Passionate themes of love, fate and death dominate the opening concert of St Albans Symphony Orchestra’s new season – including final masterworks from the great romantic composers Tchaikovsky and Richard Strauss (7.30pm, Saturday 15 October, St Saviour’s Church, Sandpit Lane, St Albans AL1 4DF).
Playing under the baton of Tom Hammond, its newly-appointed principal conductor, the orchestra will perform Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 6, ‘Pathetique’. The title in Russian implies emotion rather than anything pitiful. However, the music’s deep sense of foreboding, where triumph gives way to final tragedy, assumed unintended significance when the composer died just days after the first performance in October 1893.
The Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss were first published and performed after his death in 1949. But unlike Tchaikovsky’s symphony, the settings of poems by Herman Hesse and Josef von Eichendorff are characterised by serenity, beauty and sad acceptance at the end of life. Among the most frequently requested Desert Island Discs on radio, they will be performed – with a fifth late song setting Ruhe meine seele – by the Jordanian soprano, Dima Bawab.
Since graduating with distinction from the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse in Paris nine years ago, Dima has performed leading roles in opera houses and concert halls around the world. Her many notable appearances include a BBC Prom conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner and legendary director Peter Brooks’s international production of The Magic Flute.
In altogether stormier mood, the concert will open with the overture Wagner wrote for his opera The Flying Dutchman: the ghostly tale of a mariner doomed to sail the high seas until he finds true love.