Valid until July 2024. This may not be adapted without agreement.

Roderick Elms studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London, which has awarded him an Associateship (ARAM) in recognition of his contribution to the music profession. Since leaving the RAM in the mid-seventies, he has broadcast regularly for BBC Radio 3 and Radio 2’s Friday Night is Music Night. He has made many recordings with the BBC Concert Orchestra including music by Charles Williams (notably The Dream of Olwen) and film music for piano and orchestra by Spolianski. For more than twenty-five years, he has enjoyed a close relationship with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and their recordings together include Warsaw Concerto (a firm favourite with Classic FM), Rozsa’s Spellbound Concerto, Bath’s Cornish Rhapsody and da Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain. Other recordings include Frank Martin’s ‘Ballade for Piano and Orchestra’ with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Mozart with the London Symphony Orchestra. Concert performancers have taken him to many of the world’s great concert halls, and he has toured extensively in Europe, the USA, the Far East and South Africa.

For many years, Roderick Elms was the London pianist to the legendary cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, with whom he gave many performances. These included a recital at Lancaster House, London for European Prime Ministers and Heads of State in 1991, marking the Inauguration of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. For more than ten years, he was organist for the London Symphony Orchestra, with which he recorded an extensive list of titles for EMI and Chandos. This included all the major oratorios of Elgar and the award-winning recording of Britten’s War Requiem conducted by Richard Hickox, on which he accompanied the choristers of St Paul’s Cathedral directed by the late John Scott. As an organist, he has also recorded The Gentle Art of Percy Whitlock, featuring music by Percy Whitlock played on the organs of Brentwood Cathedral and Rugby School Chapel. He has also contributed to many television and film soundtracks such as Poirot, Aliens, Dangerous Liaisons and the epic The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He has performed as an organist in most of the country’s main concert venues as well as St Paul’s, Lincoln, Hereford and Worcester cathedrals.

With a lifelong passion for choral music, Roderick Elms has regularly acted as a guest choral director, notable with the Royal Choral Society. He was also was a founder-director of the respected Redbridge Youth Choir, formed in the mid-seventies. The group still continues to sing, performing concerts that raise substantial sums for charitable causes.

As a composer, Roderick Elms’ compositions and arrangements have become very popular in recent years, and they are performed widely at home and abroad both by small groups and major sympony orchestras. Recordings of his music include two CDs with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Stephen Bell. A Little Fall-ish! includes Cygncopations for cor anglais and his popular ‘Concertino for Celeste’. Festive Frolic contains a selection of choral and orchestral music for Christmas, together with the tenor Mark Wilde and organist, Stuart Nicholson. Moody Moves, an album of his chamber music, was released in 2012 to great acclaim. This CD includes his sextet for piano and winds (with The Aurora Ensemble), Two Anglo Fandangos for guitar and organ (with Victoria Green, guitar and Stuart Nicholson, organ), as well as Twelve Astrological Preludes for piano performed by the composer. More recently, the Hallé released a recording of his festive piece for organ and orchestra, Noel!, conducted by Stephen Bell with the composer as soloist. The work was chosen by John Rutter for inclusion in his annual Christmas concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. A new Christmas CD, A Windy Christmas, was released in 2019 on the Herald label. This contains festive instrumental music for wind as well as several new choral arrangements. This was recorded by Chaconne Brass, The Aurora Ensemble, The Joyful company of Singers, oboist John Anderson, pianist Joanna Smith and conducted by the late Bramwell Tovey. Roderick Elms’ music is published by Camden Music, London.

In September 2023, the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Barry Wordsworth, recorded Roderick Elms’ new symphony Visions of St Anne for CD release by Signum Classics. The album also includes pieces for guitar and orchestra played by Carlos Bonell, a new concertino for bass clarinet De Profundis played by Derek Hannigan, and Paper Dances for piano duet, performed by the composer with his wife and co-pianist Joanna Smith.

Roderick Elms’ autobiography, Just a Little From the Top, was published in 2020 by The Choir Press.



