Playlist: Some British symphonic music

It was gratifying last week to see the audience’s response to Pacific Symphony’s first performances of Elgar’s Symphony No. 1 (and how well the orchestra played it, under the baton of guest conductor Michael Francis). We don’t get much British symphonic music here in California, or in the U.S. generally, so I thought I’d put together a little playlist for those of you who are curious to explore a little more.

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Video: Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2

Alexander Romanovsky will perform this piece with Pacific Symphony on Feb. 1-4.

Meanwhile, you can get it in your ears by listening to Yuja Wang play it with the Berlin Philharmonic, Paavo Jarvi conducting. It’s considered one of the most technically daunting concertos for pianists in the repertoire.

Video: Elgar conducts Elgar

As Michael Francis conducts Pacific Symphony in its first performances of Elgar’s Symphony No. 1 this weekend, I thought it would be a good time to share this historical film of Elgar himself conducting the “Pomp and Circumstance” March No. 1.

The occasion is the opening of the Abbey Road Studios in London on November 12, 1931. The words of Elgar at the beginning: “Good morning gentlemen. Glad to see you all. Very light program this morning. Please play this tune as though you’ve never heard it before.”

Video: Monteux conducts ‘Le sacre du printemps’

I was listening to this recording again the other night for the first time in a while and was struck by not only how good the performance was but also by how it must be quite close to how this piece sounded at the premiere in 1913 (or at least what you could hear over the riot and jeers).

Pierre Monteux was the conductor at the premiere and he led an orchestra of French musicians, as here. French orchestras in the 1950s still had a distinctive sound (tart and clear), and the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra is captured in fine stereo sound in this recording, made in 1956. The performance is not as slick or as powerful as they have become in our time, but it is incisive and primitive and teeming. I’ll post just the first two sections below (the others are available on YouTube). Monteux said he always pictured the dancers at the premiere in his head whenever he conducted the score subsequently.


(Curated classical music news and views from around the internet.)