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Breaking into the London scene was fortuitous and came about when Charles Beardsall, Radio Producer and Deputy Controller of BBC Radio 2 visited Milton Keynes as part of a promotional exchange of concert orchestras. Liking what he heard, invitations for gigs with the London Studio Players (previously Studio Strings) followed, and new colleagues Reginald Kilbey and Reginald Leopold initiated him into the pressures and privileges of studio sessions and recordings with the BBC Concert Orchestra, then the Ulster Orchestra. In the light music revival of the 1980s when the long-lasting Matinées Musicales ruled BBC Radio 3 airwaves, Davon Wetton taped a host of BBC recordings.

Milton Keynes' range of music embraces the unusual and mainstream, with commissions for new works and mid-period Haydn Symphonies like Trauer and La Passione, both of which are included two or three times each season in different, surrounding contexts. Wetton's preference is for more Wesley than Stamitz, having discovered that the early symphonies of Samuel Wesley, written at the age of 15 or 16, are both brilliant and clever. Despite a sudden personality tail-off in his 20s after a severe fall, Wesley recovered in his 30s and composed his B flat major Symphony inspired by Haydn. The conductor's proof of admiration for the music of William Sterndale Bennett came from recording the Fourth Piano Concerto with Malcolm Binns on Unicorn-Kanchana. 'He almost invented the marvellous sound of pizzicato strings with single piano notes performing a counter melody, a further melody added at the recapitulation on flute. The colourful setting of pizzicato strings, with piano and flute going off in different directions is absolutely breathtaking, and no other composer I have come across has done it. We don't perform his music here today, but go to Germany and you will find the Overture Les Naiades and works by other neglected composers in various orchestras' repertories.' This tends to contradict what Sir Neville Marriner told me about the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra hardly performing Haydn anymore. "I am not altogether surprised. It is ironic if you look at Beethoven's even-numbered symphonies and the late Haydns - which everyone knows as masterpieces - how seldom they get played. I performed Beethoven 2 in Iceland which they hadn't heard in 10 years. About 50 percent bigger than Milton Keynes, with Reykjavík the same size, they have a full-time symphony orchestra of exceptionally high standard who perform in a not very good concert hall, which is a converted cinema. Beforehand, my hotel masseur informed me: "I am going to serve you, and tonight you are going to serve me!" '

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Copyright © 15 August 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK




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