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    7 May 2017 - Castalian Quartet

     

    Castalian Quartet

    String Quartet

    Sini Simonen - Violin
    Daniel Roberts - Violin
    Charlotte Bonneton - Viola
    Christopher Graves - Cello

     

    Programme

    1. Haydn : String Quartet in D, Op. 76, no. 5
    2. Brahms : String Quartet No. 3 in B flat, Op. 67
    3. Beethoven : String Quartet in E minor, Op.59 No. 2 "Rasumovsky"

     

    Artist Biography





     

    Formed in 2011, the Castalian Quartet studied with Oliver Wille (Kuss Quartet) at the Hannover University of Music, Drama and Media, graduating with a Masters. They have also worked with Thomas Brandis, Levon Chilingirian, Simon Rowland-Jones and members of the Endellion Quartet.

    The Castalian Quartet is rapidly emerging as an exciting voice on the international chamber music scene. Over the last three years they have won top prizes at major international competitions including 3rd Prize at the 2016 Banff International Quartet Competition (where they were the only European quartet to progress to the live rounds), 1st Prize and three special awards at the 2015 Lyon International Competition, and in 2013 1st Prize and the Audience Prize at the Kammermusik Hannover Next Generation Competition. In 2016 they were selected for representation by Young Classical Artists Trust (YCAT).

    The Quartet has performed widely throughout Europe. Engagements this season include recitals at Wigmore Hall, the Sommerliche Musiktage Hitzacker, the Niedersächsische Sparkassenstiftung Mittagskonzerte in Hannover, Quartetaffairs in Frankfurt (broadcast by NDR), the Festival de Musique de Conques in France, Festival Autunno Musicale near Naples and Turin Chamber Music Series. In 2017 they return to Aldeburgh and will be Artist in Residence at the Festival Musique d'Été à Suzette near Avignon. They continue to give recitals throughout the UK.

    Highlights over the last two years have included recitals at the Heidelberger Frühling Quartet Festival, the Ceresio Estate Festival in Lugano, the Hamburg Chamber Music Series, International Musikfest Goslar and NDR Concert Hall in Hannover. In the UK the Quartet has appeared at Jubilee Hall Aldeburgh, the Cheltenham Festival broadcast by BBC Radio 3, Lake District Summer Music, Peasmarsh Festival, Purcell Room and Kings Place. Further afield the Quartet toured China in 2013, under the auspices of the British Council. They have collaborated with Nils Mönkemeyer, Alasdair Beatson, the Chilingirian Quartet and Simon Rowland-Jones.

    The Quartet has been the beneficiary of awards from the Royal Over-Seas League (2011 Elias Fawcett Trust Award), the Countess of Munster Trust, the Tunnell Trust, the Royal Philharmonic Society (2016 Albert and Eugenie Frost Chamber Music Prize), St. Peter's Eaton Square, Kirckman Concert Society and Mozarteum de France.

     Read more...


     

    >

    Programme Notes

    are available here
     

     


     

    23 April 2017 - Jess Gillam

     

    Jess Gillam

    Saxophone

    Piano Steve Lodder

     

    Programme

    1. Pedro Iturralde: Pequena Czarda
    2. Dave Heath: The Celtic
    3. Jeremy Wall: Elegy for Trane
    4. Bela Bartok: Three Hungarian Folksongs from Csik
    5. Benedetto Marcello: Adagio from Oboe Concerto in D Minor
    6. Chick Corea Arr. John Harle: Selection from "Children's Songs"
    7. Claude Debussy: Syrinx
    8. Maurice Ravel: Piece en forme de Haberna
    9. Peter DeRose arr. Rudy Wiedoeft: Deep Purple
    10. John Williams: Escapades
    11. Phil Woods: Sonata For Alto Sax And Piano (First Movement)

     

    Artist Biography

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    18 year old saxophonist Jess Gillam from Ulverston, Cumbria, began playing saxophone 11 years ago, aged 7.

