Jean Sibelius – Tapiola (18’)
Claude Debussy – La mer (23’)
Tom Coult – Pleasure Garden – World Premiere – (20’)
Ottorino Respighi – Pines of Rome (22’)
This nature-themed BBC Philharmonic concert features three familiar works by Sibelius, Debussy and Respighi, as well as an exciting world premiere by Tom Coult.
Sitting at the heart of this programme is Coult’s new commission. The London-based composer’s work has been championed by many of the UK’s major orchestras and ensembles, including the BBC Philharmonic, for whom he wrote Sonnet Machine in 2016. Coult’s Pleasure Garden has been co-commissioned by the BBC, the University of Salford and the Royal Horticultural Society. It heralds the creation and 2020 opening of a major new North West landmark: RHS Garden Bridgewater, a 154-acre garden at Worsley New Hall in Salford. Fittingly, Pleasure Garden explores how nature can thrive in an urban environment.
Nearly a century ago, Italian composer Ottorino Respighi considered the same subject in his Pines of Rome. This orchestral tone poem is an ode to the pine tree groves of the composer’s beloved Eternal City. Spanning four movements – four locations in Rome – it delivers a sumptuous feast of sound, with Respighi augmenting his orchestra with the organ, an antiphonal brass choir, a vast percussion section and recorded birdsong. This is an elegant and luxurious work, shimmering with the shifting colours of Respighi’s journey through the pines.
Also in this programme, a further composition that dwells on the natural world. Sibelius’ last major work, Tapiola was written in 1926 on a commission from Walter Damrosch for the New York Philharmonic Society. Based on Finnish mythology, the work evokes the mysterious, sometimes terrifying home of Tapio, god of the woodland. Icy and windswept, the land of Tapiola is filled with an array of supernatural voices, conjured through some of Sibelius’ most remarkable orchestral writing. Technically similar to his outstanding Seventh Symphony, this tone poem is an early 20th century masterpiece.
Finally, we’ll be treated to one last piece which takes nature as its influence: Debussy’s La Mer. Refusing to classify this as a symphony, Debussy instead stipulated that the work be regarded as a set of ‘symphonic sketches’. Through the course of these sketches, the French composer sets impressionistic sail on the ocean wave. From sketch one – ‘From Dawn to Midday on the Sea’ to sketch three – ‘Dialogue of the Wind and the Sea’ – Debussy evokes, with incredible vividness, the sea in all of its subtlety and drama, tranquility and danger. This is Debussy’s imagistic writing at its brilliant best.
An evocation of nature in its many forms, this BBC Philharmonic promises to be a special one at The Bridgewater Hall.
Daniel Pioro – violin
Ilan Volkov – conductor