Saturday 22nd November 2014

Tonightís concert is in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel as part of a competition in 1831, his winning design had two fashionable Egyptian-influenced towers and a huge single span that no-one believed was possible for a bridge of this length. It took a further 33 troubled years for the bridge to be built and it was finally opened in 1864, after Brunelís death. We are very excited to premiere a new piece by Chris Williams, "Scilla autumnalis" inspired by the Clifton Suspension Bridge and its history. Scilla autumnalis is a rare and beautiful flowering plant which still grows on St. Vincentís Rocks, overlooking the Clifton Suspension Bridge. When initial preparations for the bridge were being made, the wife of the site engineer noticed the plant and insisted that care be taken to move it, ensuring its survival. It is the first recorded conservation effort undertaken in the area, and possibly the world. While the piece is not a direct evocation or depiction, it offers the plant as an emblem which encapsulates some of the ideas embodied by the Clifton Suspension Bridge and their shared history. Both the flower and the bridge are iconic features in the natural environment of the gorge, though on vastly different scales. Both are perpetual gifts to future generations only possible through the care and labour of the Bristol community. Finally, the piece, like both the bridge and the plant, is cast in simple, elegant lines which are symmetrical and in strict proportions. In honouring the bridge the piece also celebrates the landscape from which the bridge is inseparable and without which, unimaginable.

Our other pieces tonight complement both the bridge and Bristolís marine and industrial heritage. Adamsí "Short Ride in a Fast Machine" was composed in 1986 for the Great Woods Festival and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Adams commented on this orchestral fanfare asking "You know how it is when someone asks you to ride in a terrific sports car, and then you wish you hadnít?" and the energetic, exciting style of his minimalist composition certainly creates this thrill-seeking atmosphere.

Benjamin Brittenís "Four Sea Interludes" bring an echo of Bristolís marine heritage. The opera "Peter Grimes" tells the story of a rough fisherman, persecuted by the inhabitants of his isolated village. The "Four Sea Interludes" are used during scene changes during the opera, and set the mood for the scenes to follow revealing the conflicts and motivations of the various characters. "Dawn" describes the sombre atmosphere of the village at daybreak, and sees the fishermen getting ready for a day battling the elements out at sea. "Sunday Morning" portrays the call to worship on the day of rest. "Moonlight" paints a picture of the village at night, with music of troubled restlessness, lonely and brooding. "Storm" describes not only the terrifying fury of the waves lashing the shore, but also of Peterís troubled soul. First performed at Sadlerís Wells Theatre, on the 7th June 1945, the premiere was cited as being "the most momentous event in British music since the presentation of Elgarís Enigma Variations in 1899".

Our final work is Symphony No. 8 by Antonin Dvorak. Dvorak (who was a keen trainspotter) was nearly fifty when he wrote this symphony and it came at a time when his years of poverty and struggle were being replaced by recognition and honours. Composed during his summer retreat to the country in 1889, his head was "so full of ideas" that he couldnít write them down quickly enough. This rich seam of creativity is demonstrated in the first movement which has no fewer than eight separate melodies. The second movement consists of two different kinds of music, the first is a fragmented collection of tones and rhythms, the second, a clear melodic continuous line. The third movement is a lilting essay in the style of an Austrian Lšndler, and the finale, a set of variations on a theme. This symphony is the most overtly nationalistic of all Dvorakís nine symphonies and one of the most widely performed.

Concert Details

Date: Saturday 22 November, 2014
Time: 7.30pm

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


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

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 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 include:

  • Piano Concerto with the winner of the 2014 Rotary Club of Bristol Young Musicians' Competition.
  • Sibelius - Symphony No. 3

Conductor: Jonathan Lo

Saturday 25 April, 2015 - Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff

  • Mendelssohn - Elijah

with Cardiff Bach Choir

Conductor: Tim Taylor

Saturday 27 June, 2015 - Victoria Rooms

Programme to include:

  • Mahler - Symphony No. 6

Conductor: Jonathan Lo

Saturday 17 October, 2015 - Victoria Rooms

Programme to include:

  • Sibelius - Violin Concerto
  • Nielson - Symphony No. 5

Conductor: Jonathan Lo

Saturday 21 November, 2015 - Victoria Rooms

Programme to include:

  • Prokofiev - Peter and the Wolf
  • Britten - Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra

Conductor: Jonathan Lo

Musical Director
Jonathan Lo

Mark Bunker

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