Tomorrow night the English Symphony Orchestra gives a memorial concert in Worcester Cathedral for Vernon Handley, the eminent conductor who for the last two years of his life was the ESO’s music director before his death last September.
“Tod” Handley was a passionate champion of British music, particularly by composers whom he felt were unjustly neglected.
Bax, Bantock, Delius, Elgar and Vaughan Williams were among his passions and tomorrow’s programme reflects this.
The souvenir programme contains tributes to Handley from across the musical world, as well as more intimate personal reminiscences, together with thoughts from Tod himself. These are just a few examples:
* Handley on his early years: “There was always music in my home. My mother had taught piano although she had ceased teaching when I was a lad, and my father had sung in Llandaff Cathedral choir. He could manage an effortless top A after 45 years of heavy smoking. But they didn’t teach me. I begged to be taught piano but my mother said I was unteachable. But she did on another occasion say that I sang perfectly in tune at 18 months…more than I can do just now.”
* Laura Jellicoe: “We wanted to include music which was not only special to Tod personally, but which also conjured up memories for the huge number of people who adored his music-making over the years.”
* Fand Handley: “When he was at home, Dad was just your average grumpy dad who would not let us play our choice of music in the house (my little tape player was no match for his killer stereo system anyway).”
* Catherine Handley: “I was very fortunate to experience hundreds of Tod’s concerts and recordings, or him reading a score in the armchair, and so often I saw tears well from nowhere as he became overwhelmed by the music emerging from the printed page.”
* Vernon Handley on the Elgar Violin Concerto: “There is obviously so much in that work which meant something very, very personal to Elgar. You can’t get around the fact when you’re working with it that you are listening to a man’s heartbeat and there it all is in the fingers of the soloist.”
* Violinist Nigel Kennedy: “There is no other conductor from these times who has contributed so much to British music and the British orchestral scene.”
* Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber: “From the evening when Vernon Handley conducted my student performance of Prokofiev’s mighty Symphony Concerto, Tod became one of my favourite conductors.
“Our recording sessions of the Delius concerto, together with rarities by Bantock, Holst and Vaughan Williams, will always remain treasured memories.”
* Tomorrow’s memorial concert in Worcester Cathedral begins at 7.30pm (details on 01386 791044).