Performing Great Music • Encouraging Young Talent • Supporting Local Charities

Founded in 1919

The Guildford Symphony Orchestra is the borough’s premier community orchestra, and currently the only local orchestra offering a full, large-scale symphonic repertoire.

Guildford Symphony Orchestra Centenary Season 2018/19

Next year will be the GSO’s hundredth season. Centenary celebrations are in an advanced stage of planning, with highlights including a guest appearance at St John’s, Smith Square in London, a written history of the orchestra, and a special centenary concert in Autumn 2019 to feature Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Dates and Venues

Sunday 7th October 2018, 3,30pm at St Catherine’s: Family Concert
Saturday 24th November 2018, 7.30pm at GLive: Autumn Concert
Sunday 17th February 2019, 3.30pm at St Catherine’s: Young Artists’ Concert
Saturday 23rd March 2019, 7.30pm at St Johns Smith Square, London
Saturday 18th May 2019, 7.30pm at GLive

2017-2018 Season

The Amazing Magic Carpet

The amazing magic carpet!The GSO’s new season kicks off with the latest in our much-loved series of Family Concerts. Ditch the Quidditch and strap yourselves tight onto the Axminster for a whirlwind musical round-the-world trip. David Leonard (better known as the dastardly Miss Trunchbullfrom the West End production of Roald Dahl’s Matilda) narrates with genie-al aplomb, and maestro Darrell Davison brings his full kit of jokes, japes, and musical waggery. Guaranteed fun for children young and old, and a chance for instrumentalists to kindle their enthusiasm.

FAMILY CONCERT – The Amazing Magic CarpetSunday 1st October at 3.30 pm, St Catherine’s School, Bramley
Scottish DancesArnold
Turkish MarchBeethoven
Javanese Dragon DanceHendry
Toreadors MarchBizet
Arabian DanceTchaikovsky
Argentinian TangoSeiber
The Amazing Magic CarpetRichards
Capriccio ItalienTchaikovsky
David Leonard – Narrator BOX OFFICE

Romance and Revolution

Romance and RevolutionThe centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution sees a Russian-themed concert spanning the last years of the Tsars and the start of the Soviet era. Always a modernist, Shostakovich’s youthful idealism was given a sore trial as he watched so many of his friends become victims of Stalin’s madness. After a denunciation by the cultural ministry he was forced to reign in his more experimental inclinations, but managed to exploit his supreme gift for musical irony to subvert the dictats of the regime whilst apparently toeing the line. His 5th Symphony, subtitled An Artists’ Response to Just Criticism, may have saved his life after having been officially denounced, and remains – unusually for a 20th Century work – a firm favourite of concert-goers.

Hailing from the turn of the century, Rachmaninov’s first Piano Concerto was a quiet revolution in its own right, and announced the composer as a man of prodigious talent – and prehensile hands. His combination of rich melody and spectacular solo fireworks pioneered a style that became immensely popular, following the piece with a further three concertos and the much-loved Paganini Variations.

The concert opens with Tchaikovsky′s Romeo and Juliet Overture, based on one of his most famous ballets. Trademark unabashed romanticism coupled with unforgettable melody are very much to the fore, with one of the most memorable tunes in the repertoire portraying the star-crossed lovers′ doomed tryst. Elsewhere, some ferocious string-writing paints the warring families squaring off against one another, in music that is every bit as savage as Prokofiev′s equally famous setting written over half a century later.

Romance and RevolutionSaturday 18th November at 7.30 pm, GLive
Overture – Romeo and JulietTchaikovsky
 Piano Concerto No. 1Rachmaninov
Symphony No 5Shostakovich
Francisco Vilar – Solo Piano BOX OFFICE

Una Clark Young Artists’ Concert

One of the most popular concerts in the GSO calendar, five award-winning young soloists perform concerto movements with the orchestra and receive the Jellinek prize. The standard is invariably superb – two recent alumni have subsequently become BBC Young Musician of the Year finalists – and is a chance for Guildford music-lovers to see some of tomorrow’s real stars at the start of their careers. Of particular note is that all five works in this concert have never before featured in the GSO’s repertoire!

