The BBC Concert Orchestra brings a concert of music played in World War One prison camps to Watford Colosseum, with A Captive Audience

The orchestra of the German interment camp at Ruhleben racecourse

The orchestra of the German interment camp at Ruhleben racecourse

First published in News

As part of the BBC’s World War One centenary season, the BBC Concert Orchestra looks at life through the lens of prisoners held in two wartime internment camps, for a very special concert to be performed at the Watford Colosseum.

Prisoners in the two camps – one in London at Alexandra Palace and the other in Germany at Ruhleben racecourse near Berlin – were made up of men of fighting age who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but they came together, in both camps, to form orchestras.

Next week, the BBC Concert Orchestra will perform a selection of music played and written in the camps alongside readings of letters and poetry to tell the real-life story of these prisoners.

The concert will be the first time the music has been recreated in this way. The first half will feature the music from the German camp and the second half music from Alexandra Palace.

The Alexandra Palace Ragtime Waltz, composed by Anton Wuest, will be heard for the first time since it was written and performed at the London camp, where it was played by the camp orchestra. It was then published in a piano version after the war, but there is no trace of a score of the orchestral version, so it is unlikely to have been performed in this way since 1918. Andrew Cottee has orchestrated the work for this concert.

Music by internees from the German camp includes Edgar Bainton’s Two of the Three Pieces for Orchestra, written as incidental music to Shakespeare’s plays put on in the German camp, and Benjamin Dale’s Prunella, which was written as incidental music for the play Prunella by Laurence Housman, and Bryceson Treharne’s The Aftermath, for voice and piano. All three pieces have been performed since the war but this is the first time they have been brought together in this way.

There will also be performances of pieces by well-known composers, such as Elgar, Nicolai, Saint- Saëns, Sullivan, Wagner, Bizet and Strauss that the orchestra members are known to have played in concerts during their internments.

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