Elgar at De Montfort Hall: A Grand Season Finale

18th May 2022

The Orchestra’s 2021-22 De Montfort Hall season drew to a triumphant close on Sunday with the long-awaited all-Elgar concert, The Essence of Elgar. The strings of the Orchestra opened the programme with the well-known Serenade for Strings. The remainder of the players then came on to the stage and were joined, in her first appearance with the Orchestra, by soloist Lydia Shelley for an effortless and lyrical rendition the much-loved Cello Concerto.

The inclusion of this work, although originally programmed over two years ago, provided a fitting piece to include in this concert which was dedicated to the memory of the Christina Warner, a long-standing cellist in the Orchestra who died earlier this year. The concert was attended by a large group of her friends and family.

The second half was occupied by the composer’s First Symphony, a big work in every way scored for a large orchestra and substantial in length. The Orchestra did it full justice and the applause lasted for some time. A fitting end to a season which was not without its logistical challenges as the country emerged from the grip of the pandemic. As one audience member commented on social media afterwards “the emotional atmosphere generated by this enthusiastic and accomplished orchestra would compare well with any in the capital, and all on our own doorstep. Thank you so much for a truly memorable concert”.

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The Essence of Elgar concert preview

11th May 2022

Elgar on a late spring afternoon

The Bardi Symphony Orchestra’s long awaited Essence of Elgar concert is nearly here. The original workshop rehearsal for this long-delayed concert took place back in February 2020, and it has been twice postponed since. Recent rehearsals have been greeted with great relief and enthusiasm by players delighted to be able to play this wonderful music again after all this time. 

They will be joined for the Cello Concerto by internationally acclaimed soloist Lydia Shelley. Originally from the UK, Lydia now lives in Paris and pursues a varied career as both soloist, orchestral principal and enthusiastic advocate of the string quartet genre. The concert programme is completed with Elgar’s iconic Symphony No. 1, a first performance for the Bardi, and the well-known Serenade for Strings. 

There is special poignancy to the concert as it has been dedicated to the memory of the late Christina Warner, a cellist with the Orchestra almost since its foundation who sadly died earlier this year. You can read about Christina here.

The concert is also supported by the Elgar Society, for which the Orchestra is very grateful.

Orchestra Manager Robert Calow can also be heard discussing the concert on Wednesday on BBC Radio Leicester at 2hr 12 on this link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0c2nh35

Join the Orchestra at De Montfort Hall for what is guaranteed to be a wonderful afternoon of English music.

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The Essence of Elgar

Featuring the Cello Concerto and Symphony No.1

Sunday 15 May at 3pm, De Montfort Hall

The Finale to Elgar’s Symphony No.1 rehearsed back in February 2020.

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Exploring the Bardi’s long history performing Elgar

24th April 2022

Edward Elgar is by some distance the most performed composer over the years by the Bardi.

The sheer range of repertoire is breath-taking including the large-scale Second Symphony, The Dream of Gerontius and The Music Makers all being performed twice. It is perhaps not a surprise that the Enigma Variations is the most popular orchestral work with three performances.

Of the two string concertos, there is only one performance of the Violin Concerto to date by the Bardi Leader of that time, Jagdish Mistry, in 1993. However, the Cello Concerto has been performed four times and also during the Bardi’s SaarLorLux tour in 1998. The Concerto also appears on the Orchestra’s first CD release in 1995 with soloist Leonid Gorokhov. Raphael Wallfisch was the first soloist performing the Concerto in 1991 for a charity concert raising over £3,000 for the Jaqueline Du Pré appeal. There is also a performance of the Sea Pictures song cycle but unusually with baritone soloist, Jeremy Huw Williams on that occasion.

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The two popular concert overtures Cockaigne and In the South appear as do the Introduction and Allegro for string orchestra and the smaller String Serenade. ‘Last Night of the Proms’ type concerts have also included the Pomp and Circumstance March No.1, with perhaps the most memorable being in front of a 5,000 capacity audience at the EXCEL Centre in London.

There are also some real Elgar rarities with the Falstaff symphonic study, The March of the Mogul Emperors (from the Crown of India Suite) and (as performed to start this current season) the Bach Fantasia and Fugue orchestration.

1995 – Cello Concerto CD sleeve with soloist Leonid Gorokhov

Despite all of the Elgar performances over the years, one main work has eluded the Bardi – the Symphony No.1 in A-flat major. Sunday 15th May will finally see the Orchestra perform this epic symphonic masterpiece in De Montfort Hall. The all-Elgar concert also includes the String Serenade and Cello Concerto with soloist Lydia Shelley.

