BBC National Orchestra Of Wales - Entente Cordiale



Penny Gore presents a week of programmes by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales celebrating the 'entente cordiale' with music from Britain and France, and featuring works inspired by the sea that separates the two nations.

The week opens with a concert given in North Wales last month - at the Pritchard Jones Hall at Bangor University. Conductor Owain Arwel Hughes opens his concert with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales playing Sea Sketches by Grace Williams. "I've lived most of my life within sight of the sea," she said "and I shall never tire of liking at it and listening to its wonderful sounds". Much of her time was spent in Barry in South Wales, overlooking the Bristol Channel. This set of five atmospheric sketches for strings is dedicated to her parents "who had the good sense to set up home on the coast of Glamorgan".

Welsh harpist Catrin Finch is the soloist in the Concertino by another female composer, Germaine Tailleferre. One of the group known as "Les Six" in Paris in the 1920s, she was also a friend of Ravel. At the Paris Conservatoire she took harp lessons in order to write well for the instrument, and her studies paid off in her Concertino, which was premiered in America with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Koussevitzky. Ravel was one of many French composers to be commissioned for harp music in the early twentieth century - when rival harp manufacturers were competing to corner the market. The Introduction and Allegro was his showpiece for the pedal harp, and it's played here with a small string section, rather than the original chamber ensemble.

Conductor Owain Arwel Hughes joins us in the studio to talk about the last work in this concert, Vaughan Williams's Fifth Symphony, a serene and pastoral work written in the turbulence of the Second World War. Owain celebrated his 70th birthday last year, and from the BBC archive, we hear him conducting a work by his father, Arwel Hughes, who was a pupil of Vaughan Williams. We return to VW's music from the opposite side of the British Isles, his Norfolk Rhapsody, from a recent studio session conducted by David Atherton; and finally this afternoon, the Principal Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales Thomas Søndergård conducts the most colourful of all French seascapes - Debussy's La Mer.

Williams: Sea Sketches

BBC National Orchestra of Wales,

Owain Arwel Hughes (conductor).

c. 2.15pm

Tailleferre: Concertino

Catrin Finch (harp),

c. 2.30pm

Ravel: Introduction and Allegro

c. 2.40pm

Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 5

c. 3.20pm

Arwel Hughes: Overture to Owain Glyndwr

c. 3.35pm

Vaughan Williams: Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1

David Atherton (conductor).

c. 3.50m

Debussy: La mer

Thomas Søndergård (condcutor).


Penny Gore presents a week of programmes by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales celebrating the 'entente cordiale' with music from Britain and France, and featuring works inspired by the sea that separates the two nations..

The BBC NOW continues the Cornish theme of this week's lunchtime concerts with Tintagel by Arnold Bax, a musical picture of the dramatic castle on the North Cornish coast with strong links to Arthurian legends.

Vernon Handley conducts from a concert recorded in Truro cathedral. We continue along the Bristol Channel to the river Severn for a short and enchanting Rhapsody by Gerald Finzi. From the same studio session conducted by David Atherton, we cross the Severn to Wales for Malcolm Arnold's set of Welsh dances, written late in life, a dark contrast to his brighter English Dances which you can hear later in the week. Further along the coast we come to Swansea, birthplace of Welsh flautist Emily Beynon, who is now Principal with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. A past Radio 3 New Generation Artist, Emily recently returned to the BBC National Orchestra of Wales to record a concerto CD: today we hear Poulenc's bittersweet sonata as orchestrated by his long-time friend, Lennox Berkeley.

More nautical-themed music appears on the horizon with Stanford's Songs of the Fleet, sung by Gerald Finley. Originally written for the Jubilee Congress of Naval Architects in 1910, this is a suitably stirring collection of songs, in turn solemn and spirited, including an evocative picture of great dreadnought battleships sailing at dawn. The final song "Fare Well" was to have a particular significance in the wake of the First World War. The programme continues with more French music, this time from Bangor in north Wales, where Francois-Xavier Roth - the BBC NOW's Associate Guest Conductor - conducts the symphonic fragments from Albert Roussel's anthropomorphic ballet The Spider's Banquet. And finally this afternoon, another ballet score - the one that took Paris by storm in 1910: Stravinsky's Firebird. As Diaghilev's friend the artist Alexandre Benois commented, "music more poetic, more expressive, more beautiful-sounding and phantasmagoric cannot be imagined".

Bax: Tintagel

BBC National Orchestra of Wales,

Vernon Handley (conductor).

c. 2.15pm

Finzi: A Severn Rhapsody

David Atherton (conductor).

c. 2.25pm

Arnold: Welsh Dances

c. 2.35pm

Poulenc (orch. Berkeley): Flute Sonata

Emily Beynon (flute),

Bramwell Tovey (conductor).

c. 2.50pm

Stanford: Songs of the Fleet

Gerald Finley (baritone),

Richard Hickox (conductor).

c. 3.15pm

Roussel - Le Festin de l'araignée: Symphonic Fragments

Francois-Xavier Roth (conductor).

c. 3.30pm

Stravinsky: The Firebird

Thierry Fischer (conductor).


Penny Gore presents the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in this week's 'entente cordiale' theme, with French and British music, including works inspired by the sea.

Afternoon on 3 today opens and closes with the two sets of Malcolm Arnold's English Dances. Both were written in the 1950s, designed to be Britain's answer to Dvorak's Slavonic Dances. These brilliantly orchestrated miniatures were inspired by English folk music rather than quoting directly any particular song, and they've remained popular ever since.

In between, we return to the sea, and - from a tour the BBC National Orchestra of Wales made to Italy - a concert from Modena given as part of a festival devoted to music and water.

Takemitsu's haunting evocation of the sea features solo harp and alto flute, a perfect impressionistic miniature. Nicholas Angelich is the soloist in the Fifth Piano Concerto by Saint-Saens - nicknamed the 'Egyptian': the music came to the composer as he took a cruise to Egypt and the Far East. It's full of musical memories from his journey, including a Nubian love-song he heard on the river Nile. The last movement is also said to include the sound of the ship's propellors...

We set sail back to Britain and the Suffolk coast for the Four Sea Interludes from Britten's Opera Peter Grimes. According to composer David Matthews, no other orchestral work - apart from Debussy's La Mer - is so successful in describing the sea in all its aspects.

Arnold: English Dances, Set 1

BBC National Orchestra of Wales,

David Atherton (conductor).

c. 2.10pm

Takemitsu: Toward the Sea II

Catrin Finch (Harp),

Thierry Fischer (conductor).

c. 2.20pm

Saint-Saens: Piano Concerto No. 5 'Egyptian'

Nicholas Angelich (piano),

c. 2.50pm

Britten: Four Sea Interludes

c. 3.10pm

Arnold: English Dances, Set 2

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