HIGHLIGHTS from the first 50 years of the Hertfordshire Chamber Orchestra
1966 – Our first concert! This was to have comprised Beethoven violin concerto, Mozart 40, Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and two pieces by Delius. At the last moment, however, the soloist was taken ill and the concerto was replaced by Mozart’s Piano concerto No 24, which Andrew Davis both played and directed from the keyboard.
1967 – The second concert took place in April. It included Beethoven 8 and the Schumann cello concerto with Martin Elmitt and was well reviewed in The Times Educational Supplement. Our other concert that year took place in St Albans Abbey and included our first brush with Beethoven 3.
1968 – In this year Iona Brown played the Beethoven violin concerto with Roger Norrington conducting. The second 1968 concert included ‘El Amor Brujo’ by de Falla, a work we were to perform many years later in Spain. By now the orchestra was thoroughly at home at Aldwickbury School, where features of the weekends included round-the-table table tennis and midnight swims.
1969 – The orchestra returned twice to St Albans, to the City Hall as well as the Abbey. Programmes included Frances Mason playing the Mendelssohn violin concerto, ‘Symphonies’ by Gordon Crosse – not a first performance, but the piece was only written in 1964 – and Alastair Thompson singing Britten’s Nocturne.
1970 – Concerts included performances of Stravinsky’s Symphony in C, Beethoven piano concerto No. 4 with Stephen Savage and the first performance of a work by Miles Maxwell – a composer who lives in Welwyn. These were the last concerts the orchestra was to give with Andrew Davis.
1971 – Kerry Woodward conducted the orchestra in a programme which included the first appearances as soloists of members of the orchestra’s wind section – Janie Shillito, Gordon Davies, Ted Chance and Peter Smith – playing Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E Flat major. This concert was given in St Mary’s Church, Hitchin, a venue to which the orchestra has returned with pleasure, if not always warmth, over the years. The other concert this year was conducted by Guy Woolfenden and included the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations with Christopher van Kampen as soloist.
1972 – David Measham set the orchestra off in two new directions: our first appearance in Central London and with a choir. With the English Chamber Choir, we performed the Haydn Nelson Mass in St George’s, Hanover Square, London and in St Albans Abbey. This performance brought us to the attention of the national daily papers; amongst other encouraging reviews, Edward Greenfield wrote “it was often hard to appreciate theta these players were not professionals”. Also in 1972 the orchestra first played under Howard Williams, in a concert which included Stephen Roberts singing Mahler’s ‘Kindertotenlieder’.
1973 – David Measham formally took up the position of principal conductor and works he directed included Kodaly’s Psalmus Hungaricus, Beethoven’s Choral Fantasia and Sibelius’ ‘Swan of Tuonela’ with as the Daily Telegraph reported, “an excellent cor anglais soloist” (Janie Shillito). This year the orchestra appeared for the first time at St John’s, Smith Square. London.
1974 – Crucial to the success of the orchestra is its leader. After eight years in this position, Bransby Roberts chose to leave because of increasing commitments as a professional player. Also, the orchestra having acclimatised to David Measham’s energetic style, he too disappeared. Would the orchestra survive? Gordon, Janie and Jim Smith decided that it was too worthwhile to be allowed to die and largely through their efforts, the orchestra was put back onto its feet.
1975/6 – During these years, Howard Williams and Juliet Solomon became very much involved in the running of the orchestra. Soloists from the orchestra included Ted Chance (Strauss’s second horn concerto) and Gordon Davies (Spohr’s clarinet concerto). For the first time we also tackled Prokofiev’s challenging Classical Symphony. Our connections with Aldwickbury School as a residential centre was strong and visits to the school were memorable for midnight parties and mixed dormitories! Also in 1976 the orchestra found the perfect new leader – both musically and socially – in John Phillips, who had left the Fitzwilliam Quartet to practise as a barrister.
1977 – By now the orchestra had developed a tradition of playing to almost invisible audiences except, mercifully, at Buntingford! Collaboration with the Hertford Choral Society and Derek Harrison, which started in this year, was therefore most welcome. The tradition of doing concertos with soloists from the wind section was continued, with Janie Shillito playing Strauss’s oboe concerto.
