Saturday 29th June 2024, 7.30pm

St Mary's Church, Henley-on-Thames, RG9 2AU


Jaques Cohen

Guest Artist

Emma Johnson


Grieg Peer Gynt Suite

Weber Clarinet Concerto No. 2 

Shostakovitch Symphony No.9

HSO is delighted to present its Summer concert in the beautiful surroundings of St Mary’s Church, Henley. Our guest conductor will be Jacques Cohen, Principal Conductor of the Cohen Ensemble (formerly the Isis Ensemble) which performs regularly at London’s Southbank Centre and around the UK. He has conducted at the UK’s leading conservatoires where he has also given master classes and composition seminars. Jacques is Principal Conductor of the Royal College of Music Junior Department Symphony Orchestra and Lloyd’s of London Choir.

Emma Johnson is one of the few clarinettists to have established a career as a solo performer, after winning the BBC Young Musician of the Year at the age of 17. She has appeared as soloist with many of the world’s leading orchestras, playing all the major clarinet works as well as special commissions.Emma has made 30 recordings to date; tracks from her recent album with the BBC Concert Orchestra, English Fantasy, have been streamed 5 million times on Spotify whilst her recording of the Stanford and Finzi Concertos was nominated for a Gramophone Award. Her radio work includes Artist of the Week for both BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM. Videos of Emma’s performances and masterclasses can be seen on her YouTube channel. She plays an instrument made by the English clarinet maker, Peter Eaton.

Grieg was very flattered when, in 1874, Ibsen asked him to compose incidental music for his new play Peer Gynt, but Grieg found the task difficult. The story tells of the downfall and subsequent redemption of a Norwegian peasant anti-hero. The influence of folk music on Grieg’s writing was part of the search for a distinctive musical identity amidst a widespread growing nationalist fervour in Norway. Grieg himself said the Hall of the Mountain King, now the theme music for Alton Towers, ‘reeked of cowpats’.

Weber’s interest in the clarinet began in 1811, when he met Heinrich Baermann, the greatest clarinettist in Germany, for whom he composed two concertos. The Concerto no. 2 is the more popular, with a strikingly operatic character to the solo part. The final movement, the Polonaise, finishes with one of the most glittery, virtuosic passages in the clarinet repertoire, consisting mainly of arpeggios and scalic runs in sextuplet semiquavers, and marked “brillante”.

Shostakovich wrote his Ninth Symphony in 1945 after Russia’s defeat of Hitler. It should have been a glorious ode to Stalin and Russia’s heroes, but instead Shostakovich dreamed up a subversive neo-Classical construction which seemed to make fun of the cult of the leader. According to an American critic, ‘the Russian composer should not have expressed his feelings about the defeat of Nazism in such a childish manner’, but in refusing to celebrate the victory along the lines demanded by Stalin, Shostakovich not only stood up to the dictator’s power, he belittled it. After the premiere, the piece was not performed again until after Stalin’s death.



£22 reserved (central aisle), £20/£18 unreserved, U16/student £10. 

Available from the HSO Box Office via email to or on 07726 459261.

Forthcoming Concerts 2024-25

Saturday 16th November 2024

St Mary’s Church, Henley-on-Thames

Programme TBA

Tickets are available either from the HSO Box Office on 07726 459261 / or by request via our contact form.

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