Valid until July 2024. This may not be adapted without agreement.

Roderick Elms studied at the Royal Academy of Music. He appears in concerts and recordings with most of Britain’s major orchestras as both a principal keyboard player and soloist. He has broadcast regularly for the BBC for more than forty years and has made many solo recordings with the Royal Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, London Symphony and BBC Concert orchestras. His recording of Warsaw Concerto with the RPO remains a Classic FM favourite. For several years, he was London pianist to the eminent cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and organist to the London Symphony Orchestra.

As an organist, he has recorded an extensive list for EMI and Chandos, including all the major oratorios of Elgar and the award-winning recording of Britten’s War Requiem with the LSO. A recording of organ music by Percy Whitlock was released by Herald in 2010. Television and film scores on which he has performed include Poirot, Aliens, Dangerous Liaisons and the epic The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Roderick Elms’ compositions are widely performed both in this country and North America and are published by Camden Music, London. In 2006 Dutton-Epoch released an album of his instrumental music (A Little Fall-ish!) with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and an album of his Christmas music (Festive Frolic) was released on the Naxos label in 2007 performed by the RPO and the Joyful Company of Singers.

Roderick Elms is married to the pianist Joanna Smith, for whom he wrote Paper Dances, a concert piece for piano duet and orchestra, that was recorded and broadcast by the BBC in September 2008. A CD of his chamber music (Moody Moves) was released by Herald in 2012 and a new Christmas CD (A Windy Christmas) was released for Christmas 2019.

By their very nature, organs have the power to excite, but the only real demands of playing this exciting chord are making sure the organ is still turned on, pulling out some stops, waiting for the previous section to finish, getting a nod from the conductor, and playing the chord. Contrary to what might be thought, there's absolutely no necessity to count the hundreds of preceding bars in which you don't play! This wonderful moment is actually marked to be played just forte (loud) – not very loud, not as loud as possible, and certainly not full organ. Playing at the indicated volume produces the required dramatic contrast with the extended and extremely quiet section that precedes it. However, some conductors and promoters routinely attempt to insist on this being played as loudly as possible. To do so is totally unnecessary; it's not what the composer asked for and shows the organist's hand ahead of the tumultuous ending of the work, complete with trumpets and timpani, therefore allowing no further excitement to be summoned from the organ.

Many of the available recordings are balanced to perpetuate the impression of the organ as a solo instrument, while others, notably Simon Preston with the Berlin Philharmonic, keep the instrument as an appropriate feature of the symphonic texture.

To think of this symphony broadly in respect of just one chord and the ensuing rumbustious section of this great piece, would be to do it a great disservice. For many, the second, slow section of the first movement is the jewel in the work's symphonic crown (the work is actually in two movements, each with two sub-movements). This slow 'movement' opens with the first and very quiet entry of the organ, providing a bedrock for the exquisite theme played by the violins. The organ plays just a textural and accompanying role throughout.

The second movement opens with a scherzo-like section, and this provides some fireworks for the orchestral concertante pianist. This part can be significantly more demanding than that for the organ, especially when the conductor decides to go rogue in the middle of the virtuosic scale passages! A particular pleasure afforded to the pianist is the camaraderie of a second pianist who joins him at the start of the finale to play a little tinkling piano duet – a most beautiful moment reminiscent of  The Aquarium movement from Saint–Saëns' The Carnival of the Animals. The second pianist's presence also affords some welcome company during the frequently slow progress of first-movement rehearsals, which can offer particular orchestral challenges, especially if an inappropriate tempo is set.

There are symphonic and choral works which have significantly more visible and challenging organ parts – you only have to look at the near virtuosic demands of the organ writing in parts of the first movement of Mahler's 8th Symphony, for example. However, this is not in any way to detract from the beauty and emotional power of this symphony, which displays all the wonderfully crafted features which would be expected from Saint-Saëns. Beyond 'the chord', the work's popularity and immediate appeal are a testament to the composer's innate craftsmanship.

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