The Essence of Elgar

Featuring the Cello Concerto and Symphony No.1

Sunday 15 May at 3pm, De Montfort Hall


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Maestro Claus Efland shares his thoughts ahead of conducting Elgar’s First Symphony

20th April 2022

The Bardi Symphony Orchestra’s Music Director Claus Efland has just returned from conducting concerts in Denmark and Romania. The latter included a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.6 which, giving the present worrying circumstances in neighbouring Ukraine, he said was ‘incredibly moving’.

He has now turned to preparing for the orchestra’s next concert on 15th May at De Montfort Hall and has shared his thoughts ahead of conducting an all-Elgar programme:

“Elgar is one of my favourite composers. I got to know his First Symphony during my time at the Royal College of Music and have conducted it many times since. The music is powerful, intense and incredibly beautiful. I am hugely looking forward to conducting the Bardi Symphony Orchestra in such a key work of English orchestral literature – it will be the first performance in the Bardi’s history”.

Almost exactly two years since it was originally programmed (for a concert in May 2020) the Orchestra’s players are eagerly looking forward to playing this wonderful work again. The orchestra last rehearsed the piece at a workshop day weeks before the first lockdown. Here is the finale to the Symphony performed at that workshop on 15th February 2020:

The Essence of Elgar

Featuring the Cello Concerto and Symphony No.1

Sunday 15 May at 3pm, De Montfort Hall


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Remembering the 1998 ‘SaarLorLux’ Tour

8th April, 2022

During the 35th concert season the Bardi will be looking back at some of the highlights from the Orchestra’s three-and-a-half-decade history. This month, we fondly remember the ‘SaarLorLux’ Tour in April 1998…

24 years ago this month, the Bardi Symphony Orchestra and their founder Music Director Andrew Constantine embarked on their third European tour, performing in Saarbrücken, Metz and Luxembourg. Performing at three esteemed concert halls, the programmes included Delius’s Walk to the Paradise Garden, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto (soloist, Adam Summerhayes), and the Elgar Cello Concerto (soloist, Leonid Gorkov). 

The Orchestra were accompanied on the tour by the Bardi Symphony Chorus who performed Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast in each concert with baritone soloist Jeremy Huw Williams. The performances of Belshazzar’s Feast on the tour were sponsored by The Walton Trust and the concert in Luxembourg was a distinguished occasion, marking the departure of the British Ambassador, Nick Elam.

The tour was a resounding success not only in the concert hall performances, where the Orchestra and Chorus were great ambassadors for Leicester and the UK, but also as a great opportunity for the players and singers, normally totally focussed on rehearsing, to spend some time socialising.

Watch highlights from the tour

Above: the Orchestra performing Belshazzar’s Feast at Luxembourg Conservatoire, with the tour programme cover; City views: Metz, Saarbrücken, Luxembourg City.

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In Support of Ukraine – The Bardi perform their National Anthem

29th March 2022

In support of the people of Ukraine the Bardi Symphony Orchestra played the National Anthem of Ukraine at the start of their ‘Fantasy and Adventure’  concert in De Montfort Hall on Sunday 20 March. You can watch the performance below.

The concert was in support of the the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Ukraine appeal (www.dec.org.uk) and our generous audience contributed over £1,000 to buckets at the concert. There is still time to make an online contribution as this appalling situation continues to unfold. Thank you all!


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Fantasy & Adventure – Pure Escapism on a Spring Afternoon

22nd March 2022

The ‘Fantasy and Adventure’ concert given by the Bardi Symphony Orchestra on Sunday 20 March provided an afternoon of pure classical music escapism for early Spring.  An attentive audience were guided knowledgeably and humorously through three contrasting pieces from the classical repertoire by Tom Redmond a well-known figure from BBC Radio 3. 

Evocations of Mickey Mouse in Walt Disney’s ‘Fantasia’ were followed by arguably the least well known item (but perhaps the jolliest) a set of movements of music from Poulenc’s ballet Les Biches. This conjured up a French country house setting in the 1920’s where some perhaps less than proper activities went on around a large blue sofa in a drawing room with a group of young girl and boy ballet dancers.

The second half consisted of a spirited account of the enchanting Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov before which Tom Redmond asked the orchestra to demonstrate various aural ‘signposts’ in the piece for the audience. Violin solos in the piece were played with brilliance by Mihkel Kerem, an old friend of the Orchestra who stood in at 24 hours notice for a covid-stricken Orchestra leader Adam Summerhayes.  

