April 2018

Dear ECMC Member,

We continue with the Brandenburgs programme in April, with No.6; more of this later. But we are also looking forward to No.4 in June, for which we have two recorder and one violin soloist and cello continuo but still need a volunteer for piano continuo – not a virtuoso part. Volunteers for this or the orchestra, please contact me (Hilary) during the week or speak to one of the other Committee members at the next concert, and note that if possible we will rehearse this after or before the May concert.

We hope to have a good audience on Monday 9th April, when we have two major works.

The concert will start with Hindemith’s Sonata for Clarinet and piano of 1939. Paul Hindemith was born near Frankfurt in 1895 and died there in 1963 after a much-travelled life as violinist, violist, teacher, festival organiser, conductor and composer. Just one of his claims to fame is that he premiered Walton’s viola concerto after Tertis (who had commissioned it) turned it down. His own earlier compositions got him into difficulties with the Nazi regime, with Goebbels describing them as “degenerate” and the composer as an “atonal noisemaker.” He emigrated to Switzerland, Turkey and finally the USA, where he was a successful teacher and became a citizen in 1946, but returned to Europe in 1953. As a composer, he was keenly interested in the physical possibilities and characteristics of each instrument, and wrote sonatas and chamber pieces for many of them, including such oddities as the viola d’amore, trautonium and heckelphone. The Clarinet Sonata conveys a neo-Classical concern for formal balance and a rigorous approach to counterpoint, as well as an expressive approach to mood and melody. There are four movements: the first movement, marked Allegro Moderato, assumes a leisurely pace, with the clarinet and piano trading phrases of a plaintive, long-breathed melody. The second, though thematically connected to the first, is much more nimble and the individual parts more assertive. The third movement provides a sharp contrast with its “Very Slow” tempo indication, its more dramatic and gestural lines, and its emphasis on minor modalities. The featured instrument enhances the sense of mystery and melancholy in its languorous quasi-cadenza passages. Hindemith includes for his final movement a “Little Rondo,” in which a quirky march figure alternates with various episodes of thematic elaboration. Neither instrument rests for any length of time, but the clarinet frequently assumes a lesser role to the piano’s more extroverted moments.

Brandenburg No.6 occupies the other half of the concert. The story of these compositions need not be repeated in detail. As with the rest of the set, the full score of No.6 was left unused in the Margrave’s library until his death in 1734, when it was sold for 24 groschen – perhaps about £20-worth in modern prices  –  of silver. The autograph manuscript of the concertos was only rediscovered in the archives of Brandenburg  in 1849, and the concertos were first published in the following year. The manuscript was nearly lost in World War II, when being transported for safekeeping to Prussia by train in the care of a librarian. The train came under aerial bombardment, and the librarian escaped the train to the nearby forest, with the scores hidden under his coat.

The absence of violins is the distinctive feature of this work. “Viola da braccio” means the normal viola, and is used here to distinguish it from the viola da gamba. When the work was written in 1721, the viola da gamba was already an old-fashioned instrument: the strong supposition that one viola da gamba part was taken by his employer, Prince Leopold, also points to a likely reason for the concerto’s composition—Leopold wished to join his Kapellmeister playing music.

The two violas start the first movement with a vigorous subject in close canon, and as the movement progresses, the other instruments are gradually drawn into the seemingly uninterrupted steady flow of melodic invention which shows the composer’s mastery of polyphony. The two violas da gamba are silent in the second movement, leaving the texture of a trio sonata for two violas and continuo, although the cello has a decorated version of the continuo bass line. In the last movement, the spirit of the gigue underlies everything, as it did in the finale of the fifth concerto.

The  viola soloists will be Alison Evans and David Smith, and the orchestra will be Polly Kaufman and Janet Robinson (Violas da gamba), Helen Thomas and Paul Robinson (celli), Linda Shanks (Double bass) and Siaw-Lynn Ng (continuo).

Please come and feel free to bring non-members.

Hilary

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March 2018

Dear ECMC Member,

If you are a lower string player, please let us know if you want to play in the orchestra for Brandenburg 6 in April. Perhaps violinists who keep a viola under their beds might give them an airing, I wouldn’t say it was a particularly difficult work. We’re hoping there will be an adequate orchestra to have a run-through after the March concert​.

