Saturday 18th October 2014

Tonight’s concert starts with Butterworth’s "A Shropshire Lad". George Butterworth was considered one of the finest composers of his generation but his life was cut tragically short at the age of 31. Killed leading his men at the Somme offensive in 1916, his body was never found and he is commemorated at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. Before he set off for France he destroyed much of his work, feeling it fell short of the very high standards he set himself. Butterworth was a huge collector of folk songs, and a skilled Morris dancer and his two major song cycles are settings of poems from A Shropshire Lad by A E Houseman. While the language of the poems is simple, the subject matter of young men going to war and failing to return sets a poignant mood ideally suited to Butterworth’s fine composition skills. This orchestral rhapsody is based primarily on one theme from the first cycle "Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry...." and was performed for the first time in 1913, one year before The Great War started.

Our next piece is Elgar’s "Cello Concerto". This most beloved of British Concertos was written in the summer of 1919 at a time which saw Elgar deeply saddened over the First World War, suffering from a painful ear condition and bereaved at the recent death of several close friends. It perhaps signifies the end of a way of life that Elgar had come to cherish...."everything good and nice and clean and fresh and sweet is far away, never to return" he wrote to a friend at the time. The first of the four movements sees the violas introducing the theme which Elgar hummed on his deathbed, saying to a friend "If ever after I’m dead you hear someone whistling this tune on the Malvern Hills, don’t be alarmed. It’s only me". The melancholy movement fades away into a shadowy scherzo by way of the soloist’s guitarlike pizzicato. The short and serene Adagio is an eloquent song without words, with a recitative-style cadenza launching the final movement. Rarely is such anguish and despair conveyed, but the soloist’s introductory flourish returns and the work ends with a few bars where soloist and orchestra combine for only the first time in the whole concerto. We are delighted to welcome our soloist tonight, Jessie Ann Richardson. A graduate of the Royal School of Music, Jessie won the Herbert Walenn Prize and made her debut at the London Purcell Room in 2011. A founding member of the renowned Piatti Quartet, Jessie has toured all over Europe and Australia with the quartet, and appeared live on BBC Radio 3.

Our final work is Symphony No. 5 by Prokofiev. This was written during the summer of 1944 when Prokofiev was living back in Moscow after years in the USA and Paris. The mood at the time was optimistic - the Allies had invaded Normandy, and Soviet forces had launched huge offensives in Poland. Prokofiev was inspired, and the symphony was declared to be music "glorifying the human spirit....praising the free and happy man, his strength, his generosity and the purity of his soul". The four movements fall into the more unusual "slow, fast, slow, fast" configuration with deeply expressive slow movements intermingled with high-spirited faster movements. The first movement starts in a pastoral mood, but the lower brass beckon dark clouds. The second movement begins in a furtive mood, before becoming more extrovert, but the movement ends with a sinister growl. The third movement emerges out of a melancholic mist before being smothered by a marching section and sinking back into an unsettled peace. The finale touches on the innocent mood of the first movement before rushing off energetically. Heavy-footed brass fanfares bring in sinister interjections which try to stifle the triumphant motifs. Something nasty is lurking, but despite this unease, the voltage is ramped up and after a dizzying swirl of music, the work reaches a heroic conclusion.

Concert Details

Date: Saturday 18 October, 2014
Time: 7.30pm

Venue: Victoria Rooms, Clifton, Bristol. Click here for a map


  • Butterworth - A Shropshire Lad
  • Elgar - Cello Concerto
  • Prokofiev - Symphony No. 5

Cello: Jessie Ann Richardson
Conductor: Jonathan Lo
Leader: Mark Bunker

Tickets will be available online (details to follow shortly), or on the door.

The ticket prices are:

  • £15 (£13 concessions) balcony
  • £11 adults (£9 concessions) stalls
  • £5 students
  • £2 children/school parties

Pre-concert talk:
Jonathan will be presenting a free pre-concert talk at 6.45pm.

Saturday 18 October, 2014 - Victoria Rooms

  • Butterworth - A Shropshire Lad
  • Elgar - Cello Concerto
  • Prokofiev - Symphony No. 5

Cello: Jessie Ann Richardson
Conductor: Jonathan Lo

Saturday 22 November, 2014 - Victoria Rooms

A concert to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Clifton Suspension Bridge!

  • Adams - Short Ride in a Fast Machine
  • Chris Williams - Scilla autumnalis (New Commission)
  • Britten - Four Sea Interludes
  • Dvorak - Symphony No. 8

Conductor: Jonathan Lo

Saturday 28 March, 2015 - Victoria Rooms

  • Programme to be confirmed.

Saturday 27 June, 2015 - Victoria Rooms

  • Programme to be confirmed.

Saturday 17 October, 2015 - Victoria Rooms

  • Programme to be confirmed.

Saturday 21 November, 2015 - Victoria Rooms

  • Programme to be confirmed.

Musical Director
Jonathan Lo

Mark Bunker

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