Cesar Franck's engaging Symphonic Variations for Piano and Orchestra dates from 1885, five years before the composer's death. With a complex variation structure and the virtuoso piano part dovetailed into the orchestral texture, it is a highly accomplished work; the wonderful shimmering sixth variation is particularly attractive.
The work received its first performance on 1 May 1886. Sixty years later, the Symphonic Variations were given a new lease of life when Sir Frederick Ashton turned the work into an acclaimed ballet for Sadler's Wells. It remains one of Franck's most popular works and is regularly heard in the concert hall and as a ballet.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner
One of the most exciting and versatile conductors of our time and a key figure in the early music revival, Sir John Eliot Gardiner has consistently gone against the prevailing orthodoxy through his particular combination of scholarship and inspired musicianship.
Founder and Artistic Director of the Monteverdi Choir, the English Baroque Soloists and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, Sir John Eliot Gardiner's performances in concert and on record are unmistakable, both for their zest and technical mastery and the highly personal readings of music from Monteverdi to Verdi and beyond.
In the autumn of 2003, he conducted a rapturously-received new production of Berlioz’ Les Troyens, with the Orchestre Révolutionaire et Romantique, at the Théatre du Châtelet in Paris, for which he was named 'personalité musicale de l'année' by the French Journalists' Union. The production of Les Troyens was also awarded the Grand Prix by the same organisation.
To celebrate the Choir’s 40th anniversary, Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir embarked on a musical pilgrimage, this time following the oldest and most famous of pilgrimage routes, el Camino de Santiago, performing the very best a cappella music by Spanish and other European composers of the 16th & 17th centuries.
Alongside the activities with his own ensembles, Sir John Eliot Gardiner appears regularly as guest conductor all over the world. He has made over 250 recordings, many of which have won international awards. Future plans with his ensembles include performances of JS Bach’s St Matthew Passion in the spring of 2005, A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Mendelssohn in the autumn and a selection of JS Bach cantatas in December.