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Romantic Heroes

7:45pm Wednesday 30 July 2014
Worcester Cathedral, WR1 2LA

Strauss Don Juan
Korngold Violin Concerto
Walton Henry V

With a tone poem based around the womanising antics of the legendary Don Juan and two works by revered Hollywood film composers, the programme for this concert is bound to make you hang off the edge of your seat.

This exciting performance features international violinist Andrew Haveron and conductor John Wilson. We are delighted that the Orator for Walton’s Henry V will be Samuel West.

Kindly supported by the Wigornia Circle (a syndicate of individuals). John Wilson kindly supported by Joanna Brickell. Andrew Haveron kindly supported by the David Shove Charitable Trust

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    Richard Strauss Don Juan

    This tone poem was composed in 1888 when Strauss was just 24, and became his first important work. During its composition, Strauss fell madly in love with Pauline de Ahna, the soprano who would eventually become his wife, and he discovered the knack (which would rarely desert him thereafter) for vividly depicting character, place, and action of such cinematic complexity that words of explanation were unnecessary. Still, Strauss prefaced the score with three excerpts from Nikolaus Lenau’s German verse of the same name.

    In all music, there are few openings as breathtaking as that of Don Juan—a rapid unfurling in which the hero leaps headlong in front of us. Throughout the work, Strauss doesn’t skimp on details, for even in his abridged biography of the great lover he depicts at least one flirtation, two torrid affairs, and a duel to the death. There are many remarkable moments—the deeply felt love scene at the heart of the piece, beautifully launched by the oboe; the brazen new signature theme that follows, played by the four horns in unison; the hero’s precipitous fall from grace, when memories of his most recent loves pass quickly before him. Finally, after reliving the glory of past conquests, Don Juan recognizes that his victory is hollow — “the fuel is all consumed and the hearth is cold and dark,” Lenau writes—and he willingly dies at his adversary’s hand. With one piercing stab from the trumpets, he drops, trembling, to the ground. As swiftly as Don Juan’s life had ended, Strauss’s dazzling career was launched.

    Excerpts taken from programme notes by Phillip Huscher

    Erich Wolfgang Korngold Violin Concerto

    The son of a respected Viennese  music critic , Eric Korngold was a highly respected Austrian composer who moved to Hollywood in 1938 aged 41, following the Nazi persecution of the Jews. His collaboration with Max Reinhardt, famous stage director and producer, resulted in the composition of 17 scores for Warner Brothers, 2 of which won Academy Awards.

    His violin concerto was composed in 1946 for Jascha Heifetz; of all the concertos composed for Heifetz, only the concerto by Sir William Walton has achieved wider circulation.

    The long solo that opens Korngold’s concerto is from the score for the 1937 film Another Dawn ; the more expansive second theme is from Juárez, an unforgettably poignant historical drama in which Paul Muni played the title role, Brian Aherne the tragic Habsburg Emperor of Mexico, and Bette Davis the Empress, Carlotta. The principal theme of the second movement, a Romance, is from Anthony Adverse (1936); the energetic finale, which begins as a staccato jig and works up to a stunning virtuoso climax, is based on the leading motif from The Prince and the Pauper (1937).

    William Walton Henry V

    Laurence Olivier chose William Walton to compose the music for Henry V in this his first film as Director. Walton relished the opportunity afforded by Olivier and borrowed from a number of period sources, including The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book (the most important collection of keyboard music in the Elizabethan period) and the Chants d’Auvergne, as collected and arranged by Joseph Canteloube. He also used two French tunes of the period, including the well-known Agincourt Song. In 1943, with the war in Europe raging, Olivier dedicated his film to “the Commandos and Airborne Troops of Great Britain, the spirit of whose ancestors it has been humbly attempted to recapture in some unsung sense.”

    Christopher Palmer prepared this concert version in 1988. It was premièred in London on May 10, 1990 with the Orchestra and Chorus of St. Martin-in-the-Fields conducted by Sir Neville Marriner with Christopher Plummer as narrator. And just to bring it closer to home, the festival Development Manager Debbie Liggins was one of the members of the chorus!

    Generally known as a slow and careful composer, William Walton could put a score together quickly; this talent, plus his keen dramatic sense, made him a natural composer of film music. He scored 14 films between 1934 and 1969 and lavished upon them the same nourishing mix of inspiration and craftsmanship that characterizes his finest concert music. So good was this score, that it earned Walton an Oscar nomination when the film was released in America in 1946.

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