It must only have been a few months ago that the Royal Academy of Music Soloists Chamber Ensemble and Trevor Pinnock were last at St George’s. They were here for a 3 day recording session, making their latest CD for Linn. The sound coming from the hall during these three days was truly glorious: wave upon wave of full-bodied, passionate playing that made me think there must be at least a symphony orchestra in situ downstairs. As it was, when I peered around the door of the hall, I was greeted by the sight of a small group of soloists from the Royal Academy; the richness of tone and scale of sound is testimony to the immense talents of these players and, of course, to the extraordinary direction of Trevor Pinnock.

I spoke to the Principal of the Royal Academy during one of their coffee breaks and lamented the fact that only the office staff had been present to witness this wonderful music-making. It didn’t take long for us to hatch plans to ensure that we would schedule a public performance to coincide with their next visit and recording. After all, it’s not every day that you have a group of some of the country’s most talented young musicians in Bristol, particularly when one of the soloists, baritone Gareth John, has just won one of the music world’s most prestigious prizes, the Kathleen Ferrier Award. And so we find ourselves eagerly anticipating their return visit this weekend. A 3 day recording will begin with a 6pm public concert on the Sunday evening.

Professor Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, Principal of the Royal Academy of Music, is a well known musician in his own right. He has always loved St George’s and makes all his solo trumpet recordings here. There are undoubtedly recording venues closer to home but he makes a point of coming to St George’s Bristol as he wants the best for his own recordings and for his students.

So what can you expect from this concert? Firstly, although Trevor Pinnock is a legendary figure in terms of his pivotal role in the Early Music movement, this is a chance to hear him in a new guise, at the helm of an ensemble exploring more recent romantic repertoire. Specifically, this concert (and the previous recordings) explores the music that was performed at special evenings promoted by the ‘Society for Private Musical Performances’ by the composer Schoenberg in 1919-1921. During these evenings an enthusiastic audience was invited to listen to small scale versions of music originally written for much larger groups of musicians. The music in Sunday’s concert includes some of the pieces they would have heard nearly a hundred years ago: well known pieces by Wagner, Mahler and Zemlinsky, but all arranged for a chamber orchestra and singers. The word Schoenberg sometimes causes alarm amongst audiences who might be scared away by his atonal, experimental music making (!) but these arrangements are a million miles away from this. This is an opulent, melodic and highly expressive soundworld with music that is true to the spirit and originality of the original scores.

Reviewers have already been effusive in their praise of the first CD of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony and Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. The second release, due out in March, pairs the premiere recording of Anthony Payne’s ‘chamber’ scoring of Bruckner’s Second Symphony, commissioned specially for the series, with Berg’s arrangement of the Johann Strauss waltz ‘Wine, Woman, and Song’. The third release is yet to be committed to CD, but you have the chance to be there on the eve of its creation on Sunday. Don’t miss it!

‘These lucid performances, conducted by Trevor Pinnock, make a fine start to the series… reveals details that are usually never heard in an orchestral performance… a satisfying, thought-provoking disc.’

The Guardian, August 2013

Suzanne Rolt, Director

Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble
Trevor Pinnock conductor
Katie Bray mezzo-soprano
Gareth Brynmor John baritone

Tickets £15, Free for Students