RNCM Symphony Orchestra at RNCM

Johnny James, Managing Editor
Students playing in an orchestra
RNCM

RNCM Symphony Orchestra at Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), Manchester 1 March 2024 Tickets from £8.50 — Book now

An exhilarating journey awaits as the RNCM Symphony Orchestra returns to the stage with a programme of Benjamin Britten, William Walton, Julia Perry and Keiko Abe.

One of the last century’s most imaginative composers, Benjamin Britten’s opera and stage works are among his most important contributions to music, starting with his first big success, Peter Grimes. This dark and powerful opera, based on an early 19th century narrative poem by George Crabbe, focuses on the sea and the townspeople of a remote fishing village.

Students playing in an orchestra
RNCM Symphony Orchestra by Robin Clewley.

With themes of isolation, prejudice, and the destructive power of gossip and mob mentality, the opera’s ominous story is matched by its music, whose interludes were extracted by Britten to form the standalone orchestral suite we’ll hear performed by the RNCM Symphony Orchestra. Each of its four parts portrays a different time of day at sea, enveloped in a cloud of doom and foreboding.

Julia Perry’s 1952 work A Short Piece for Orchestra charts a different course, propelled by vibrant lyricism and charged with dissonance. From its thunderous opening to its more mysterious ruminations, the piece is brimming with high-contrast ideas, as was the composer’s career more widely – something you can find out more about as the RNCM delves into her remarkable life and work across a week of performances and talks beginning on 26 February.

Students playing in an orchestra
RNCM Symphony Orchestra by Robin Clewley.

But back to this concert and we’re onto a show-stopping concerto for marimba by Keiko Abe. The Japanese composer is regarded as a key figure in the development of the marimba, in terms of expanding both technique and repertoire, and her abstract 1996 work Prism Rhapsody shines brightly in her compositional output.

All before the evening’s climax: William Walton’s First Symphony, which stands shoulder to shoulder with the best symphonic works the 20th century produced. The composer, who was born just down the road in Oldham, set out to write his first symphony with the modest aim to ‘knock Bax off the map’. Four years later, his turbulent personal life became firmly etched in this four movement work, which embodies the breakdown of his relationship with Imma von Doernberg. This emotional wound produced a symphonic eruption of sorrow; searing, devastating music that demands we listen. It’s hard to think of a more powerful curtain drop to the RNCM Symphony Orchestra’s first concert of 2024.

RNCM Symphony Orchestra at Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), Manchester 1 March 2024 Tickets from £8.50 Book now

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