1978 – We began to try to give ourselves a London identity by making use of Caxton Hall in Westminster, to give the first performance of a new work by David Blake, ‘The Bones of Chang Tzu’. Of much greater significance however, was the first overseas visit to be made by the orchestra thanks to the hard work of Martin Gent, Head of Bottisham Village College. This was to Bruges, in Belgium, where we stayed in a hostel aptly named ‘Spermalie’! We joined Europ Cantat in a performance of Handel’s ‘Judas Maccabeus’ conducted by László Heltay. We also gave two orchestral concerts, memorable for the acoustic (Knokke) and the beer (Oudenaarde).
1979 – The orchestra played in a very cold Southwark Cathedral, giving a concert which included Beethoven 3 and the Mozart flute concerto with Ann Miller as soloist. The spring concert cession included Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola played by John Phillips and Alan George and Ginastera’s ‘Variaciones Concertantes’. The last session in the year featured Gordon Davies as soloist in the clarinet concerto by Mozart and Sandy Baillie in Haydn’s cello concerto in D major. Beethoven 7 made its first appearance too among the orchestra’s programmes. This year, Mary Ann Kernan and Stefan Bown became key figures in the running of the orchestra.
1980 – An eventful year. The orchestra gave the first London performance of Panufnik’s Symphony No 6. Vanya Milanova joined us to play the Mendelssohn violin concerto. In the same concert there was an airing for the rarely-heard Symphony by Voříšek. A repeat visit was made to Bruges where we met Edmon Colomer for the first time. Here, choral music included Haydn’s Harmoniemesse, conducted by Edmon Colomer and a new work by Vic Nees, ‘Aurora Lucis’. Orchestral music included Vaughan Williams’ ‘Lark Ascending’ with John Phillips as soloist and Roussel’s Concerto for Chamber Orchestra. As part of the concert in the autumn with the Hertford Choral Society, Odaline de la Martinez conducted Stravinsky’s Octet for wind instruments.
1981 – The orchestra ventured further abroad, this time to Spain at the invitation of Edmon Colomer. Thanks to his organising skills, the visit went off extremely well though there were some anxious moments for the orchestra’s “roadies” (Jim Smith and Ann Miller) at the Spanish border! Concerts were given in the open air, in Barcelona itself and in Solsona Cathedral in the depths of the Pyrenean foothills. For the Spaniards’ benefit, we became temporarily the ‘Hertfordshire Chamber orchestra de Londres’. 1981 also saw Edmon Colomer in London, for a programme which included accompanying Vanya Milanova in Beethoven’s violin concerto. He confessed afterwards to pre-concert nerves because this was the first time he had ever accompanied an instrumental soloist! Our other concerts included working with several soloists (Penelope Walker in Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder’, Alec Forshaw playing Mozart’s bassoon concerto, and Ulrike Schafer playing Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations), several conductors (Adrian Leaper and Chris Fifield) and our first collaboration with the Collegium Musicum, in Schubert’s’ Mass in G.
1982 – The orchestra was back in Belgium, this time in Namur where our performances of Haydn’s Harmoniemesse, to an audience of about 2,000, under Edmon Colomer was “le triomphe”, as the review put it, of the visit. The wind made a special contribution with Stravinsky’s Mass and the ‘premier violon’ lost his ‘lunetttes’ just before the final concert! The rest of the year might seem pale in contrast, but included a performance of Tippet’s Child of our Time’ under Matthew Best and concerts under the directions of Simon Joly and Colin Metters. In addition, politics appeared to have replaced parties as the orchestra’s principal recreation!
1983 – Edmon Colomer was appointed the orchestra’s Musical Director. During the year he took the orchestra through more difficult musical territory – Schoenberg’s Second Chamber Symphony – and even further afield, this time to Greece. Although the orchestra has never been short of romantic ventures, the heat of Greece seemed to be more than usually stimulating.