    In 2016, Jess made history as the first ever saxophonist to win the Woodwind Final of BBC Young Musician of the Year and after competing in the Semi Final, she reached the Grand Final where she performed a concerto with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at London’s Barbican to critical acclaim.

    Jess was also recently awarded Musician of the Year at the Cumbria Culture Awards presented by Melvyn Bragg. She has a busy performance schedule and has made a guest appearance with Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra and has performed as a concerto soloist with the Worthing Symphony Orchestra (in the same series as Nicola Benedetti, Emma Johnson and Julian Bliss). Upcoming concerto highlights include performances with the Southbank Sinfonia and the Northern Chamber Orchestra.

    Recently, Jess was the youngest of 2,600 delegates to perform at the World Saxophone Congress in Strasbourg. She performed a recital consisting entirely of world premieres by some of the world’s leading saxophonists: Barbara Thompson, John Harle and Rob Buckland as well as one of her own compositions.

    Jess commenced her undergraduate studies at the Royal Northern College of Music this September, and performance recitals and concertos throughout the UK. This year, Jess is proud to be the Young Ambassador for the Ulverston International Music Festival.

    Read more...

     

    Steve Lodder is a keyboardist, composer, and organist. He played piano as a child and took up organ at age 14. He studied organ at Gonville and Caius College, and after completing his studies he taught music and wrote for film and television.

    Lodder became active in jazz music, playing with Maggie Nicols, John Etheridge, Harry Beckett, and Dierdre Cartwright.[1] He toured with George Russell in the 1980s, and in 1989 accompanied Carol Grimes; later that year he toured with Simply Red.

    Since 1989 Lodder has worked with Andy Sheppard, on several projects (including Soft on the Inside, Co-Motion, Inclassifiable, and 20th century Saxophones). He plays synthesizer on some of Sheppard's work. He has led his own small ensembles since 1992. In 1994 he accompanied Ernestine Anderson and worked with Brazilian ensemble Nois.

    From 1995 Lodder worked with Paul McCartney on his Standing Stone composition, which was premiered and recorded in 1997. In 1996 he recorded on church organ with saxophonist Mark Ramsden. He returned to tour with George Russell from 1997, and was with Carla Bley in 1998 for performances of Escalator Over the Hill. His first release under his own name was 2001's Bout Time 2.

    A founding member of the ‘Zappatistas’,an outfit led by John Etheridge that reworks the catalogue of Frank Zappa, with arrangements mostly by Steve. Other notable projects include ‘Above the Clouds’ with Mark Ramsden,‘Threeway’, a trio with trumpeter Steve Waterman and bassist Ben Crosland,touring and recording with the Sardinian singer Filomena Campus, drummer Dylan Howe’s Subterraneans,and Alison Rayner’s 5tet. Over the last 10 years Steve has had 3 books published;one on the ‘70’s output of Stevie Wonder,one on the Hammond organ and it’s players,and the latest, the ‘Keyboard Handbook’, [with Janette Mason]. A solo piano album,’...tied up with strings’, was released Nov 2014 on the Sospiro noir label.

     


     

    Programme Notes

    are available here

     

     

     


     

    9 April 2017 - Alexander Ullman

     

     

    Alexander Ullman

    Piano

     

    Programme

    1. JS Bach - Toccata in C minor BWV911 (1714)
    2. Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 6 in F, Op. 10 No. 2
    3. Liszt - Transcendental Etude No. 11 : Harmonies du soir, S.139
    4. Schumann - Papillons, Op. 2
    5. Stravinsky - Three transcriptions from “The Firebird” (trans. Guido Agosti, 1928)
    6. Tchaikovsky - The Nutcracker Piano Suite (trans. Michael Pletnev 1978)

     

    Artist Biography





     

    Born in 1991 in London, Alexander Ullman studied at the Purcell School of Music with William Fong, and at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia with Leon Fleisher, Ignat Solzhenitsyn and Robert McDonald. In 2014 he was selected for representation by Young Classical Artists Trust (YCAT)and he completes his Masters in performance at the Royal College of Music with Dmitri Alexeev.

