Mahler masterpiece performed by St Albans Symphony Orchestra

Michael Wigram

Michael Wigram - Credit: Archant

A summer concert mixing romance and passion with tragedy and loss is being given by St Albans Symphony Orchestra (SASO) next Saturday, June 25.

William Carslake

William Carslake - Credit: Archant

The concert, which starts at 7.30pm at St Saviour’s Church in Sandpit Lane, combines the Cello Concerto No 1 by Camille Saint Saens with Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony.

Both works were acknowledged to be ahead of their time, but only the French composer’s work was a ‘hit’ when first performed in 1871 – helping re-establish the popularity of the cello as a solo instrument.

By contrast, Mahler was convinced that the audience had no understanding of his mighty symphony when it was premiered in Germany in 1904.

He could never have anticipated how the ‘Mahler revival’ following the Second World War would be accelerated by use of the Fifth Symphony’s Adagietto as theme music for the 1971 film Death in Venice.

Some critics believe the symphony was written as a reflection of the composer’s passion for his wife, Alma – although it was also composed at a time of convalescence from a potentially fatal haemorrhage. Others have characterised it as a life lived backwards, from death and turbulence to youthful energy, first love and the uncomplicated joys of childhood.

William Carslake, SASO’s guest conductor for the performance, is also a composer. Since training with the distinguished conductor Martyn Brabbins at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama he has worked with the Royal Ballet and appeared regularly with amateur orchestras, including the Hertfordshire Philharmonia and St Albans Rehearsal Orchestra.

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Describing himself as “composer-traveller”, his own music includes orchestra, chamber and choral works that frequently explore ecological themes.

The soloist in the Saint Saens concerto will be Michael Wigram. St Albans born and bred, Michael studied at Royal Holloway College and the Royal College of Music before joining the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s apprentice scheme.

He has been a member of the Southbank Sinfonia and plays regularly as a principal with the European Chamber Orchestra.

Michael’s last performance was as recent as last Saturday, June 11, when he performed the Cello Concerto No. 1 by Shostakovich with the Herts Philharmonia.

Tickets are £15 and £10 (£1 under-18s, £5 students), available from the SASO ticket secretary (01727 852768), or online.