1984 – The orchestra went to Namur again, this time featuring in Dvořák’s Stabat Mater in the final concert of the week, which also saw the farewell to the ‘father’ of the orchestra, Jim Smith. The orchestra made its debut on the South Bank in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, in a programme which included Beethoven’s violin concerto with Vanya Milanova, Schoenberg’s Second Chamber Symphony and de Falla’s ‘El Amor Brujo’ with Montserrat Martorell. The Times reviewer wrote that he was surprised by the “quality of the playing”. Derek Williams led the orchestra for this concert and became our regular leader for some years.
1985 – The orchestra visited Spain for the second time, performing works by Gerhard, Martin and Beethoven. One of the concerts took place in Barcelona’s premier concert hall, the Palau de la Música Catalana and was recorded for Spanish TV. In England, the concerts took us as far away as Ely and Stour in Kent (for the Stour Music Festival conducted by Mark Deller), as well as back to St John’s, Smith Square, twice during the year.
1986 – Sandy Baillie joined the orchestra for a performance of Britten’s Cello Symphony early in the year. Later, we returned for the second time to the Queen Elizabeth Hall to perform Mozart, Beethoven, Ginastera and Prokofiev.
1987 – The orchestra’s 21st year. We celebrated this with a concert in December including Beethoven’s 9th symphony, conducted by Edmon Colomer – the first time the orchestra had played this masterpiece. During the year concerto soloists included the late John Ogdon with Brenda Lucas, playing the Mozart Concerto for 2 pianos and Tamsin Dives whose mother Grace had appeared as a soloist in 1975. The bagpiper who joined us for a performance of Peter Maxwell Davies’ ‘An Orkney Wedding with Sunrise’ startled the audience at St John’s when he walked up the aisle for the finale. We visited Namur, for the third time, with three separate programmes, three conductors and three major works: Dvořák’s 7th and Brahms’ 4th symphonies and Elgar’s cello concerto with Lowry Blake as soloist.
1988 – Twentieth Century composers featured in this year’s programmes with Abrahamsen, Stravinsky, Rutter (Requiem) and Bernstein, not forgetting Elgar’s ‘Gerontius’, at the Corn Exchange in Cambridge. We also played at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon, for the first time – an interesting venue, once all the orchestra had arrived!
1989 – En Shao, from Peking, conducted the first of two concerts with the orchestra, including a piece by a contemporary Chinese composer and Beethoven, receiving a standing ovation from the audience. The orchestra’s second visit to King’s College Chapel was to work with the Cambridge Village Colleges Choral Society, conducted by Tim Brown, in Kodály’s Psalmus Hungaricus and Rossini’s Stabat Mater. Another programme this year included the violin concerto by Kurt Weill in which New Zealand born Elizabeth Sellers was the outstanding soloist.
1990 – We were fortunate enough to have En Shao again and also his teacher, Tim Reynish, to conduct during the year. Derek Williams, after 5 years as orchestral leader, and occasional soloist, vacated his seat. In August Malta was the venue for two outdoor concerts conducted by David Drummond with the rising young English star Tamsin Little playing Brahms violin concerto, (on the outdoor stage outside Valetta Tasmin's cadenza was itself accompanied by obbligato motorbike roaring past), later repeated in St John's in London.
1991 – An action packed year in which the orchestra gave the children’s’ concert in Letchworth’s Plinston Hall compared and conducted by Derek Williams, three sessions accompanying the Crouch End Festival Chorus in Bach’s B minor Mass, Haydn The Creation and Brahms’ Requiem and our first session with Martyn Brabbins. In April, Martyn conducted Stravinsky and Haydn and introduced us to a young violinist from Kazakhstan, Marat Bisengaliev, who gave his first performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. The orchestra’s 25th season opened with Martyn Brabbins conducting a programme which included Schnittke’s Moz-Art à la Haydn and Sandy Baillie as soloist in Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto.
1992 saw the orchestra do three concerts with the Crouch End Festival Chorus including Tippett’s A Child of Our Time, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius. Conductors for our regular sessions included Mark Shanahan, Tim Dean and Anthony Halstead. Gina McCormack, who had already led the orchestra for a number of concerts, played the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, and Jonathan Plowright the Ravel Piano Concerto. The policy of including a 20th Century work in the orchestra’s own programmes gave rise to performances of works by Alexander Goehr and Robert Saxton.