    Some of the works in his programme are in preparation for his participation in the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in June.

    During his studies Alexander has won numerous awards at international competitions including 1st Prize at the International Competition in Memoriam Ferenc Liszt (2012), the Lagny-sur-Marne International Competition (2013), the Tunbridge Wells International Young Concert Artists Competition (2012), and 2nd Prize at the Isidor Bajic Memorial International Competition (2014).

    He has given concerts throughout Europe, Asia and America, taking him to venues and festivals in Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark and India. Recent engagements include a tour of China and recitals at the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Archive Nationales (Paris), Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Copenhagen), Auditorio de la Diputación de Alicante, the Festival Pontino & Teatro Rossini (Italy), La Jolla Arts Festival (California), and concerts in the UK, Spain, Germany and France with the Dover Quartet.   Read more...


    Programme Notes

    are available here

     

     

     


     

    8 May 2016 - Trio Isimsiz

    Trio Isimsiz

    Piano

     

    Programme

    1. Schubert - piano trio no. 2 in E flat D929
    2. interval
    3. Dvorak - piano trio in F min. op. 65

     

    Artist Biography



     

    The Trio Isimsiz was formed in 2009 at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, under the guidance of Louise Hopkins, Carole Presland and Alasdair Tait. They have undertaken residencies at the Banff Centre, Canada and Mozarteum, Salzburg, and participated in masterclasses with Andras Schiff, Steven Isserlis, Menahem Pressler, Thomas Riebl, Wolfgang Reddick, the Gould Piano Trio and Takács Quartet. In 2015 the Trio attended IMS Prussia Cove working with Ference Rados.

    Concert highlights over the last year have included recitals at Wigmore Hall, Barbican, Purcell Room, Sage Gateshead, Colston Hall, Brighton Dome, the Newbury Spring, Peasmarsh and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festivals. They collaborated with Anthony Marwood, Richard Lester and Aleksander Madzar.

    Following a successful residency in Aldeburgh earlier this year, the Trio return for a recital in the Britten Weekend and a further residency in 2016. They give recitals at Wigmore Hall, the Fundacion Juan March in Madrid and throughout the UK. Further afield they make their debut in New York.   Read more...


     

    Programme Notes

    are available here

     


     

    24 April 2016 - Sophie Westbrooke

     

     

    Programme Notes

    are available here

    Sophie Westbrooke

    Recorder

     

    Accompanied by David Gordon on the Harpsichord

     

    Programme

    1. Lamento di Tristano and La Rota de La Manfredina - Anon
    2. La Tricotea, Tres Morillas, Enemiga le soy madre, Vamos Vamos a Cenar and Pensad ora ’n al from the Cancionero de Palacio - Anon
    3. Recercadas 1 and 2 - Diego Ortiz
    4. Amarilli Mia Bella - van Eyck
    5. Flow my Tears / Pavane Lacrymae - Dowland / van Eyck
    6. Sonata Prima - Dario Castello
    7. Sonata Representiva - H.I.F. Biber
    8. Marokawia’s Lament and Song of the Dancing Skunk from Moon Dances - Walter Mays
    9. The Alchemist and the Catflap; Tom’s Midnight Garden; Brandy for 4 - David Gordon
    10. Les Baricades Mistérieuses/Mysterious Barracudas - François Couperin/David Gordon
    11. Five on the Dice - Sophie Westbrooke
    12. A set of Brazilian choros: Chorinho pra Ele; Choro Moreno; Corta Jaca

     

    Artist Biography


     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Sophie began playing the recorder with her mother at the age of five, as a way of learning to read music to aid her violin and piano studies. She moved to formal lessons a year later and passed her Grade 8 at the age of nine. Sophie studies recorder with Barbara Law at the Junior Royal Academy of Music and often plays alongside 2012 BBC Young Musician Finalist Charlotte Barbour-Condini. In 2013 Sophie passed her ABRSM Performance Diploma with Distinction, and she has also gained distinction at Grade 8 on both piano and violin.

