“For me, personally, music has been a way to inspire others,” writes the celebrated young American violinist Randall Goosby in his bio. In a Classic FM video announcing his first Decca recording, “Roots,” he elaborates, “there really is no limit to the number of voices and the number of cultures that can be a part of the classical canon which at the moment is not nearly as diverse, inclusive, and welcoming as it could be. That was part of my mission with this album, and going forward, it is to make it known that classical music is really for everyone and by everyone.” With a Korean mother and a Black father, Randall Goosby is the embodiment of his philosophy of inclusivity. 

This week’s NSO program also reflects this expansion of the classical music universe. It begins with Anna Clyne’s This Moment, inspired by a line by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh: “when you meditate on death, you love life more, you cherish life more.” Clyne also quotes excerpts from the Kyrie and  Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem. 

The spotlight then shines on Randall Goosby as he makes his NSO debut as guest soloist in the beloved Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. 

Mendelssohn finished his violin concerto two years before his death at age 38. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor died in 1912 at only 37. Like Mendelssohn and Mozart, he achieved much in so little time, and his fame spread from England to the United States, where he was nicknamed “The African Mahler.” In fact, Baltimore’s historic Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary School, founded in 1926, still proudly bears his name. The Danse nègre is the orchestrated last movement of his African Suite for solo piano, written in 1899, reflecting his interest in his African roots (his father was from Sierra Leone, his mother British). 

At the beginning of his career, Coleridge-Taylor was befriended by Edward Elgar, who described him as “far and away the cleverest among the young men.” Elgar’s publisher friend, August Jaeger (the Nimrod of Elgar’s Enigma Variations), agreed, and declared that Coleridge-Taylor was “a genius.” 

Sir Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations, also dating from 1899, closes the NSO program. Quoting from Tim Smith’s program notes: “The score [a set of variations on an original theme], brilliant in form and content, is a kind of musical photo album holding snapshots of 13 people close to the composer, and, to close, a 14th item that serves as his selfie.” The 9th variation is the famous “Nimrod” a portrait of his friend and publisher, August Jaeger, mentioned above, who encouraged him at low points in his career, citing Beethoven’s struggles, and even singing the second movement of that composer’s Pathétique sonata. Nimrod has become famous for state occasions such as funerals (Princess Diana’s in 1997, Prince Philip, and Queen Elizabeth, for example). 

So there you have it, a program satisfying on many levels, encompassing a new work inspired by such distinct sources as a Vietnamese monk and the Mozart Requiem; a well-loved violin concerto by Mendelssohn; an African-British composer named after an English romantic poet and influenced by the poetry of Laurence Dunbar; and the Enigma Variations of Edward Elgar who painted the portraits of his circle of friends based on a tune he discovered by accident while doodling on the piano. The connections between such diverse works are fascinating, stretching back to the 18th century and forward to the present day. 

Program 

Thomas Wilkins, conductor 
Randall Goosby, violin 

Anna Clyne: This Moment 
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto 
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Danse nègre 
Edward Elgar: Enigma Variations 



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