Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Elgar and Arnold premieres

Ben Palmer
Ben Palmer
Conductor Ben Palmer and the Orchestra of St Paul's have pulled of something of a coup and are giving the London premiere of a work by Elgar at St Paul's Church, Covent Garden on 23 March 2014. Elgar's incidental music for Laurence Binyon's play Arthur was written for performance in 1923 and premiered at the Old Vic. The review of the play in the Spectator was not that enthusiastic: 'it is a very skilful dramatization of the events leading up to the ruin of the Round Table Fellowship. The guilty passion of Launcelot and Guenevere is the acid which dissolves all Arthur's endeavour to consolidate the kingdom. Mr. Binyon does not succeed in removing that taint of priggishness which has hung over Arthur since Victorian times. His verse is always adequate to the occasion, and if it at no time soars to great heights, it keeps a level which is only one step below poetry.'

The music, if heard at all today, is generally performed as a suite of six movements arranged for symphony orchestra. The original is scored for a pit band of 14 players, and the complete incidental music has been edited by Palmer and in this form was premiered in 2012, the 23 March performance will be the work's London premiere. Also in the programme are the London premieres of two of David Matthew's arrangements for string orchestra, of Elgar's String Quartet and Malcolm Arnold's String Quartet No. 2. These will be complemented by music by Robert Simpson. Palmer and the orchestra are recording the entire programme for issue on the SOMM label. Further information from the Orchestra of St Paul's website.

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