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Heaton's Partita gains long overdue symphonic revival

Wilfred Heaton's masterful work is set to be given its first performance by a symphony orchestra since it was written in 1950.

Wifrd Heaton
  Wilfred Heaton's 'Partitia' will be performed for the first time since 1950.

Wilfred Heaton's only completed work for full symphony orchestra is to be performed for the first time since it was completed in 1950.

The premiere on 1st May will be given in Jena, Germany, by the city's Philharmonic Orchestra led by conductor Phillipe Bach, in a concert that unites a symphony orchestra and a brass band on the stage of Jena's historic Volkhaus.

Brainchild

This particular concept of combining brass and orchestra is the brainchild of Alexander Richter, musical director of Brass Band BlechKLANG, who told 4BR: "The 'Brass & Sinfonik' format started in 2011 led by Roman Sacher Brogli and myself.

Four years later Phillipe Bach and I followed with 'Brass & Sinfonik II', for which we commissioned a new work for brass band and orchestra, 'At the Crossroads', by Oliver Waespi as well as a performance of Arthur Butterworth's Overture 'Mancunians'."

Joint performances

He added: "Because of Oliver's composition, there was increasing interest in the brass band scene and the concert was again sold out."

Phillipe and Alexander have given the concert the title, 'BlechKLANGPhilharmonie' and will see an all-English first half marking the centenary of the birth of Heaton (1918 — 2000) with his signature march 'Praise' played by Brass Band BlechKLANG.

The Jena Philharmonic strings will then join the band for a joint performance of John Ireland's 'A Downland Suite' (1932), in which the strings play the 'Prelude' and 'Minuet', in Geoffrey Bush's transcription, and the band takes the 'Elegy' and final 'Rondo'. Heaton's 'Partita' ends the first half.

Heaton was 31 when he composed it, although the bulk of what he had written until then was intended for the Salvation Army. However, much of the band pieces he finished on his return from war service were considered too advanced in style and difficult for Salvationist use, so he began to explore other avenues for his creative impulse.

Modelled on the symphonic music of William Walton and Sibelius, 'Suite for Orchestra Partita' is a highly accomplished as well as personal work, particularly in the biting bitonality of its 'Scherzo' and the intense lyricism of the 'Canzona'.

Without any prospect of a performance, Heaton re-purposed it on no fewer than three occasions; first as a shorter brass band test-piece in 1950, secondly as an epic virtuoso Piano Sonata, and finally in 1984 when 'Partita' was produced for Howard Snell and Desford Band.

Quietly delighted

The orchestral material has been prepared and edited for the premiere by Heaton's respected biographer Paul Hindmarsh, who told 4BR: "I think Wilfred would be surprised, but quietly delighted, that the original of 'Partita' is being exhumed from what he called his 'unregarded corner'.

I remember him telling me how old fashioned he thought it was, but like all the best music, it has genuine 'staying power'.

Wilfred had not written for orchestra before, but you would never know. The scoring is impeccable.

He made the work a little more intense in places when he came to revise it in 1984, but I decided only to update the original with pencil additions Wilfred wrote on the orchestral score; so those who know the band version will hear differences from time to time."

Wilfred had not written for orchestra before, but you would never know. The scoring is impeccablePaul Hindmarsh

Bach and Bach

Paul added: "Given that his favourite composer was J.S. Bach, I'm sure that having a 'Bach' conduct the performance in a town just a short train journey away from the great master's home town, Eisenach, and the cities in which he created his finest music, Weimar and Leipzig, would have brought a smile to his face."

Also included in the concert will be performances Rimsky-Korskov's 'Procession of the Nobles', Mussorgsky's 'Prelude to the opera 'Khovanchina' and joint rendition sof 'Polovtsian Dances' and Tchaikovsky's '1812 Overture'.

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Brett Baker

BSc (Hons), ARCM, PG Dip
Rath clinician, conductor, teacher, adjudicator, editor