International clarinet star Emma Johnson is among a series of musical treats lined up by St Albans Symphony Orchestra for its new season which starts this autumn. Celebrated since she became the first-ever winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 1984, Emma will appear on 24 June next year performing Lost Lanes, Shadow Groves, a concerto by the contemporary British composer James Francis Brown.
The concerto, evoking remote countryside, is a favourite with Tom Hammond, SASO’s new Principal Conductor, who will be conducting his first full season with the orchestra. Tchaikovsky features prominently among the major works being programmed, including his Symphony No 6 ‘Pathétique’ at the opening concert on 15 October and the ever-popular Violin Concerto on 11 March, with David le Page, another former BBC competition prizewinner, as soloist.
St Albans-based pianist Alissa Firsova whose previous performances with SASO have drawn packed houses, will be making a welcome return on 6 May playing the mighty Piano Concerto No 1 by Brahms. The concert also features two famous tone poems by Sibelius, Pohjola’s Daughter and En Saga.
Audiences can also look forward to hearing the Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss (15 October), with acclaimed Jordanian soprano, Dima Bawab, Prokofiev’s epic Symphony No 5 (11 March) and A London Symphony by Vaughan-Williams (24 June).
The orchestra’s traditional New Year concert in St Albans Cathedral (taking place on 2 January 2017) combines Tchaikovsky favourites from his ballet Swan Lake, with waltzes by Johan and Richard Strauss and a less-expected musical showpiece; the Concert Piece for Four Horns and Orchestra by Schumann. An unashamed crowd-pleaser, the concerto’s requirement for four accomplished horn players helps explain why it is more often heard in recordings than in concert.
No SASO season would be complete without its concerts for children, when the orchestra as well as its audience are positive encouraged to wear fancy dress. On 6 November, the featured work will be Not Now Bernard!, based on the much-loved children’s picture book by David McKee and narrated by its composer, Bernard Hughes.
All the concerts, apart from January 2nd in the Abbey, take place in St Saviour’s Church, Sandpit Lane, St Albans.