SUNDAY 29th June 2014

Tonightís concert starts with Elgarís "Introduction and Allegro", composed in 1905 for performance by the newly formed London Symphony Orchestra. Scored for string quartet and string orchestra, the music plays the sound of these two groups off each other starting with a lyrical introduction inspired by a holiday Elgar had taken in Wales. A romantic section leads the orchestra to a jovial transit into the Allegro, which begins with twenty-one bars of semiquavers. They build from piano to a powerful forte, eventually re-stating the Introductionís opening fanfare. A vigorous "devil of a fugue" builds, then the orchestra and solo quartet echo each other returning to the original Welsh theme and finishing the piece with a pizzicato G major chord.

Richard Strauss was born 150 years ago this year, and to celebrate this anniversary tonightís concert will feature one of his earliest works as well as one of his last. "Four Last Songs" were written in the last year of his life, and represent the cycle through life, to death. The last song was written first, to a poem by Joseph von Eichendorff, with the other three songs based on poems by Hermann Hesse. Spring represents the newness, and innocence of life, followed by autumnal reflection and finally the sunset of a long journey through life. They are not songs of regret, but are resplendent with the joy of a life well lived. These achingly beautiful and richly orchestrated works ultimately represented Straussís last will and testament, and just after the sopranoís final line "can this, perhaps, be death?" Strauss quoted the "transfiguration" theme from "Death and Transfiguration" which he had written 60 years previously. He died 8 months before the first performance, his beloved wife Pauline dying just 9 days after the performance. We are delighted to welcome Lorna James as our soloist tonight. After initial studies at Royal Northern College of Music, Lorna has taken roles at Opera North and Heritage Opera, and as an established oratorio soloist has sung at The Royal Festival Hall and Wigmore Hall.

Our third piece is Richard Straussís "Serenade". Composed when he was just 18 years old, Strauss focuses his attentions onto the wind and brass ensuring that each instrument has its moment in the spotlight. His father was the most admired horn player of his time, and this delightful pieceís sweet classicism is a tribute to his father, and the classical background he was raised in. A single-movement piece in sonata form, the music is melodic and lyrical and offers a miniature version of some of Straussís more ravishing, rich writing in his later operas.

Our final work is Symphony No. 9 by Shostakovich. It was written as a composition "about the greatness of the Russian people, about our Red Army liberating our native land from the enemy". After completing it, he remarked that "musicians will like to play it, and critics will delight in blasting it". His peers were favourable towards it but less than a year after its premiere, Soviet critics censured the symphony for its "ideological weakness". It is one of his shortest symphonies, and is a joyful and vivid work with a neoclassical air. The first movement is breezy and jaunty, with a two-note brass blast that some critics named the "Stalin motif", perhaps a way for Shostakovich to secretly ridicule his selfimportant leader. The second movement is more melancholy and soulful, and the final three movements offer distinct themes - the Presto features agitated, rapidly moving patterns that slow as if exhausted to the fourth movement, the Largo. Brass and bassoon counter each other, then the bassoon launches into a humorous passage starting the Allegretto. The light themes of the first movement return, but tension builds as string arpeggios rise and fall against the brass and woodwind. Instead of a sweeping climax, the music morphs into a brilliant, dancing celebration ending with a final slap of the tambourine.

Concert Details

Date: Sunday 29 June, 2014
Time: 7.30pm

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


  • Elgar - Introduction and Allegro, op.47
  • Strauss - Four Last Songs
  • Strauss - Serenade, op.7 in E-flat major
  • Shostakovich - Symphony No. 9

Soprano: Lorna James
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.

Sunday 29 June, 2014 - Victoria Rooms

  • Elgar - Introduction and Allegro, op.47
  • Strauss - Four Last Songs
  • Strauss - Serenade, op.7 in E-flat major
  • Shostakovich - Symphony No. 9

Soprano: Lorna James
Conductor: Jonathan Lo

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
  • New commission
  • Britten - Four Sea Interludes
  • Dvorak - Symphony No. 8

Conductor: Jonathan Lo

Musical Director
Jonathan Lo

Mark Bunker

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