Classics Outdoors

Saturday 24 July 2021
Poltimore House,
Poltimore, Exeter
Time: 3.00pm
Tickets: £0 - £10

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Classics Outdoors

Tragic Overture - Johannes Brahms

Peer Gynt Suite No 1 - Edvard Grieg

Finlandia - Jean Sibelius

Enigma Variations and Pomp and Circumstance March - Sir Edward Elgar

A fabulous selection of classical favourites performed in the splendid setting of Poltimore House gardens.

Enigma Variations (selection) - Sir Edward Elgar
Finlandia, Op 26 - Jean Sibelius
Tragic Overture - Johannes Brahms
Peer Gynt Suite No 1, Op 46 - Edvard Grieg
Pomp & Circumstance March No 1 - Sir Edward Elgar

Tragic Overture - Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was once described as “the greatest, the most sublime of all composers”, after Bach and Beethoven. Patently the last of the ‘Three Bs’, he wrote the Tragic Overture in 1880 and gave it a turbulent, tormented character in contrast with the ebullience of its companion piece, the better-known Academic Festival Overture. The ‘Tragic’ is far from sombre though and in revealing his mastery of counterpoint and rhythm it is surely among the best of Brahms.

Peer Gynt Suite No 1 - Edvard Grieg

Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) wrote his Peer Gynt Suite No 1 as incidental music to Henrik Ibsen’s eponymous play, but disliked the last movement’s “reek of cow pats and trollish self-satisfaction” and predicted that “its irony would be discernible”. Perhaps perversely, the piece contributed significantly to Norway’s emerging national identity (after independence from Sweden) and the offending In the Hall of the Mountain Kings section has remained a popular favourite with audiences ever since.

Finlandia - Jean Sibelius

As a covert protest against censorship, Finlandia by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) delivered as effective a spur to patriotic feeling in eastern Scandinavia as did Grieg’s music in the west. Forced briefly to masquerade under the prosaic title Happy Feelings at the awakening of Finnish Spring, the piece became a rousing success and remains a staple of concert programme music. It evokes well the struggle to shake off Russian dominance, yet also includes the serene and melodic Finlandia Hymn which is often sung.

Enigma Variations and Pomp and Circumstance March - Sir Edward Elgar

The music of Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) perhaps needs less introduction than most, particularly as the Enigma Variations and Pomp & Circumstance March No 1 are among his most oft-played works. The Variations on an Original Theme comprise sketches of the composer’s wife and friends, and allegedly conceal a hidden melody. The piece was an instant hit at home and quickly gained recognition overseas – Glazunov and Rimsky Korsakov were delighted by it in St Petersburg in 1904, as was Mahler when he conducted it in New York in 1910. This concert sets the theme with variations 1 and 7, before concluding with Nimrod, the famous ninth. You may ask, why Nimrod? Well, the dedicatee was Augustus J Jaeger, one of Elgar’s closest friends and his music editor at Novello (the publishers), the Old Testament tells us that Nimrod was “the mighty hunter before the Lord” and Jäger is German for hunter. The first of (eventually) six Pomp & Circumstance Marches, No. 1 met with instant public acclaim; the 1901 premiere in Liverpool was a “frantic success” and after its first Promenade Concert performance in London the audience “rose and yelled”. What more is there to say?