Elgar Festival 2022 - World Premieres

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Elgar arr. Donald Fraser  Nursery Suite (World Premiere)
David Matthews  Shiva Dances (World Premiere)


English String Orchestra
Soloists: Zoë Beyers (solo violin 1), Suzanne Casey (solo violin 2), Carl Hill (solo viola), Joely Koos (solo cello)
Conductor: Kenneth Woods

Available to view for free from 7:30pm GMT 28th December 2022 until 7:30pm GMT 1st January 2023.

Filmed in Worcester Guildhall, 3 June 2022 as part of the 2022 Royal Jubilee Elgar Festival
Learn more @ elgarfestival.org

About this Concert

Premiere performances filmed in Worcester Guildhall, 3 June 2022 as part of the 2022 Royal Jubilee Elgar Festival
About the Music - Elgar arr. Fraser: Nursery Suite (World Premiere)

“This remarkable work, one of the finest of Elgar’s last years, seemed a perfect fit for the celebrations of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee taking place the weekend of the 2022 Elgar Festival. When considering a version for string orchestra, my thoughts immediately turned to Donald Fraser, whose previous arrangements of Elgar have been such an important addition to our repertoire. The most ambitious of these is his orchestration of the Elgar Piano Quintet. Longtime senior critic at the Birmingham Post Chris Morley wrote of the premiere that “” [One] of the most exciting events I have experienced during a reviewing career approaching half a century involve symphonies Elgar never wrote…. deserves to be acknowledged immediately as a worthy addition to the Elgar canon.” Since then, we’ve also premiered and recorded Don’s arrangements of Elgar miniatures, including a wonderful suite for Cello and Strings with Raphael Wallfisch. I’m certain this new version of the Nursery Suite will help this too-often-overlooked Elgarian gem to be wider known and more frequently performed.” Kenneth Woods

The very first professional film score I composed was recorded by the Sinfonia of London, conducted by Lawrence Leonard and with the flautist Edward (Eddie) Walker. I was just 19 at the time and was absolutely thrilled to talk with Eddie about the flute solo in the Nursery Suite that he recorded with Elgar himself. That was, indeed the recording attended by the then Duchess of York (later Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother) and her two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret Rose. I had the privilege of conducting a program of Elgar’s music on the 50th. anniversary of his death at Westminster Abbey. The program was a Royal Gala event and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother graced the event with her presence. The program ended with the Envoy from the Nursery Suite. I have always thought that the violin solo was, in a way, Elgar reminiscing his earlier life as a violinist but also a ‘final farewell’ to us all. At the reception after the concert I was able to chat with the Queen Mother, the topic being the recording session of the Nursery Suite that she, our current Queen and and the late Princess Margaret attended. The session was conducted by Elgar himself and the Queen Mother’s keenest recollection was that he growled at the musicians! Qualified by her saying “more in a Tigger-ish sort of way than anything scary!” It was a pleasure to be asked by Kenneth Woods and the English Symphony to make an arrangement for strings for the Platinum Jubilee Elgar Festival, and of course a great privilege to have met two of those who were present at the premiere recording on May 23rd 1931….91 years ago! The Queen we celebrate today would have been just 5 years old!

God Save the Queen. DF

© Donald Fraser

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About the Arranger - Donald Fraser

Composer Donald Fraser

British born, now a permanent US resident, British Academy Award winning Donald Fraser lives and works from his home outside of Chicago. His study is a converted barn. Donald entered the Royal College of Music at age seventeen to study composing and conducting. His principal tutors were Sir Adrian Boult, Humphrey Searle and Alexander Goehr. He also studied with Nadia Boulanger. In his second year he was awarded all five composition prizes and a Cobbett Prize for conducting. At nineteen he began writing for film and television and, subsequently became resident composer at the Royal College of Art Film School and composer conductor and Artistic Associate for the Old Vic Theatre Company. Donald has also created and produced TV, film and theatre programmes and many sound recordings for RCA, BMG, EMI, Philips, the BBC, Thames TV, PBS, Channel 4 and independent production companies. He has composed scores for over 30 documentaries, several feature films and TV series as well as more than 120 commercials, many radio dramas and music for the concert hall. Donald’s music has been heard at many of the world’s major festivals including Edinburgh, Istanbul, Perth (Australia), Hong Kong as well as on theatrical tours to the United States, China, Japan and many European countries.

