Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Symphony No. 31 in D Major K 297 (“Paris”)
Niobe for Violin and Orchestra (world premiere)
Symphony No. 1 in C Minor op. 11
Born in 1989, Ben Gernon first attracted international attention in 2013 when he won the Nestlé and Salzburg Festival Young Conductor’s Award after a unanimous vote by the jury led by Ingo Metzmacher. Gernon is praised repeatedly for his effortless authority on the podium, his drive and command of the orchestra and his incisive, heart-felt and evocative interpretations, and has quickly earned himself a reputation as one of the finest and most exciting young conductors working today both in the concert hall and more recently in the opera house. Working now with some of the world’s major orchestras, Gernon takes up his position of Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in the 2017/2018 season, one of the youngest conductors to have held a titled position with a BBC orchestra.
This season Gernon looks forward to many significant orchestral debuts across the globe including Oslo Philharmonic, DSO Berlin, Munich Chamber, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Pacific Symphony orchestras, Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart and Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, as well as returns to the BBC Symphony, BBC Scottish, Milwaukee Symphony amongst others. As Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic, Gernon will conduct the orchestra in several concerts across the season in Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall and elsewhere, with soloists such as Richard Goode and the Berlin Philharmonic’s Solo Horn Stefan Dohr, as well as in the studio and family and education concerts.
Gernon is a regular guest conductor with most of the UK’s orchestras, including the Philharmonia, City of Birmingham Symphony and BBC Symphony orchestras and has conducted twice at the BBC Proms, including on the occasion of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s 80th birthday. Highlights of his 2016/2017 season in Europe included debuts with the Vienna Symphony, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Swedish Radio Symphony orchestras. In the US Gernon made his debut with the Chicago Symphony at Ravinia and returned to the LA Philharmonic to make his debut at the Hollywood Bowl following his season as Dudamel Fellow in 2013/2014, and in the summer of 2017 he made his debut with the Houston Symphony Orchestra.
A keen opera conductor, Gernon made his debut in 2016/2017 with Glyndebourne Touring Opera conducting Don Giovanni and returns in 2017/2018 for a production of Barber of Seville. In spring 2017 he made his debut at Stuttgart Opera conducting The Marriage of Figaro and in August 2017, at Royal Swedish Opera with The Magic Flute. Previous productions have included a specially-crafted arrangement of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail with the Young Singers Academy at the Salzburg Festival, and looking further ahead he will make his debut at London’s Coliseum with English National Opera in 2018/2019.
Ben Gernon studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Sian Edwards, with whom he still works closely, and with Sir Colin Davis, who was a profoundly influential figure in Gernon’s musical development.
“The most exceptionally gifted young violinist I have ever encountered.”
– Ruggiero Ricci, violinist
Young British violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen makes her debut with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, performing and recording the world premiere of a new violin concerto by British composer Richard Blackford. Other orchestral engagements include her debut with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra in New Zealand, and she will also return to the Orchestra of the Swan, performing Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4. Orchestral debuts last season have included the Hallé Orchestra as well as the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Vasily Petrenko, performing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. She has also returned to the Royal Philharmonic and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestras.
An ECHO Rising Star in the 2016/2017 season, she returns to the Wigmore Hall this season and appears at Saffron Hall, Stratford Music Festival, Music in the Round, and presents a programme of violin duos with Hugo Ticciati at Hull City of Culture 2018. Recent projects have included a four concert residency at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, as well as her appearance at the West Cork Chamber Music Festival.
Tamsin’s constant ambition to explore new artistic goals has led her to build up a wide ranging chamber music network and most recently, she has founded a new string quartet, the Albion Quartet, with whom she embarks on a residency at London’s Kings Place; the quartet also makes its debut at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw this season. Other regular chamber partners include James Baillieu, Hugo Ticciati and Annelien van Wauwe. Her interest in contemporary music has led to strong relationships with composers including Oliver Knussen – who has written a new work for violin and piano for her ECHO tour.
Tamsin Waley-Cohen is a recording artist for Signum Records and has recently released a recording of American violin concertos by John Adams and Roy Harris, for which she has collaborated with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Andrew Litton. Her next disc entitled Bohemia, featuring works by Janáček, Dvořák and Suk, with her regular chamber partner Huw Watkins, is due to be released in November 2017.
