Great conductors and concerts attended.
CONSTANTIN SILVESTRI 1913-1969
One of the great unknown conductors of the 20th Century, I saw him nearly every Thursday conducting the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra between 1963-1965. He was a small man in height at probably no more than 5 foot 5inches but was electrifying to watch in concert. He would acknowledge the audience and then immediately swing round to face the orchestra who would respond immediately to his beat. He suffered from ill health for many years and died far too young at the age of 55 in 1969. It was the highlight of my week and I experienced a large cross section of the repertoire.
BERNARD HAITINK. Born 1929
Now 83 he still conducts occasionally .I saw him at a memorable concert at the Festival Hall in 1972 when he conducted Mahler’s 3rd Symphony. A great Mahler specialist and perhaps the longest symphony ever written,it was some evening!
PIERRE MONTEUX 1875-1964
I found myself in Munich on holiday in June 1963. The concert was on June 14th in the Deutsches Museum. The London Symphony Orchestra was playing a concert on tour with their chief conductor Pierre Monteux . The programme consisted of Elgars’s Introduction and Allegro, Mendelssohn’s 1st Piano Concerto ,Debussy’s Three Nocturnes and Brahms’s 2nd Symphony. Monteux was then 87 and two assistance’s literally lifted him up on to the rostrum. Once conducting he came alive ,never seeming to tire. He loved Brahms and it showed. The next day on my return to the UK he passed me on the autobahn being driven in a large Black chauffeured car. I might mention that Stravinsky admired this conductor so much that he engaged him to conduct the first performances of the ballets Petrouska and Le Sacre du Printemps in 1911 and 1913. (I would love to hear from anybody who might have attended this concert and hear their memories.)
JASCHA HORENSTEIN 1898-1973
I saw Horenstein in London at the Festival Hall playing Mahler 9. It was about 1971 not long before he died in 1973.He looked old and actually worn out but conducted a marvellous performance of a long and gruelling symphony.
WILLIAM ALWYN. 1905-1985
This composer is one of my favourites .Not nearly well known enough he blew my mind when I first heard his 3rd Symphony on a Lyrita recording in the early 70’s. He wrote five symphonies plus several wonderful concertos,the greatest being ‘Lyra Angelica’ for Harp and orchestra. I saw him at a live concert in 1973 at the Festival Hall in London where they were playing his 5thSymphony. This one movement work only lasts approx 20 minutes but within that short time frame encompasses all emotions. I would urge all lovers of romantic English music to listen to all his output. You won’t be disappointed.
SIR WILLIAM WALTON. 1902-1983.
I saw Sir William Walton with his Argentinian wife Susana at a concert conducted by Andre Previn playing his famous Oratorio Belshazzar’s Feast in 1972. They went on to record the work the following day which was then issued by EMI. This particular recording has remained the benchmark ever since. Walton is one of the greatest of 20th Century English composers a true self-taught genius.
SIR JOHN BARBIROLLI 1899-1970
I attended a concert in Manchester on April 3rd 1966 where Sir John Barbirolli conducted a concert with the Halle Orchestra in honour of Sir Neville Cardus’s 78th birthday. The programme consisted of a performance of Mahler’s 5th Symphony. Barbirolli came late to Mahler but then embraced that great composer and recorded one of the most emotional and moving performances of Mahler’s 5th **. Sir Neville Cardus was one of the finest musical and cricket critics working for the Guardian Newspaper in Manchester. He was not musically trained but wrote intuitively and with great perception about music. Barbirolli was one of the finest English conductors of the 20th century,small in stature of Italian descent ,he was a great exponent of English music,especially Elgar and spent the best part of his life with the Halle who adored him.He also loved Puccini’s operas and made one of the greatest recordings of Madam Butterfly in the mid 1960’s.
** This is available on an EMI CD.
ARAM KHATACHURIAN 1903-1978
I saw this great Armenian composer live conducting his own music at the Festival Hall in London in 1977, a year before he died. He conducted a selection of his orchestral and ballet music,which included music from Spartacus and Gayane. He was then 73 but seemed much younger.
MALCOLM WILLIAMSON- Master of the Queens Musick
Malcolm Williamson 1931-2003.
I remember attending a concert in The Winter Gardens in Bournemouth in 1964 which is where I saw this great Australian composer playing one of his piano concertos. He had first visited England in 1950 settling there permanently in 1953 and subsequently living there for the rest of his life .He is not well known ,which is a great pity because he wrote seven symphonies , nine operas, six ballets and a beautiful violin concerto for Yehudi Menhuin and four piano concertos .
He also wrote a magnificent organ concerto which he played and recorded. In 1975 he was appointed Master of the Queens Music after the death of Sir Arthur Bliss. He wrote his 1st symphony in 1957 at the young age of 27. This is a very accomplished work which, although not easy to listen to at first hearing, repays repeated listening. He subtitled it ‘Elevamini ‘ taken from Psalm 24 meaning ‘Be ye lifted up’ On the last page of the score Williamson has written ‘I.o.g.D. Omnibus glorifcetetur Deus. Which means ‘In all things may God be glorified’. His opera,’The Violins of St Jacques, full of good tunes should be performed and recorded. His ballets should be performed and new recordings made. He had a performance his song cycle ‘The year of birds’ for soprano and orchestra in 1995 which proved unexpectedly moving. This great composer needs new champions,conductors,orchestras and recording companies.
I would be most interested to know if anybody else has attended some memorable concerts and blog the information on this website.