New season about to start!

NOTE: please note that the first meeting does not take place tomorrow, 12th September as printed in Music in Salisbury. We had to change our programme at the last minute due to unforeseen circumstances. The first meeting is on 26th. We are sorry for this sudden change.

The new season gets underway soon and the programme is printed and will soon be in various locations around town. A pdf version is below. It is a varied and extremely interesting programme so we look forward to seeing you again on Monday 26th September for a presentation of music from Ukraine. We look forward to seeing you again or welcoming new members.

New programme

The new programme for 2022 – 23 is currently being finalised and the print version should be available in a few weeks, certainly by the end of August. We have some outside speakers including someone from the Scriabin Society and old friends returning with new topics.

There will be a coupon in the programme entitling you to a free evening* for those who are curious about what we do. Keep an eye on this site – better still put it into your favourites – and we look forward to seeing you when we kick off again in the autumn.

*can only be used once

Sibelius – the less well known works

Last meeting of the season focused on Sibelius

Just over a century ago, Finland declared its independence at the time of the Russian revolution in 1917. At the start of the second world war in 1940, they then had to fight a fierce war against Stalin’s Russia who invaded the country with overwhelming force. The Russian general assumed it would all be over in around 12 days but the Russian army, although vast, was poorly led – following Stalin’s murder of thousands of Red Army officers – poorly equipped and the Finns put up a fierce resistance. They were ultimately successful losing only a small piece of territory but, they maintained their independence.

There is something faintly familiar with that story in the current events in Ukraine. Russia invading a neighbouring country with overwhelming force with the hope of a quick victory, being resisted by a much smaller but better led army. So what has this to do with the Recorded Music Society you ask? Living through this period was Finland’s greatest composer, Jean (as he is known today) Sibelius. His music contributed to Finland’s sense of nationhood from the time of independence and subsequently the war against Russia. So in addition to writing brilliant music, he was important giving the Finns a sense of national identity and pride. These things are significant during a time when a country is under threat.

Many of Sibelius’s works are well known and receive a regular airing in concert halls around the world. But like many composers, there is the well known and there is the less familiar. At last nights meeting, we were delighted to welcome again, Simon Coombs, who presented a range of less well known works, combining them with the life of the composer through his nation’s sometimes troubled history.

Sibelius started by studying law but while doing so, joined the Helsinki Music Institute. He was a capable violinist but decided to concentrate on composition and to that end, studied in Berlin and Vienna where he met Bruckner. He returned to Helsinki to compose his first major piece Kullervo. Among the pieces selected by Simon was A Conferment Cantata, A Song for Lemminkäinen, Finlandia, and a number of examples of incidental music. Also an extract from Pelléas et Mélisande and incidental music the the Tempest.

Simon was helped in his presentation by discs produced by Bis Records who have produced recordings by all of Sibelius’s music. Simon ended with some fragments of the 8th Symphony: it is not clear if Sibelius ever finished the work and destroyed it. Members were delighted with the presentation and the curation of the pieces linking it to key events in the composer’s life.

Sibelius’s music was an element of Finland’s struggle to achieve statehood and independence from Russia. It is strange to note that Ukraine’s famous composers; Prokofiev and Szymanowski among others, have not played a similar role in Ukraine’s resistance. Tchaikovsky is of Ukrainian extraction – the family name was originally Chaiko before the move to Russia.

This was the last meeting of the current season and the programme for the autumn is in final stages of preparation.

Peter Curbishley

Next (and last!) meeting

Secret Sibelius is the title of the last meeting of the 2021/22 season


We are delighted to welcome back Simon Coombs who is going to speak on the

subject of Sibelius and he will be focusing on the lesser known works by this famous composer. Like many composers, people are often familiar with the great works but there is often a hinterland of lesser known works which are worth listening to.

This is the last meeting of the current season so we look forward to meeting you at 7:30 as usual. Work is well advanced with the 2022/23 season and we will be producing a leaflet as usual in the summer.

Next Meeting

Our next meeting is tonight, Monday 28th March when Robin will be presenting: “Women composers who won the Prix de Rome”.

I hope you will be able to attend.

Note that we have a range of CDs for sale at a £l each or less as well as a selection of books for sale including biographies of Mahler and Ben Britten as well as other books on musical topics. All at bargain prices!

Next meeting

Our next meeting will be on Monday 14th February 2022, when Angus Menzies will be presenting: ‘H is for Heinichen and Hesse, masters of the Dresden baroque’.

 As before, we feel it is appropriate to ask all attending to follow the Covid safety measures we have in place including well spaced seating, wearing a mask and as far as possible maintaining social distancing. 

 The following meeting on 28th February will be Peter Horwood presenting favourites from his own collection.

Looking ahead you may be interested in a Palm Sunday recital on Sunday 10th April, in St Mary & St Nicholas Church, Wilton at 4.00pm of string quartets, featuring the concert premiere of Variations on Love Divine by Ailsa Dixon (1932-2017)   Ailsa Dixon was one of the many female composers side-lined in musical history, but her work has been the focus of new interest since she died in 2017, with posthumous premieres of a number of works found in her archive. 

We hope you will be able to come on Monday.


New season starts

Second half programme kicks off on Monday, 31 January 2022

The second half of the programme starts in style on Monday with a presentation by John Challenger of Salisbury cathedral on the Father Willis organ, one of the finest organs in the country. He will explore the highs and lows, delights and difficulties of recording on the organ.

As before, we feel it is appropriate to ask all attending to follow the Covid safety measures we have in place including well spaced seating, wearing a mask and as far as possible maintaining social distancing.  

The next meeting after this will be on Monday 14th February, when Angus Menzies will be presenting: ‘H is for Heinichen and Hesse, masters of the Dresden baroque’

Reduced membership for the second half of the year available. £3 at the door for non-members

End of season

The first half of this year’s programme finished last evening in fine style

We have been able to meet in person again since September and we have enjoyed some excellent presentations. This year, we have had the benefit of audio-visual display which some speakers have used to great effect. It means we can use YouTube to display particular performances.

We finished the season in style last night with Ruth Barlow’s presentation of classical music in animation. Of course, Fantasia, featured prominently with several extracts, together with other Disney characters in musical settings. The first clip was the Cat Concert0 dating from 1946 featuring Tom and Jerry and which won Disney an Oscar for best short subject. Other animations included a rather more modern Geometry of Circles by Philip Glass and a fascinating 2018 animation Line Rider produced by DoodleChaos. This was a particularly fitting end to the first half of the 2021/22 programme and a ‘first’ in presentational terms for the Society.

Fantasia was not a success for Disney and he was put under some stress financially because of that. Its release during the war meant it could not be displayed in Europe. It was only some years later that it became a hit and has since been reissued several times.

Talking of ‘firsts’, Ed Tinline’s evening ‘Harmony around the Baltic’ was also a first in that we had photographs from each of the Baltic countries to illustrate the music being played.

Alan Forshaw’s Listening to Beethoven in a different light was memorable for several reasons. He reminded us that in Beethoven’s day, many people – perhaps the majority – would not have heard his works in a concert hall with orchestra but in the form of piano transcriptions and he played some modern versions. Not all the performers would have had the skill of Liszt so what people would have heard would have been very variable. Alan also played arrangements in different formats of familiar works which often gave a new insight into them.

An excellent and varied programme with the added attraction of film or still illustrations of the works being played. We look forward to the second half starting on 31 January 2022 with John Challenger discussing the Cathedral’s Father Willis organ.

Seasons greetings to all our members and readers and we look forward to welcoming you back in the New Year.