Our next concert is on March 12th, and will include fairly modern works. We start with the first movement (moderato assai) of a trio for clarinet, violin and piano by Hans Gal. One wonders what “very moderate” actually means, but hopefully Saori Howse (violin), Andrew Lewandowski (clarinet), and David Smith (piano) will have decided.

Hans Gal was born in 1890 to a Jewish family in a village just outside Vienna. He served in the First World War, then gained his earliest successes in opera, and became director of the Mainz Conservatory in 1929. The next three years were his most productive, brought to a sudden end by the advent of the Nazis in Germany; he immediately lost the Mainz post, went back to Vienna, and then on the Anschluss in 1938 fled to London, intending to go on from there to the United States. However, he met the musician and scholar Donald Tovey, who invited him to Edinburgh and found him work. Inevitably, he was interned as an enemy alien in Liverpool and the Isle of Man, but on his release went back to Edinburgh, where he became one of the founders of the Festival and continued to compose until his death at the age of 97. The Trio was composed in 1950

Next, Kate Day (clarinet) and David Smith (piano) will play the Fantasistykker for Clarinet and Piano Op.43 by Niels Wilhelm Gade (1817 – 1890),  a Danish composer, conductor, violinist, organist and teacher. He was born in Copenhagen, the son of a joiner and instrument maker. He began his career as a violinist with the Royal Danish Orchestra, but, supported by a government scholarship he moved to Leipzig where Mendelssohn had a considerable influence on his compositions. Working as an assistant conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra included conducting the premiere performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor. At Mendelssohn’s death in 1847, Gade was appointed to his position as chief conductor but was forced to return to Copenhagen in the spring of 1848 when war broke out between Prussia and Denmark, and settled into his career as the most important Danish musician of his day, working as organist and joint director of the Copenhagen Conservatory, where he taught both Edvard Grieg and Carl Nielsen. His koncertstykker (“concert pieces”), embraced post-1848 as works of Romantic nationalism, are sometimes based on Danish folklore.

Finally, Rupert Bawden (viola) and Chris Crocker (piano) will play the first Sonata for viola and piano Op. 11, No. 4, by Paul Hindemith (1898-1963) He was born near Frankfurt and, like Hans Gal, he served in the First World War, though only for the last few months. By then he had had a successful career both as orchestra violinist and in the touring Rebner String Quartet, but by the end of the War he had decided to switch to the viola. This was a very successful move; for instance, In 1929 he played the solo part in the premiere of William Walton’s Viola Concerto, after Lionel Tertis, for whom it was written, turned it down.

Today’s work was composed in 1919 and is the fourth of five instrumental sonatas comprising his Opus 11. It is basically romantic with impressionistic overtones, but with a few “bonkers” passages hinting at his early 1920s expressionist style. The form is unusual – a fantasy followed by two sets of variations.

February 2018

Dear ECMC Member,

Our next concert will be on Monday 12th February, preceded by a run-through of Brandenburg 5 from 7.00; string players, please confirm with David or Hilary if you want to be in the orchestra.

Andrew Lewandowski, accompanied by Li Lin Teo, will start the concert with two arrangements of songs by Mahler for Clarinet and piano, arranged by Ronald Kornfeil and Andreas Ottensamer (Principal clarinettist of the Berlin Philharmonic).

The songs are from the Kindertotenlider, poems by Friedrich Ruckert (1788-1866);

  1. Oft Denk ich, sie sind nur ausgegangen!
  2. Ich bin der Welt abhanden bekommen

We will finally start our Brandenburg Concerto series with No.5; the soloists will be  Saori Howse (violin), Theresa Cory (flute), and Li Lin Teo (piano). Bach wrote his fifth Brandenburg Concerto, BWV 1050, for harpsichord, flute and violin as soloists, and an orchestral accompaniment consisting of strings and continuo. An early version of the concerto, BWV 1050a, originated in the late 1710s, and in its final form it was dedicated to Margrave Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg on 24 March 1721. It was probably written in his later years at Cothen, when the new and more powerful “traverso” flute, then considered a French novelty, was beginning to take over from the treble recorder. Bach had met a distinguished traverso player on a visit to Dresden in 1717.