His music has been widely performed and recorded by artists such as Yehudi Menuhin, Jessye Norman, Sir Thomas Allen, Sir Andrew Davis, Maxim Vengarov, Andrew Litton, Sir Alexander Gibson, Peter Donohoe, Sarah Brightman, Eugenia Zuckerman, Anton Armstrong, Josephine Lee, Duain Wolfe, Grant Gershon, John Scott, Constance Chase, Lea Salonga, Daniel Rodriguez, Julie Covington, Jim Litton, Lionel Friend, Matthew Oltman and Robert DeCourmier among others.

Learn more @ donaldfraser.com

About the Music - Shiva Dances (World Premiere)

“I was deeply touched when David Matthews suggested writing a piece for the ESO in homage to Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro. It was immediately obvious to me that the work should receive its premiere at the Elgar Festival in Worcester alongside Elgar’s string masterpiece. We are grateful to the Elgar Festival and Arts Council England for supporting the commission of this work, and we look forward to recording the piece in 2023.”
Kenneth Woods, conductor. Artistic Director, the Elgar Festival

When at the start of 2021 I was planning this piece for string quartet and string orchestra, I thought of my Second String Trio whose form is based on North Indian classical music, with a slow contemplative introduction leading to a fast movement which is dancelike but with extensive use of pedal notes. I decided to use a variation of this form again, where the solo quartet would be able to play elaborate solos, something in the manner of the Indian sitar. I happened to listen to a recording of a radio talk by Aldous Huxley about symbols. I was very struck by his description of Shiva, the god of creation and destruction:

“The figure stands within a great circle . . . which has flames going out . . . and this is the symbol of mass, energy, space, time. Within this Shiva dances . . . he’s everywhere in the universe . . . it’s all an immense manifestation of play. His lower right hand is held up in this attitude which means “be not afraid; in spite of everything, it is all right”.

It includes the idea of the infinite energy dancing timelessly and forever through this world. I bought a small dancing Shiva statue myself for inspiration, and following Huxley’s description I devised a piece with an extensive slow introduction, based on its opening violin melody which is in a modal C major with flattened B, followed by a set of four dances, based on the four elements: earth (loud and vigorous), water (a series of solos from the quartet followed by a moto perpetuo for the orchestral strings), air (a light scherzo) and fire (an energetic waltz). The dances culminate in a fortissimo repeat of the opening theme, in its initial C, and a quiet coda which reaches out towards the timeless.

© David Matthews

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About the Composer - David Matthews

David Matthews at the premiere of his Ninth Symphony by the ESO

David Matthews was born in London in 1943 and started composing at the age of sixteen. He was mainly self-taught, though he studied privately with Anthony Milner and was greatly helped by Nicholas Maw and Peter Sculthorpe. He also learned much from being an assistant to Benjamin Britten in the late 1960s. His extensive output includes ten symphonies, five symphonic poems, six concertos, sixteen string quartets, and much other instrumental, chamber and vocal music, His music is frequently broadcast, and a large number of his works are available on CD. Many of his pieces are inspired by the natural world, by paintings and literary texts, and by collaborations with instrumentalist friends. He has also written books on Tippett and Britten, and has worked extensively as an arranger.

His Ninth Symphony was the second to be composed for Kenneth Woods’s 21st Century Symphony Project and was recorded for CD by the English Symphony Orchestra in 2018. His latest orchestral CD, A Vision of the Sea, including that symphonic poem and the Eighth Symphony, with the BBC Philharmonic under Jac van Steen, was released in 2021, and his Tenth Symphony was premiered in May this year by the same forces. He has recently completed an opera, Anna, to a libretto by the late Sir Roger Scruton.

Learn more @ david-matthews.co.uk

Playlist - Elgar, Fraser and Matthews
Bonus Track - "Nimrod" from Elgar's Enigma Variations, presented in memory of HRM Queen Elizabeth II

Production Information

Recorded at Worcester Guildhall on 3rd June 2022.

Videographer: Joe Blomfield
Audio Engineer & Editor: Tim Burton
Orchestra Manager: Simon Brittlebank / The Music Agency