11 February 2020: Smetana, Suk and Martinů

Conducted by James Murray

7.30pm, St John’s Smith Square, London

Smetana: Overture and Three Dances from the Bartered Bride

Suk: Scherzo Fantastique

Martinů: Symphony no. 5

Smetana intended his comic opera The Bartered Bride to have a specifically Czech feel, with rhythms inspired by trochees typical of the language (a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one) evident in the energetic overture. The dances are of Bohemian origin: polka, furiant, and finally a skočná for the Dance of the Comedians.

The Scherzo Fantastique of 1903 was composed when Suk may have been at his happiest, with his family life (having married Dvořák’s daughter Otilie in 1898) and musical career in the ascendant. By the time it was performed Dvořák was dead and Otilie had just over one year to live, which were to give Suk’s subsequent music a much more tragic feel.

Martinů’s fifth symphony was composed in the US in the 1940s as were its predecessors, but was the only one premiered by a Czech orchestra, in Prague in 1947. It progresses to a joyous ending by way of a marvellously syncopated Allegro, unusually for Martinů ending in the minor mode.

James Murray studied composition with Andrew Keeling and Ian Buckle at RNCM’s Junior Dept from the age of 16 and subsequently at the RAM with Paul Patterson, Gary Carpenter and Christopher Austin on the Concert and Media Composition programme, graduating in 2009.  He directed many student performances at the Academy, including more than 50 premieres of contemporary works as well as conducting for the Hyperbow project in collaboration with Chicago’s MIT featuring the cellist Peter Gregson which was later recorded on the Academy’s in-house label.  Whilst still a student he conducted the London Sinfonietta.  With his commitment to contemporary music staying strong, he has conducted concerts at Kings Place as part of the Neo Classical Series.  James developed a strong association with the BBC Philharmonic, shadowing their chief conductor, Gianandrea Noseda during the summers of 2006-2010.  Since September 2012 he continued his studies at the Royal College of Music with Peter Stark and Robin O’Neill and recent projects include an ongoing Beethoven cycle.  As well as the Vanbrugh Ensemble, James served as Music Director of the choirs at St Thomas’s Oakwood for 2 years and also conducted at the Serenata Festival in 2010, the first classical music festival of its kind, receiving positive reviews for his direction.

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