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WNO at the ICS this November

29 October 2018
The conductor, Tomas Hanus, side on, holds his arms out wide. There are violin players in the background.

This November we perform the first of our three concerts at St Davids Hall as part of the International Concert Series. Our Music Director Tomáš Hanus will return to conduct the WNO Orchestra as well as some superb soloists: young Armenian cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan (a former BBC New Generation Artist), and Slovak baritone Gustáv Beláček. Read on to find out what we’ll be performing and also some background to the pieces themselves that might help you see them in a new light.

The concert opens with Rossini’s William Tell Overture. William Tell premiered in 1829 and was the last of Rossini's 39 operas, after which he went into semi-retirement (continuing to compose cantatas, sacred music and secular vocal music). The often-performed overture in four sections features a depiction of a storm and a vivacious finale, the ‘March of the Swiss Soldiers.’ Click here to read more about where you may have heard this music before.

We then welcome Narek Hakhnazaryan to the stage to join the Orchestra for Elgar’s Cello Concerto. In 1918 Elgar underwent surgery in London to have an infected tonsil removed and after waking from sedation, he asked for pencil and paper and wrote down the melody that would become the first theme in the concerto. Also in 1918, Elgar composed three chamber works, which his wife noted were already noticeably different from his previous compositions, and after their premieres in the spring of 1919 he began realising his idea of a cello concerto. This piece was composed during the summer of 1919 at Elgar's secluded cottage, Brinkwells, near Fittleworth in Sussex, where during previous years he had heard the sound of the artillery of World War I rumbling across the Channel.

The second part of the concert features a composer that shares Tomáš’s homeland of Brno, as we present two pieces by Janáček.

Opening with the 'Forester's Monologue' from the opera The Cunning Little Vixen, which WNO last performed in 2013. This aria concludes Janáček’s opera in a scene that also reflects the end of the stories on which it is based. The final scene contains some of Janáček 's most passionately lyrical music. The Forester sets out for home, walking through the woods. A sweet memory comes back to him — of gathering wild mushrooms with his wife, as a young couple in love. At peace with his beloved woods and with himself, he lies down for a nap and the scene mirrors the very opening of the opera. Upon awakening he reflects on his loss, grief, life, death and the cyclical nature of life.

We then move on to the rousing Sinfonietta - dedicated ‘To the Czechoslovak Army’, Janáček said it was intended to express ‘contemporary free man, his spiritual beauty and joy, his strength, courage and determination to fight for victory.’ The initial inspiration came from Janáček listening to a brass band, and he began to write some fanfares of his own. When the organisers of the Sokol Gymnastic Festival approached him for a commission, he developed the material into the Sinfonietta. The first performance was in Prague on 26 June 1926 under Václav Talich.

What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?