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John Chillingworth, ourPrincipal Cellistin
Colchester SymphonyOrchestra, is performing
Tchaikovsky’s Variationson a Rococo Theme.
John’s concerto appearances have included
performances of Haydn C Major, Elgar and
Shostakovich EbConcertos,Bruch’s Kol Nidrei and
Holst Invocation.John’s real love asa cellist,
however, is chamber music. He hasgiven many
recitals:Brahms, Beethoven, Debussy, and Vivaldi
Sonatas are particularfavourites alongwiththe
Bach Cello Suites.
His professional careerbegan as cellistof the
Guadagnini StringQuartet, performing and
broadcasting for seven years all aroundEurope
Photo; Angela Chillingworth
Afterthe disbanding of the Quartet, for two years John was Assistant Principal Cellist of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and then spent twenty-five years as Principal Cellist of English National Opera (ENO).On leaving ENO, John moved toSuffolkand is nowpursuing a varied musical career, teaching privately and at schools in Ipswich and Colchester. He is the conductor of Lexden Choral Society,Music Directorof Sudbury ChoralSociety and is Conductorof Southend Symphony Orchestra.He also hasfounded aprofessional big band.
While Tchaikovskywrote twoconcertosfor the piano and one for the violin, the only work for cello and orchestra is the RococoVariations.Written inthe classical style, the Rococo variations have wonderful melodies that reflect the composer’s love of Mozart’s music.The theme is not aRococo one butone that Tchaikovsky wrote.The Variations on a Rococo theme were first performed in November 1877 withFitzenhagen as the soloist.
Tchaikovsky was abroad atthe time, buthispatron Nadezhda vonMeck reported back to him that the “Press comment wasvery favourable”.
In hisFantasy-Overture‘Romeo andJuliet’, Tchaikovsky’s difficult personal life and Shakespeare’s tragedy are combined in a masterpiece that includes brutal music representing the conflict between the Capulets and Montagues andadelightfullove theme forRomeoand Juliet.This themehas been used in the media as amusical shorthand for love, in, for example, James Bond (Moonraker), The Simpsons, South Park, Sesame Street!
Shostakovich wrotehis Fifth Symphonyat a critical time, when he had toconfront the peril ofStalin’s displeasure.It wasfirstperformed inNovember1937 andwas received with great enthusiasmand relief that his life-threatening positionwasreprieved.
Shostakovich publicly described the new work as “a Soviet artist’s reply to just criticism.”
His fifth symphony, however, is farfromrepentant and is a cry of rebellion.Shostakovich noted that many people in the first audience wept openly as they understood what the music was saying. Others, stunned by what theyhad heard, filed silentlyoutof the hall after the performance, overcome by its powerfulmessage.