A Happy New Year to all!
ECMC’s new year starts on Monday 9th January with our 124th concert, which especially feature voice and clarinet. Do bring your own programme, which is available for download here.
Please note that the following concert will be on February 13th and could hardly be more contrasted, with trio sonatas for recorder duet and continuo and a Rachmaninov piano concerto. Please let John Heffernan know if you have anything else to offer.
Back to next Monday. First we have a group of Roger Quilter songs performed by Jo Parton (mezzo) with David Smith at the piano. These are:
- Love’s Philosophy – Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822)
- Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal – Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809 – 1892)
- Music When Soft Voices Die – Shelley
Quilter 1857-1953) had a privileged upbringing as the son of a baronet, and studied composition for five years in Germany. His reputation was made almost entirely by his songs.
Next, Andrew Lewandowski, Saori Howse and Li Lin Teo play the Khachaturian Trio for clarinet, violin and piano (1932). was still a student of Myaskovsky at the Moscow Conservatory in the early 1930s when he wrote the trio, and yet it displays the same rhythmic and harmonic devices that mark his mature works. What first distinguishes this Clarinet Trio from nearly all others written earlier is his use of the violin rather than the mellower-sounding viola or cello. The higher-sounding string instrument becomes more of a partner to the clarinet, sharing the melodic duties throughout the piece. In three movements, the trio displays Khachaturian’s trademark use of crossrhythms, folk songs, and harmonies that could be thorny at some times or bittersweet at others. We are to hear the first and third movements. The opening Andante con dolore, molto espressione is a duet for the clarinet and violin, almost improvisational, with the piano accompaniment adding a complex layer seemingly in rhythmic conflict with the other instruments. The Moderato finale is a set of variations on an Uzbekistani folk song, effectively contrasting the timbres of the instruments and showing off the clarinet as a folk instrument. Prokofiev was so impressed with this piece that he was able to see that it was performed and published in Paris soon after it was completed.
Jo and David will now return to the platform to perform five Shakespeare settings, the first two by Eric Coates (1886 – 1957). Best known for his “Knightsbridge” orchestral suite, Sleepy Lagoon (Desert Island discs) and “Dam Busters” march, Coates started his professional life as a viola player under the baton of Henry Wood, but soon found he could make a good living by composing light music, especially songs and ballads. The earliest Shakespeare settings were performed at a Promenade concert in 1909 and “Tell me where is fancy bred” for a performance of the play in 1912. We will hear:
- Tell Me Where is Fancy Bred? – The Merchant of Venice,
- Orpheus with his Lute – Henry VIII
Roger Quilter’s set of “Three Shakespeare Songs” Op.6, was composed in 1905. and were the most successful of his seventeen Shakespeare settings. Commentators seem to have varied opinions of them, varying from “excruciatingly sloppy” to “rhythmically powerful.” Jo and David conclude with:
- O Mistress Mine – Twelfth Night
- Come away death – Twelfth Night
- Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind – As You Like It
We finish with a complete clarinet work, 3 Intermezzi, by Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924), played by Andrew Lewandowski and Li Lin Teo. This was an important instrument for the composer – there was the great Concerto Op.80 (1902) and the two Fantasies for Clarinet and String Quartet from the early nineteen-twenties. However the earliest composition for the instrument was the Three Intermezzi from 1879. The first intermezzo, Andante espressivo, interestingly is dreamy and meditative although there is a sprightly middle section. The second, Allegro agitato, races out of the starting gate a cross between a tarantella and a quick galloping rondo. The slower middle section provides fine contrast. The finale, Allegretto scherzando, begins playfully. The slower middle section, again providing a fine contrast, is dignified and more serious.
The Intermezzi are truly lovely pieces. It is ‘conventional’ to suggest that Brahms is ‘not far away’ and that one of the exemplars was Schumann and his Romances for Oboe and Piano. Yet there is a certain magic about these pieces that must surely be recognised as Stanford’s own, and it has been said that he helped to found a British style and almost single-handedly jump-started the English chamber music repertoire. The Intermezzi were composed in 1879 and were first performed at a Cambridge University Musical Society concert the following year. The work had violin and cello versions right from first publication, but this was only because the publisher insisted.
See you soon, Hilary