BBC Symphony Orchestra

BBC Symphony Orchestra

The BBC Symphony Orchestra has played a central role at the heart of British musical life since its inception in 1930, and as the flagship orchestra of the BBC provides the backbone of the BBC Proms with at least a dozen concerts each year, including the First and Last Nights. Strongly committed to twentieth-century and contemporary music, it has given the premiere of more than 1,000 works by composers such as Bartók, Britten, Hindemith, Holst, Stravinsky and Shostakovich, and more recently has premiered BBC commissions by Simon Bainbridge, Jonathan Dove, Michael Nyman and Sir John Tavener among others. Its annual season of concerts as Associate Orchestra of the Barbican includes a weekend each January focusing upon a single composer from the twentieth or twenty-first century, most recently James MacMillan, Elliott Carter and Sofia Gubaidulina.

Jiří Bĕlohlávek took up the post of Chief Conductor in July 2006 and David Robertson was appointed Principal Guest Conductor in 2005. The BBC SO works frequently with Conductor Laureate Sir Andrew Davis and Artist-in-Association John Adams. All concerts are broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and a number are televised, giving the BBC Symphony Orchestra the highest broadcast profile of any orchestra in the UK. The BBC SO is committed to innovative education work, with ongoing projects including the BBC SO Family Orchestra and Music Intro, introducing families to concert-going.

The BBC SO has appeared on 34 of NMC’s CDs, including the best-selling recording of Elgar’s Third Symphony.

del Mar, Norman

del Mar
Norman René Del Mar CBE (31 July 1919 – 6 February 1994) was a British conductor, horn player, and biographer. As a conductor, he specialized in the music of late romantic composers; including Edward Elgar, Gustav Mahler, and Richard Strauss. He left a great legacy of recordings of British music, in particular Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Frederick Delius, and Benjamin Britten. He notably conducted the premiere recording of Britten's children's opera Noye's Fludde.

RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra

RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra

The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, one of two orchestras belonging to Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), Ireland’s National Public Service Broadcaster, is a primary force in Irish musical life through year-long programmes of live performances of music ranging from symphonic, choral and operatic to film and popular music, contemporary traditional and contemporary classical; schools and educational projects; a mentoring scheme for young musicians; broadcasts on RTE and internationally through the European Broadcasting Union; recordings and new commissions. The orchestra has been critically acclaimed for its recordings on the Marco Polo, Naxos, Claves and RTE lyric fm labels. The orchestra’s Chief Conductor is Jaime Martín.

Pearce, Colman


Dublin-born Colman Pearce is a conductor, pianist and composer. He received a B.Mus. (Hons) from University College Dublin, and later studied conducting with Franco Ferrara (Hilversum) and Hans Swarowski (Vienna).

He was Co-Principal Conductor of the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra from 1978-1980, and Principal Conductor from 1981-1983. In the years 1984-1987, he was Principal Guest Conductor of the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra, and from 1987-1999, was Principal Conductor and Music Director of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra. He was the recipient of the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in the State of Mississippi and was also made a Freeman of the City of New Orleans.

As a conductor, Colman Pearce’s repertoire embraces not only the main symphonic works, but also opera and oratorio. He has directed first performances of many contemporary Irish works, and with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra has recorded CDs of music by Stanford, Victory, Boydell, Buckley, Corcoran, Deane, Bodley and Wilson, on the Naxos/Marco Polo label.

Also on the Naxos label, Colman Pearce has recorded two one-act operas by Leonardo Balada, (2002) and orchestral music by Balada with the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra (2004). For Ros Production (U.S.A.), he has recorded “The Memory is a Living Thing”, a CD which includes some of his own songs.

As a composer, his song cycle “Summerfest” was commissioned by RTÉ and premiered in 1993 with the composer as pianist. His work “Robinson, a Most Unusual Cat” was premiered in 1998 (U.S.A.). Two works for Chamber Ensemble, “Anagram” (2000), and “King Cormac at Tara” (2002) were premiered in Pittsburgh.

More recent works include solos for piano, guitar, violin & piano (“Amaya” – IMRO Composition Award Winner, Arklow Music Festival 2002), trumpet & piano, a Song Cycle (setting of poems by W.B.Yeats), a Concerto for Two Mandolins and Orchestra, and the Secular Cantata “Like as the Waves” for solo voices, mixed voice chorus, and orchestra (2009). In 2009, he was conferred with a Ph.D. for composition by St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, Dublin City University.

Maloney, Gavin

Gavin Maloney is one of Ireland's leading young artists. He has a long standing relationship with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra with whom he has worked on a great variety of concerts, recordings and education projects. He has collaborated with many distinguished musicians including Sir James Galway, Gabriela Montero, Ailish Tynan, Chloë Hanslip and Hugh Tinney. Gavin received his training at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and the Mozarteum Salzburg. At the age of 21 he successfully competed for the position of Assistant Conductor of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra. He has since performed throughout the country and conducted all the leading orchestras and ensembles in Ireland. Gavin was the inaugural beneficiary of the Bryden Thomson Trust, through whose support he studied at the Danish National Opera and the Lucerne Festival Academy of Pierre Boulez.

