British Symphonies



Louise Fryer presents the final week of Afternoon on 3's month-long celebration of British Symphonies. There are Symphonies every day, from a Walford Davies world premiere (today) through the likes of Havergal Brian and Daniel Jones to one of the most exciting British composers of today, Julian Anderson. And the Symphonies are complemented by a week of exclusively British music performed mainly by the BBC's performing groups.

Today and tomorrow the BBC Concert Orchestra lead the way with two recent concerts of British music. Today's concert, recorded at Dorchester Abbey as part of the 2013 English Music Festival, includes world premieres by two double-barrelled composers - Vaughan Williams' The Solent and Walford Davies' Second Symphony - as well as music by Britten and Holst.

Not one but two British symphonies today - the BBC National Orchestra of Wales perform David Matthews' 5th Symphony, which was written in the final 2 years of the 20th century in the very same cabin in the woods in New Hampshire where Copland had written Billy the Kid in 1938.

This week's Opera Matinee (Acts I and II are on Thursday, Act III on Friday) is Handel's Poro. The opera, written for the Royal Academy of Music in the early 1730s, tells the story of Alexander the Great's battle with the Indian King Poro by the banks of the Hydaspes river. This performance, given in Basel last year, stars Franco Fagioli in the title role with James Gilchrist as Alexander, and is conducted by Enrico Onofri.

Parry: Jerusalem

Britten: Canadian Carnival


Vaughan Williams: The Solent


Vaughan Williams: Serenade in A minor


Holst: A Winter Idyll


Walford Davies: Symphony No. 2 in G major

BBC Concert Orchestra,

Martin Yates (conductor).


Matthews: Symphony No. 5

BBC National Orchestra of Wales,

Martyn Brabbins (conductor).

Louise Fryer presents music by Parry, Britten, Vaughan Williams, Holst and Walford Davies.


Louise Fryer presents Balfour Gardiner's A Berkshire Idyll and Brian's Symphony No 5.

Louise Fryer continues Radio 3's celebration of British music.

The second of this week's concerts from the BBC Concert Orchestra was given earlier in June as part of The Southbank Centre's The Rest is Noise festival, focusing on the music of the twentieth century. Entitled 'The Home Front', the programme celebrates the part that BBC Radio and British cinema played during World War II to boost morale.

The concert begins with John Ireland's Epic March, followed by music associated with two 1940s BBC Radio favourites - Music While You Work and Sincerely Yours, featuring music sung by Dame Vera Lynn.

Representing British Cinema are: Seascape, from Clifton Parker's score to Western Approaches; Richard Addinsell's famous Warsaw Concerto, written for the 1941 film Dangerous Moonlight; and William Walton's incidental music to Henry V, which was dedicated to 'Commandos and Airborne Troops of Great Britain'.

To get into the swing of things at the concert, the audience were encouraged to wear their finest 1940s clothes - an invitation that we'd like to extend to our listeners!

Following the concert, two more British works. Firstly, a chance to hear Henry Balfour Gardiner's Delius-inspired Berkshire Idyll performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra with conductor David Parry.

And every day this week Afternoon on 3 is featuring a British symphony - today's is Havergal Brian's 5th. Written in 1937, this is a setting of the poem The Wine of Summer by Lord Alfred Douglas, Oscar Wilde's one-time friend and lover.

Ireland: Epic March for orchestra


Music While You Work - selection

Sincerely Yours - music of 'the Forces' Sweetheart' Dame Vera Lynn

Parker: Seascape, from Western Approaches


Addinsell: Warsaw Concerto


Walton, arr. Christopher Palmer: Henry V - A Shakespeare Scenario

Samuel West (narrator),

Laurie Ashworth (soprano),

Victor Sangiorgio (piano),

Hertfordshire Chorus,

BBC Concert Orchestra,

Keith Lockhart (conductor).


Balfour Gardiner: A Berkshire Idyll

BBC Symphony Orchestra,

David Parry (conductor).


Brian: Symphony no. 5 (The Wine of Summer)

Donald Maxwell (baritone),

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra,

Nicholas Kok (conductor).


Louise Fryer continues Afternoon on 3's month-long celebration of British Symphonies and British music in general with piece by Benjamin Britten, Edmund Rubbra and Daniel Jones.

First, one of Edmund Rubbra's finest symphonies - the 8th. Although he gave the symphony the sub-title 'Hommage a Teilhard de Chardin', in reference to the Jesuit priest and philosopher, Rubbra wrote that it was not his intention to translate De Chardin's ideas into music, but rather for the music and ideas to meet "in a like optimism", resulting in a work of intense spirituality. This performance is given by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales with Richard Hickox conducting.

