Nottingham Youth Orchestra – Spring Concert 2024

Senior Orchestra

Conductor

Alex Robinson

Repertoire

  • 1. Symphony No. 5
    — Tchaikovsky
  • 2. Fantastia on Greensleeves
    — Vaughan Williams

Programme notes

Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64

peter-ilich-tchaikovsky-1840-1893-russian-composer.-ca.-1883
Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, Russian composer. Ca. 1883.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Andante - allegro con anima
Andante cantabile, con alcune licenza
Valse, allegro moderato
Finale, andante maestoso - allegro vivace 

Tchaikovsky himself would have been astonished at the present popularity of his music. He was a relentlessly self-critical composer, who suffered constant doubt about his own ability and the value of his music. He craved the admiration of academic musicians and was willing to put up with considerable hostility from them for occasional scant praise. Even at the end of his life, when his public popularity was enormous (as distinct from his reputation in academic circles), he could not acknowledge the mastery of his final works, constantly believing himself to be written out. 

The key turning point in Tchaikovsky’s life occurred, in 1877, eleven years before the Fifth Symphony was written. That year, Tchaikovsky was briefly, and disastrously, married, and the wealthy patroness Nadezhda von Meck made contact with him, initiating a relationship based on voluminous correspondence with the curious condition that they should never meet. Mme von Meck granted Tchaikovsky a considerable annual pension, which enabled him to resign from his teaching post in 1878, and concentrate his efforts on composition. The next thirteen years were as comfortable as any for the composer; the Fourth Symphony and the opera Eugene Onegin served to distil the emotional turmoil of 1877, orchestral suites and ceremonial overtures provided a less strenuous outlet for new ideas. Manfred (a symphony based on poems of Byron) and the Fifth Symphony marked the composer's return to full emotional commitment in his music. However, in 1891 Mme von Meck's apparently abrupt withdrawal left Tchaikovsky devastated. His final years were marked by increasing personal despair, contrasted with increasing public acclaim. His final work, the Sixth Symphony reflects much of his complex, introverted nature with its conflicting emotions; within ten days of conducting the first performance, on 28 October 1983, Tchaikovsky was dead.

In 1885 Tchaikovsky felt sufficiently settled, after the upheavals of his recent life, to buy his own home for the first time. He purchased an estate at Maidanovo, sufficiently far outside Moscow to be relatively peaceful, yet still accessible. He seems to have enjoyed life there, and his pattern of restless traveling began to diminish, replaced by more concentrated foreign tours as he at last felt sufficiently secure to be a competent conductor of his own works. The first music composed at Maidanovo was the Manfred Symphony. The relative security of his new home seems to have allowed the composer to put more of himself into this work than any of the recent past. Manfred is more a collection of symphonic poems than a truly symphonic structure, and Tchaikovsky may have felt after it was complete that he was now ready to face the challenge of writing a fully symphonic work.  

He began making sketches for this new piece in 1888. Many of his old doubts resurfaced. He wrote to Mme von Meck “Have I written myself out? No ideas, no inclination ... ". Despite all this he was able to work relatively steadily and the piece was completed within the year. After it was finished he took a despairing view of the piece, writing, again to Mme von Meck " ... what has been written with passion, must now be looked on critically and condensed to fit the needs of form ... I have always suffered from a lack of skill in the management of form. ... ". It can't have helped his self-confidence, to have been told by the chairman of the Berlin Philharmonic Society, after a conducting engagement the previous year, that he was a fine composer, but that he must leave Russia immediately and put himself in the hands of German musicians to save himself from the committing the faults of form and orchestration which flawed all Russian composers. After hearing two performances of the Fifth Symphony his view actually worsened "… I have come to the conclusion that it is a failure. " One wonders what must have gone through his mind to imagine such things of this music. 

The Fifth Symphony is unified by a motto theme, sometime given the name Fate, which is heard at the outset in the lowest register of a solo clarinet, over a string accompaniment. The Allegro con anima introduces the main subject of the first movement which is developed gradually to a climax; during this development Tchaikovsky skillfully varies the tempo to maintain the tension. After this first peak has subsided, the strings introduce a new theme which is used to generate tremendous passion and excitement, before winding itself gradually down to silence. 

The slow movement opens with the famous melody for horn, joined in dialogue by an oboe and followed by solos for clarinet and bassoon. Amid the sudden changes of tempo and mood here, the motto temporarily intrudes before it is banished. 

The third movement waltz is charming, elegant and superbly orchestrated, a reminder of Tchaikovsky's close links with ballet. The motto is heard briefly - as if in the distance - on woodwind instruments towards the end. 

The finale opens with the motto theme transformed into its major key and in the manner of a march. This is succeeded by the dance-like Allegro vivace which gradually builds up speed and tension before the final maestoso statement of the motto, presto and jubilant coda.  

