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West Africa, Prague and Schleswig-Holstein, all in one night

12/02/2019

Jonathan Butcher, Havant Symphony Orchestra’s innovative Musical Director, has brought yet more variety to this season’s programme. In December 2018 he included Edward Elgar’s arrangement of Handel’s Overture in D Minor, a touch of Baroque.

The next concert at Oaklands School, Waterlooville, on Saturday on 23 March 2019 includes a lovely work by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. He’s not the English poet and philosopher of a similar name but a prolific English composer of mixed race.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s father was a Sierra Leone Creole physician and his mother was English. He was born in 1875 in Holborn but brought up in Croydon. He died of pneumonia in 1912 and is buried in Bandon Hill Cemetery, Wallington, Surrey.

Samuel played the violin and studied at the Royal College of Music. He became professor of music at Crystal Palace School of Music. Elgar helped him to become a conductor and composer. He was interested in the folk music of his roots.

Havant Symphony Orchestra’s opening work is his Symphonic Variations on an African Air. It’s pleasant, tuneful and the HSO string sections say it’s a delight to play.

Next on the bill are Three dances from The Bartered Bride by that bouncing Czech, Bedrich Smetana. They are a polka, a fiery Bohemian furiant and include the legendary Dance of the Comedians.

Next to take the stage is horn player Ben Goldscheider. The Huffington Post described him as a musical Bear Grylls. (What could they mean?). A versatile player, he was already a star by the time he eighteen, having reached the final of the BBC’s young musician competition. He’s played at all the best venues: The Berlin Philharmonic, the Royal Albert Hall and the Barbican. He’s rubbed shoulders with both David and Michael Barenboim.

The HSO are privileged to support him as he performs the solo part in Carl Maria von Weber’s Horn Concertino in E minor. It’s full of tricky stuff including multiphonics – playing two notes simultaneously.

Dvorak’s Symphony No 8 in G major rounds off the HSO’s evening performance. Composed in 1889, it’s a well-known work. In contrast to his other symphonies and similar music of the age, it is cheerful and optimistic. It’s just the thing to uplift the audience even more and round off a terrific evening.

Stuart Reed

Image credit: originator unknown, restored by © Adam Cuerden

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