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J.Adams: Saxophone Concerto
Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 2, in E minor, op. 27
Overview: We are delighted to welcome back Jess Gillam after her memorable sell out concert last January, to perform The Saxophone Concerto (2013) of American composer John Adams. The music was inspired by the composer’s father who played the sax in the local swing bands – ‘ I was surrounded by swing music’ – is also a tribute to such great swing sax players as Charlie Parker and Stan Getz. Adams is clear that this music has to be played in ‘the same hard driven style as these greats’. This should be right up Jess Gillam’s street.
Rachmaninov’s 2nd symphony ‘rose like a phoenix from the disaster that was the 1st symphony in 1897. An under rehearsed orchestra, a drunk conductor (Glazunov) and a savaging from critics resulted in severe depression and a crisis in the belief in his own abilities. It took around 10 years and extensive hypnotherapy sessions from a Doctor Dahl (to whom the symphony is dedicated) before the 2nd Symphony appeared and was received triumphantly. It is a work memorable for its length, colour, dazzle and drive and especially the glorious clarinet melody in the slow movement.
Book early for this concert which is likely to sell out months in advance. What a treat awaits the audience for this our first concert of 2020 – Hallé, Jess Gillam on saxophone, and Kazuki Yamada conducting.
Hallé is one of Europe’s finest orchestras, and a regular visitor to the Westmorland Hall. On the rostrum this time is dynamic young Japanese conductor Kazuki Yamada, who is the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s principal guest conductor, and Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo. In Japan he holds further titles of Principal Guest Conductor of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra (from January 2019), Permanent Conductor of the Japan Philharmonic, Music Director and Chairman of The Philharmonic Chorus of Tokyo as well as Music Director of Yokohama Sinfonietta, an ensemble he founded whilst still a student.
Our soloist for the night is Ulverston’s 21 year old international star saxophonist – Jess Gillam. She is one of the most exciting soloists emerging in classical music, and the first ever saxophonist to reach the final of BBC Young Musician. In 2018 she won a Classic Brit Award and closed the BBC Proms with three performances at the last night. In 2019 she became Radio 3 youngest presenter at just 20 years old, and now makes frequent appearances on radio and TV. Her dazzling rise to fame now sees her performing internationally as well as across the UK.
Equally modern is the John Adams (1949-) Saxophone Concerto, which Jess plays for us tonight. This American work world premiered in 2013. John Adam’s father was a jazz saxophonist, and that influence comes through from the soloist’s first breath. John Adams is quoted as saying that “While the concerto is not meant to sound jazzy per se, its jazz influences lie only slightly below the surface.”
The opening bars have been likened to the saxophonist pulling an orchestra out of the ground. So, sit down, kick back and enjoy 30 minutes of the suave Animato movement, and the hard driving pulse of the Molto Vivo. Jess has told The Telegraph newspaper that she would like to see more dancing cheering and clapping between movements…. feel free.
The interval is an opportunity to calm down and refresh ourselves before Hallé play the magnificent Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) Symphony No. 2. It was completed in 1907 in Dresden as the Russian master recovered from mental illness, and he sought to distance his family from a Russia threatened with revolution. This hour long masterpiece is one of Rachmaninoff’s most popular works, and has been highly acclaimed since it was first played.
In the past the work has been heavily cut down, however it is now normal for the whole work to be played. Rachmaninoff emigrated to America in 1918 to escape revolution, and died an American citizen in Beverly Hills in 1943. The original manuscript was thought to have been lost, however it was rediscovered in 2004 and sold for over £1.2m at Sotherby’s in 2014.