MusicWeb International's Worldwide Concert and Opera Reviews

 Clicking Google advertisements helps keep MusicWeb subscription-free.

Other Links

Editorial Board

  • UK Editors  - Roger Jones and John Quinn

    Editors for The Americas  - Bruce Hodges and Jonathan Spencer Jones

    European Editors - Bettina Mara and Jens F Laurson

    Consulting Editor - Bill Kenny

    Assistant Webmaster -Stan Metzger

    Founder - Len Mullenger

Google Site Search


Internet MusicWeb



Remembrance and Revival -  Vaughan Williams, Dorothy Howell, Josef Holbrooke, Lillian Elkington and Elgar: Valentina Seferinova (piano), Orion Symphony Orchestra, Toby Purser, Cadogan Hall, London, 11.11.2010 (BBr)

Vaughan Williams: Overture: The Wasps (1909)

Dorothy Howell: Piano Concerto (1923)
Josef Holbrooke: Variations on The Girl I Left Behind Me, op.37b (1900s)
Vaughan Williams: Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus (1939)
Lillian Elkington: Out of the Mist (Arrival of the Unknown Warrior) (1921)
Elgar: In the South (Alassio), op.50 (1903/1904)


A very stimulating show of British music, played by an enthusiastic young orchestra and directed with gusto by its founder. Good though it was to hear the Elgar and Vaughan Williams pieces, my focus was on the other three works, pieces which haven’t sent the public light of day in too many years. Dorothy Howell’s Piano Concerto is in one movement, which falls into the usual three sections, and it’s an heroic piece. Starting with a call to arms from the horns, the music unfolds in the grand romantic manner. It could so easily have fallen into sub-Rachmaninovian rhetoric, and occasionally it comes perilously close, but the work it most resembles in sound, from time to time, is the Warsaw Concerto - which wasn’t to be written for another 18 years! What makes it worthwhile is the expert scoring, strong melodic material and brilliant piano writing, plus the fact that it only plays for about 20 minutes and thus doesn’t outstay its welcome and leaves you wanting more.

Variations on The Girl I Left Behind Me is the companion piece to the Variations on Three Blind Mice – a favourite of Henry Wood. It’s scored for a huge orchestra, which is used in many and various combinations, and includes solos for a variety of instruments – the first variation features the tuba, for instance. The general tone is rumbustious and it reminds one of some of Havergal Brian’s more extrovert pieces – such as Dr Merryheart and the first English Suite. Holbrooke’s only desire in this piece is to entertain and he succeeds marvellously.

The revelation of the evening was Lillian Elkington’s
Out of the Mist (Arrival of the Unknown Warrior), a short, but powerful, threnody of undeniable nobility, but without grief or anger at the waste of life in wartime. I feel that Antonia Fraser’s expression “severe melancholy” sums the music up perfectly. The scoring, for a large orchestra, is luminous and Elkington creates a big work, yet in a small time scale, of deeply felt emotion, which is poignant in its agony.  For the rest, The Wasps Overture was nicely racy, the Variants on Dives and Lazarus beautiful and understated, and In the South extrovert and magnificent.

The Orion Symphony Orchestra played this music as if it was regular repertoire and gave excellent performances, and my only complaint is that the cymbals in the Elgar weren’t sufficiently exuberant. Valentina Seferinova was a most persuasive soloist in Howell’s Concerto – proving her belief in the work she played from memory – but the real star of the evening was Toby Purser, who directed the whole show with a mastery and understanding of the music. His careful preparation of the orchestra, and his interpretations, were eagerly welcomed by a very enthusiastic audience. The show was given in aid of the St Lazarus Charitable Trust, which raises money for the cure, care and rehabilitation of leprosy sufferers.

Bob Briggs


Back to Top                                                   Cumulative Index Page