    Sophie was the second-ever recorder player to reach the Concerto Finals of the BBC Young Musician Competition, performing Gordon Jacob’s ‘Suite for recorder and strings’ arranged for chamber orchestra by David Knotts. Following the competition, Sophie has performed concertos with Henham Chamber Orchestra and National Youth Recorder Orchestra. This summer she toured Germany and Belgium as concerto soloist with the Lydian Orchestra.

    Sophie aims to expand awareness of the recorder through the performance of a wide repertoire of music from the medieval to the modern. She is experimental in interpretation, often using improvisation and different combinations of instruments to accompany her ever-growing collection of different instruments. A music scholar at Sevenoaks School, Sophie also participates in many choirs, orchestras and chamber groups. Her string quartet was chamber champion in the Pro Corda National Chamber Music competition 2014.

    Read more...

     

    Harpsichordist, jazz pianist and composer David Gordon trained as a mathematician at Bristol University before turning to music full time, and he has since toured all over the world with various groups, including the gypsy tango band Zum, the baroque orchestra The English Concert, the piano-led jazz group David Gordon Trio and the early music/jazz group Respectable Groove, and has also toured with violinists Nigel Kennedy and Andrew Manze and singer Jacqui Dankworth. A self-taught jazz player, he has appeared on more than 20 CDs, both as composer, leader and sideman; this has also led to many of his works being broadcast on national radio both here and abroad, and to having compositions commissioned by festivals, publishers and fellow musicians.

    Read more...


     

    Programme Notes

    are available here

     


     

    3 April 2016 - Martin James Bartlett

     

    Martin James Bartlett

    Piano

     

    Programme

    1. BEETHOVEN: Sonata in E flat, Op.31 No.3
    2. LISZT: Vallee d'Obermann (No.6 from Annees de pelerinage, premiere annee)
    3. interval
    4. SCHUBERT: Impromptu No. 2 in E-flat major Op. 90
    5. SCHUBERT: Impromptu No. 3 in G-flat major Op. 90
    6. SCHUBERT: Impromptu No. 4 in A-flat major Op. 90
    7. BARBER: Piano Sonata Op. 26
    8. WILD/GERSHWIN: Virtuoso Etude No.4 ‘Fascinating Rhythm’

     

    Artist Biography

     

    At the age of 17, Martin James Bartlett was awarded the title of BBC Young Musician 2014. His winning performance of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, with conductor Kirill Karabits and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, received overwhelming acclaim from Edinburgh’s Usher Hall audience and from those tuning into the live recording broadcast on BBC4 and BBC Radio 3.

    Martin began his piano studies with Emily Jeffrey at the Royal College of Music Junior Department when he was 8 years of age, and then at the Purcell School also some 5 years later. This autumn, he commenced his undergraduate studies with Vanessa Latarche at the Royal College of Music, notably as a coveted Foundation Scholar. Martin also previously studied the bassoon and the recorder, achieving Grade 8 Distinction on all three instruments by the age of 12.

    Throughout these formative years, Martin enjoyed considerable success in numerous competitions and festivals. During his time at the Royal College of Music Junior Department, Martin won the Gordon Turner Competition, the Teresa Carreño Competition, the Angela Bull Competition and the Peter Morrison Concerto Prize. He was several years running a top prize winner also in the Jaques Samuel Junior Department Piano Festival. In 2012, Martin was granted a Tsukanov Scholarship, which generously supported his final years of study at the RCMJD. During his time at the Purcell School, Martin won the Middle School Concerto Competition, the Freddy Morgan Competition, the Wigmore Competition (both solo and chamber) and the Senior School Concerto Competition. At the end of his studies at both RCMJD and Purcell, Martin was honoured to be awarded the prestigious Leaver’s Prize for Outstanding Musical Contribution, the Esther Coleman Prize and the Rosemary Rapaport Prize.   Read more...