The icing on the cake of a wonderful afternoon was the raising, via a bucket collection from the audience, of just over £1,000 for the Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine appeal. A big thank you to everyone who came to the concert and donated on what was a very enjoyable afternoon.

Don’t forget to join the Bardi on Sunday 15 May at De Montfort Hall for an all-Elgar concert featuring the Cello Concerto and Symphony No.1. A concert not to be missed! Find out more here.

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Fantasy and Adventure Preview

16th March 2022

‘Fantasy and Adventure’ featuring Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade

Sunday 20 March at 3pm, De Montfort Hall

Off on the magic carpet!

Just four days to go to the next Bardi Symphony Orchestra concert at De Montfort Hall, an early spring venture into the land of Fantasy and Adventure. Our guide for the trip will be presenter Tom Redmond, perhaps best known for his work on BBC Radio 3, who will provide special insights into each of the three pieces that the Orchestra will play. 

We will begin with The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Dukas – who can forget Disney’s Mickey Mouse running around on film with his magical brooms in Fantasia? Then the suite from the ballet Les Biches by Francis Poulenc. Think you don’t know it? You will as soon as it starts, it often features on Classic FM and BBC Radio 3. 

The second half consists of Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov, a real magic carpet ride depicting tales of ‘The Arabian Nights’ featuring violin soloist Adam Summerhayes. Scheherazade is the main character who spins wondrous tales for a thousand nights to the King so saving her life. It is one of the composer’s most popular and well-known works. 

In Support of Ukraine

The Bardi Symphony Orchestra is supporting the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal for the Ukraine and collecting buckets will be around at the concert, please give generously.

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In rehearsal

In rehearsal

Adam Summerhayes, solo violin

Tom Redmond, presenter


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Discover Poulenc’s Neo-Classical Gem, Les Biches

2nd March 2022

At the Bardi’s next concert, Fantasy and Adventure, the orchestra will be performing the suite from Poulenc’s ballet Les Biches. Perhaps unfamiliar by name, the suite contains a selection of movements in a range of styles with the first, Rondeau, probably the most well known. Here is an excerpt of that movement in rehearsal at the Bardi’s recent workshop day.

Written in the early 1920s for Serge Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, French composer Francis Poulenc’s Les Biches (literally “the does,” a somewhat derogatory 1920’s slang for coquettish young women), is a one-act ballet about a group of young men and women at a summer party. It has no real story – instead it shows the various romantic, and sometimes risqué, relationships between different couples at the gathering through each musical number. This made it a simple task for Poulenc to extract five numbers from the ballet and turn them into a suite for the concert hall.

Composed in the neo-classical style (that is, a modern 20th century piece with elements of traditional classical woven in), the score is reminiscent of Pulcinella, another one-act ballet suite by Poulenc’s contemporary and friend, Igor Stravinsky. Both feature classical elements with a little 1920’s Jazz thrown in, and an emphasis on the woodwind and brass sound, over the traditional string colour of most orchestra works. Combining a myriad of different styles, Les Biches features the tarantella, a Parisian rag and even hints at a Brazilian tango. All in all Poulenc’s ballet suite presents a energising and unique sound that is not to be missed, and is sure to become a Bardi favourite in the future!

‘Fantasy and Adventure’ featuring Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade

Sunday 20 March at 3pm, De Montfort Hall


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The Bardi’s Workshop Day 2022

16 February 2022

For their first get together in 2022, Bardi players enjoyed a workshop day at Holy Trinity Church concentrating on rehearsing pieces for the ‘Fantasy and Adventure’ concert on 20 March. After the carefully managed covid-secure play days held during the pandemic, something a bit more special was needed, so the highly successful formula followed back in 2019 was dusted off to the great enjoyment of all concerned. 

Claus Efland flew in from Berlin for a day of concentrated rehearsal punctuated by a delicious lunch. This was followed by a drinks reception during which everyone was treated to a special film of archive footage of Bardi performances (in the UK and Europe) dating back to the late 1980s compered by Orchestra Manager Robert Calow.  The day was rounded off with an excellent evening meal interrupted by a power cut during which candles were handed out by the HT staff which added to the fun.  Huge thanks to everyone at Holy Trinity for making us so welcome.

We are now off to a flying start for ‘Fantasy and Adventure’…

Fantasy and Adventure

Sunday 20 March at 3pm, De Montfort Hall

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