Programme notes provided by Dominic Nudd, October 2018

Fantasia on Greensleeves

vaughan-williams-c.1920
Vaughan Williams c. 1920

Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958)

Ralph Vaughan Williams was an influential English composer in the early to mid-20th century. He is widely regarded as one of the leading figures in the English musical renaissance. Vaughan Williams' music is often associated with a distinctly English character, drawing inspiration from folk tunes, Tudor music, and the English countryside.

Greensleeves is a tune that belongs to all of us first mentioned in 1580 as a "new Northern Dittye", it is probably of much earlier date than that and has run through English music over the centuries, being married to various verses, both secular and sacred. Holst used it energetically in his St. Paul's Suite, and Vaughan Williams made much play with it in his opera Sir John in Love (first staged in 1929), where it is sung in Act III by Mistress Ford. Interestingly, it is worth noting that Sir John in Love is based on Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor, which makes specific mention of the song Greensleeves.

The Fantasia on Greensleeves, arguably one of Vaughan Williams's most familiar works, is an elaborated arrangement of the version of the song in the opera, made in 1934 by R. Greaves. It is scored for one or two flutes, harp (or piano) and strings. The piece opens with a descending flute figure accompanied by gentle harp arpeggios and leading into the first statement of the theme by the strings. The tune is repeated more elaborately at the end of the piece, while in a central section it is contrasted with another English folk song Lovely Joan, which Vaughan Williams had collected in Norfolk in 1908. This more energetic melody provides a good foil to the quiet, bittersweet lyricism of the more famous tune.

concert-dates
thank-you

Orchestra

Violin 1
Esther Morris *
Rowan Hollis 
Collin Wong
Theo Flavin
Esme Ainsley
Anna Thornton
Annabel Skinner
Louis Zhu 
Jamie Phillippe
Iman Muhammad

Violin 2
Sophie Mattern
Scarlett Almond
Frederick Turner
Orla Gilmore
Isabella Neave
Max Hardy
Evan Au-Yong
Jas Demir-Wong
Mala Coulton-Tordoff

Viola
Kylie Szeto
Josiah Hardy
Mathilda Au-Yong    

Cello
Emily Turner
Stephen Frith
Audrey Cook
Andrew Hines
Darwin Osborne
Alexander Clements
Anais Jauzelon 
Elisa Empringham 

Double Bass
Issie Raisin - Moss
Matthew Barks

Harp
Sophie Costa

Flute
Amelie Sainsbury
Megan O'Connor

Oboe
Oliver Brown 
Hannah Street 

Clarinet
Clarice Leung
Eloïse Chita
Izzy Lilley
Winnie Charlton

Bassoon

Emily Jones
Poppy Wheeler

Horn
Eleanor Boniface
Lauren Collings
Hannah Duffy
Michael So
Jacob Hunt

Trumpet
Sam Jones
Matthew Harris
Louis Millar 
Oliver Jamieson
Holly Crane

Trombone
Tom Herbert
James Bowden  
Elise Stevens
Bella Dobson

Bass Trombone
Thomas Rhodes

Tuba
Jess Smith

Percussion
Nathan Duffy 
Casper Davies

* Leader

Tutor Thanks

Clare Bhabra - 1st Violin
Claire Seedhouse - 2nd Violin
Jane Benson - Viola
Paul Skinner - Cello
Matt Barks - Double Bass
Roisin Hickey - Harp
Poppy Wheeler - Woodwind
Ian Taylor - Brass
Robert Parker - French Horn
Jay Robinson - Percussion

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
NYO would like to thank the Danny Morris Memorial Trust Fund for their support.

Donation of Paxman Series 4 French Horn
Families of NYO members may be aware that we have bursaries available which provide financial support towards membership fees, trips and instrumental tuition. What is perhaps less well known is NYO also has a number of musical instruments available on loan, again to support NYO members based on genuine need. 

In 2023 NYO was fortunate to receive a brand new Paxman Series 4 French Horn which is an excellent student level instrument donated by the Bob Paxman Young Horn Players Fund and supplied by Paxman Musical Instruments Ltd. This horn is being used by a student at today’s concert alongside a few other instruments which NYO is able to offer on loan to students during their membership of NYO.

Peter Horril Scholarship
We are very grateful to the Horril family for their donation in memory of Peter Horril. Peter was a local schoolmaster and music lover.

Friends of NYO
Prof & Mrs D F Brailsford
Mr & Mrs A Foster
Mr R Hammond
Mr & Mrs Hands
Professor S & Mrs H Hodkinson
Mrs F Keetley
Mrs Emily Kenefeck
Mr & Mrs A MacDiarmid
Mrs Elisabeth Mills
Mr & Mrs R Nicolle
Mr & Mrs A C Powell
Prof & Dr Polnay
Mr & Mrs K Pryer
Mr & Mrs R Skinner
Drs A & M D Smith
Mr H & Mrs E Watkinson
Mrs Witcombe

French Horn Chair - In memory of Don and Betty Adamson
Double Bass Chair - In memory of Corin Long and Pam Thomas