Considering the fact that all of the music in this concert was written in the 15 year period between 1872 (the original score for L'Arlesienne) and 1887 (The Land of the Mountain and the Flood), it provided a remarkably varied programme. We kicked off with the Entrance and March of the Peers from Iolanthe, a rousing and tuneful opener which only hints at the wicked satire of the Gilbert and Sullivan opera.
The scene was set, then, for tunefulness as the order of the day, but not without a considerable emotional content. The next item was the first ever performance of The Harvest Waltzes, written by WF Sommerville in Dundee, and published as piano pieces shortly before his emigration to America. He was the great grandfather of Morag Fairhead, the orchestra's tympanist for the last 30 years. It was with sadness that the orchestra had learned, earlier in the year, that Morag would be retiring after this concert, but also with pride that she had asked Dr Alasdair Mitchell to orchestrate the waltzes so that we could have the privilege of giving them their first public performance. We hope that we managed to give them the "Viennese" lilt that Julian asked for, and that Morag, who to add to the sense of occasion was playing her grandfather's beautiful antique tympani, will remember her parting concert with pride and affection.
The first half concluded with Hamish MacCunn's Land of the Mountain and the Flood, unmistakeably sentimental and utterly Scottish. This was perhaps more challenging than we realised when we took it on, but also more interesting and subtle. Every section of the orchestra had plenty to do, and enjoyed its challenges. The warm applause from the audience was very gratifying.
In 1872 Georges Bizet was asked to write incidental music to Alphonse Daudet's play l'Arlesienne, a tale of unrequited love and its destructive power . Bizet produced a series of brilliant miniatures, but the play was too long and the first night was a disaster. Knowing his music was worth salvaging, Bizet contrived a suite which was an instant success (Suite No 1), and, though the structure bore little relation to the story, l'Arlesienne was a forerunner to the similarly themed Carmen, which followed three years later. Bizet, like WF Sommerville and so many other composers, died young, at the age of 37. After his death his friend Guiraud cobbled together a second suite from the music for l'Arlesienne as a tribute to his friend, including a tender minuet from The Fair Maid of Perth, beautifully played for us by Judy Gilbert (flute), Helen Talbot (harp), and with a lovely bassoon obbligato from Shari Cohn-Simmen. The orchestra poured heart and soul into the turbulent world of these two suites, punctuated by the despairing lover's sighs and the tolling of the bells of Arles, paradoxically finishing the story with the glorious, even triumphant Farandole.
Contributed by the Brass section