Then, the first part of a concert given earlier this month by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and conductor Ilan Volkov in Rotterdam, as part of their recent tour of the Netherlands (you can hear the second part on Friday).

Britten wrote his American Overture for the conductor Artur Rodzinski in America but left behind and forgotten when he returned to England in the early 1940s. When told of its existence in 1972 by a cataloguer in the New York Public Library, the composer denied any memory of writing it but, after having seen the score, conceded that it was probably his.

He never, on the other hand, denied composing his Ballad of Heroes in 1939 for the Festival of Music for the People. It was a collaboration between Britten and the writers W. H. Auden and Randall Swingler, in the form of an impassioned outburst against the horrors of war. In many ways it anticipates Britten's War Requiem, written 25 years later.

The second British symphony of the day is another 8th - by the Welsh composer Daniel Jones. Jones was born in Pembrokeshire and brought up in Swansea where he met and befriended Dylan Thomas and Vernon Watkins. He wrote his 8th Symphony in 1972 and it features prominently the xylophone, marimba and piano. This performance is from 1979 by the BBC NOW in its earlier incarnation as the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Bryden Thomson.

Edmund Rubbra: Symphony no. 8

BBC National Orchestra of Wales,

Richard Hickox (conductor).


Britten: An American Overture

Britten: Ballad of Heroes

Andrew Staples (tenor),

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra,

Ilan Volkov (conductor).


Daniel Jones: Symphony no. 8

BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra,

Bryden Thomson (conductor).

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Louise Fryer with Act 3 of Handel's Poro, Re dell'Indie. Plus Bridge, Britten and Knussen.

Louise Fryer presents the final act of Handel's Poro, recorded last year in Basel with Franco Fagioli as the eponymous Indian king, Veronica Cangemi as his wife Cleofide, James Gilchrist as Alexander the Great and conductor Enrico Onofri. The first two acts were broadcast in yesterday's programme. At the end of Act II Poro's wife Cleofide was incorrectly told of her husband's death. Act III begins as Poro meets with his sister Eissena and swears revenge on Alexander.

Then you can hear the second part of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra's recent concert in Rotterdam (the first half was in Wednesday's programme): two pieces about the transition from Winter to Spring by two British composers, Benjamin Britten and his favourite teacher Frank Bridge.

Bridge's orchestral rhapsody Enter Spring is full of bird-song and the sounds of the coming spring on the blustery Sussex Downs. Britten's Spring Symphony is, according to the composer, 'a symphony not only dealing with the Spring itself but with the progress of Winter to Spring and the reawakening of the earth and life which that means'.

Oliver Knussen met and was encouraged by Britten when he was young. Today we hear his Choral, written in the early '70s and completed when he was 20. The piece is written for a wind band split into various discrete choirs which play slow funeral processions counter to each other before accelerating and finally converging. This performance by the BBC Symphony Orchestra was conducted by the composer as part of his Total Immersion Barbican event last November.

Oliver Knussen has conducted and championed works by the composer who rounds off Afternoon on 3's focus on British Symphonies, Julian Anderson. His Symphony was written in 2003 when he was Composer-in-Association to the CBSO. It was influenced, in part, by Finnish artist Axel Gallen's Morning by a Lake, which is set in spring and depicts a lake, half-covered in ice, gradually melting.

Handel: Poro, Rè dell'Indie, HWV 28 - Act III

Poro, Indian King - Franco Fagioli (countertenor)

Erissena, Poro's sister - Sonia Prina (contralto)

Gandarte, Erissena's lover - Kristina Hammarström (contralto)

Cleofide, Poro's wife - Veronica Cangemi (soprano)

Alessandro, King of Macedonia - James Gilchrist (tenor)

Timagene, Alexander's general - David Wilson-Johnson (bass)

Basel Chamber Orchestra,

Enrico Onofri (conductor).


Bridge: Enter Spring


Britten: Spring Symphony, Op. 44

Eleanor Dennis (soprano),

Kelley O'Connor (mezzo-soprano),

Andrew Staples (tenor),

Laurens Collegium Rotterdam,

Laurens Cantoij Rotterdam,

Kinderkoor Musicanti,

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra,

Ilan Volkov (conductor).


Oliver Knussen: Choral, Op. 8

BBC Symphony Orchestra,

Oliver Knussen (conductor).


Julian Anderson: Symphony

Edward Gardner (conductor).