Banbury Symphony Orchestra: a musical first for Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire concert goers recently had the exciting opportunity to hear a long-lost symphony, making its debut outside London, when Banbury Symphony Orchestra performed Leokadiya Kashperova's (1872-1940) Symphony in B minor, as part of its Spring Concert in Deddington Church.
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Oxfordshire was an appropriate venue for this musical milestone, as Dr. Graham Griffiths, currently an Honorary Research Fellow in City University's department of Music had first come across Leokadiya in 2002, while studying for his Doctorate of Philosophy in Oxford. She was Stravinsky's piano teacher and had a successful career as a concert pianist in her native Russia and on tour in Berlin, Leipzig and London.

Dr. Griffiths went on to discover a wealth of her compositions in the Russian archives, of which the grandest is the B minor symphony, completed in 1905. Unfortunately for Leokadiya, her husband was a Bolshevik and in the revolutionary times which followed, her compositions were ignored and never performed, or published again, in her lifetime. Thanks to Dr. Griffiths, the symphony was finally performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra in London on International Women's Day 2018, more than a century after its first performance.

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Enter the ever-enterprising Banbury Symphony Orchestra looking for inspiring works by female composers for their 2024 concerts and the rest is now history. The work was certainly worth finding. The orchestra rose to the occasion playing this beautifully expansive, colourful work in the Russian tradition, its folk melodies transformed in a variety of interesting ways. A feature of the work are the wonderful solos for the woodwind and brass, and 'chamber ensembles' within the orchestra, which were written for Leokadiya's friends. The BSO players admirably conveyed the intimate feeling of these sections.

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Dr. Griffiths was present at the concert saying "I extend my heartfelt congratulations and thanks to all the members of the BSO and their inspirational conductor, Paul Willett for their dedication and selfless contribution to the restoration of Kashperova's name. I salute the vital contribution they are playing this evening in the long-awaited return of Kahsperova's beautiful music to the concert stage."

The first half of the concert - a visceral performance of Ethel Smyth's overture to 'The Wreckers', in which you could hear the waves lashing, followed by Dvorak's melodious 'American Suite' with its folk songs and wide horizons - had been a perfect preparation for the symphony following in the second and the audience greeted the work enthusiastically. It knows that the BSO with its imaginative programming and quality playing, is always guaranteed to give everyone an innovative and thoroughly enjoyable evening of music-making and no one was disappointed.

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