Saturday 11 February 2017

Two Twentieth Century classics

Crouch End Festival Chorus - Prokofiev, Holst - Barbican
Crouch End Festival Chorus, conductor David Temple, is presenting two contrasting 20th century classics on Sunday 12 February at their concert at the Barbican. Accompanied by the London Orchestra da Camera, the choir will perform Holst's The Hymn of Jesus and Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky, alongside Vivaldi's Gloria, with soloists Jessica Cale (soprano) and Kitty Whately (mezzo-soprano). For the Hymn of Jesus, they will also be joined by the Finchley Children's Music Group and choir of City of London School for Girls.

The Hymn of Jesus was Holst's first major work after finishing The Planets. Written in 1917 (and premiered in 1920) the piece is undoubtedly a response to the carnage of World War One (Holst was unable to enlist for medical reasons). The piece sets a text from one of the Gnostic Gospels, the Acts of St John, using a translation from the Greek which Holst prepared with assistance from Clifford Bax and Jane Joseph. The piece is a long way from the Victorian and Edwardian oratorio with both text and music being profound and not a little challenging, and Holst's ecstatic writing prefigures later English composers such as Tavener and Tippett.

Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky started out life as a score for Sergei Eisenstein's 1938 film, It was Prokofiev's third film score, previously he had written for Lieutenant Kije (1934) and The Queen of Spades (1936) though the Queen of Spades project never reached fruition. Prokofiev would also write the score for Eisenstein's last film Ivan the Terrible (1942-45).   In 1939 Prokofiev arranged the music from Alexander Nevsky into a cantata, perhaps inspired by the great popularity of the film.

Full details from the Barbican website.

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