A year long celebration of Beethoven is launched at St Ceciliatide Festival at Stationers' Hall, London
The St Ceciliatide Festival this year featured two very different concerts. The first was a grand affair, a Dinner/Concert to launch Beethoven in the City, a year-long celebration in 2020 of the composer’s 250th birthday by The Hanover Band, itself celebrating in the same year its 40th anniversary. All nine symphonies will be played in City Livery Halls, culminating at Mansion House with the magnificent Ninth (Choral) Symphony.
The Lord Mayor, Alderman William Russell, was present with the Lady Mayoress, and wholeheartedly commended this City Salute to Beethoven, which will involve school workshops and concerts. It is aimed particularly at young people who will be tomorrow’s musicians and concert-goers, Freemen and Liverymen, and is an imaginative way of opening young ears to fine music and young eyes to the work of the City’s Livery Companies.
The Stationers’ Company, as a continuing supporter of music in general and of The Hanover Band in particular, is playing a leading role in Beethoven in the City, towards which a significant grant has been made on behalf of the Company.
Stationers' Hall, as we know well, is a very special space, and the capacity audience were richly entertained, both by the glorious music and an excellent dinner — food and wine on top form, no mean feat when the concert is running nearly half an hour late.
The Hanover Band is playing better than ever, and Beethoven’s ‘Prometheus’ overture and his Eighth Symphony received performances of the highest standard, directed from the violin by Jorg Jiménes. The Band’s inspirational founder, Caroline Brown, would have been proud, and not least of the symmetry: The Hanover Band was the first ensemble to record all Beethoven’s symphonies on period instruments. Now, forty years on, we are at the start of another Beethoven cycle.
These two pieces were separated by Mozart’s ‘Exsultate, Jubilate’, radiantly sung by the soprano Erica Eloff, whose infectious delight in music-making captivates all her audiences.
The Master encouraged us to follow the tradition of Cecilian Feasts; the Lord Mayor and Professor Gavin Henderson spoke eloquently of the Band, its founder, and the Beethoven project, and toasts were drunk to future success.
There was more. For those looking for something different the soprano, Lesley Garrett, at the invitation of the Master, sang a medley of well-loved songs under the Caxton Window, brilliantly accompanied at the piano by Ann Tilbrook. A high and joyous note on which to end a most successful evening.
The Sunday lunchtime concert saw us segue seamlessly from black tie to smart casual, from champagne to bangers, mash and house red. In recent festivals some of the finest chamber music has been heard here, and this year was no exception, the highlight, after a quartet by Schubert, being Brahms’ autumnal Clarinet Quintet. We were fortunate to engage Colin Lawson, director of The Royal College of Music with an international profile as the doyen of period clarinettists, who was joined by the Consone Quartet. These four young musicians are beneficiaries of The Hanover Band’s artistic vision, ‘Nurturing the Next Generation’, and are the first period instrumentalists to be honoured with selection as BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists 2019/21.
Your reviewer heard these same musicians play the Brahms earlier in 2019 in a Sussex riverside church - magical then, and even more so in the exceptional acoustic of Stationers’ Hall. A concert not to be missed, and a great conclusion to a truly Cecilian weekend.
Past Master Noel Osborne
The Beethoven cycle begins at Stationers’ Hall on 2 March 2020 with a concert that includes Symphony No. 4.
For full details of The Hanover Band's 2020 celebrations see:
Photography: Richard Hanson Photography