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Elgar & Sibelius

ELGAR – Cello Concerto in E Minor Op. 85
SIBELIUS – Symphony No. 5

JOHN BARRY A Childhood Memory (arr. Johnson) with pupils of Bow School

Jamie Walton & The Northern Lights Symphony Orchestra/Adam Johnson

St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate, London, 16 February 2012

This was an inspiriting concert, given to a capacity audience in one of central London's largest and most impressive churches, one which is blessed with excellent acoustics.

The NLSO is an orchestra of international young professionals, established in 2007 by its charismatic conductor Adam Johnson (previously noted by Musical Pointers as composer), and specialising in composers born within the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) region; today's Sibelius.

His 5th Symphony (which used to be his most popular alongside the 2nd) was given a resplendent account, which was far more involving than can sometimes be the case in the more focused sound in purpose built concert halls.

It reminded me of my first experience of Sibelius, an overwhelming moment of my musical childhood; the original Kajanus '78s recording which I listened to again and again on one of those wonderful old EMG horn-gramophones...

Equally thrilling tonight had been to hear the Elgar live, with amazement at the power of Jamie Walton's 1792 Guarneri cello.

We were familiar with Walton's fine studio recordings but this was the first time we'd heard Jamie live, and we were completely bowled over (we'd thought him "too far forward" on his CD of it). I had thought that such balance could only be achieved with microphones!
[q.v. Jonathan Ayling below]

Elgar, Smyth & George Lloyd

Ethel Smyth: Overture & On the Cliffs of Cornwall from 'The Wreckers'; Elgar: Cello Concerto George Lloyd: Symphony No.6

Philharmonia Britannica/Peter Fender

May 26 2012 - St John’s Church, Waterloo Road, London

A convivial concert in a bright church, hard by Waterloo Station.

After a shaky overture, the remainder of the programme did great credit to this well rehearsed amateur/professional orchestra, playing under the direction of its technically accomplished and inspiring composer/conductor Peter Fender.

*Cellist Jonathan Ayling of the LPO gave (by memory) a moving and mature account of the Elgar concerto, which he has so often accompanied in the cello section...

The musicians stayed in the body of the church for the interval, where there was lively, animated conversation. Ayling told me that the superb balance between cello and orchestra was not a rehearsing achievement; rather it is an aspect of Elgar's genius as an orchestrator.

The consequence was yet another fine experience of a great concerto which never fails to engage the listener, however many times one has heard it (q.v. a recent performance by Jamie Walton & The Northern Lights Symphony Orchestra [above].

The orchestral second half was all but immaculate. Smyth's On the Cliffs of Cornwall prelude from The Wreckers (to a famous Daphne du Maurier story) was introduced by Peter Fender with anecdotes including about Sir Thomas Beecham's visit to suffraget ethel Smyth in prison.

And it was followed by an exhilarating, carefully finished account of the sixth symphony of George Lloyd (1913 - 1998) [q.v. Albany TROY 015-2] whose scant appreciation by the modernist arbiters of taste in the years of his maturity had sidelined Lloyd and led to his leaving the metropolis to produce carnations for the London market. An exhibition from his archive in St Ives was on display at St John’s, and Peter Fender coducted the concert with a baton presented to him there!

Philharmonia Britannica will contribute next year to a centenary celebration of Lloyd's "tuneful and easily accessible, deeply personal music, the triumphant product of a life marred by personal tragedy and a joyfully defiant response to an increasingly cynical world " [Western Morning News].

Peter Grahame Woolf

Peter Fender - Orchestral Music

Philharmonia Britannica/Peter Fender

PGF001 [CD - 48 mins]









This is a new and special CD on a new, personal label.


The title comes from one of several poems by the compose/conductor's mother, a notable poet who in later life achieved a remarkable legacy at Belper in Derbyshire before her death.


Settings of several of her poems these form a centre piece of a very personal CD.

The other wors are nocely varied and make a good sequence.

Fender has no truck with modernism; he writes music which he hopes is "accessible to both players and audience but which are also compositionally interesting", and this first CD of his orchestral works fully achieves that objective, and are recorded to a high standard with his own orchestra which we have welcomed in concert...


Peter Grahame Woolf

see also Linden Baroque Orchestra/Fender June 2012