Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Perform the US Premiere of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's Solemn Prelude
Oct. 11, 2022
On September 22, Riccardo Muti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the US premiere of Solemn Prelude, a recently rediscovered orchestral work by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Solemn Prelude was commissioned by the Three Choirs Festival and received its first performance in Worcester, England on September 13, 1899, conducted by the composer.
While Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s own piano reduction of the work was released in 1899, the full score was never published and the orchestral material was lost. Investigations by Three Choirs Festival CEO Alexis Paterson revealed that the original manuscript was housed in the British Library. A new edition of the score was published by Faber Music and the modern premiere given at Worcester Cathedral on July 27, 2001 by the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by David Hill. A fascinating in-depth account of the work’s rediscovery and publication is published here on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra website.
Coleridge-Taylor toured several cities in the United States in 1904, giving performances of his chamber works as well as his best-known work, The Song of Hiawatha. His trip to Chicago saw the composer play his Negro Melodies as well as a performance of his new violin work Four African Dances by the German-born violinist, Theodore Spiering. Jeffrey Green’s biography of the composer reports that he regarded his trip to Chicago as the “best time” of his US visit.
The Chicago Classical Review called Solemn Prelude “an attractive work, cast in Coleridge-Taylor’s engaging vein of rich lyricism, which rises to a brassy climax. Muti gave it unapologetically sumptuous treatment, leading a ripe, operatic performance.” The Chicago Tribune called it “anthemic and decadent…a worthy addition to any orchestra’s tool kit.”
The 11-minute work received two further performances by Muti and the CSO on September 23-24. Ryan Bancroft leads the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra in performances of the work on January 5-6 at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis; he then performs it with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra on January 12-13, at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center.
Edward Gardener conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the London premiere of Solemn Prelude on January 25 at the Royal Festival Hall. Further UK performances are planned this season including from the Hallé Orchestra conducted by Daniele Rustioni (December 8), and David Hill and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (March 22).
To learn more about Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, visit: fabermusic.com.
Solemn Prelude (1899)