Latest news

The start of something special!

michael and chris 4ERSO’s first concert with new Principal Conductor Christopher Stark was an amazing start to our new partnership and promises great things for future concerts and seasons!  Our appreciative audience clearly enjoyed the spirited performance of Der Freischutz and Dvorak’s dramatic 7th Symphony.

We were delighted to be joined by hugely talented young soloist Michael Stowe, whose beautiful and lyrical performance of the Strauss oboe concerto was wonderfully accomplished.

If you missed it, put the next concert date in your diary now – our next St John’s concert is our Russian Masterworks concerton 17th February is our and includes Prokofiev’s Cinderella Suite No. 1 and Shostakovich’s 6th Symphony.

Trains, potatoes and symphonies…..

How do such mundane things as trains and potatoes link to Dvorak’s stirring 7th Symphony?

Prague_railway_station_before_1916
Franz Josef Central Station in Prague

Dvorak was a trainspotter and spent hours at the railway station in Prague, talking to train drivers and noting down engine numbers.

The theme from his 7th Symphony came to him when he was at the station watching a train bringing anti-Habsburg sympathisers from Budapest to Prague for a festival at the National Theatre.  Dvořák strongly identified himself with the rising tide of Bohemian nationalism and had been tracking the group’s progress with enthusiasm.

At the very bottom of the page of the score of the first movement, Dvořák’s handwritten note reads: “I got this theme when the festival train from Pest was arriving in the State Station in 1884.”

fritz-simrock-1373532085-view-1
Simrock, Dvořák’s publisher

When Dvořák’s publisher Simrock failed to send him an advance for the Symphony, the composer complained that he had endured a bad potato harvest and needed some money upfront.

 

Why does music matter so much to kids?

Its that time again – we’re gearing up for our annual Camden children’s concert in November. And we were thinking about why its such a key part of our year.

ERSO’s LONG history of children’s concerts

1962 erso pic
An Ernest Read Children’s Concert in the Festival Hall in 1962

ERSO was founded in 1931 by Ernest Read, who was passionate about spreading music as widely as possible,  and was famous for his Ernest Read Concerts for Children which began in 1945 at the Royal Festival Hall.

We are proud to continue Ernest Read’s legacy with our November and March children’s concerts in Camden.

The difference music makes to kids

brass boys
Young Camden Training Orchestra musician enjoying rehearsal with ERSO in 2017

Learning an instrument and being engaged with social music-making brings many well documented educational and social benefits to children, especially to those from disadvantaged backgrounds, including: improved academic progress; memory; social skills; motivation and discipline. This is really relevant in Camden where 36% of children live in poverty, rising to 42% in the poorest ward, St Pancras & Somers Town.

The Camden Music Service say that children dropping out of music-making is one of the biggest issues that they face.

ERSO and Camden

Our Camden concerts in November and March offer Camden children the opportunity to perform in concerts with ERSO,  helping to inspire and encourage them with music.  We work closely with the Camden Music Service and the Camden School for Girls.

whole orchestra 5
ERSO and the Camden Training Orchestra in rehearsal

In November we’ll be working with the children from the Camden Music Service’s Camden Training Orchestra.   ERSO will be playing some fantastic music and we’ll be playing three pieces with the children who will be sitting within the orchestra for the whole concert.  Each child will sit with an adult who will be able to help and advise them on the music so that they can relax and enjoy the rehearsal and concert.

We’ve had great feedback to say how inspiring the kids find sitting amongst the adult musicians as it lets them hear what their instruments could sound like with practice and experience what it would be like to play in a more advanced ensemble.

“I am writing to you today to let you know how exciting, beautiful and inspiring last night’s concert was. My daughter who plays the violin was so happy to be sitting with ERSO players. A wonderful and memorable experience for my daughter and myself!”

 

Did you know an American soldier inspired Strauss to write his oboe concerto?

