The menace of Mars, the beauty of Venus, the noble tunes of Jupiter… everyone has their favourite bit of The Planets. But there’s infinitely more to Holst’s masterpiece than just great melodies, and tonight the incredible John Wilson – the conductor whose own orchestra packs out the Proms – brings his special flair to the RSNO in an all-British programme with a difference. Alice Coote dives headfirst into Elgar’s surprisingly passionate songs, and Wilson uncovers ancient mysteries in the haunting music of John Ireland.
Repertoire includesIreland - The Forgotten Rite Elgar - Sea Pictures Holst - The Planets
SoloistsAlice Coote - Mezzo-soprano RSNO Chorus Stephen Doughty - Director, RSNO Chorus
Conductor John Wilson
John Wilson is in demand at the highest level across the globe, regularly guest conducting the world’s finest orchestras: in recent seasons these have included the London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw, Budapest Festival, Oslo Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Symphony, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and Sydney Symphony orchestras, and productions at English National Opera and Glyndebourne Summer Festival.
For many years Wilson appeared widely across the UK and abroad with the John Wilson Orchestra. In 2018 he relaunched the Sinfonia of London. Their much anticipated BBC Proms debut in 2021 was described by The Guardian as “truly outstanding” and they are now much in demand across the UK, returning to the BBC Proms, Birmingham Symphony Hall and London’s Barbican Centre among other venues this season.
Wilson has a large and varied discography and his recordings with the Sinfonia of London have received exceptional acclaim and several awards including, for three successive years, the BBC Music Magazine Award in the Orchestral category for the Korngold Symphony in F sharp (2020), Respighi Roman Trilogy (2021) and Dutilleux Le Loup (2022) recordings. The Observer described the Respighi recording as “Massive, audacious and vividly played” and The Times declared it one of the three “truly outstanding accounts of this trilogy” of all time, after those by Toscanini (1949) and Muti (1984).
Born in Gateshead, Wilson studied composition and conducting at the Royal College of Music where, in 2011, he was made a Fellow. In March 2019, John Wilson was awarded the prestigious ISM Distinguished Musician Award for his services to music and in 2021 was appointed Henry Wood Chair of Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music.
Mezzo-soprano Alice Coote
Mezzo-soprano Alice Coote is regarded as one of the great artists of our day. Equally famed on the great operatic stages as in concert and recital, she has been named the “superlative British Mezzo” (San Francisco Chronicle). Her performances have been described as “breath-taking in [their] sheer conviction and subtlety of perception” (The Times) and her voice as “beautiful, to be sure, but, more importantly, it thrills you to the marrow.” (The Daily Telegraph).
The recital platform is central to her musical life. She performs throughout the UK, Europe and the US; at Wigmore Hall (where she has been a resident artist), the BBC Proms, The Concertgebouw, Vienna Konzerthaus, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, among many other prestigious venues. Most recently, she debuted Schubert’s Winterreise at “The Stars of the White Nights” Mariinsky Festival in St Petersburg.
She is acclaimed in particular for singing pieces by Strauss, Mahler, Berlioz, Mozart, Händel and Bach with orchestras such as London Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, The English Concert, Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, The Hallé and The Concertgebouw.
In her operatic engagements, Coote spends a large part of her time engaged abroad, and in the UK, interpreting male and female roles, such as Dejanira Hercules, Leonore La Favorite, the title role in Carmen, Charlotte Werther, Dorabella Così fan tutte, Lucretia The Rape of Lucretia, Marguerite La Damnation de Faust, Penelope Ulysses, Octavian Der Rosenkavalier, Composer Ariadne auf Naxos, Orfeo Orfeo ed Euridice, Idamante Idomeneo, Poppea and Nerone L’incoronazione di Poppea, Hänsel Hänsel und Gretel, Sesto and Vitelia La Clemenza di Tito, Sesto Giulio Cesare, Maffio Orsini Lucrezia Borgia, Le Prince Charmant Cendrillon, Ruggiero Alcina and the title role in Ariodante. She has performed these roles at Opera North, Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera, English National Opera, Glyndebourne and the Royal Opera House. In Europe, she has appeared at opera houses including Opéra de Paris, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Dutch National Opera, Grand Théâtre de Genève, Bayerische Staatsoper, Oper Frankfurt and Salzburg Festival. USA and Canadian opera houses include Lyric Opera of Chicago, Seattle Opera, LA Opera, San Francisco Opera, Canadian Opera Company and the Metropolitan Opera, New York.
Her many recordings and DVD appearances include on CD: Mahler Song Cycles (Pentatone); The Power of Love: An English Songbook (Hyperion); Songs by Robert Schumann and Gustav Mahler (EMI); Händel’s Messiah and Mahler 2 (EMI); Angel Dream of Gerontius and The Apostles (Hallé); Composer Ariadne auf Naxos (Chandos); Orfeo (Virgin Classics); Choice of Hercules (Hyperion); Brahms Alto Rhapsody (Tudor); Schubert’s Winterreise (Wigmore Hall Live); Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (Pentatone); and on DVD: Händel’s Messiah (EMI); Hansel Hansel and Gretel (EMI); Nerone L’incoronazione di Poppea (Decca); Ruggiero Alcina (Arte); and Maffio Orsini Lucrezia Borgia (Medici Arts).
