Welcome to the Northampton Symphony Orchestra’s 2023–24 season, our 130th year as an orchestra. From well-loved favourites to exciting hidden treasures, I am sure you will find something to enjoy in all of the great music that our concerts this season have to offer.
We open our season with a return to Northampton’s Malcom Arnold Festival with a programme including Arnold’s ballet Rinaldo and Armida. In this concert, we also explore the first of two first symphonies featured in this season—that of Sibelius—and a pair of works by Tchaikovsky. As always, December brings our Christmas Cracker; this year we delve into fantastical worlds and tales, alongside festive favourites.
Bax gives us the second of our symphonic firsts in March, accompanied by Bernstein’s gripping dances from West Side Story, and Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto. In May, we feature Brahms’s ultimate symphonic masterpiece, alongside Grieg’s hugely popular Piano Concerto, and works by British composers Laura Rossi and Elgar. We round off this season’s public concerts with Bruckner’s monumental Symphony No. 7, Borodin, and Amy Beach’s wonderful—and unduly overlooked—Piano Concerto.
I hope you will join us for this exciting season. We look forward to sharing these fantastic pieces with you.
John Gibbons, BEM musical director
Malcolm Arnold Festival
7:30pm • 14th October, 2023 • St. Matthew’s Church
Arnold: Rinaldo and Armida
Tchaikovsky: Rococo Variations
Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin Polonaise
Sibelius: Symphony No. 1
The NSO is delighted to return to the Malcolm Arnold Festival. Arnold’s one-act ballet Rinaldo and Armida depicts the tale of Rinaldo, a Crusader, who on his way to the Holy Land is lured into the enchanted garden of the sorceress Armida. He quickly falls under her spell and the pair fall in love; however, Armida knows she must die if she returns the love of those she has ensnared, but surrenders with a kiss. Though one of his lesser-known works, the ballet gives an excellent demonstration of Arnold’s more serious and dramatic sides.
Sibelius was a composer who had a large influence on Arnold. In his First Symphony we can hear Sibelius as he establishes his own distinctive and evocative style. The turbulent symphony is contrasted by Tchaikovsky’s beautifully poised and virtuosic Rococo Variations.
A Christmas Cracker
3:00pm • 10th December, 2023 • Spinney Theatre
Philip Mackenzie: The Gruffalo
Tchaikovsky: Selections from The Nutcracker
Lior Rosner: Sugar Plum on the Run
Richard and Robert Sherman: Mary Poppins
Robert Lopez & Kristen Anderson-Lopez: Frozen
David Birch compere and narrator
Join us for our annual Christmas Cracker as we explore fantastical worlds and tales. Compere David Birch tells the stories of The Gruffalo, with each character represented by a different instrument in the orchestra, and the adventures of a young Sugar Plum Fairy, set to variations on Tchaikovsky’s famous dance. Continuing the theme, we hear music from film favourites of Mary Poppins and Frozen.
Enjoy a mince pie and mulled wine and hear many of your festive favourites!
Bernstein, Prokofiev & Bax
7:30pm • 2nd March, 2024 • Christ Church
Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2
Bax: Symphony No. 1
Bernstein’s adaptation of his music for West Side Story for the concert hall creates a vibrant and infectiously rhymical suite of dances. Bernstein uses colourful instrumental combinations and a vast percussion section to bring the dances to life. The dance energy is continued in the finale of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 that, after a wistful and song-like slow movement, breaks into a spikey and characterful waltz.
In contrast, Bax’s Symphony No. 1 creates a brooding atmosphere; written in 1922, it is thought of as a response to the First World War and the turmoil in his beloved Ireland that culminated in the Easter Rising of 1916.
Elgar, Grieg, Rossi & Brahms
7:30pm • 11th May, 2024 • St. Matthew’s Church
Elgar: Froissart Overture
Grieg: Piano Concerto
Laura Rossi: Jailhouse Graffiti
Brahms: Symphony No. 4
Brahms’s fourth and final symphony may be his supreme orchestral achievement. The symphony is a summation of its composer’s learning and technique, with melodies that evolve seamlessly and a perfect balance of form and emotion. Grieg’s Piano Concerto is a captivating blend of lyrical melodies and virtuosic piano passages. Its sweeping romanticism and Nordic influences make it a beloved staple of the piano repertoire. Elgar’s Froissart Overture evokes the spirit of medieval chivalry. With its grand orchestration and rich melodies, it transports listeners to a bygone era of knights and noble deeds.
Borodin, Beach & Bruckner
7:30pm • 29th June, 2024 • St. Matthew’s Church
Borodin: Prince Igor Overture
Beach: Piano Concerto
Bruckner: Symphony No. 7
Bruckner’s Seventh is the symphony that made his name—it was an instant success and is among his most popular symphonies today. It is a symphony on an immense scale; from delicate whispers to thunderous climaxes, Bruckner creates an expansive sonic landscape with intricate polyphony, and majestic themes.
Composed in 1899, Amy Beach’s Piano Concerto is an impressive and unduly overlooked piece. The first piano concerto by an American woman, it is a work that shines a light on her exceptional talent as a composer and weaves together sweeping melodies, intricate harmonies, and dazzling virtuosic passages. The concert opens with Borodin’s vibrant and exhilarating overture to Prince Igor.