Guitarist Craig Ogden joins the Northern Chamber Orchestra for a wide-ranging Anglo-Australian concert at The Stoller Hall on 22 May.
One of the finest guitarists of his generation, Craig Ogden has performed internationally with the world’s leading orchestras – everywhere from South Africa to Russia. Here in the UK, where the Australian-born artist now lives, Ogden is the most sought after guitarist for chamber music and one of the nation’s most recorded guitarists, with his output for Virgin/EMI, Chandos, Nimbus, Hyperion, Sony and Classic FM receiving rich acclaim. In 2004, he became the youngest instrumentalist to receive a Fellowship Award from the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, where he is now Director of Guitar.
Craig Ogden has history with the Northern Chamber Orchestra – the oldest professional chamber ensemble in the North West. He gave the world premiere of a concerto written for him by Andy Scott in 2017, along with the NCO and talented students from Chetham’s School of Music. He returns to The Stoller Hall, with the same massed forces, to perform two works, the first being Malcolm Arnold’s inimitable Guitar Concerto (1959) – an overt tribute to Jazz and especially to Django Reinhardt, which eschews all guitar-writing clichés and finds the composer at his inventive best. Next is Tasmanian-born composer Peter Sculthorpe’s Nourlangie, influenced by South-East Asian and native Australian music and written for solo guitar, strings and percussion.
We’ll also hear a piece by Percy Grainger, who lived the larger part of his life in the USA, and spent a lot of time collecting English folk songs. Irish Tune from County Derry is a great example of his distinctive style, richly harmonised for strings with a horn introduced at the climax. Edvard Grieg was shown the piece in 1904, and was so impressed by it that when he visited London two years later, the only composer he wished to meet was Grainger.
Two classic English string pieces, both with solo string quartet, bookend the programme. Those who have seen the famous Ken Russell biopic of Elgar will always associate Introduction and Allegro with an exhilarating horse-ride in the Malvern Hills. The seed of the work was planted August Jaeger – Nimrod of the Enigma Variations – who proposed that Elgar write “a brilliant, quick scherzo” for the newly-founded London Symphony Orchestra. Vaughan Williams’ beautiful Tallis Fantasia, meanwhile, was the composer’s first major piece for a large ensemble, using a second string orchestra in a way that echoes like monks chanting in the cloister. It created a huge sensation in Europe, helping to put British music back on the map at the start of the 20th century.
The concert forms part of the Northern Chamber Orchestra’s stunning 2021-22 season, which sees performances across the North West, including a concert with Ben Hulme, horn on 24 April.