SCO Homecoming Concert
- Carol Main
- 19 November 2009
As Scotland’s Year of Homecoming draws to a close, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra pays tribute to three of the country’s finest composers with a special focus on Edward Harper who died earlier this year. In the world premiere performance of the complete version of his Symphony No 2, the orchestra is finally able to play all of the work they had originally intended to programme more than three years ago.
Interrupted by terminal cancer while in the process of its composition, Harper hadn’t completed the first movement when medical treatment intervened. ‘He knew he had cancer when he was writing it,’ says close friend and fellow composer Lyell Cresswell, ‘but he became too ill to make a start on the first movement. His plan was to write the beginning bits last, which is a good approach, because you can then introduce everything that is going on in the piece.’
The symphony, which includes poetry, Bible texts and parts of the Latin Mass, focuses on two themes – the tragedy of death involving children and the hope of peace and reconciliation that can come out of such tragedy. ‘It’s the last major piece Edward wrote and very moving,’ says Cresswell. ‘It has a sense of foreboding mixed with signs of hope. There’s a kind of Englishness about it, some folk tunes, hints of Elgar. It’s a fairly tonal work and I think, in the end, Edward really found the music he wanted to write.’
The performance of Harper’s 2nd Symphony, alongside music by Kenneth Leighton and James MacMillan, replaces his intended Symphony No 3, Homage to Robert Burns, which was only in outline sketches when Harper died. Cresswell is now working on its completion for inclusion in the SCO’s season next year. ‘It is a very touching thing for me to do’, he says, ‘and my aim is to make it work.’
City Halls, Glasgow, Fri 27 Nov; Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Sat 28 Nov