COMMITTEE member Bill Butts presented a complete programme by Jean Sibelius in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Sibelius’ birth at the March meeting.

The music of Sibelius, who was born in 1865 and died in 1957, played an important role in the formation of the Finnish national identity.

The first half of the programme was dedicated to some of his best known and loved compositions, the first being the Intermezzo from the Karelia Suite. This was followed by the tone poem, The Swan of Tuonela, played by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Violin Concerto in D minor followed, played magnificently by Ida Haendel in a live recording from the Royal Festival Hall in 1993.

Bill related to members that Sibelius had, at the age of 15, been an accomplished violinist with hopes of being a virtuoso player. Sadly, as he continued his studies, he realised he had begun his training for the exacting career of a virtuoso too late.

But he greatly appreciated Ida Haendel’s playing of his concerto and wrote a letter of appreciation to her. He said: “I congratulate you on your performance of my work but I congratulate myself much more for having an interpreter of your standard!”

The symphonic poem Finlandia ended the first half, composed for the Press Celebrations of 1899, a covert protest against increasing censorship from the Russian Empire.

A live recording from the Royal Festival Hall in 1954, with two movements of Symphony No. 2, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham, followed the interval.

Sir Simon Rattle was then heard conducting part of Symphony No. 5 with Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

Treasurer Haydn Everitt gave the vote of thanks and commended Bill on his choice of music.

The next meeting is at the usual venue, the Minster Rooms, on Tuesday, April 21, at 7.30pm.

Further details are available from secretary Ann Hipwood on 01460- 62047.