1993 – Tasmin Little joined the orchestra for the second time as soloist, this time in the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto for a packed St John’s Smith Square charity concert. Martyn Brabbins conducted Rebecca Hirsch and Caroline Dearnley in the Brahms Double Concerto. Our president, Edmon Colomer, joined us for a programme with a Spanish flavour including works by Roberto Gerhard and Albéniz (the piano concerto with Vanessa Latarche as soloist) and ending with Schubert’s Great C Major Symphony. Earlier in the year James MacMillan’s The Exorcism of Rio Sumpul enhanced our American political awareness.
1994 was distinguished by a number of events: the appointment of Andrea Quinn as the orchestra’s new Musical Director (following her first concert in January), a hasty trip to Murcia and Bilbao in Spain to accompany the London Philharmonic Choir in the Te Deum by Haydn and Beethoven’s Mass in D, and in September the first concert conducted by Richard Farnes and led by Hilary Sturt. 1994 also featured a solo double act from the orchestra when Chris Harrison and Janie Shillito played the Holst Fugal Concerto. The 20th Century was further represented by Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Kind of Blue and Edmund Rubbra’s Sinfonia da Camera.
1995 – In January the orchestra accompanied Sergei Raldugin, the principal cellist of the Kirov Opera Theatre Orchestra, in the Dvořák Cello Concerto. Richard Farnes stepped in to conduct at very short notice in April. We joined the North Herts Guild of Singers to perform Elgar’s The Kingdom in Stevenage, Eleanor Alberga’s Jupiter’s Fairground and two works by Arvo Pärt – Fratres and Berliner Messe – brought the later 20th Century into our programmes. The earlier part of the century as represented by Richard Strauss’s Duett-Concertino for clarinet, bassoon, strings and harp with the LSO’s Andrew Marriner and our own Alec Forshaw as soloists.
1996. Our 30th anniversary year saw the Orchestra pay its first visit to Snape Maltings, with Crouch End Festival Chorus in a ground-breaking programme which included orchestral songs by Alma Mahler and Dame Ethel Smyth’s Mass in D. A further highlight of the year was a performance of Catalan composer Roberto Gerhard’s La Peste to celebrate his centenary. This was conducted by Edmon Colomer, also Catalan. Apart from the six groups of percussion instruments specified in the score, an unusual instrument required in this work is a free-bass accordion – the player for this was only found on the day of the concert.
1997 – The year started with our 30th anniversary celebration session under Richard Farnes, performing the Lennox Berkeley Divertimento, the Emperor Concerto with Iwan Llewelyn-Jones and Schubert Symphony No 6. The London concert was in St Giles within Cripplegate in the Barbican which became our London base for 4 years. In April, Lucy Waterhouse began to share the leader’s role with Hilary Sturt as we played the Bruch Violin Concerto with Gina McCormack (a future leader) and, in September, David Pyatt (a future principal horn of The London Symphony Orchestra) joined us to perform Mozart’s 3rd Horn Concerto. Our programmes spanned everything from Mozart to Ned Rorem (born 1923) via Rossini, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Mahler and Prokofiev and our concerts raised substantial sums for two local hospices. We found the time to appear again with CEFC in Joby Talbot’s “Finding Silence”.
1998 was a busy year for us. We appeared twice with Crouch End Festival Chorus for the Mozart Requiem and a string of modern pieces including World premières of new works by Robert Hugill (Here Be Angels) and Paul Patterson (Hell’s Angels) and also with the Cambridgeshire Village Colleges Choral Society in Ely Cathedral to perform Brahms German Requiem. In our own sessions, we covered three Beethoven Symphonies (1, 2 and 8), several contemporary works (notably Michael Torke’s Ash and Matthew Taylor’s Sinfonia Brevis) and three fine concerti. David Pyatt returned for Mozart’s 2nd Horn Concerto. Lucy Waterhouse gave a fine account of Prokofiev’s 1st Violin Concerto and Jonathan Kitchen joined us for the Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto in A Minor. At this stage, we were engaging with conductors in a truly promiscuous manner – Matthew Rowe, Philip Ellis, Howard Moody, Martin Pickard and Tom Hammond in five successive sessions!
