Women’s History Music Moment: Helen, Countess of Radnor
Helen, Countess of Rador seemed to care very little for what society said she could or couldn’t do as a Victorian Lady – so she decided to make history.
Born in a tiny town in Central England, a young Helen moved to London, moved to London, married an Earl, and started her [new] life as a countess and patron of the arts.
Before long, she created her own women’s string orchestra and became its conductor. She made waves in England and overseas, with society papers everywhere hungry to talk about her. She even invited by Barnum and Bailey to give a performance in America .
After she was already well-established and incredibly popular, she called on a friend to write a piece of music for her and her orchestra – the friend was Hubert Parry. And his beloved Lady Radnor’s Suite cemented her place in music history.
She also used her popularity for good – raising money for various causes and giving free concerts around London.
Lady Radnor’s orchestra grew to over 80 members and frequently included a 100 member chorus at the end of its 15 years of delighting the world. Even after she stopped her public performances, she left in her wake many successful women’s orchestras to continue her legacy.
Lady Radnor has frequently been described as “unique” over the years – a word she no doubt earned by disregarding norms for ladies and paving her own way.
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky was approached by The editor of a Russian music magazine known as the Nouvellist with a commission – write one piece a month for a year and give our listeners something to look forward to. Continue Reading Spring Music Moment: Tchaikovsky’s ‘April’
Vivaldi’s Spring – one of the most recognizable, best loved works in the world and one of the best ways to celebrate the season.
Vivaldi penned his famous quartet of concertos, The Four Seasons or Le quattro stagioni, between the late 1710’s and early 1720s. Each concerto includes an accompanying sonnet of unknown origin (a classic case of “which came first – the sonnets of the concertos?”). The first lines of Spring perfectly encapsulate what’s ahead, musically speaking: “Springtime is upon us. The birds celebrate her return with festive song, and murmuring streams are softly caressed by the breezes.” The first of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons concertos not only invites us to imagine birds singing in a crisp, clear morning, but depicts a rolling spring thunderstorm and a festive dance in the country. Continue Reading Spring Music Moment: Vivaldi
Unlike his contemporaries, Britten did not devote much of his time to writing symphonies. It’s no wonder that when he *did* sit down to write his Spring Symphony, it resulted in a grand journey in 4 parts and 12 movements, harnessing the power of mixed chorus, boys’ choir, soprano, alto and tenor soloists and a massive orchestra including harp, tambourine and cow horn. Britten’s Spring Symphony takes us through the changing of the seasons and the power of that transition – both as a time of the year and a stage of life. Continue Reading Spring Music Moment: Britten’s Spring Symphony