Orchestra of the Swan - An English Fantasia

Wednesday 16 November: Venue: Stratford Play House

Time: 7.00 pm

Ticket Price: £15 - £32

We’re joined by oboist Nick Daniel and Jason Lai for an evening of 20th century English repertoire from Vaughan Williams, to Britten.

The first half of the 20th century witnessed something of a renaissance in the world of English music when composers such as Britten and Vaughan Williams found that looking to the past could yield creative inspiration when seeking a new path towards the future. Henry Purcell, in particular, offered a vital sense of continuity between the past and the English musical present, and was something of a preoccupation for a coterie of young composers who were captivated by what the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins described as his ‘divine genius’.

Vaughan Williams delved still further back into the Tudor era where his imagination was sparked by Thomas Tallis’ motet When Rising from the Bed of Death. This proved to be the catalyst for his enthralling Fantasia, a work which ingeniously uses a smaller second orchestra to create echo effects and a sense of distance years before this was possible in the recording studio.

His Oboe Concerto is more clearly rooted in folk idioms and a yearning for a pastoral landscape that was rapidly changing, due to intensive farming, urban sprawl, industrialisation and two cataclysmic world wars.

William Walton tapped into the myth of Agincourt with his film music for Laurence Olivier’s version of Henry V  which, in 1944, was in perfect sync with the public awareness of impending victory in Europe and East Asia.

Frederick Delius’ Two Aquarelles, composed in 1917 for six-part choir without words, was subsequently arranged for string orchestra by his amanuensis Eric Fenby. Initially influenced by European composers such as Grieg and Wagner, Delius developed an individual style characterised by complex textures and lush chromatic harmony, a sound world far removed from the stylistic concerns of Britten or Vaughan Williams.

A century later Bedfordshire-born James Wilson found inspiration in Dylan Thomas’ poem ‘The force that through the green fuse drives the flower which explores creation, both physical and poetic, and the temporal process of birth, death, and rebirth’. The Green Fuse, scored for strings, was commissioned in 2017 by the Cheltenham Festival for Chineke! Orchestra.


Britten  Simple Symphony, Op.4
Purcell  Chacony in G minor, Z.730
Vaughan Williams  Oboe Concerto in A minor
Delius  Two Aquarelles
Walton  Two Pieces from Henry V James
Wilson  The Green Fuse
Vaughan Williams  Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

Oboe  Nick Daniel
Conductor  Jason Lai