The patron saint of musicians is being honoured as part of a forthcoming season of concerts at Norwich Theatre Royal.
A beautiful version of the Ode To St Cecilia is performed by one of the world’s leading period instrument orchestras this winter in just one of the highlights of the theatre’s thriving classical music programme.
The saint is first mentioned in a medieval collection of stories of early Christian martyrs who met particularly nasty deaths and she became the patron saint of music in the fifteenth century.
Her feast day on November 22 is thought to have acted as the inspiration for composers to hit their creative heights and one of these is Handel who wrote his own piece in her honour. The piece is thought to have been a favourite of Handel’s as he re-used sections of it in other works, and it is also much loved for its overture and instrumental slots.
In keeping with the feast day, the piece is being performed at Norwich Theatre Royal on November 25 as close to her martyrdom as possible as part of a programme which will also feature an ode to her by Purcell, plus a hymn to her inspired by WH Auden and composed by Benjamin Britten, who was himself born on St Cecilia’s Day in Lowestoft.
Bringing all three pieces to life will be The King’s Consort (above), one of the world’s leading period instrument orchestras.
Founded in 1980 by Robert King who will conduct the concert, they have toured five continents appearing across Europe, Japan, Hong Kong, the Far East, and North and South America.
For more than three decades, they have presented a wide-ranging repertoire from 1550 to the present day which has taken them to a host of concert halls. This includes a number of appearances at the Proms, performances of Bach’s Mass in B Minor, the St Matthew Passion and Mendelssohn’s Elijah across Britain and Europe, and even staging operas at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris and across Britain, Europe and Japan.
Before their arrival, there is an autumn appearance for the Russian State Symphony Orchestra (above) on October 7. One of the country’s oldest symphonic ensembles, they made their debut on October 5, 1936, in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory and were particularly known for their former iconic leader Evgeny Svetlanov who was the face of the orchestra from the mid-Sixties to 2000. As well as performing worldwide and releasing hundreds of CDs, they have also recently focused on working more with young composers.
Their programme in Norwich will see them showcasing some of the classic works of the Soviet and pre-Soviet era including Tchaikovsky’s intensely moving Swan Lake, Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No 1, and Shostakovich’s Symphony No 5. Conducted by Valentin Urupin, they will be joined by violin soloist Chloe Hanslip who was named Young British Classical Performer of the Year at the 2003 Classical Brits and has graced many of the world’s top stages including London’s Wigmore Hall, Vienna Musikverein and the Carnegie Hall.
Meanwhile the Czech National Symphony Orchestra rounds out its 25th year with a return visit on December 2 for an afternoon concert. Known for its versatility and broad programme, Norwich audiences can enjoy a taste of this with a pre-Christmas performance of work which aims to appeal both to those who love classical music and those new to it.
You will be able to enjoy the likes of Dvorak’s Carnival Overture, the pomp and excitement of the Thunder and Lightning Polka by Strauss, and the iconic Nimrod by Elgar among a programme which also features pieces by Bruch, Smetana, Tchaikovsky and Debussy.
Joining them will be the energetic and versatile violinist Jennifer Pike. At the age of 12, she shot to prominence as the youngest winner of the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year before making her Proms debut just three years later. Jennifer has worked worldwide with some of the globe’s most respected conductors and is a great lover of all styles of music from baroque to the present day, as well as being an ambassador for young people working with the Prince’s Trust.
Norwich Theatre Royal’s classical programme continues on into 2019 too with the first two concerts already confirmed.
Sunday 17 March will see the Flanders Symphony Orchestra join forces with the Bonn Beethoven Competition winner Felippo Gorini to perform Beethoven’s third piano concerto which was the only one to be written in a minor key. The programme will also feature Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 3 which was inspired by his trip to Scotland and Puccini’s elegiac Chrysanthemums which he wrote following the death of the Duke of Savoy.
Looking further ahead, Sunday 19 May sees the Russian Philharmonic of Novosibirsk live on stage for a programme which includes Mussorgsky’s colourful and vibrant Pictures At An Exhibition and Tchaikovsky’s dramatic and always popular Piano Concerto No 1.
The orchestra itself is based in the Siberian city which is known as a place rich in culture with a strong international reputation for the quality for its work and performance. Set up in 1956, the musicians are highlighted by critics and audiences as being part of one of Russia’s finest orchestras.
Stephen Crocker, Norwich Theatre Royal chief executive, said: “Norwich can already boast a buoyant collection of classical music concerts, and both the city and county benefit from a large and active amateur music-making community.
“We are ideally placed to add additional vibrancy by programming larger scale works on the stage at Theatre Royal and our first three concerts have been enjoyed by over 3000 people.
“Spurred on by the success of these concerts to date, it is also a great pleasure to welcome some more highly regarded international orchestras, artists and soloists in the months ahead.”
Read the Norwich Theatre Royal classical music brochure at