1999 was hectic. The high point was our first trip to Dubai in February when we performed in such venues as the Ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel; English orchestras are rare visitors to the United Arab Emirates and we were warmly received. This included a rare visit to a girl’s only school to give a children’s concert (ie they allowed in the men in the orchestra!) – and a visit to another school for a children’s concert where the gates were guarded by gentlemen holding very serious weaponry. It was also our first encounter with the eminent violinist Paul Barritt who flew from Brazil to join us for the 3rd Mozart Concerto and who has since become such an important part of the orchestra’s life. As well as appearing with Crouch End Festival Chorus for the Beethoven Missa Solemnis (with Paul Barritt as leader and exquisite violin soloist in the Benedictus) and December Festival Choir (in November!) for a programme of Haydn and Brahms, we continued to deliver a broad range of repertoire in our regular sessions where we worked productively with Philip Ellis and Martin West. We expanded our forces to tackle Brahms Symphony No 2 and covered repertoire from Haydn to Tippett and three ambitious concerti – the Richard Strauss Oboe Concerto with Ruth Scott, Schnittke Piano Concerto with Jerome Sadler and Stravinsky Violin Concerto in D with Lucy Waterhouse.
2000 saw our second trip to the UAE, where we graced once again the ballroom of an international hotel in Dubai as well as a theatre in Sharjah, and two spirited performances in Hertfordshire with the Aeolian Singers. In January, we had our first conductorless session with Paul Barritt directing from the leader’s seat as well as being the violin soloist, a rewarding and successful configuration soon to become an annual event which endures to this day. Martin West conducted us in Dubai and for both our April and September sessions, the latter featuring his brother, Chris West, as solo double bass in the Giovanni Bottesini Four Pieces.
2001 – Our January session featured the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante in Eb for violin and viola with Paul Barritt and his brother Jonathan as well as the première of Quartz, a piece commissioned by HCO from composer and orchestra member Maud Hodson. Our later sessions introduced new conductors in David Corkhill and Gerry Cornelius, a new leader in John Crawford and a new principal London venue at St Paul’s Covent Garden. Other highlights included the St Matthew Passion at Sadlers Wells Theatre and the Dream of Gerontius with Crouch End Festival Chorus and the Puccini Messa di Gloria with the Aeolian Singers.
2002 started strongly with a wonderful programme with Paul Barritt – the Beethoven Violin Concerto and both the Wind Serenade in D Minor and Nocturne for Strings in B Major by Dvořák. In April, conducted by Christopher Rowland, Director of Chamber Music at the Royal Northern College of Music, we performed a rich mix of Mozart, Sibelius and Vaughan Williams in London and, the next month, at the 49th Ashwell Music Festival. We completed our 2002 season with the Samuel Barber Cello Concerto with Angela Lee of the Lee Trio, Beethoven’s Eroica and Colin Matthews’ Night Music.
2003 brought us our first session with the eminent bassoonist/conductor Robin O’Neill showcasing the virtuoso clarinettist Michael Collins in the spectacular Louis Spohr 2nd Clarinet Concerto in a programme of Haydn, Dvořák and Kodály. At the other end of the year (and spectrum) we were conducted by our orchestra bassoonist Brynly Clarke showcasing our principal oboe Janie Shillito in the UK première of the Oboe Concertino by the Greek composer Nikos Skalkottas set in a glorious mix of Brahms, Debussy and Beethoven. Outside our own productions, there was an Elijah with the Cambridgeshire Choral Society and an open air summer concert for no less an organisation than the Chislehurst Golf Club!
2004 saw the first of what would prove to be many sessions with conductor Jacques Cohen in a programme including the Wolf Italian Serenade and Samuel Barber Capricorn Concerto featuring a total of five soloists from the orchestra – viola (Keith Berry), cello (Maud Hodson), flute (Chris Harrison), oboe (Janie Shillito) and trumpet (Clive Miller). In September, Robin Browning introduced us to James MacMillan’s “Tryst” which demanded virtuosic playing from all sections of the orchestra. Building on the performance in 2003, we appeared again with the Cambridgeshire Choral Society in the Vaughan Williams Five Mystical Songs and Sea Symphony.