Nicholls, Rachel


Rachel Nicholls is now widely recognised as one of the most exciting dramatic sopranos of her generation. Her Brünnhilde in complete Ring cycles for Longborough Festival Opera in 2013 received the highest critical acclaim.

She made her début at London’s Royal Opera as Third Flowermaiden, Parsifal, returning as Echo, Ariadne auf Naxos and Prilepa, The Queen of Spades. She sang her first Brünnhilde in Götterdämmerung for the 2012 Longborough Festival, returning for three complete Ring Cycles in 2013.

Recordings include B Minor Mass and Cantatas – Volume 42, 44 and 49 (BIS), the St Matthew Passion (Sabra), For You (Signum), Dorinda Orlando (K617), Metella Silla (Somm), Wendy Hiscock’s Mother & Child (Symposium), Hummel Mass in D Minor (Chandos), two volumes of Music by Cecilia McDowall (Dutton) and Paul Spicer’s Easter Oratorio (Birmingham Bach Choir).

Rachel Nicholls was born in Bedford and in 2013 was awarded an Opera Awards Foundation Bursary to study with Dame Anne Evans.

Image Credit: 

Volkov, Ilan

Volkov first conducted the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (BBC SSO) in 1998. He becamse Chief Conductor of the BBC SSO in January 2003, the youngest chief conductor appointed to a BBC orchestra at the time. He was named the Royal Philharmonic Society Young Musician of the Year in 2004, in recognition of his work with the BBC SSO. In September 2007, the orchestra announced Volkov's departure from the BBC SSO chief conductorship in September 2009. In December 2008, the BBC SSO announced the appointment of Volkov as its principal guest conductor, to commence after the conclusion of his tenure as chief conductor, for an initial contract of 3 years with 4 weeks of scheduled guest-conducting appearances. In January 2011, the Iceland Symphony Orchestra named Volkov as its 9th chief conductor and music director, effective with the 2011-2012 season, with an initial contract of 3 years. His initial contract was for 3 years, with 6 weeks of scheduled appearances in his first season and 9 weeks of concerts in subsequent seasons. Volkov concluded his tenure with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra in August 2014, following the orchestra's debut at The Proms.
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BBC Symphony Orchestra
Norman del Mar conductor
RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra
Colman Pearce conductor
Gavin Maloney conductor
Rachel Nicholls soprano
Ilan Volkov conductor


Here, for the first time together, are four of Nicola LeFanu’s remarkable orchestral landscapes, written over a 45 year period. They are hidden and revelatory, imagined and remembered, liminal and arcadian, raw and sophisticated. Of all the works in her prolific output (including operas, music theatre, chamber works, songs) it is perhaps in these large-scale orchestral pieces that LeFanu’s exploratory spirit stands out the most, translating the language of each landscape she traverses into a unique sonic topography. – Kate Romano (liner notes extract)

'LeFanu is renowned for works of imaginative beauty, often drawing on diverse extra-musical prompts' (BBC Music Magazine). The Hidden Landscape was commissioned by the BBC and first performed at the BBC Proms, 7 August 1973. It is this live recording (digitally remastered) that opens the album. Listening to this piece, and the work that follows (Columbia Falls) is rather like looking at the overall shape and contour of a landscape towards a distant horizon. LeFanu is, in life as well as art, a traveller and never happier than when she is outdoors. ‘I am not an urban person’ she says, ‘I need to be outside, using ears and eyes’.

The short orchestral piece Threnody was inspired by Brendan Kennelly’s The Trojan Women (his version of Euripides’ tragedy) which was to become the catalyst for LeFanu's much larger work, The Crimson Bird. The text is from the poem Siege by John Fuller and examines the bond between mother and son as it is tested within an environment of war and terror. LeFanu says 'It's an exploration of love, fear and death. Siege has a universal scope that speaks to human experience throughout time. Coverage from conflict zones under siege fill our TV screens every day.'


Special thanks to PRS Foundation Composers' Fund, Ambache Charitable Trust, RVW Trust, Golsoncott Foundation and John S Cohen Foundation for their support of this album. 

PRSF Ambache Golsoncott RVW


The Hidden Landscape was recorded by the BBC at the BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London on 7 August 1973.
From the BBC archives (extracted from tape by the BBC using modern techniques and digitally remastered)

The Crimson Bird was recorded at the Barbican, London on 17 February 2017.
BENEDICT WARREN Recording Producer

Threnody was recorded at the National Concert Hall, Dublin on 
13 January 2015 as part of the RTé National Symphony Orchestra’s Horizons 2015 series for NOVA RTé Lyric FM.
From the RTÉ archives
Eoin Brady Recording Producer

Columbia Falls was recorded at the National Concert Hall, Dublin on 19 September 1997
From the RTÉ archives
Johnny Devlin Recording Producer

Edition Peters
Catalogue number:
NMC D255
Release Date:
25 September 2020