Because of the limited input of the violin and flute solo parts, as compared to that of the harpsichord, the concerto can be seen as a harpsichord concerto, moreover, the first harpsichord concerto ever written.  Nowhere throughout the concerto is the concertato violin allowed to shine with typical violinistic solo passages: Bach allotted all of the specific solo violin idiom, including extended violin-like arpeggio and bariolage passages, to the harpsichord. Nor does the naturally quiet traverso get a chance to cover the harpsichord’s contributions to the polyphony. Neither the violin nor flute soloists get solo passages faster than thirty-seconds: these very fast episodes, typical for a concertato violin, are in this concerto also exclusively reserved for the harpsichord. There are three movements: Allegro – Adagio – Allegro.

We are now planning Brandenburg No.4, hopefully in the April concert; would string payers please let Hilary or David know if you would like to be in the orchestra.

January 2018

Dear ECMC Member

Happy New Year – hopefully full of music-making.

It’s often difficult to put a programme together so soon after Christmas, but Li Lin has done so, and hopefully there will be a fair number of members there to enjoy it.

Brandenburgs

We are expecting to have a performance of Brandenburg No.5 in the February 12th concert. Any strings who would like to play in the orchestra, please let David Smith know.

By then, plans will be going ahead for Brandenburg 4. David is already fixing the soloists and has the orchestra parts – though they can easily be downloaded if you want to take a look  before booking a place in the orchestra.

 

January Concert

Our first concert in 2018 will be on Monday 8th January – tomorrow!

Our regular guests, John Maw and Stuart McGowan, will start their programme of mandola and mandoline music with Sonatas 3 and 4 Opus 4 by Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1751) Born in Venice to a wealthy paper merchant, he studied violin and singing and gained fame as an opera composer. He wrote at least fifty operas, of which twenty-eight were produced in Venice between 1723 and 1740. (Albinoni himself claimed 81 operas.) He is mainly remembered today for his instrumental music because most of his operatic works are lost, having not been published during his lifetime. However, nine collections of instrumental works were published, to be met with considerable success and consequent reprints. He is therefore known today more as a prolific composer of instrumental music (99 sonatas, 59 concerti and 9 sinfonie). In his lifetime these works were compared favourably with those of Corelli and Vivaldi and were studied by Bach. Opus 4 was published in 1708, and both sonatas are in the standard Sonata da Chiesa Slow/Fast/Slow/Fast format

Finally, they will play the Capriccio à 2 Corne soli by Johann Vierdank  (1605- 1646), a less well-known figure, whom the variety of spellings of his name (e.g.  Virdanck, Vyrdanck, Feyertagk, Feyerdank, Fierdanck) must have made even more obscure. He was a violinist, cornettist, and composer born near Dresden. In 1615 he joined the court chapel of Dresden, where he became a student of Heinrich Schütz and William Brade. After visits to Copenhagen and Lübeck, Vierdanck occupied the post of organist in Stralsund from 1635 until his death in 1646.

Paul Robinson (cello) and David Smith (piano) will then play arrangements of “Arabic Dance” and “Solveig’s Song” from Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite No.2. This originated as the incidental music to Ibsen’s 1867 play of the same name, a sprawling work little heard today, which premiered in 1876 in Oslo.. When Ibsen asked Grieg to write music for the play in 1874, he enthusiastically agreed. However, it was much more difficult for Grieg than he imagined.  Even though the premiere was a “triumphant success”, it prompted Grieg to complain bitterly that the Swedish management of the theater had given him specifications as to the duration of each number and its order: “I was thus compelled to do patchwork … In no case had I opportunity to write as I wanted … Hence the brevity of the pieces,” he said. It must have been rather like writing film music. Later, in 1888 and 1891, Grieg extracted eight movements to make two four-movement suites more suited to the concert hall, which were immediately successful.

Finally, Liz Sharma will play an “Aria” for also saxophone with Li Lin Teo at the piano. This was written for Marcel Mule (no relation to Muffin) Eugène Bozza (1905-1991) was a brilliant student at the Paris Conservatory, winning First Prizes for the violin (1924), conducting (1930), composition (1934), as well as the Grand Prix de Rome. He conducted the orchestra of the Opéra-Comique until 1948; he then became director of the Valenciennes Conservatory. His works include several operas, ballets, large-scale symphonic and choral works. But his worldwide reputation is derived mainly from his many chamber works, written for various instrumental formations, with a preference for wind instruments. As Paul Griffiths points out in his article in the New Grove, Bozza’s works reveal “ melodic fluency, elegance of structure and a consistently sensitive concern for instrumental capabilities.

Yours, Hilary