Shrewsbury Orchestral Society

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Pastoral scene in Impressionist style

Wednesday, 22nd June 2022

7.30 pm, The Abbey, Shrewsbury School

Conducter – John Moore
Leader – Alex Postlethwaite

• Farrenc – Symphony no.1
• Beethoven – Symphony no.6

A ground-breaking season of music from Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra continues to shed light on relatively unknown works by female composers with the next concert in Shrewsbury Abbey on June 22 featuring work by Louise Farrenc (1804-1875)

Shrewsbury's own classical orchestra has been making up for lost time by staging works by women composers for the whole of its 2021-22 season.

Established in 1888, the Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra is believed to be the oldest, regular amateur orchestra in the country and is now, for the first time in its history, presenting works written by female composers for symphony orchestra.

a portrait of Louise Farrenc

The orchestra will this June 22nd perform Symphony no.1 by Louise Farrenc, who has been described by a ‘major musical personality hiding in plain sight’ (Classical Music). It is keen to help shine a light on Farrenc’s extraordinary and beautiful music and will perform her Symphony no.1 in C Minor, described as ‘a striking amalgam of Romanticism and Classicism’, with inventive thematic and melodic writing.

In the same concert, the orchestra will play Beethoven’s Symphony no.6 ‘Pastoral’ with its recurring opening motif, elemental storm section and playful bird calls.

Jon Box, SSO chairman, said: “In 2019 we decided to feature works by women composers but were forced to wait until this season to present some amazing and sadly neglected work. It isn't without its logistical problems, particularly sourcing the music. Fortunately, the orchestra has been prepared to meet the high cost of hiring relatively scarce music.

“Farrenc (1804-1875) was one of the most influential composers, virtuoso pianists and teachers in the 19th century. As a teacher at the Paris conservatoire she demanded and received equal pay with her male! Her work along with most other women composers has been neglected, it is however enjoying something of a revival, with radio coverage and live performances.”

As the Paris Conservatoire’s only 19th century female professor of piano, Farrenc also composed masterful works for piano and orchestra, including three finely constructed symphonies, filled with drama and contrast. Sadly, she did not enjoy great success in her own time; audiences remained unreceptive to an unknown woman composer, although she did claim a victory for women’s rights at the conservatory, winning her battle for equal pay.

Earlier in the season, the orchestra presented works by Lili Boulanger (D'un Matin de printemps), a French female composer of enormous potential, and the overture to The Wreckers opera, composed by Dame Ethel Smyth.

A photograph of Lili Boulanger seat at the harmonium. Copyright musictheoryexamplesbywomen.comSmyth (1858-1944) was a strong character and determined to succeed in the world of composition. She met Grieg, Brahms and Tchaikovsky when studying in Leipzig. Her operas were performed throughout Europe. In the UK she was an active musician and supporter of the suffragette movement. Like her friend Emmeline Pankhurst, she spent time in prison supporting the cause of female emancipation. In 1922, Smyth was made Dame for her services to Music.

D'un matin de printemps (A morning in Spring) by French Impressionist composer Lili Boulanger was the choice for the orchestra’s Spring Concert. Boulanger, pictured here by a piano, is often described as one of the most gifted composers of the twentieth century, sadly her life cut short by illness at 24. Capturing the optimistic mood of spring, this work featured both beautiful writing for the flute with innovative harmonies, the hallmarks of music movements of the early 20th century.

John Moore, the conductor of Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra, said: “Being able to introduce the orchestra and audiences to these neglected works has been a huge privilege. The orchestra continues to choose innovative and ambitious repertoire, whilst always endeavouring to produce performances of a very high standard.

“Shrewsbury is lucky to have players of the calibre that exists currently in the orchestra, and their sense of enjoyment at playing such wonderful music is something which always communicates itself to audiences in performance.”

Tickets £15/£2 (children) available now from TicketSource.