"...a worthy addition to any orchestra’s tool kit.”   Chicago Tribune

On September 22nd Riccardo Muti conducted the US premiere of a recently rediscovered orchestral work by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Solemn Prelude, performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Solemn Prelude was commissioned by the Three Choirs Festival and received its first performance in Worcester on 13 September 1899, conducted by the composer.

While Coleridge-Taylor’s own piano reduction of the work was released in 1899, the full score was never published and the orchestral material lost. Investigations by Three Choirs Festival CEO Alexis Paterson revealed that the original manuscript was housed in the British Library. A new edition of the score was published by Faber Music and the modern premiere given at Worcester Cathedral on 27 July 2001 from the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by David Hill. An in-depth account of the work’s rediscovery and publication is published on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra website.

Coleridge-Taylor toured several cities in the United States in 1904, giving performances of his chamber works as well as his best-known work the trilogy of cantatas The Song of Hiawatha. His trip to Chicago saw the composer play his Negro Melodies and a performance of his new violin work Four African Dances from German-born violinist Theodore Spiering. Jeffrey Green’s biography of the composer reports that he regarded his trip to Chicago as his “best time” of his US visit.

The Chicago Classical Review called Solemn Prelude “an attractive work, cast in Coleridge-Taylor’s engaging vein of rich lyricism, which rises to a brassy climax. Muti gave it unapologetically sumptuous treatment, leading a ripe, operatic performance.” The Chicago Tribune called it “anthemic and decadent…a worthy addition to any orchestra’s tool kit.”

The 11-minute work received two further performances by Muti and the CSO on 23 and 24 September. Ryan Bancroft will conduct the piece with the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra on 5 and 6 January at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis; he then performs it with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra on 12 and 13 January, at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center.

Edward Gardener conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the London premiere of Solemn Prelude on 25 January at the Royal Festival Hall. Further UK performances are planned from the Hallé Orchestra conducted by Daniele Rustioni (8 December), and David Hill and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (22 March 2023).