Like Bernard Hughes, Judith Bingham has a long standing association with the BBC Singers both as a member and as their Composer in Association between 2004 and 2009. Although Bingham's output is marked by its choral works, she has always been seen as an all-rounder.
Gershwin An American in Paris: Witty, charming and all-round good fun, An American in Paris is George Gershwin’s ‘soundtrack’ to the time he spent in the city. In early 1928 Gershwin had approached Maurice Ravel for tuition but was turned down. Instead, Ravel encouraged him to study under Nadia Boulanger in France. When Gershwin arrived a few months later, she told him she had nothing to teach him, much in the same way that Ravel had advised him to become a first rate Gershwin rather than a second rate Ravel. Undeterred, he got composing, as his real intent abroad was to complete a new work based on Paris. Paris at this time was a really very exciting place to be and hosted a great many intellectuals, artists, musicians and writers: Ezra Pound, Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Picasso, Dali, Poulenc, Auric etc. Add this dimension to the mixture of architecture, music, art, the noise of the streets, the honking of car horns, and probably a bottle or two of nice wine and it’s easy to see how An American in Paris was conceived. Gershwin collaborated on the original program notes with the critic and composer Deems Taylor, noting that: "My purpose here is to portray the impression of an American visitor in Paris as he strolls about the city and listens to various street noises and absorbs the French atmosphere." When the tone poem moves into the blues: "our American friend has succumbed to a spasm of homesickness." But, "nostalgia is not a fatal disease." The American visitor "once again is an alert spectator of Parisian life and the street noises and French atmosphere are triumphant."Gershwin in his characteristically unpretentious way said of the piece… "It's not a Beethoven Symphony, you know… It's a humorous piece, nothing solemn about it. It's not intended to draw tears. If it pleases symphony audiences as a light, jolly piece, a series of impressions musically expressed, it succeeds."
Daphnis et Chloé, generally regarded as Ravel’s masterpiece, is one of the numerous important scores that owe their existence to the famous ballet impresario Serge Diaghilev, who was just beginning to commission new works for his Paris-based troupe in 1909. At around about the same time Diaghilev contacted Ravel to compose the music for Daphnis et Chloé, he commissioned a virtually unknown 27-year-old called Igor Stravinsky to compose the Firebird. The ballet is based on the novel Daphnis and Chloe by Classical Greek writer Longus. Ravel condensed the piece into two orchestral suites, the second of which first appeared in concert in 1913.
Suite No 2 Takes up the story at daybreak in a grove sacred to the god Pan. Eventually the muted sounds of dawn give way to a stronger, more dynamic melodic thread in the strings, rising to an impassioned lyrical theme representing Daphnis and Chloé waking and falling into a passionate embrace. A sultry flute tune provides the music to which the protagonists mime the adventures of Pan and his beloved nymph, Syrinx. This passage becomes increasingly energetic, representing Chloé becoming more animated. The motion suddenly breaks at a woodwind descent, where, in the original ballet she falls languorously into Daphnis’ arms. In a brief but passionate epilogue in a dizzying 5/4 meter, Ravel deploys the full resources of the orchestra to create an exhilarating Dionysian celebration of physical love.Ravel creates a sound world awash with such incredible colours and extraordinarily lush harmonies that few will come away unmoved by a performance. If you’re a fan of Debussy’s La Mer this will definitely be up your street.
Beethoven’s Fifth, one of the best known and loved pieces of music ever written, needs little introduction. Acknowledged as a work of genius, it broke all the rules and reinvented the symphony in one fell swoop. The first performance was, however, not a roaring success. All the pieces in the programme were Beethoven premieres and, along with Symphony No 5, the lucky audience got to sit through Symphony No 6, most of the Mass in C, an Aria ‘Ah, perfido’, Piano Concerto No 4, Choral Fantasy and an extended period of Beethoven improvising at the Piano. It was over 4 hours long and if historical sources are correct – freezing. Nevertheless, from the second performance to the present day, the Fifth Symphony has received nothing but the most flattering of reviews. E T A Hoffmann stated in 1819 how “… this wonderful composition, in a climax that climbs on and on, leads the listener imperiously forward into the spirit world of the infinite!”And more recently Peter Schickele - aka P D Q Bach - used a slightly different medium to pay homage to Beethoven’s masterpiece in his “New Horizons in Musical Appreciation.”