     

    Programme Notes

    are available here

     


     

    26 April 2015 - The Villiers String Quartet

     

    The Villiers String Quartet

    String Quartet

     

    Programme

    1. Haydn String Quartet ; "The Lark"
    2. Beethoven - String quartet op. 18, no. 6.
    3. A mystery work
    4. Dvorak - String quartet, the "American"

     

    Artist Biography


     

    The Villiers Quartet have been appointed Quartet-in-Residence at Oxford University for a period of 3 years, starting in 2015.

    James Dickenson studied both in the UK and the USA and lists Lydia Mordkvitch, Danny Phillips, Jerry Horner, Wen Zhou Li, and Christopher Rowland as some of his many teachers and mentors. After graduating from the Royal Northern College of Music, James left the UK to lead the Degas Quartet in the USA. With this quartet James gave concerts all over the USA, in Carnegie Hall and at the Aspen Music Festival, and held various residencies in over ten universities. Since leaving the quartet in 2007, James returned to the UK to continue his teaching, performing, and chamber music career. An advocate of new music, James has worked closely with many American composers, including Jeffrey Mumford, Andrew Waggoner, and he is currently commissioning a new piece for violin from Shafer Mahoney.

    Japanese-born violinist Tamaki Higashi started violin at the age of seven and was a multiple winner of the South Japan Music Competition in her hometown of Kagoshima. She was invited to study with Lewis Kaplan in New York City, and she received both her bachelors and masters degrees from the Mannes College of Music. After graduating in 2002 she founded the Degas Quartet. Together with her husband James, the Degas Quartet held residencies at Syracuse University and with the Western Piedmont Symphony, working closely with the Cassatt Quartet and Earl Carlyss of the Juilliard Quartet. The Degas Quartet toured frequently within the United States and was featured live on NPR broadcasts, appearing in many prestigious venues and festivals including Carnegie Hall, Aspen Music Festival, and the Library of Congress.

    Tamaki and James moved to the UK in 2007, and since then she has enjoyed a busy schedule as recitalist, teacher, and chamber musician. A passionate advocate for music education and community outreach, Tamaki organised several music projects in North Carolina, USA and Kagoshima, Japan, bringing chamber music to local schools and children's groups.

    She plays on a fine Italian violin by Antonio Ungarini of Fabriano, 1740.

    Carmen Flores attended Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and studied viola at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, Canada. Her principal teachers were Yizhak Schotten and Steven Dann. In 2007 she was appointed Principal Viola of the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, the orchestra of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. She has also performed as guest principal viola with the orchestras of the Canadian Opera Company and the English National Opera.

    Nick Stringfellow began his musical education at Chetham’s School of Music, performing in masterclasses at an early age with Heinrich Schiff and Janos Starker. After further study at the Royal Northern College of Music with Clive Greensmith, he completed his training at the Royal College of Music, studying jointly with Anna Shuttleworth and Anthony Pleeth.

    Nick cut his chamber music teeth as cellist with the London Mozart Ensemble alongside violinist David le Page. He is Principal Cellist with the Orchestra of the Swan, often appearing as soloist with the orchestra and taking part in its extensive education and outreach programmes. Nick has performed with many ensembles including the Fitzwilliam String Quartet and the Brook Street Band, and he has recorded for EMI, Naxos, Somm and Orfeo labels. He is the featured cellist on Schott’s Baroque around the World series and his trio Spirituoso is resident ensemble at Handel House.  Read more...


