The Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka presents the third concert in the Earle De Fonseka Chamber Music Concert Series today. A string ensemble directed by Dushyanthi Perera will present three captivating works — A Simple Symphony by Benjamin Britten, Victor Herbert’s little-heard Serenade for strings and Hugo Wolf’s Italian Serenade.
This series of chamber concerts is a tribute to Dr. Earle De Fonseka, who was a guiding force in Western classical music in this country for decades. He was the conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka for almost 40 years, from its inception in 1961 until his death in 2000.
Many successful musicians still remember him fondly as the most influential figure in their musical careers. His legacy survives not only in the form of orchestral music, but also in chamber music. For many decades, his house was a hub for musicians to meet and explore the more intimate genres of ensemble music, and it is fitting now that years later we can remember him with some of the music he enjoyed the most.
2013 is the centenary year of Benjamin Britten’s birth, and the chamber orchestra has chosen to perform his light-hearted Simple Symphony to commemorate the most significant and widely performed British composer of the 20th century.
Britten wrote the Simple Symphony at the age of 20, re-casting a number of old piano melodies he had composed in his pre-teen years into a new setting of a four-movement work for string orchestra. The Movements have playful and programmatic titles, and the work has the irresistible charm of youth and innocence. The idiomatic string writing and the range of musical colours and textures this work encompasses make it a favourite with performers and audiences.
Dublin-born Victor Herbert was one of the most significant musicians of the early American music scene. He became more well-known for his contribution in establishing the American Musical however, and so his more serious work is little heard today. An early work, the Serenade for strings is an attractive piece in five movements. Appealing for its wonderful melodies and almost Brahmsian moments of rich string writing, it is a work that will have you wondering why it is not heard more often!
Known as a composer of lieder rather than orchestral music, Hugo Wolf’s Italian Serenade is one of his few instrumental pieces that is regularly performed today. It is a free form rondo with a main theme which in some ways resembles Tchaikovsky Capriccio Italian. Its lively and optimistic manner is an evocation of the Italianate spirit, realised through melodic richness. Robert W. Gutman has written that “the essence of the delicious Italian Serenade is its antithesis of romantic sentiment and mocking wit”.
The concert will be held this evening at the Lionel Wendt theatre. Whether you are a fan of chamber music or not, you are sure to enjoy the sheer melodic brilliance and light-heartedness of this music. Tickets and box plan are available at the Lionel Wendt.