Sunday, February 16, 2003


One of the standards in BBC Radio 3's classical output is repeat Winter broadcasts of Proms (in this case from last Summer) on Saturday nights. This evening we revisited a fabulous late night concert featuring the Australian Chamber Orchestra conducted by Richard Tognetti and the BT Scottish Ensemble conducted by Clio Gould. Its highlight was the 'Variations On Sellinger's Round' (an Elizabethan tune) from 1953, commissioned for the Aldeburgh Festival.

The anonymous sixteeth century theme itself is articulated by Imogen Holst, and the variations are by Arthur Oldham (a now largely forgotten English choral master of the earlier part of the twentieth century), Michael Tippett (whose piece combined the tune in a slow version in the minor key with part of the air and ground bass from Dido's first aria in Henry Purcell's opera, 'Dido And Aeneas'), Lennox Berkeley (featured recently in NFE), Benjamin Britten, Humphrey Searle and William Walton. Tippett, incidentally, went on to score another four pieces to produce a 'Divertimento' described here by Meirion Bowen.

This ensemble piece (in all senses of the word!) was accompanied by three established scores - Elgar's 'Introduction and Allegro', Vaughan Williams' 'Fantasia On A Theme Of Thomas Tallis' and Tippett's 'Fantasia On A Theme Of Corelli'. I am delighted to have had the chance to hear this concert again, not just for the works, but for the extraordinary playing of the two string orchestras. The ACO and the BTSE feature some younger musicians of extraordinary virtuosity and sensitivity. On this occasion they absolutely glowed with intensity, attack and real feeling for the music. I certainly intend to check out their recordings.

Radio 3 Proms repeats are detailed here.

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