“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” Leonard Bernstein, November 1963
Anyone looking through Tonbridge Philharmonic Society’s programme for the 2017/18 season may well discern a theme. All this music was written as the world came to terms with a period in history packed with cataclysmic, violent events.
Verdi, writing at the end of his life, had lived through the war of 1859, which resulted in the unification of Italy. His settings of the Latin liturgy for his Four Sacred Pieces refer to the immutable in a world that has forsaken the status quo for chaos and mutation. In the Beginning and The Chichester Psalms also borrow from sacred works of the Christian and Jewish traditions, while The Dream of Gerontius, complete by Elgar in 1900, tells the tale of a dying man of faith and the first stages of his soul’s journey, and presents sublime music and choral writing from a man with so much experience in directing choirs.
Beethoven’sEroica Symphony No 3 in E flat, was originally dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte, before he proclaimed himself Emperor, sending Europe into a series of wars. As a Dane, Carl Nielsen, whose flute concerto dates from 1926, was profoundly influenced by the horrors of the First World War and subsequent Depression, as were the Americans, Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber and Leonard Bernstein. Their music has a grandeur mixed with simplicity that creates something new and moving. Copland wrote Fanfare for the Common Manin response to the US entry into the Second World War, while Barber’sAdagio, so full of pathos and passion, was voted by BBC’s Today programme listeners as ‘the saddest classical work ever’.
It is Shostakovich who offers us a glimpse into the real horrors of war with his Symphony No. 7 in C major, entitled Leningrad. A symbol of resistance to the totalitarianism of the Nazi invasion, it serves as a memorial to the more than 25 million people who died in Russia in World War Two. Rarely included in the repertoire of amateur groups due to the scale of the work, it will require all the forces that we can summon to do justice to such an incredibly exciting and moving piece of music. And we will, of course, also have our Family Carols in December, during which we will be singing one of the late Douglas Gibb’s carols, and looking forward, will be performing Britten’s War Requiemin November 2018.
Sat 17 Feb 2018
Tonbridge School Chapel, 7.30 pm Orchestral Concert
Copland: Fanfare for the common man Barber: Adagio Shostakovich: Symphony No 7