On 1 May Wilfred Heaton’s only completed work for full symphony orchestra is to be performed for the first time since it was completed in 1950. The premiere will be given in Jena, Germany, by city’s Philharmonic Orchestra with Swiss conductor Phillipe Bach at the helm in a concert that unites symphony orchestra and brass band on the stage of Jena’s historic Volkhaus. The innovative concept of combining brass and orchestra for an entire evening is the brainchild of Alexander Richter, musical director of Brass Band BelchKLANG. “The Brass & Sinfonik format started in 2011conducted by Roman Sacher Brogli and myself,” says Alexander, “and four years later Phillipe Bach and I followed that sold out concert with Brass & Sinfonik II, for which we commissioned a new work for brass band and orchestra, At the Crossroads, by Oliver Waespi. We also featured Arthur Butterworth’s Overture Mancunians (a Halle commission). Because of Oliver’s composition, there was increasing interest in the brass band scene and the concert was again sold out.”
Phillipe Bach and Alexander Richter have given their 2019 May Day special edition the title BlechKLANGPhilharmonie. An all-English first half marks the centenary of the birth of Wilfred Heaton (1918 - 2000) with his signature march Praise played by Brass Band BlechKLANG. The Jena Philharmonic strings will join the band for a joint performance of John Ireland’s classic suite A Downland Suite (1932), in which the strings play the Prelude and Minuet, in Geoffrey Bush’s transcription, and the band takes the Elegy and final Rondo.
Wilfred Heaton’s Suite ends the first half. While its four movements follow the same overall format of the Ireland, Suite, or Partita as it is known in its updated brass band version, is a more substantial symphonic canvas. Heaton was 31 when he composed it. The bulk of what he had written until then was intended for the Salvation Army. However, much of the band pieces he finished on his return from war service was considered too advanced in style and difficult for Salvationist use, so he began to explore other avenues along which to follow his creative impulse.
Modelled on the symphonic music of William Walton and Sibelius, Suite for Orchestra Partita is an accomplished and personal work, particularly in the biting bitonality of its Scherzo and the intense lyricism of the Canzona. Without any prospect of a performance, Heaton re-purposed Suite on no fewer than three occasions, first as a shorter and simpler brass band test piece in 1950, secondly as an epic virtuoso Piano Sonata, for which he radically elaborated Scherzo and Rondo to sit alongside two new movements, and finally in 1984 when Partita was produced for Howard Snell and Desford Band.
The orchestral material has been prepared and edited for the premiere by Heaton’s biographer Paul Hindmarsh, who writes, “I think Wilfred would be surprised but quietly delighted that the original of Partita is being exhumed from what he called his ‘unregarded corner’. I remember him telling me in 1992 how old fashioned he thought it was, but like all the best music, it has genuine ‘staying power’. Wilfred had not written for orchestra before, but you would never know. The scoring is impeccable. He made the work a little more intense in places when he came to revise it in 1984, but I decided only to update the original with pencil additions Wilfred wrote on the orchestral score; so those who know the band version will hear differences from time to time. Given that his favourite composer was J.S.Bach, I’m sure that having a ‘Bach’ conduct the performance in a town just a short train journey away from the great master’s home town, Eisenach, and the cities in which he created his finest music, Weimar and Leipzig, would have brought a smile to his face.”
Brass Band BlechKLANG and Alexander Richter open the Russian second half of the concert with the pomp and ceremony of Rimsky-Korskov’s Procession of the Nobles from his opera Mlada. The Jena Philharmonic follows with Mussorgsky’s Prelude to the opera Khovanchina. Band and orchestra share the movements of the Polovtsian Dances from Borodin’s Prince Igor, and they combine forces for the grand finale - Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.
The Jena Philharmonic has been a fixture in the cultural life of the city of Jena and the state of Thuringia since1934. It was established with the aim if reviving the old tradition of the ‘Collegium musicum Jenense’ and the academic concerts of the city’s University. In 1953 it became a symphonic orchestra and acquired its present-day status of philharmonic orchestra in 1969. It is the largest independent symphony orchestra in the central German state of Thuringia. The current Intendant is Bruno Scharnberg and in addition to its concert series in the historic Volkshaus, it has regularly performed in the major concert hall’s of Europe and further afield.
Brass Band BlechKLANG
Brass Band BlechKLANG was the first band in the former East Germany to adopt British-style line-up and is a founding member of the German Brass Band Association. Under the professional leadership of Alexander Richter (principal trumpet player of the Philharmonic Orchestra Plauen/Zwickau) it has flourished, developing a national and international reputation through a broad variety of concerts and regular participation in competitions. During the 2018 German Brass Band Championships, both the brass band and its youth band won their division, scoring a historic double. The youth brass band by winning its division qualified for the 2019 European Brass Band Championships in Montreux (Switzerland). Brass Band BlechKLANG is sponsored by Besson.