, descending from a line of butchers, smiths and military officers. Gabriel was a solitary and quiet child … Read more

Sibelius: Finlandia

This piece dates from 1899. Sibelius was invited to write music for a pageant, ostensibly for a press pension fund but in reality as a protest against press censorship. The music accompanied the declamation of patriotic texts, and was presented at Helsinki’s “Swedish Theatre”. The sixth number was entitled “Finland Awake”. In 1900 Sibelius published … Read more

Sibelius: Karelia Suite Op 11

In 1893 Sibelius was invited to write music for a patriotic historical pageant to be presented by students of Helsinki University in Viborg, Karelia. This province lies in the south-eastern corner of Finland, and was dear to Sibelius. In earlier years he had found stimulus in its folk music, and later he was to spend … Read more

Handel arr Mackerras: Music for the Royal Fireworks

On the 27th April 1749 there was to be held a grand fireworks display in London’s Green Park, to celebrate the 2nd Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle which brought to an end the War of the Spanish Succession. King George II himself led his troops in the Battle of Dettingen. One of the outcomes of this treaty … Read more

Britten: Five Courtly Dances from Gloriana

Born appropriately on 22 November, St. Cecilia’s Day (the Patron Saint of music), Edward Benjamin Britten was the fourth child of a Lowestoft dentist. Encouraged by a doting mother, he privately studied composition with the Sussex-born composer Frank Bridge. His piano teacher was Harold Samuel. Later, at the Royal College of Music, he studied composition … Read more

Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition

Mussorgsky was born the son of a landowner. He showed early promise as a pianist, and under his mother’s tuition was proficient enough at the age of nine to play a John Field piano concerto. Composing seemed to come naturally to him. Despite the boy’s apparent artistic gifts, it was decided that he should follow … Read more