2005. Our concerts are often fundraisers and, in this year, we did concerts for MacMillan Cancer Relief, the Iain Rennie Hospice at Home and the Sheena Booth Music Trust. We supported the CCS in The Creation and the Hertford Choral Society in Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and the Haydn Nelson Mass. In our main sessions, we played separate works for wind and strings in two of our programmes (with Paul Barritt and Geoffrey Patterson) and a lovely programme including the Appalachian Spring Suite and several Songs of the Auvergne with Brynly Clarke. In January, Sarah Williamson joined us to perform the Mozart Clarinet Concerto.
2006. Our 40th anniversary year started unusually when we located our residential rehearsal weekend with Paul Barritt in Popperinge in southern Belgium. Robin Browning visited us again in April for a programme including the Elizabeth Poston “Harlow Concertante” for solo string quartet and string orchestra, the Leó Weiner Serenade for small orchestra and the Richard Strauss early Serenade in E flat for thirteen wind instruments. For our anniversary concert in September, Nicholas Collon created a strong bond with us on his first appearance in a splendid offering of Dvořák, Poulenc and the Eroica Symphony.
2007. At the end of our January rehearsal weekend, we added a concert in Popperinge to our January session which attracted great local acclaim. The programme included the Mendelssohn Italian Symphony played conductorless under Paul Barritt’s direction from the leader’s seat – no mean feat. Nicholas Collon re-joined us in April for the Richard Strauss Oboe Concerto and the Brahms Serenade in D Major. We rounded the year off under the baton of Orlando Joplin performing the Schumann Cello Concerto with Raphael Wallfisch and Beethoven Symphony No 7 in A Major.
2008. This was the year we moved our principal London venue to St Mary-at-Hill church in the City where we have remained ever since. Our annual session with Paul Barritt centred around the Haydn Sinfonia Concertante in Bb for violin, cello, oboe and bassoon with orchestra members Maud Hodson, Janie Shillito and Brynly Clarke sharing the limelight with Paul. After an outing with the CCS to perform the Mozart Requiem, our April session with Nick Collon (raising funds for the Home-Start charity – they have now become a regular partner) included the Brahms Violin Concerto with Florence Cooke. In September with Robin Browning, we tackled a formidable programme including the Schoenberg 2nd Chamber Symphony.
2009. Our January concerts with Paul Barritt included the rarely performed Creatures of Prometheus ballet music by Beethoven and the Haydn “Drum Roll” Symphony No 103. A few weeks later we were in Cambridge with the Cambridgeshire Choral Society for the Mendelssohn Saint Paul followed, one month later, by a trip to Ely Cathedral for Mendelssohn’s Elijah with the Ely Choral Society - it was Mendelssohn’s bicentenary year. In April with David Chernaik, there was even more Mendelssohn spiced with the Debussy Danses Sacrée et Profane featuring Cécile Schoonbroodt as solo harpist. Our September session with Jacques Cohen, who is both a composer and a conductor, centred upon Vaughan Williams’ 5th Symphony and included one of Jacques’ own works, “Yigdal” for string orchestra.
2010 got off to a strong start with our by now traditional session directed by Paul Barritt (Sibelius, Mozart and Fauré) and a trip to Kings College Cambridge to accompany the Cambridgeshire Choral Society in their 50th anniversary concert featuring the Rutter Gloria and Gerald Finzi’s Intimations of Immortality. Our debut session with Graham Ross included the Britten Sinfonia and orchestra member Richard Stockall as soloist in the Weber F minor Clarinet Concerto. In September, we twinned our own performance under Jaques Cohen with a charity fundraising concert organised by City law firm, Denton Wilde Sapte.
