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Midsummer Night Concert



Mendelssohn: Overture a Midsummer Night's Dream

Stephen Kenyon: Guitar Concerto no 1 (first performance)

Schubert: Symphony no 5

Soloist - Fabio Zanon    
   Classical Guitar Magazine concert review      
  Orchestra: The Oberon Chamber Orchestra led by Jack Maguire, Co-Principal, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra    


Saturday 21st June at 7.30 pm

St Mary's Church, Edward Road


Tickets £10 (£4 students/school age) from

01305 257099 or on the door.

For updates on the organisation and background to this concert please read the Countdown! Newsletter, which is available by email on request.

Countdown! I

January 2003



Countdown! II

March 2003


 Countdown! III

June 1st 2003


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All photos: Nick Tredwell


Here is the soloist, Fabio Zanon, fresh from a flight from Brazil!





Rehearsing the Concerto.



The Tubular Bells play an important part in the slow movement...



Rehearsing the Mendelssohn Overture.

The large brass instrument near the camera is the Ophicleïde, played by Phil Humphries.


  A study in concentration from the wind section...



After the Overture.



After the concerto.



After the Schubert.




Everyone needs a really good Tea Team!





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Here is the front of the programme.

The programme note is shown below.



 Cover image: Titania and Bottom by J.H. Fuseli (detail)




Mendelssohn Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream Op 21


Stephen Kenyon Guitar Concerto I (1992) First Performance





Mendelssohn Nocturne (Incidental Music to A Midsummer Night's Dream p 61)

Schubert Symphony no. 5

(1797-1828) i. Allegro

ii. Andante con moto

iii. Allegro molto

iv. Allegro vivace

Felix Mendelssohn's musical precocity leapt to perfection in the Octet for strings of 1825 and the Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream of 1826. The Octet's Scherzo is a gossamer evocation of the otherworld, and in the Overture the 17 year old composer found the same mood a perfect fit for Shakespeare's play, with its mixture of rustic buffoonery and courtly machination overlain by the faerie realm.

The overture was written when the composer was of an age when few can muster the imagination to cope with Shakespeare's richly human dramas, and he had only read the play in a German translation. The deepest miracle of this score is perhaps that despite this, the teenage Mendelssohn achieved probably the one instance of a musical score becoming indivisible with a piece of theatre, in the minds of the musical and theatrical public, over the 177 years since its creation.

Given the originality in the work's conception and orchestration it is easy to forget that it was in fact originally written for two pianos. The mysterious woodwind chords and dashing staccato strings of the opening lead to countless moments of brilliant use of the resources of the orchestra to paint pictures in the mind, including the braying of the unfortunate Bottom, transformed into a donkey; a forest at night; and scampering elves. One touch of colour is provided by the bass brass instrument the Ophicleide, technically the bass of the keyed bugle family, and related to the serpent. This instrument was commonly used in the early-to-middle 19th century but was soon replaced by the smoother-toned tuba. Here it is associated with the chief clown and in keeping with that rusticity not a tuba but a real ophicleide (made in 1844) is to be used in this performance.


My first guitar concerto was written in 1992. Two further concerti have been quite widely performed but this is the premiere of the first. It calls for an orchestra of two flutes doubling piccolos, clarinet, oboe, French horn, bassoon, percussion, timpani and strings, and apart from the percussion, uses the forces in a quite classical way.

In a sense, the idea of a concerto for guitar and orchestra is rather ridiculous, and the early examples of the form were often highly problematic because of the matter of balance between soloist and orchestra. There is also the problem that much of the aesthetic quality of the guitar comes from the richness and subtlety of its resonances and tone-colours, and there is always a danger when combining the guitar with other instruments, that these subtleties are lost leaving only the instrument's sharpness of attack. (This tends to apply even when high-fidelity amplification is employed, which is universally the case today.)

Another way of saying that is to note that when the guitar is played very rhythmically, as in the characteristic rasgueado strumming technique associated with flamenco, you get a lot of attack, e.g. volume, and quite a lot of excitement, but that the interest soon palls. The instrument would like, in a sense, to be represented by a fair mixture of such exhibitionism tempered with the exploration of its unique tonal qualities, its flexibility in producing song-like lines, and its capacity for counterpoint.

These are qualities also associated with the orchestra as a whole, but, I would dare to add, not found in any one instrument of the orchestra: hence the interesting position of a guitar soloist placed alongside, against, and within orchestral forces.

The first movement starts with what is in fact the soloist's cadenza: many of the developed ideas found here are progressively straightened out (its tempting to say 'reverse engineered') as the movement progresses. Various attempts to start fugues fizzle out back into the texture and the movement ends suspended in reflection.

The second movement opens with a solo for the bassoon in its highest register. A mood of modal tranquillity with medieval and celtic overtones is modulated throughout, apart from the central climax, in which the piccolos and strings flash like quicksilver against the soloist's arpeggiated chords.

