The bicentenaries of Queen Victoria and Price Albert will be celebrated with high-profile cultural events taking place throughout the UK, including exhibitions at Kensington Palace, Osborne House and the Victoria & Albert Museum, and even a BBC Prom. In the first significant musical celebration of this historic double anniversary year, the Royal Choral Society will join forces with the Coburg Philharmonic Orchestra – the orchestra from Prince Albert’s hometown – for a special concert at London’s Cadogan Hall on Saturday, May 25, just a day after Victoria’s 200th birthday. The concert will feature several works by the royal couple’s favorite composer, Felix Mendelssohn, and a delightful composition by Prince Albert himself.
At the Cadogan Hall concert, entitled “Albert & Victoria: The Coburg Connection”, the Royal Choral Society’s Music Director Richard Cooke will conduct Mendelssohn’s jubilant symphony-cantata Lobgesang “Hymn of Praise”, and Coburg Philharmonic Orchestra Music Director Roland Kluttig will take the baton for Mendelssohn’s magnificent Symphony No. 5 “Reformation”, which incorporates Martin Luther's chorale Ein feste Burg (“A Mighty Fortress”). The concert will begin with the popular choral gem Hör mein Bitten (Hear my Prayer/O for the Wings of a Dove), and an enchanting work composed by Prince Albert, the vocal serenade Ständchen. The choir will be joined by three soloists: soprano Laura Incko, soprano Francesca Paratore, and tenor Peter Aisher.
Coburg’s own royal anniversary celebrations run throughout the year and include exhibitions, installations and a summer festival. In July 2019, the Royal Choral Society will be making a reciprocal visit to Coburg to perform Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony with the Coburg Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of Richard Cooke.
The Royal Connection
Both Victoria and Albert were accomplished pianists and singers, and Albert enjoyed composition. They were friends of Mendelssohn and he played for them at Buckingham Palace several times in 1842. On one occasion, when he asked them for a theme on which to improvise, they offered two, and to their astonishment, the composer then performed the Austrian national anthem with the right hand and Rule, Britannia! with the left. Victoria recalled in her diary: “Really, I have never heard anything so beautiful, the way in which he blended them both together & changed over from one to the other, was quite wonderful as well as the exquisite harmony & feeling he puts into the variations, & the powerful rich chords, & modulations, which reminded me of all his beautiful compositions.”
The Royal Choral Society, one of the UK’s oldest symphonic choirs, has links to both Victoria and her visionary husband: the choir was formed for the 1871 opening of the Royal Albert Hall, the concert hall named in memory of the Prince Consort, and Queen Victoria was the choir’s first Patron and allowed the choir to use the “Royal” title. The choir has enjoyed the patronage of every monarch since Queen Victoria, and this year Her Majesty The Queen is also Patron of the City of Coburg’s extensive celebrations that not only mark this significant year but also highlight the close ties between the UK and Germany. The concert will be attended by the choir’s President, His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent and His Excellency the German Ambassador to the UK.
For more information, visit the Cadogen Hall website.