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Tchaikovsky: Fantasy-Overture ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme

Soloist: John Chillingworth

Shostakovich: Symphony No 5 in D minor

Next Concert

Saturday, 21st October 2023

Tchaikovsky & Shostakovich

Tickets are £18. Under 25s free.

Tickets may be purchased at the door or reserved in advance by either

‘phoning 01206 271128 or emailing

Mail: Tickets

John Chillingworth, our Principal Cellist in

Colchester Symphony Orchestra, is performing

Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme.

John’s concerto appearances have included

performances of Haydn C Major, Elgar and

Shostakovich Eb Concertos, Bruch’s Kol Nidrei and

Holst Invocation. John’s real love as a cellist,

however, is chamber music. He has given many

recitals: Brahms, Beethoven, Debussy, and Vivaldi

Sonatas are particular favourites along with the

Bach Cello Suites.

His professional career began as cellist of the

Guadagnini String Quartet, performing and

broadcasting for seven years all around Europe

and Canada

Photo; Angela Chillingworth

After the 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 to Suffolk and is now pursuing a varied musical career, teaching privately and at schools in Ipswich and Colchester. He is the conductor of Lexden Choral Society, Music Director of Sudbury Choral Society and is Conductor of Southend Symphony Orchestra. He also has founded a professional big band.

While Tchaikovsky wrote two concertos for the piano and one for the violin, the only work for cello and orchestra is the Rococo Variations. Written in the classical style, the Rococo variations have wonderful melodies that reflect the composer’s love of Mozart’s music. The theme is not a Rococo one but one that Tchaikovsky wrote. The Variations on a Rococo theme were first performed in November 1877 with Fitzenhagen as the soloist.

Tchaikovsky was abroad at the time, but his patron Nadezhda von Meck reported back to him that the “Press comment was very favourable.

In his Fantasy-Overture ‘Romeo and Juliet, 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 and a delightful love theme for Romeo and Juliet.This theme has been used in the media as a musical shorthand for love, in, for example, James Bond (Moonraker), The Simpsons, South Park, Sesame Street!

Shostakovich wrote his Fifth Symphony at a critical time, when he had to confront the peril of Stalin’s displeasure. It was first performed in November 1937 and was received with great enthusiasm and relief that his life-threatening position was reprieved.

Shostakovich publicly described the new work as “a Soviet artist’s reply to just criticism.”

His fifth symphony, however, is far from repentant 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 they had heard, filed silently out of the hall after the performance, overcome by its powerful message.