Most recent engagements include the title role in Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice at English National Opera; Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas; and Mahler Semphony No. 8 with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla. Coote was a Hallé Associate Artist for the 2019/20 season.
The 2020/21 season saw Coote perform Winterreise with Christian Blackshaw and a Schumanniade with Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake, both at Wigmore Hall. She appeared in a livestream at the Royal Festival Hall in a widely praised assumption of Britten’s Phaedra with Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the Philharmonia. In addition, an evening of Tchaikovsky songs depicting the composer’s inner life narrated by Ralph Fiennes with Christian Blackshaw at the piano was live streamed from Wigmore Hall in April 2021 to critical acclaim.
On the concert platform, Coote’s 2021/22 season included recitals at the Wigmore Hall with Graham Johnson, Mahler in concert at Middle Temple City of London, Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Mahler’s Symphony No.2 with Michael Tilson Thomas with the National Symphony in Washington. Operatic roles included the title role in Händel’s Agrippina at Staatsoper Hamburg; and Mère Marie in Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites at Opernhaus Zürich. Tchaikovsky Songs with Christian Blackshaw narrated by Ralph Fiennes streamed for a month from The Library of Congress, Washington.
In the 2022/23 season, Coote will perform the role of Orfeo in a concert performance of Orfeo ed Euridice at Opera North and Madame de Croissy Dialogues des Carmélites at the Metropolitan Opera. On the concert platform, she will perform Verdi’s Requiem with the Hallé Orchestra and Sir Mark Elder; Ravel’s Shéhérazade with the Sinfonia of London and John Wilson at the Barbican; Elgar’s Sea Pictures with Philharmonia and John Eliot Gardiner; The Dream of Gerontius with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Sir Andrew Davis, and the Ripon Choral Society; Das Lied von der Erde with the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and The Apostles and The Dream of Gerontius with The Hallé and Sir Mark Elder.
In 2018, she was awarded an OBE for services to music.
The RSNO Chorus performs in around six different programmes in up to twenty concerts across Scotland with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra each year. The RSNO Chorus has also had great success in recording with the Orchestra. Its recordings, amongst others, of Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky, conducted by Neeme Jӓrvi, and Holst’s The Planets, conducted by David Lloyd-Jones, have both attracted high critical acclaim.
In addition to its commitment to the Orchestra, the RSNO Chorus performs independently and has been invited to perform with orchestras in many parts of the world, establishing an international status and touring to Copenhagen, Hong Kong, Israel, Germany, Belfast, Australia, Trondheim and most recently, Amsterdam and Prague. In 2018 it performed Britten’s War Requiem with the RSNO at the BBC Proms.
The RSNO Chorus evolved from a choir formed in 1843 to sing the first full performance of Handel’s Messiah in Scotland. Today, it is one of the most successful choruses in the UK. In recent years, it has performed practically every work in the standard choral repertoire along with contemporary works by renowned composers, including John Adams, Magnus Lindberg, Howard Shore and James MacMillan.
RSNO Chorus Director Stephen Doughty
Stephen Doughty is Chorus Director of the RSNO Chorus and enjoys a varied career as a freelance musician. Commencing his appointment of the RSNO Chorus in September 2022, he previously spent 13 years as the Chorus Master of Belfast Philharmonic Choir who, in addition to their regular performances with the Ulster Orchestra, have given a number of world premieres. He particularly enjoys working with amateur singers and is Musical Director of Edinburgh Bach Choir (since 2017) and has been Musical Director of the Garleton Singers since 1994. Over the years he has also run several, highly-successful ‘come & sing’ events raising funds for a number of charities.
Stephen held the position of Director of Music of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Edinburgh for 18 years, directing the 30-voice choir through the full range of sung services which also included large-scale, orchestrally-accompanied services during the Edinburgh Festival.
As a keyboard player, he plays harpsichord/organ continuo and orchestral piano with all the Scottish orchestras as well as the Ulster Orchestra and has given frequent organ recitals including several four-star recitals on the grand Mulholland Organ in the Ulster Hall, Belfast.
He has compiled a large portfolio of arrangements and orchestrations, particularly for young voices and has received commissions from Children’s Classic Concerts, Ulster Orchestra and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Recent orchestrations include the premiere of Jonathan Dove’s Seek him that maketh the seven stars and a classical/folk crossover with award-winning band Dallahan marking the anniversary of the Battle of Loos. In addition, the BBC have commissioned a number of arrangements which have been performed at Proms in the Park and BBC Alba and his pieces feature on several recordings.
Finally, he is an Examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.