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Concert: Sibelius, Stravinsky, Nielsen

Saturday 16 March 2024 7.45pm
High Cross Church, Camberley, GU15 3SY – Venue Information

Guest Conductor: Lewis Gaston
Soloists: So-Ock Kim (Violin)

Sibelius: Finlandia
Stravinsky: Violin Concerto
Symphony No. 2

For our March concert, we will be under the baton of Lewis Gaston, the second of our two guest conductors this season. Lewis presided over the FSO’s all-English concert back in 2017 and it is a pleasure to welcome him back for a programme of Scandinavian and Russian music. The concert opens with Sibelius’ ever-popular Finlandia. A tone poem replete with nationalistic fervour, it was written at the turn of the twentieth century when the influence of the Russian Empire was becoming increasingly oppressive. It was initially performed under a variety of different names to avoid Russian censorship.

The violin concerto by Igor Stravinsky is a neoclassical concerto in four movements written in 1931. It was composed for the Polish violinist, Samuel Dushkin, and Stravinsky was initially reluctant to embark on the work because of his ‘unfamiliarity with the instrument’ but the soloist’s willingness to consult on technical aspects persuaded the composer to accept the commission. Indeed,the underlying chord on which the whole concerto is founded (referred to by Stravinky as his “passport to the concerto”) was sketched out on a table napkin at a Paris restaurant when he was having lunch with Dushkin. To rediscover the atmosphere of inter-war Paris embodied in the work, we are excited to welcome back So-Ock Kim who, through her consummate performances of various concerti over the last few years, has become a great friend to the FSO.

The concert closes with the second symphony of Danish composer, Carl Nielsen, sub-titled ‘The Four Temperaments’. Later in life, Nielsen himself explained the origin of the inspiration for the work: “I had the idea for ‘The Four Temperaments’ many years ago at a country inn in Zealand. On the wall of the room where I was drinking a glass of beer with my wife and some friends hung an extremely comical coloured picture, divided into four sections in which ‘the Temperaments’ were represented and furnished with titles: ‘The Choleric’, ‘The Sanguine’, ‘The Melancholic’ and ‘The Phlegmatic’. The Choleric was on horseback. He had a long sword in his hand, which he was wielding fiercely in thin air; his eyes were bulging out of his head, his hair streamed wildly around his face, which was so distorted by rage and diabolical hate that I could not help bursting out laughing. The other three pictures were in the same style, and my friends and I were heartily amused by the naivety of the pictures, their exaggerated expression and their comic earnestness. But how strangely things can sometimes turn out! I, who had laughed aloud and mockingly at these pictures, returned constantly to them in my thoughts, and one fine day I realized that these shoddy pictures still contained a kind of core or idea and – just think! – even a musical undercurrent!” After such an intriguing introduction, we look forward to exploring with you how the “musical undercurrent” turned out.

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