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BBC Concert Orchestra -English Music Festival- Stanford, Vaughan Williams, Holst

Friday May 24, 2024 at 19:30
Dorchester Abbey, Dorchester-on-Thames
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Tickets "at the door" - until sold out
  1. Suffolk Suite, for orchestra - Doreen Carwithen
  2. Idylle de printemps - Frederick Delius
  3. Clarinet Concerto in A minor Op 80 - Sir Charles Villiers Stanford
  4. Richard II: A Concert Fantasy - Ralph Vaughan Williams, arranged by Nathaniel Lew
  5. Symphony in F, 'The Cotswolds' Op 8 - Gustav Holst

The English Music Festival celebrates the brilliance, innovation, beauty and rich musical heritage of Britain with a strong focus on unearthing overlooked or forgotten masterpieces of the late-nineteenth to mid twentieth century.

The seventeenth annual English Music Festival returns to Dorchester Abbey, Oxfordshire from Friday 24 May until Bank Holiday Monday 27 May 2024. Celebrating anniversaries of two of Britain’s greatest composers across the event, the opening concert, given by the BBC Concert Orchestra and Conductor Martin Yates, features Stanford's Clarinet Concerto with soloist Michael Collins, and Holst's ‘Cotswold’ Symphony. Ralph Vaughan Williams’s 'Richard II' Concert Fantasy is given a world premiere, alongside works by Doreen Carwithen and Frederick Delius. Orchestral, chamber and choral concerts continue throughout the weekend.

The works of Gustav Holst (1874-1934) have been at the heart of Founder-Director Em Marshall-Luck’s programming at the English Music Festival and remain a perennial favourite amongst audiences, with many memorable performances of the composer’s often overlooked major works having been given, as well as recorded by the Festival’s independent recording arm, E M Records. In this 150th anniversary year, the composer’s early Symphony, ‘The Cotswolds’, takes centre stage.

One of the leading musicians of his generation - as performer, conductor, composer, teacher and writer, Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) had a profound effect on the development and history of English music. In addition to the Directorship of the Royal College of Music, amongst other august musical establishments, and his influence on several generations of composition students who went on to became household names, Stanford was a prolific composer, completing seven symphonies, eight string quartets, nine operas, more than 300 songs, 30 large scale choral works and a large body of chamber music.

The centenary of his death this year provides an opportunity for evaluation of some works from the large canon that have fallen under the radar. For the English Music Festival's opening concert, there will be a rare performance of Stanford's Clarinet Concerto featuring one of today’s leading exponents of the instrument, Michael Collins.

First performances include the world premiere of Ralph Vaughan Williams's 'Richard II' Concert Fantasy; the complete incidental music the composer was invited to write for Frank Benson’s 1912-13 production at Stratford, which will be performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra under Conductor, Martin Yates.

Vaughan Williams first discovered Shakespeare as a child when he was given the complete edition by his relative, Caroline Darwin, and 'Richard II' become a favourite. The composer took Shakespeare’s many references to English folk ballads as supporting his own ‘national’ approach to music, saying “Shakespeare makes an international appeal for the very reason that he is so national and English in his outlook.” He went on to set and write over 20 Shakespeare texts and incidental music, often using folk-songs and ballads, and the well-known ‘Greensleeves’ appears in 'Richard II'.

The English Music Festival regularly showcase live choral music. This year The Godwine Choir and Holst Orchestra conducted by Hilary Davan Wetton bring a programme of popular favourites to Dorchester Abbey, including a first modern performance of Edward Elgar's 'Give Unto the Lord', and Excalibur Voices perform works by Coleridge-Taylor, Milford, Dyson, Bainton, Walford Davies and others.

Returning to the English Music Festival is South African pianist Peter Cartwright, who joins violinist Rupert Marshall-Luck in recital to perform works by Holst, Farrar, Stanford, Bliss and Howells.

American tenor Brian Thorsett and pianist Richard Masters, who enjoy a particular association with British music, are making their first appearance at the English Music Festival with a programme of Finzi, Ireland, Frank Tours and Somervell.

John Andrews raises the baton for the English Symphony Orchestra in a programme of works by Finzi, Delius, Howells, Milford, Dyson and Warlock, while Piano Trio, Ensemble Kopernikus, performs Delius, Holst, Rebecca Clarke, John Ireland and Percy Hilder Miles. Fast becoming a champion of British repertoire, pianist Phillip Leslie performs works by Rawsthorne, Bowen, Dyson, Leighton, and John Ireland's masterpiece, 'Sarnia'

Always a popular fixture, late evening recitals are a special feature of the English Music Festival, with the ancient warmth of Dorchester Abbey providing the perfect setting for audiences to relax in and enjoy a performance from The Flutes and Frets Duo, and for a discovery of the lighter side of British composers when pianist Paul Guinery returns to the keyboard. Informative talks include those on anniversary composers, Stanford and Holst, as well as Farrar and Bliss.

This year, the Festival is remaining in Dorchester-on-Thames for the duration of the long weekend.

Further information including the full programme is available on the English Music Festival's website:

Tickets go on sale via the website during March and by means of a postal booking form. Full Festival and Day Passes are also available. Tickets for individual concerts will be available on the door, subject to availability.

Dorchester Abbey
High Street
OX10 7HH

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