Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Thursday, August 2

Music for the Queen Mum

Synopsis

When grandma turns 90, you can bet by her age she’s gotten just about everything imaginable as a birthday gift. That was the quandary facing the Prince of Wales in 1990, when his granny, Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth of England—or “The Queen Mum” as just about everybody called her—was about to celebrate her 90th.

Prince Charles writes: “The idea for a concert came to me when I was trying to think of an original birthday present for my grandmother. It suddenly struck me that here was a wonderful reason for commissioning some new music to celebrate a very special occasion.”

Prince Charles liked the music that the Scottish composer Patrick Doyle had written for Kenneth Branagh’s film of Shakespeare’s “Henry V,” so Doyle was asked to write a song cycle. The Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich heard about the planned birthday concert, and for his part commissioned and offered to play a “Romanza” for cello and small orchestra by the British composer David Matthews. The Swiss conductor and new music impresario Paul Sacher commissioned a third new work, a suite for solo violin and orchestra from the British composer Patrick Gowers.

All three pieces were played at a gala concert by the English Chamber Orchestra in the Ballroom of Buckingham Palace on today’s date in 1990, two days before the Queen Mum’s 90th birthday.

Music Played in Today's Program

Patrick Doyle (b. 1953) The Thistle and the Rose Marie McLaughlin, soprano

Patrick Gowers (b. 1936) Suite for Violin Jose Luis Garcia, violin

David Matthews (b. 1943) Romanza Mstislav Rostropovich, cello; English Chamber Orchestra; Raymond Leppard, cond all three pieces on EMI 54164

Additional Information

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