Joseph Tawadros  photo credit: Anthony Lycett / Britten Sinfonia  photo credit: Tom Lovatt

Britten Sinfonia: The Golden Road to Samarkand

  • Frederick Delius’s incidental music to James Elroy Flecker’s verse drama, Hassan, performed 100 years after its premiere
  • World premiere of Australian-Egyptian oud virtuoso and composer Joseph Tawadros’s Three Stages of Hindsight

Friday 10 February at 7.30pm, Milton Court Concert Hall, London

Tickets: £15-£35      

Saturday 11 February at 7.30pm, Saffron Hall, Saffron Walden

Tickets: £12-£36

Continuing its focus on reinterpreting and rediscovering lesser known (and performed) works by leading British composers of the early and mid-twentieth century, Britten Sinfonia and Britten Sinfonia Voices, conducted by Jamie Phillips, bring a Delius rarity to life, recreating the composer’s colourful incidental music for James Elroy Flecker’s Baghdad-based verse drama, Hassan, one hundred years after its West End premiere. The oud, a close cousin of the lute which is powerfully evocative of the Middle East, takes centre stage in the first half of the concert, with virtuoso Australian/Egyptian oud player and composer Joseph Tawadros joining the orchestra for premiere performances of his Britten Sinfonia commissioned new work, Three Stages of Hindsight.

Although Delius never went to Iraq, poet Flecker (1884-1915) worked for Britain’s Levant consulate service, travelled widely in the region and studied ancient Islamic literature and poetry. In Flecker’s five-act verse play, The Story of Hassan and how he came to make the Golden Journey to Samarkand, a love-spurned sweet merchant in Ancient Baghdad is accidentally taken into the brutal, corrupt court of the city’s all-powerful ruler and is sickened by what he finds. The play enjoyed a successful West End run in 1923, eight years after the premature death of the playwright from tuberculosis, but subsequently faded from view. Britten Sinfonia’s recreation interweaves Delius’s music with a narration based on Flecker’s play. 

In his score for Hassan, Delius was not interested in exoticising the subject matter, writing for Western instruments and remaining faithful to his own musical language in an attempt to break new rather than walk over old musical ground. His substantial incidental music to the play – over 20 separate pieces of music –  includes preludes to each of the five acts, interludes, a serenade, fanfares, a four-movement ballet, melodramas and choruses. Conductor Jamie Phillips, describes The Serenade, perhaps the most famous movement of Hassan, as “embodying the spirit of this incidental music – a combination of the exotic harmonies of the Eastern world along with an English-style pastoral melody which could be straight from the Shropshire hills!” 

In the first half of the concert, oud virtuoso and composer Joseph Tawadros joins the orchestra in three of his own works, including the premiere of Three Stages of Hindsight. A seven-time ARIA award-winner in Australia, “whose dazzling technique dispens[es] hair-raising tempos…  writing displays a real depth of emotion… revelling in a zest for life and celebration” [The Australian], Tawadros says of his new work:

“As humans, all of us go through moments in our life where we indulge in the benefit of hindsight. We reflect on situations, meditate on them and try to reason with what was wrong or right. It’s a philosophical mental battle and I feel the music in this piece is the same. There are moments in my piece for reflection, parts of fury, anger and pain, but many parts too for hope and healing.”

Further press information, images and press tickets from:

Sophie Cohen on 07711 551 787

About Britten Sinfonia here

About Frederick Delius here

About Joseph Tawadros here


Britten Sinfonia

Britten Sinfonia Voices

Jamie Phillips           conductor

Joseph Tawadros      oud

Tawadros           Constellation (solo oud)  

Tawadros           Three Stages of Hindsight (premiere performances) 

Tawadros           Constantinople

Frederick Delius Hassan – complete incidental music