Richard Blackford was born in London, where he studied composition at the Royal College of Music. He also studied conducting under Norman del Mar. He spent several years in Italy as an assistant of Hans Werner Henze and got to know the European musical avant-garde to which he was affiliated. On returning to London in 1977, he focused his attention on music and dramatic art. In 1983 the Royal College of Music commissioned from Blackford a work to celebrate its centenary, the opera Metaphorphoses. Blackford subsequently continued to devote himself to international film and theater projects. He has composed four operas, two musicals, and soundtracks to more than two hundred films, dominated by German commercially successful romantic movies after novels by Rosamunde Pilcher, an English writer known to Czech TV viewers mainly from TV Prima programs. Blackford did not return to concert music until the mid-1990s.
In 2011, a centenary commission for the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, an almost one-hour long oratorio Not In Our Time, was premiered on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 to commemorate its victims, and was also performed in Bremen and Chicago. An interesting achievement is Blackford’s The Great Animal Orchestra Symphony (2014), which combines the sound of the symphonic orchestra with natural soundscapes (recordings of Pacific frogs, mountain gorillas, etc.). Richard Blackford has repeatedly visited Brno where he conducted the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra at the premieres of his Violin Concerto and small suite for string orchestra Music for Carlow inspired by Irish folk music.
Tonight Blackford’s dramatic symphony for violin and orchestra Niobe will be heard in the world premiere. It draws its inspiration from classical Greek mythology. Its story goes like this: “Niobe, daughter of Tantalus and wife of King Amphion of Thebes, gave birth to seven sons and seven daughters. At the annual celebration in honour of Leto, goddess of motherhood and protector of the young, Niobe boasts that she is greater than the goddess by virtue of the fact that Leto only has two children, Apollo and Artemis, whereas she has seven times as many. Leto, enraged, sends Apollo to kill all her sons and Artemis to kill all her daughters. Her husband Amphion, devastated, kills himself. Niobe is turned to stone on Mount Sipylus and, as she weeps ceaselessly, waters cascade down her rock face.” The symphony is in four movements and the solo part is played by violin: Niobe The Lover; Niobe The Blasphemer; Niobe The Pleader; Niobe The Mourner. The movements, lasting 23 minutes, are played without a break.
The career of a professional musician Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy was decided by his parents when he was 11: his talent at this age was extraordinary and absolutely exceptional. Shortly afterwards in 1823 his father Abraham set up a private home orchestra for his son in order to text his juvenile compositions by a stricter artistic standard. Between the ages of 12 and 14, Mendelssohn wrote several instrumental concerts and above all rather large 12 symphonies for the strings. Mendelssohn considered these works to be only study material, so for a long time they remained in the scores only and did not get wider publicity.
Although the young composer clearly develops the legacy of his predecessors, the masters of Classicism Haydn and Mozart, at the same time we can appreciate his remarkable command of compositional techniques and the richness of his melodic invention. Symphony No. 1 in C minor Op. 11 was created in 1824 in close succession after the 12 string symphonies. It is the work of a fifteen-year-old boy composed with youthful spontaneity. It lacks the masterful synthesis of a classical form with romantic emotionality that we admire in Mendelssohn’s Scottish and Italian Symphonies. It is apparent that Symphony in C minor has been influenced by the composers of Viennese Classicism, and we can feel the admirable growth of Mendelssohn’s creative abilities within the intentions of his role models. The first movement is written in the style of Beethoven, while the slow second movement foreshadows the soft touch of the future great master. The Menuetto of the third movement features a very interesting contrasting trio with a simple but attractive melody with clarinets and bassoons. The finale of the symphony is crowned with a virtuoso counterpoint.
Symphony in D major “Paris” K 297 came into being during Mozart’s second visit to Paris in 1778 upon a commission of one of two major Parisian orchestral institutions, the Concert spirituel. In this work, the composer complied with the taste of the local audience who – as he was informed – did not have the patience to listen to more serious and larger pieces. On top of that, in this symphony Mozart utilized his experience with Italian music. Therefore the symphony is only in three movements, has distinct Italian features, bears traces of Haydn’s influence and undoubtedly contains some elements typical of the contemporary French instrumental music. For greater effect Mozart used a lot more woodwind instruments than usual (pairs of flutes, oboes and clarinets), with the exception of the middle movement. Minuet is totally absent and the composition as a whole lacks – no doubt deliberately – a more intense subjective expression. However, this adaptability to the taste of the Parisian audience does not alter the fact that the Paris Symphony is a masterpiece with plenty of charming and original ideas. We can only regret that in the fresh marginal movements the composer did not dare to prescribe more repetitions and create a more grandiose score, in which all the themes and motifs would be musically developed in more detail.
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