2011. With Paul Barritt, we scaled the heights of the E J Moeran Sinfonietta without a conductor and, in April, the Del Mar Piano Trio joined us for two fine performances of the Beethoven Triple Concerto. In September, we played two concerts (including the Max Bruch Violin Concerto with Julian Azkoul) in memory of our long-time bassist, Erica Glasser who had died tragically earlier in the year. The new thing for the year was our first trip to Llandrindod Wells in Mid Wales to accompany Cantorian and the Irfon Singers in the Poulenc Gloria and Fauré Requiem.
2012 brought us three spectacular programmes. We were introduced to the Lennox Berkeley Sinfonietta for Orchestra op. 34 by Paul Barritt in an otherwise Beethoven-dominated offering. Under Robin O’Neill, we presented the Kodály Dances of Galánta alongside the Dvořák Violin Concerto with Zsolt-Tihamér Visontay, joint concert master of the Philharmonia Orchestra. Our September session with Jacques Cohen included the complete Ma Mère L’Oye Ballet Music by Ravel and Edward Gregson’s Song for Chris (in memoriam Christopher Rowland, the late Professor of Chamber Music at the Royal Northern of Music) with the Australian Chinese cello soloist Yelian He. We also returned to Llandrindod Wells for the St John Passion with Cantorian.
2013. Our winter session saw us delivering conductor-free performances of the Prokofiev Classical Symphony and the Mendelssohn Italian Symphony – a real challenge. In the spring, we appeared with conductor Frank Fontcouberte and our soloist Julian Azkoul (Mendelssohn Violin Concerto) in London and in Frank’s home town, Sète, a lovely coastal town close to Montpellier and host to a fine music festival – our first playing visit to the south of France. An added bonus was our introduction to Theodor Küng who led us in Sète and has led the orchestra regularly ever since. The year was rounded off with concerts in Chatteris (our regular fenland venue) and London including the Mozart Piano Concerto in C Minor K491 with Charles Owen at the keyboard and the Eroica symphony.
2014. The year started with Ravel Tombeau de Couperin, the Dvořák Czech Suite and Finzi Introit for violin and orchestra under Paul Barritt’s unfailingly inspiring direction. April brought a larger scale programme with Graham Ross – by now a regular conductor for us – featuring Bartók Piano Concerto No 3 with Julian Trevelyan, a BBC Young Musician of the Year finalist for 2014 (and son of longstanding orchestra member Peter Trevelyan) and Dvořák Symphony No 6. In September, conductor James Murray joined us for his debut session including the Kodály Dances of Marosszék, Brahms St Anthony Variations and the Bruch Double Concerto for Clarinet and Viola with orchestra members Richard Stockall and Keith Berry taking the solo parts with great panache.
2015. After kicking off the year with a fantastic programme of Fauré, Dvořák, Elgar and the Mendelssohn Scottish Symphony with Paul Barritt, our spring session was another epic with Graham Ross – The Siegfried Idyll, Stravinsky Pulcinella Suite and Mozart Symphony No 40 (the first work played by HCO at its inaugural rehearsal weekend in September 1966). In September 2015 for the Chatteris Music Society (over 20 years of visits) and in London at St Mary at Hill, on James Murray’s return visit, we relished pieces by Karlowicz and Émile Bernard showcasing, respectively, the string and wind sections and basked in the reflected glory of Tom Poster in Mozart Piano Concerto No 23 in A Major.
2016. Our 50th anniversary year has been strong on violin virtuosity. In January, conducted by Graham Ross, we revelled in the Bizet Symphony in C and the Brahms Violin Concerto with the amazing Jennifer Pike, one of the all-time youngest winners of the BBC Young Musician of the Year, now matured as a soloist of the greatest skill and musicianship; a wonderful experience for us. Later in the year, after a trip to Ely Cathedral to accompany the Ely Choral Society in the Rossini Stabat Mater, Paul Barritt was our soloist and director in a magisterial rendering of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with Haydn Symphony No 99 in E flat and two of the Dvořák Legends marking the 14th year of concerts in Tring with Paul and benefitting the RennieGrove hospice. In September we celebrated our 50th anniversary with a return visit after many years of our president Edmon Colomer in a programme of Verdi, Granados, Falla and Brahms.