The evening’s programme included two works by Elgar – Dream Children and Wand of Youth – conducted by Barry Collett as Conductor Emeritus and founder of the Rutland Sinfonia, which is currently celebrating its 35th anniversary season. Barry was also the conductor for Saint Saens’ Piano Concerto No 2 (soloist – Margaret Fingerhut), whilst Witchell’s Rutlandia and works by Ravel and Bax were under the baton of regular conductor Paul Hilliam.
Whether as a conductor, a pianist or a promoter, Mr Collett estimates that he has probably performed or directed 90% of Elgar’s total output over the last 45 years or so. He has also been a key figure in the revival of the composer’s lesser-known works: under his direction, the Rutland Sinfonia was the first orchestra to produce commercial recordings of Elgar’s Powick Asylum Music and First World War pieces. Currently he leads Elgar in Performance, a scheme established by the Elgar Society to sponsor live performances of Elgar works which are either neglected or which require substantial resources to ensure effective staging.
‘No-one has done more to promote, perform and record the little-known gems of the Elgar oeuvre, as well as the more mainstream works,’ reflected Steven Halls in his citation. ‘The Elgar Society thanks Barry Collett and hopes that he will continue to champion Elgar’s cause for many years to come.’
The Elgar Society Medal recognises performers or scholars who have contributed significantly over the last decade or more to the wider appreciation of Elgar and his music. The award was originally open only to nominees from outside the United Kingdom, although the society has now widened the criteria to embrace citizens of the UK. Barry Collett joins a select assembly of Elgar Society Medal recipients, including conductors Leonard Slatkin, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Tadaaki Otaka, Andrew Litton, Sakari Oramo and Vladimir Ashkenazy, the composer, writer and broadcaster Anthony Payne, scholars and biographers Michael Kennedy CBE and Dr Jerrold Northrop Moore, and the Danube Symphony Orchestra.