Monday 27 November 2023

There's music in all things: Bath Festival Orchestra marks the Berlioz 220 and Poulenc 125 anniversaries with a début performance at Southbank's Queen Elizabeth Hall

Bath Festival Orchestra
Bath Festival Orchestra
Peter Manning, principal conductor/artistic director of Bath Festival Orchestra (BFO), had this to say about their forthcoming concert marking the Berlioz 220 and Poulenc 125 anniversaries. 'Our January programme considers a vast timeline spanning the troubadour influences of Poulenc’s neo-classical works. The three works we shall perform are distinct but each paints a vivid narrative through live music and each is crafted to evoke emotion. Therefore, by incorporating Byron’s influence on Berlioz, the programme will embrace the twin joys of literature and music thereby echoing Byron's words: "There's music in all things".'  

The concert (Sunday, 14 January 2024, 7.30pm, Queen Elizabeth Hall) opens with Louise Farrenc’s Overture in E minor, Op. 23. An extraordinary pianist, teacher and composer of the Romantic period - three symphonies, a few choral works, numerous chamber pieces and a wide variety of piano music - her ‘magical musical palette’ was much admired by Berlioz while the sensational young violist, Dana Zemtsov, makes her South Bank début fresh from the release of her stunning new album, Fathers & Daughters (Channel Classics Records) joining forces with BFO in bringing a new focus to the music of Berlioz in his masterpiece, Harold in Italy, inspired by the composer's Italian travels and Lord Byron's famous autobiographical poem, Childe Harold, written in four parts and published between 1812 and 1818. The dedicatee was ‘Ianthe’ (Lady Charlotte Harley) a young beautiful girl that Byron knew well. 

The narrative describes the travels and reflections of a world-weary young man who’s disillusioned with a life of pleasure and revelry and looks for distraction in foreign lands. In a wider sense, it’s an expression of the melancholy and disillusionment felt by a generation weary of the wars of the post-Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras. The title comes from the term ‘childe’, a medieval title for a young man who was a candidate for knighthood. 

Bringing the concert to a close, Poulenc's Sinfonietta, offers the audience a neoclassical palette cleanser! The composer’s only symphonic work, it’s light and full of dance rhythms while witty and satirical at the same time. The first movement begins expressively, the second is scherzo-like in character reminiscent of the last movement of Les biches, the third’s gentle with an expansive melodic theme while the finale recalls Haydn with folksy themes that scurry along to a breathless and excited conclusion. 

A pre-concert talk will be given by Royal Society of Literature Fellow, Fiona Sampson, MBE, and BFO's artistic director, Peter Manning, hosted by BBC Radio 3’s Donald Macleod. The trio will explore the 'romantic' hero in the work of Berlioz and Lord Byron while examining the female voice in 19th-century music and literature.  

An ensemble of brilliant, early career orchestral players, Bath Festival Orchestra is united by the desire to create joyful, entertaining, enriching and relevant experiences for and with people whether in concert halls, churches, community spaces, educational settings or any other location where there are people who want to engage with music. 

Under the leadership of Peter Manning, BFO aspires to be an orchestra for the 21st century: inclusive, collaborative, accessible and responsible for its impact on the world. As such, the orchestra - who extends its reach beyond Bath and London offering performances across the UK particularly in under-served communities while through its ‘orchestrate’ programme supports the next generation of music enthusiasts - welcomes players of diverse nationalities and performs a broad repertoire by composers of all backgrounds.  

As a soloist, Dana Zemtsov (who has released to critical acclaim five albums on Channel Classics Records with the latest just released) has performed with orchestras the world over working under the baton of Leif Segerstam, Otto Tausk and Daniel Raiskin.  

Interestingly, too, pianists Anna Fedorova/Borys Fedorov and violists Dana Zemtsov/Mikhail Zemtsov are embarking on a journey through generations of their respected families. And throughout years of their friendship Dana Zemtsov and Anna Fedorova have discovered many similarities in their upbringing. For instance, both of their parents met in Moscow's conservatory. Dana’s parents (Julia Dinerstein and Mikhail Zemtsov) are renowned violists and professors while Anna’s parents (Tatiana Abayeva and Borys Fedorov) are renowned pianists and professors.  

With their album Fathers & Daughters they journey through the generations performing works with daughter and father respectively, fathers together, daughters together and, finally, daughters and their fathers.  

Therefore, the Fedorova dynasty of pianists joins forces with the Zemtsov dynasty of violists performing music on Fathers & Daughters by Yevgeni Zemtsov, Frédéric Chopin, Nikolay Roslavets, Alexander Glazunov, Alexander Scriabin, Michael Kugel and Mikhail Zemtsov while Borys Fedorov has written a piece especially for the album - a perfect nostalgic portrayal of the atmosphere Dana and Anna’s ancestors grew up in. A nice story! 

Tony Cooper

Further information from the orchestra's website.

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