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This afternoon concert began with the March: A History of the English Speaking Peoples (1959) by Sir William Walton (1902-1983) -- a work in which, in my opinion, the Bournemouth players were at their best. Churchill's book with the same title gave its name to a TV series for which Walton wrote this patriotic march. In a sense, it's an expanded Pomp and Circumstance March, with a glorious noble tune that has similarities to the fourth of Elgar's spirited marches.

Lucas works regularly with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, and the team coped well, although obviously under-rehearsed, in the concert's new piece -- the first public performance of the rhapsodic Violin Concerto (completed in 1989) by Lionel Sainsbury (born 1958). The star of the show was violinist Lorraine McAslan, making a superbly full sound with clear and accurate high notes and a technique to die for. Why don't we hear more from this amazingly gifted player? Sadly, I have to report that the performance, despite some very tender moments, didn't live up to the work's sparkling studio première [listen]. If the BBC ever re-broadcasts that recording, it's well worth a listen.

Left to right: Duncan Riddell, Lorraine McAslan, Lionel Sainsbury, Adrian Lucas and members of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, at the first public performance of Sainsbury's Violin Concerto. Photo: Keith Bramich
Left to right: Duncan Riddell, Lorraine McAslan, Lionel Sainsbury, Adrian Lucas and members of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, at the first public performance of Sainsbury's Violin Concerto. Photo: Keith Bramich

The concert ended disappointingly with the Brahms-influenced Irish Symphony (completed in 1887) by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924). To be frank, this is a rather dreary piece -- the first movement especially so.

As one of Worcester's less notable sons, I'm proud of the long and spectacular history of my local music festival (records date back to about 1723), although on the basis of this concert, colleagues' reports of other 2002 events and Philip Lancaster's account of the Gloucester Festival in 2001, I have to say look out, Three Choirs! You may be the oldest music festival in England, and you sit pretty in terms of audience levels and funding -- long may this continue -- but, with such vibrant competition from other local festivals such as Cheltenham and Presteigne, please don't let your well-stocked larder lead to complacency.

Copyright © 30 August 2002 Keith Bramich, London, UK

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LIONEL SAINSBURY TALKS TO KEITH BRAMICH

PHILIP LANCASTER AT THE 2001 THREE CHOIRS FESTIVAL

THE THREE CHOIRS FESTIVAL WEBSITE

THE BOURNEMOUTH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

LORRAINE McASLAN

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