How did a young American soldier, John de Lancie, end up inspiring Strauss to write his famous oboe concerto in the period known as his “Indian Summer”?

john de lancie
John de Lancie

At the end of the 2nd World war, in April 1945, the U.S. Army arrived at the Bavarian town of Garmisch. Their first job was to commandeer houses and locals were given minutes to pack and leave. One elderly man refused to go, saying “I am Richard Strauss, composer of Rosenkavalier and Salomé.”  Luckily the most senior officer knew who Strauss was and ordered his men to find other houses, and Strauss his invited them in for dinner.

richard-strauss-14-1389189046-view-0
The elderly Strauss at his home

Strauss received many visits from the US soldiers, including a 24-year old intelligence officer John de Lancie who, in his civilian life was principal oboist with the Pittsburgh Orchestra. During his many visits they had long conversations in French about music. Familiar with Strauss’s beautiful oboe parts in his orchestral works, de Lancie asked the composer if he had ever thought of composing an oboe concerto, to which Strauss simply said “No”.

A few weeks later, however,  Strauss began to sketch some ideas, and a short score was written out by 14 September. By the end of the following month, the composer had completed the finest concerto for oboe written in the 20th century.

Back home in the United States, de Lancie was astonished to discover that Strauss had published an oboe concerto and that the autograph of the score bore the inscription, “Oboe Concerto – 1945 – suggested by an American soldier.”  Strauss also gave the rights to the U.S. premiere of the piece to de Lancie but the Philadelphia Orchestra overrode Strauss’s wishes on the grounds that de Lancie was not the principal oboe.

John de Lancie went on to be one of the most accomplished oboe players of the post-war era, serving as the principal oboist for the Philadelphia Orchestra for 30 years, as well as becoming a well known teacher. It was only after his retirement that he finally performed and recorded the work the idea for which he had planted in the mind of the ageing Richard Strauss, contributing to the composer’s ‘Indian summer’ at the end of a long and distinguished composing career.

A minute with Michael

“Why the Strauss?” we asked our fabulous soloist Michael Stowe for our Principal Conductor premiere concert.  After all, it’s known as one of the most demanding oboe concertos ever written!
He had a great answer: “I have chosen to perform the Strauss concerto as I feel it perfectly demonstrates what the oboe does best: playing beautiful, endless melodies. The concerto was written in 1945 towards the end of Strauss’s life during what is known as his ‘Indian Summer’ of music, where he composed numerous beautiful pieces of music including his Four Last Songs and the Metamorphosen for solo strings, which I feel collectively paint a picture of Strauss’s life as a composer.”
michael and peter cropped.jpg
Michael at the Grand Final of ERSO Soloist of the Year 2018, with ERSO and Peter Stark

Trainspotting tunes

Did you know that Dvorak was a trainspotter?  And that this was connected to the 7th Symphony?

Prague_railway_station_before_1916
Franz Josef Central Station

He spent hours at the Franz Josef railway station in Prague, talking to train drivers and noting down engine numbers.

Seventh_Symphony_edit-300x231
Dvorak’s handwritten score for his 7th Symphony

The theme from his 7th Symphony came to him when he was at the station watching a train bringing anti-Habsburg sympathisers from Budapest to Prague for a festival at the National Theatre.  Dvořák strongly identified himself with the rising tide of Bohemian nationalism and had been tracking the group’s progress with enthusiasm.

At the very bottom of the page of the score of the first movement, Dvořák’s handwritten note reads: “I got this theme when the festival train from Pest was arriving in the State Station in 1884.”

Famous first chances…..

famous firsts collageDid you know that ERSO was the first to give some famous faces the chance to play a concerto?  Ernest Read wanted to give members of the ERSO the chance to play as soloists and the first player to get this chance (in 1931) was the young Evelyn Rothwell, who went on to become one of the UK’s most famous oboists.

Other famous firsts include Guy Johnstone who got his earliest solo opportunity when at 14 years old he performed the Lalo Cello Concerto with ERSO at the Royal Festival Hall. He went on to win BBC Young Musician of the Year and became a famous solo cellist and a Professor at the Royal Academy of Music.  He’s been described as “an impeccable soloist” (Gramophone), whose “playing is searchingly beautiful and accurate” (BBC Music Magazine).

And did you know that the young 13 year old Jacqueline du Pre first performed the Elgar Cello Concerto with ERSO (known then as the London Senior Orchestra) back in December 1959?

Ernest Read was so keen to give young players the chance to perform as soloists with ERSO.  We’re proud to continue the tradition via our ERSO Soloist of the Year  competition, open to regular ERSO members and musicians who play at least one concert (incl rehearsals) with us this season, and hope some of our contestants might follow in their footsteps!