There is a feeling of building excitement at the beginning of an orchestral performance; the short period of the tuning session when strange noises emanate from the stage. It is unique in the arts to see the artists prepare in such away, by sheer necessity, and it gives the audience a sense of creeping expectation.
Following a conversation with the principal conductor of the Bedfordshire Orchestral Society (BOS), Michael Rose OBE, I couldn’t help but get that feeling of creeping excitement, with regard to the new season of performances that will begin onSaturday, October 5.
When I mention the opening concert Michael smiles excitedly. The programme for October 5 will also feature the soloist Jaroslaw Nadrzycki who is known to Bedfordshire audiences for his ability to express masterpieces so well.
Following the opening of the concert, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto is one of the most enchanting works imaginable, opening with the violin solo and building with intensity over the course of the piece. The evening will end with one of the true giants of the 18th century, Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, ‘Jupiter’.
Michael will be conducting the Bedford Sinfonia, comprising a group of musicians of very high standard. One advantage of working with a smaller group of selected players is that a programme can be prepared in a shorter period, and music of greater technical complexity can often be programmed.
Music of true quality has the ability to touch us in different ways, whether it be an association with personal experience or memories, or perhaps a feeling that is uplifting, or moving in someway.
I asked Michael how the programme is put together and he answered stressing that the performances are purposefully diverse. Some are more challenging for the players and audiences alike, whilst others, such as Benjamin Britten’s ‘Simple Symphony’ and ‘St Nicolas’ works, reflect Britten’s intention to expand the reach of the music, giving pleasure to everyone from the seasoned listener, to newcomers to classical music. It is also particularly skillfully written for amateur players and singers.
Michael came to Bedfordshire in 1972 as the County Music Inspector, immediately setting about establishing a framework, where the teaching and practice of all kinds of music could flourish. This was at a time when private schools were producing twice as many players as state schools.
During his tenure, that was reversed. He gives me a perfect example of this in a young lad who came from a family where nobody even had an interest in music, let alone played instruments.
The boy was spotted, encouraged, and until just recently was the principal oboe for the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. But this is not just what musical education is trying to achieve. Michael is very clear that the amateur standard of music playing has a huge role to play, both for the individual and for society at large.
Reflecting again on Britten he says, “He had a strong social conscience..”, and I cannot help but detect in him, that same desire to nurture a musical legacy in the county.
The success of the Bedfordshire Symphony Orchestra gives Michael so much satisfaction for the very reason, it exists for, and is run by, local amateur musicians.
This November, Britten would have been 100 years old and to celebrate the occasion, the Bedford Choral Society and the Bedford Sinfonia are coming together, on November 16, with a concert titled ‘In memoriam Benjamin Britten’. This will comprise a selection of works as a fitting tribute.
The ‘Simple Symphony’ is especially famous as parts of the score were written when Britten was in his early teens. The piece, refined when he was 20, brings to life notions of boisterousness, playfulness, sentimentality and adventure; themes that add colour to the universal vision of youth.
The following week, on November 23, the Bedfordshire Symphony Orchestra will be joined by one of the country’s most distinguished pianists, John Lill. Michael, is very pleased to be teaming up again with Lill and affectionately recalls how they last played together when he came to Bedford, for Michael’s 75th birthday concert played in the Bedford’s Corn Exchange in 2009.
This evening is must for lovers of Borodin, Rachmaninov and Brahms. Borodin’s ‘Overture to Prince Igor’ is as majestic as the title suggests, sending shivers down the spine.
Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor is famously moving, and is recognised as one of the finest works in his repertoire. Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C minor oscillates between big and bold, with moments of finesse and then high drama. Listening to these works together will provide a fabulous cross-section through these great composers work. All three of these concerts will be led by Martin Hughes, the Head of Strings at Bedford School.
The Bedfordshire Orchestral Society has enjoyed decades of performing to an excellent standard and plays a key role in representing the county in music. In addition it has nurtured exceptional talent from the classroom to the concert hall.
There is no question that music adds to our lives a capacity to feel something, that before, we never new existed. To experience the force of the orchestra before us is as exciting as it is rewarding. This truism is never more exemplified than in the county of Bedfordshire.
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