YOUNG ARTISTS’ CONCERTSunday 18th February at 3.30pm, St Catherine’s School
Solenn GrandeGliere Harp Concerto (1st Movement)
Eun ChoSchumann Cello Concerto (2nd & 3rd Movements)
Renate SokolovskaPandeiros Gipsy Fantasy
Ting-Ru LaiBruch Romance
Ariel LanyiPiano Concerto no. 2 (2nd & 3rd Movements)
Outstanding young soloists from the Guildford area perform concerto movements with the orchestra and are awarded the prestigious Jellinek prize. BOX OFFICE

Spring Concert – Northern Lights

Northern Lights

Brahms’ Tragic Overture written in 1880 creates a ‘Scandi-Noir’ atmosphere, setting the scene for Grieg’s evocative soundscapes in the Peer Gynt Suite, originally written to accompany the play by Ibsen. “The more he saturated his mind with the powerful poem, the more clearly he saw that he was the right man for a work of such witchery and so permeated with the Norwegian spirit,” wrote Grieg’s wife.

Nielsen’s Flute Concerto was premiered in 1926, and reflecting the modernistic trends of the 1920s, has adventurous tonality. Critics at the time were divided: One wrote ‘It has piquancy, drive and does not lack humour’ while another said it ‘was beyond my comprehension’. Our soloist interpreting the edginess and mystery is Emma Halnan, who won the woodwind category of the BBC Young Musician 2010, the Sir Karl Jenkins/Arts Club Classical Music Award 2016 and the Croydon Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition 2017.

The concert concludes with Sibelius’ Symphony No 2, but there is a Nordic twist here, as the composer synonymous with Finland was enjoying the warmth and Mediterranean culture of Italy when he began writing it. In 1902 the work was seen as bold and unconventional. Sibelius wrote: ‘It is as if the Almighty had thrown down the pieces of a mosaic for heaven’s floor and asked me to put them together.’ But the fourth movement resolves the puzzle with power and majesty.

NORTHERN LIGHTSSunday 25th March at 7.00 pm, Great Hall, Charterhouse School
Tragic OvertureBrahms
Peer Gynt SuiteGrieg
Flute ConcertoNielsen
Symphony No. 2Sibelius
Emma Halnan – Solo Flute BOX OFFICE

Summer Prom

Saturday 19th May, 7.30pm – G Live

Summer PromProm favourites, British classics old and new, and a Right Royal Fanfare set the tone for a high-spirited end to our 99th season.

Elgar’s Enigma Variations was his breakthrough piece, and still probably the best-known of his works internationally. The ‘well-known tune’ that, he declared, ‘goes with’ his Original Theme (and its Variations) is argued-over more than a century after the premiere, but almost as big a puzzle might be the man himself. Coloured perhaps by works such as the Pomp and Circumstance Marches, the popular image of him has become a commonplace: the most English of composers, a slightly pompous, jingoistic figure whose music could wax a moustache at fifty paces. The reality was of an outsider, a Catholic, a self-taught musician who struggled for many years to win acceptance by high society and the musical establishment. Yet his originality and verve ultimately triumphed over his contemporaries’ stodgy Victoriana as the first British composer since Purcell (discounting the naturalised Handel) to have made any impact on the standard repertoire, hailed by the likes of Richard Strauss as ‘the first progressive English composer!’

The Variations themselves arose from a post-prandial whim: improvising at the piano one evening, Elgar started playing the tune to his wife, and started trying to imagine how it would sound if written by some of their friends. The result is a colourful, witty, exquisitely orchestrated set of musical portraits. Actor David Leonard jets in from his more familiar role as narrator to our ever-popular family concerts to play Elgar in a unique and memorable semi-staged version of this much-loved work, introducing the variations and the characters therein with the composer’s own words.

Other highlights are two vivid pieces of British impressionism, Delius’ exquisite Song Before Sunrise, and Ireland’s masterful, rhapsodic Piano Concerto. And whilst those might be the substantial items on the menu, a Prom would not be a Prom without a great deal of froth, silliness, and tongue-in-cheek patriotism. Many of your favourites will be there, rest assured, but expect also one or two surprises…


SUMMER PROMSaturday 19th May at 7.30 pm, GLive
March – Orb and SceptreWalton
Largo and Rejoice GreatlyWalton
A Song Before SunriseDelius
Piano ConcertoIreland
Enigma VariationsElgar
Sea Songs FantasiaWood
Songs From the Last Night of the Proms
Alexandra Stevenson – Soprano
John Paul Ekins – Solo Piano
David Leonard – Narrator BOX OFFICE

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