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Elgar and Vaughan Williams

Sun / Apr 7, 2024 - 2:00PM

A sharp contrast of resilience and hope from Vaughan Williams and despair from Elgar.

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About this Performance

Leading Australian conductor Simone Young leads the LA Phil in the wild display of unconventional forms that is Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Eighth Symphony. The shortest of his symphonies, the Eighth shows Vaughan Williams fashioning a refined and cultured English dreamscape while searching for a theme and dedicating entire movements to winds and strings. Considered to be his most raw and emotional composition, Elgar’s dark and dramatic response to the end of World War I—and his own life—is richly blended together by the bow of French cellist and LA Phil favorite Gautier Capuçon.

There is a distinctly elegiac cast to this richly reflective program. The ghosts of friends fallen in World War I haunt Elgar’s Cello Concerto, composed in 1919. That does not preclude virtuosity—it is a dauntingly difficult work—but the emphasis is on expressive reconcilement of loss. Written nearly 40 years later, Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 8 is a much more extroverted work, but also has strong elements of autumnal farewell, particularly in the Cavatina for the strings. The Cantus that Arvo Pärt wrote after the death of Benjamin Britten is explicitly memorial: an extended mournful sigh of descending A-minor scales for strings, with a single tolling bell; simple in concept, vastly moving in experience.

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