29th October 2019: Barber, Korngold, Stravinsky

Conducted by Philip Ellis

7.30pm, Tuesday 29th October, St John’s Smith Square

Barber: Medea’s Dance of Vengeance
Stravinsky: Petrushka (1946 version)
Korngold: Violin Concerto, soloist Stephen Bryant

Our soloist Stephen Bryant actually gave the UK première of this concerto back in 1982 and it was acknowledged at the time by the composer’s son, George Korngold and the Korngold Society.  “To my great surprise I was informed by the Korngold Society that this was the first British performance of the piece.  It was only later that the concerto started to be played and to gain in popularity – nowadays everyone plays it – then, nobody played it!” By a curious coincidence, Stephen also performed the piece with Salomon in May 1986, conducted by Malcolm Binney, so we are delighted he is returning to play it again.

True to his word Erich Korngold only wrote film music as an émigré in the USA until Hitler was defeated, and then in 1945 produced his Violin Concerto, using several themes and a lightness of touch derived from his time at Warner Brothers. As a prodigy in Vienna he was declared a genius by Mahler, and the concerto is dedicated to Alma Mahler-Werfel, showing the continuation of her fascination to the Viennese circle, some of which we saw at Salomon Orchestra’s June presentation of Zemlinsky casting himself as hopeless love in his tone poem ‘The Mermaid’ after Alma left him for Mahler.

The original material for Barber’s music on the Medea myth was performed in 1946 as the ballet ‘The Serpent Heart’. He called his orchestral suite from the ballet ‘Medea’, and in 1955 the best of the music was condensed to a single movement piece depicting Medea’s meditation and vengeance, as jealous of Jason leaving her for a princess of Corinth she murders their children.

Stravinsky imagined a puppet coming to life and exasperating the orchestra in his idea for a  Konzertstück, but Diaghilev realised its theatrical potential and it became a great success for the Ballets Russes portraying the fate of Petrushka, jealous of the Ballerina’s infatuation with the handsome but deadly Moor. We play the version revised in the USA in 1946, with a more standard sized orchestra retaining the character and originality.

Tickets available from St John’s Smith Square or directly from members of the orchestra.