Summer Concert 2024

A fundraising concert for The Exeter Foundation, 20 July 2024, Exeter Cathedral

Shostakovich
Festive Overture

Tchaikovsky

Symphony No 4

Shostakovich
Cello Concerto No.1
Soloist: Natalie Clein

Come along and help ESO when they look to fundraise for The Exeter Foundation!

This special concert – the highlight of ESO’s year – with internationally acclaimed cellist, Natalie Clein, promises great music in the fabulous setting of Exeter Cathedral. We feel immensely privileged and excited at the prospect of accompanying Natalie in Shostakovich’s first concerto for the cello in a programme also including a well-known overture and a favourite symphony.

 

The concert opens with the vivacious and effervescent Festive Overture (Opus 96) by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975). Commissioned at short notice in 1954 and modestly underestimated by the composer as “just a short work, festive or celebrative in spirit”, this piece has subsequently proved to be enduring success in the concert hall. Interestingly, the overture and the cello concerto in our concert were the only two of his own works ever conducted by the maestro himself. Alternately condemned and denounced, then later lauded by the Soviet regime, Shostakovich entered the Petrograd Conservatory aged 13 and went on to write fifteen symphonies, including his seventh while under siege in Leningrad. A rather diffident and obsessive individual, he apparently loved, intriguingly, nothing more than to officiate at football matches as a fully qualified referee!

 

Recently described by The Times as ‘mesmerising’ and ‘soaringly passionate’ in performance, our soloist, British cellist Natalie Clein, has built a distinguished career playing regularly at major venues with top conductors like Sir Mark Elder, Sir Roger Norrington and Leonard Slatkin. Her recordings have won Classical Brit, Gramophone, BBC Record of the Month and Diapason d’Or awards, and she is Professor of Cello at the Rostock Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music. Natalie delivers masterclasses around the world and is the proud co-founder/artistic director of the annual Purbeck International Chamber Music Festival. Her busy 2024/25 schedule includes a US recital tour and Wigmore Hall recital, concerts with the BBC Singers and the BBC Ulster Orchestra, and her concerto debut at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. Natalie plays the ‘Simpson’ Guadagnini cello of 1777 and will perform the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No 1 in E-flat major (Op 107), composed in 1959 for Mstislav Rostropovich; it’s widely considered to be one of the most difficult concert works for the instrument and is scored for a small orchestra, including a celesta, in four movements with a cadenza in the third.

 

The Symphony No 4 in F minor (Op 36) by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), completed in 1878, received a lukewarm reception at its Moscow, St Petersburg and New York premières, but became a resounding success in the UK when first conducted by the composer five years later in Cambridge. Now a staple of the orchestral repertoire, its opening fanfare – depicting the ‘fate motif’, perhaps reminiscent of the initial four-note theme of Beethoven’s 5th – renders it instantly recognisable. The work in four movements, widely regarded as one of the greatest of Tchaikovsky symphonies, arguably represents a stepping-stone between the classic symphonic architecture and later, more descriptive tone poems. It is, quite simply, brim-full of broad tunes and expansively orchestrated; Tchaikovsky himself, sternly self-critical, judged it his “best symphonic work”.

'Thank you for putting some things in place for us on Saturday evening. I just wanted to thank all concerned who were extremely generous and made it happen. We had a wonderful time and my daughter had the most magical evening in the best seats she could have wished for.'

'It goes almost without saying how wonderfully talented the members of the orchestra are. We felt very privileged to be entertained and delighted by their professionalism and musical mastery. It was a truly amazing experience and one we will no doubt be talking about for some time to come.'

'I was in tears - the orchestra were playing from their soul'

'Thank you for a magical evening last night'

The Lord Mayor

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