BBC Symphony Orchestra in Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham
Nottingham’s phenomenal young cellist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, provides the centrepiece to this concert marking the end of World War One, performing Elgar’s elegiac concerto. Written in 1919 it distils the composer’s anguish at the devastation across Europe into the most moving concerto for the instrument.
Vaughan Williams’ Pastoral Symphony ploughs similar emotional terrain, but the landscape evoked is of wartime France, where the composer had been an army ambulance driver. Impressionistic touches are felt throughout, whether in the echoes of a bugler’s last post, or the haunting, wordless soprano floating over hushed fields.
The opener to this concert is Sir Arthur Bliss’s Checkmate, his superlative ballet score written in 1937 for a production that starred dance luminaries Robert Helpmann and Margot Fonteyn. The rituals of the chess game become a powerful allegorical tale about the rise of dark forces in Europe and the imminence of war, all thrillingly played out in Bliss’s incisive rhythms and vibrant colours.
Free pre-concert talk, 6.30pm in the auditorium: Martyn Brabbins in conversation.