Like all three of my concerti, the last movement is in two parts, in retrospect as though aiming for a degree of symphonic reach, with a scherzo-like first part and a dance-like conclusion. The 'scherzo' is in effect a multi-segmented fugue: the soloist's cadenza here is a fully worked-out fugal passage which is followed by the orchestra in full flight. The transition to the finale is through a duet cadenza for soloist and the orchestra leader, and the conclusion when it arrives is an entirely un-selfconscious celebration. Each half of the movement however is punctuated by a pastorale as a reminder that reflection is possible in the midst of the busiest activity.

Seventeen years after writing the Midsummer Night's Dream Overture, Mendelssohn was commissioned by King Frederick William of Prussia to write additional numbers to the same play, for a production in Potsdam in 1843. The Nocturne comes at the end of Act III when the exhausted protagonists are asleep in various parts of the forest, giving Puck the occasion to right the effects of his mistakes.

Franz Schubert's youthful promise was mirrored later by that of Mendelssohn but the earlier Viennese was not to enjoy anything like the public profile and esteem of the latter in his lifetime. Schubert's 5th symphony in B flat was written in1816 at the age of 19: after a brief exploration of Beethovenian seriousness in his 4th symphony, the 5th is a joyous return to the then-more natural inspiration of the models of Haydn and Mozart. There is nothing nostalgic in this backward-looking, and the writing is vital and full of interaction, as though treating the orchestra as a chamber group. At this time, Schubert had grounds for an optimistic view of the future and this symphony rests as a bright embodiment of that optimism.


Stephen Kenyon May 2003


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Fabio Zanon

Fabio Zanon is recognized as one the most all-embracing talents in the international guitar scene. His command of a vast repertoire that includes all the major works written for the guitar, more than 30 concertos and the championing of new works written expressly for him have set new standards of interpretation and contributed to change the perception of the guitar in the classical music scene.

Zanon came to international prominence in 1996 when he was the first prize winner of two of the most prestigious competitions ­ the 30th Francisco Tarrega Prize in Spain and the 14th Guitar Foundation of America Guitar Competition in the USA ­ in a space of a few weeks. His recording of Villa-Lobos' guitar works was hailed as a landmark and his debut recital CD on Naxos was chosen best CD of 98 by the guitar critic of Gramophone magazine. His debut with a major orchestra was in 1998, when he stepped in at short notice for a performance of Piazzolla's Concerto with the London Philharmonic. Since then he has been invited to play at venues such as the Royal Festival Hall and Wigmore Hall in London, Musikhalle in Hamburg, Carnegie Recital Hall in New York, Verdi Hall in Milan and the São Paulo Hall and Rio Opera House in Brazil, and he has toured most European countries and returned regularly to North and South America. The current season has brought him for the first time to Russia, with concerts at the Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow and at the Philharmonie in St Petersburg, and a return to the London Philharmonic with Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez.

Fabio Zanon was born in Brazil, where he had his formal music training, first with his father and later with Antonio Guedes, Henrique Pinto and Edelton Gloeden. He gave his first concert at the age of 16 and his debut as an orchestral soloist took place two years later, but he only decided to concentrate on guitar performance after completing his education at the University of São Paulo, where he also studied composition and conducting. By the age of 20 he had been a top prize winner at several international competitions but decided to continue his studies with Michael Lewin at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he also attended Julian Bream's masterclasses and obtained a Masters degree from the University of London. He returned to the stage in 1995 with a recital at the Wigmore Hall in London.

Amongst the many awards Fabio Zanon has received should be mentioned the Moinho Santista Prize, the major artistic and scientific award in Brazil (which had never been awarded to an instrumental performer before), in recognition to the major role he has played in the development of Brazilian music.

In the past few years every season has seen Zanon première solo and orchestral contemporary works (most recently Faria's Guitar Concerto no.2, and Jan van der Roost's Concierto de Homenaje), unearth forgotten masterpieces from the past (from the Spanish Renaissance to the 20th century) as well as perform the standards of the repertoire like Rodrigo and Villa-Lobos for new.

Current projects include première recordings of British music (Cyril Scott, Berkeley and Nicholas Maw), van der Roost's Concierto de Homenaje with I Fiamminghi Chamber Orchestra in Antwerp and the epic 12 Studies by Mignone, as well as a lighter CD of Tangos and Choros for flute and guitar.

When not on tour Fabio Zanon divides his time between residences in London and São Paulo.


Stephen Kenyon

Composer and guitarist Stephen Kenyon is from Dorset and was educated to degree level here, and undertook postgraduate study of guitar and composition at Trinity College of Music under Gilbert Biberian. His compositions have won several prizes and are published in the USA and UK and range from early student works to three guitar concertos, including virtuoso solo works and much chamber music. In a wide ranging career he has worked with Ravi Shankar and various ensembles including Kokoro, performed solo in several European countries and the US and has specialised in both the performance of his own works and that of 19th century composers using an original instrument.

