Spring is on its way and St Albans Symphony Orchestra is celebrating its arrival with the premiere of its specially commissioned work Saturnalia, by north London composer Edmund Jolliffe. Edmund tells me conductor Bjorn Bantock gave him free rein to develop the piece asking only that it keep it upbeat.
“It’s celebratory with lots of brass, not exactly like a fanfare but in that kind of mode,” says Edmund “I was fortunate to have an artistic residency at the Banff Centre in Canada at the time when I was writing the piece. It was very sunny and the scenery of The Rockies was breathtaking. It was a very inspiring and happy place to be.
“Saturnalia is a jubilant piece that everyone can enjoy. It describes a journey – whether an actual journey or a journey through life - with the music gradually unfolding and ending in a massive climax.”
An Oxford University and Royal College of Music graduate, Edmund, who lives in Finsbury Park, teaches at Trinity College of Music and Westminster Under School. He is also a successful TV and film composer who writes short pieces of music for the individual guests on Who do you think you are? His most recently subject was Richard Madeley.
“It’s very rewarding,” says Edmund. “We tailor the music for each person and for Richard’s Canadian background we found something bleak and beautiful.”
Edmund says he’s kept very busy with TV work but has enjoyed the slower pace of having several months to work on just one composition.
“It’s been quite a luxury. We’ve agreed to give a second performance in January 2012, which is incredible because most modern compositions have only one performance and then it’s never heard again.”
The programme opens with the Academic Festival Overture by Johannes Brahms and includes Beethoven’s uplifting Symphony No 5 and his Piano Concerto No 5, the Emperor. St Albans-based pianist Alissa Firsova, a former pupil at The Purcell School in Bushey, is the soloist.
Bjorn concludes: “Everyone thinks they know this marvellous symphony thanks to its opening. But there is no substitute for hearing the whole thing played live and, perhaps, experiencing something of the thrill that Beethoven’s audience must have felt when they heard it for very first time.”
St Albans Symphony’s Orchestra’s spring concert is on Saturday, March 5 at St Saviour’s Church, Sandpit Lane, St Albans at 7.30pm. Details: 01727 857422