Stephen Kenyon was the conductor of the London Guitar Orchestra for most of its existence and has wide experience of conducting various ensembles in this area and further afield, and studied conducting at Trinity and locally with Stephen Gregson.

The Oberon Chamber Orchestra

This ensemble was formed for the purpose of this concert and consists of experienced professional players, many of whom were members of the Bournemouth Sinfonietta. The leader, Jack Maguire, is the Co-Principal of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.


Jack Maguire

Cathy Matthews

Brian Johnston

David Shean

Brian Howells

Youcheng Su

Phil Boyden

Ros Bromley


Chris Redsell

Alison Kay


Amanda Brundan

Joanna Hanna

Double Bass

Valden Mizen


Karen Evans

Pippa Newman


Geoffrey Bridge

Andrew King


Jane Denley

Gwenda Malpass


Patric Milne

Eric Butt


Stephen Macallister

David Wheeler




Phil Humphries


Dan Priest





Many thanks...

are due to West Dorset District Council, the Player Sponsors, Music and Arts Promotions Dorchester and the many supporters and helpers without whom this concert could not have happened.


Player Sponsors

Richard and Judy Thompson (Ophicleide)

Dr Eric Snell (1st French horn)

Colin Kenyon (1st Flute)

Dr Will Hutchinson (1st Oboe)

Sarah Fry (1st Bassoon)

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 A Midsummer Night's Concert ­ Fabio Zanon plays Stephen Kenyon's Guitar Concerto I St Mary's Church Dorchester Dorset 21 June 2003

Printed in Classical Guitar Magazine, October 2003, page 49. Written by Reviews Editor Tim Panting.


I was invited to attend rehearsals for Stephen Kenyon's Guitar Concerto I and dutifully jumped at the chance. It is a double pleasure to attend rehearsals and a privilege, especially when it's a premiere and nerves are laid bare (and that's just from the person making the tea and cakes!)

Kenyon (conducting), Zanon and the Oberon Chamber Orchestra, assembled at the church and worked through the programme of Mendelssohn's Overture to a Midsummer Night's Dream Op 21 plus the Nocturne from the Incidental Music to AMSND and Schubert's popular Symphony no 5. An interesting inclusion into the orchestra was an authentic Ophicleide, the instrument originally used for Bottom's character in the Mendelssohn. A 19th century bass-end of the bugle family later to be replaced by the tuba, it was to add an extra honk to Bottom's hee-haw. The rehearsal went well, and yes, nerves were laid bare but were soon soothed by the excellent refreshments.

The concerto was written when Kenyon was still at college, he subsequently wrote two more but the first remained unperformed. Finding a virtuoso soloist is not the easiest of tasks and getting a show off the ground without the work being written by Rodrigo is a feat achieved by very few. Zanon had agreed to play the concerto but at the time his status in the world of professional music was not as great as it is now. Kenyon's ability to gather high-calibre musicians also grew over the intervening years and so when in 2001 with the idea for the concert blossoming and Zanon's renewed enthusiasm and advice from Music and Art Promotion Dorchester it was inevitable that the Concerto would at last be performed.

An interesting note regarding he orchestra, fixing players and sponsoring, was the emergence of Player Sponsors. These generous souls helped boost the orchestra and in return, apart from the satisfaction of supporting the artistic cause, got reserved seating, signed programmes and access to the rehearsal.

To the concert; the woodwinds ushered in the magic that is one of the most famous Overtures ever written. Kenyon rallied his band of merry men and women and roused the audience into a nicely intoxicated state of apprehension.

Kenyon's concerto began with a solo declaration of around 20 barsfrom Zanon, a high ostinato pattern then followed whereby the orchestra introduced itself by way of the cellos. The music immediately felt accessible; the language veered from spicily tonal and grew more restless. The woodwinds, doubling piccolos were given lots of work and score got splashed with plenty of bright bolts of colour. The snare drum cranked up the tension towards the end of the first movement, which wound down to almost a whisper. The second movement had blissfully orchestrated parts with the language being in a different hue from the first. Its pastoral imagery had elements of Celtic music and perhaps Renaissance voicing, like magic mist, which built from very slow, with tubular bells, to a violent passage of arpeggiated chords from the soloist over which swooped an absolutely fiendish part for the duelling woodwinds. The final movement began with the snare drum and timpani to whip up more of a storm. There were poignant solos from the violin, with a piquant accompaniment from the guitar, and also from the oboe, which was particularly effective. The ending had the orchestra playing the penultimate chord followed by a cymbal then a lonely pizzicato note from the guitar, timpani and double bass, a tangible silence followed by rapturous applause. Zanon's playing throughout was full of vigour and depth.

After the interval the Mendelssohn and Schubert wove their spell and Kenyon did a mightily impressive job conducting the orchestra. Stephen had the foresight to have the concert recorded, for purely non-commercial reasons and the atmosphere has been captured perfectly. It would be a shame if this concerto were not given another outing in the near future. Hopefully the forces that be can be persuaded.

Tim Panting