     

    Programme Notes

    are available here

     


     

    12 April 2015 - Ji Liu

     

    Ji Liu

    Piano

     

    Programme

    1. Busoni - Sonatina no. 6, Carmen Fantasy
    2. Schubert - Fantasia in C. op 15, the "Wanderer"
    3. Beethoven - Sonata in C minor, op. 13, "Pathetique"
    4. Gershwin / Earl Wild - 3 virtuoso etudes : Man I love, Embraceable You, I got rhythm
    5. Liszt / Gounod - Faust Waltz

     

    Artist Biography

     

    In 2014 Ji’s debut CD Piano Reflections was released by Classic FM and immediately went on to become No.1 in the classical charts.

    Born in 1990, Ji Liu studied at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. In 2005 and 2006 he took part in the Verbier Festival & Academy where he received the Tabor Piano Award and CUBS Prize from the UBS Bank. He went on to study with Dmitri Bashkirov at the Escuela Superior de Musica Reina Sofia in Madrid and the Royal Academy of Music with Christopher Elton where he completed his Masters on piano and composition. He was selected for representation by Young Classical Artists Trust (YCAT) in 2013.

    Engagements during the 2014/15 season include his debut with the Philharmonia Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall, and appearances as soloist with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vasily Petrenko at the Royal Albert Hall, and in China. He gives a series of performances of Bach’s Goldberg Variations at Wigmore Hall, the Bristol Proms and at the Holywell Room in Oxford, and takes part in the Nottingham International Piano Series. Earlier this year Ji performed Rachmaninov’s Concerto No.2 at the Barbican and Liszt’s Totentanz at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and gave recitals at The Sage Gateshead, the Newbury Spring, Lichfield, Dart and Beaumaris Festivals.

    A hugely creative artist, Ji has worked on cross arts collaborations, particularly with visual art, including film and sand animation. Over the next few years he will be exploring the complete Schubert Sonatas and working on a multi-media approach to Schubert’s unfinished works.   Read more...


     

    Programme Notes

    are available here

     


     

    29 March 2015 - Alexander Ullman

     

    Alexander Ullman

    Piano

     

    Programme

    1. J S Bach - Prelude and Fugue in C sharp minor, BWV849
    2. Beethoven - Sonata op. 10 no. 2 in F major
    3. Tchaikovsky - Theme and Variations in F major
    4. Chopin - Ballade no. 4 op. 52 in F minor
    5. Chopin - Mazurkas op. 24
    6. Chopin - Etude op. 10, no. 5
    7. Chopin - Etude op. 25, no. 5
    8. Chopin - Etude op. 25, no. 11

     

    Artist Biography

     

    Born in 1991 in London, Alexander Ullman studied at the Purcell School of Music with William Fong, and at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia with Leon Fleisher, Ignat Solzhenitsyn and Robert McDonald. In 2014 he was selected for representation by Young Classical Artists Trust (YCAT)and he completes his Masters in performance at the Royal College of Music with Dmitri Alexeev.

    Some of the works in his programme are in preparation for his participation in the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in June.

    During his studies Alexander has won numerous awards at international competitions including 1st Prize at the International Competition in Memoriam Ferenc Liszt (2012), the Lagny-sur-Marne International Competition (2013), the Tunbridge Wells International Young Concert Artists Competition (2012), and 2nd Prize at the Isidor Bajic Memorial International Competition (2014).

    He has given concerts throughout Europe, Asia and America, taking him to venues and festivals in Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark and India. Recent engagements include a tour of China and recitals at the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Archive Nationales (Paris), Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Copenhagen), Auditorio de la Diputación de Alicante, the Festival Pontino & Teatro Rossini (Italy), La Jolla Arts Festival (California), and concerts in the UK, Spain, Germany and France with the Dover Quartet.   Read more...


     

    Programme Notes

    are available here

     


     

    18 May 2014 - Retorica

     

    Retorica

    Violin Duo

     

     

     


    Programme

    1. Telemann - Sonata for two violins in B minor
    2. Wieniawski - Etude Caprice no. 1 in G minor
    3. Mozart - Sonata in G major
    4. Bach - Inventions
    5. Prokofiev - Sonata for 2 violins Op. 52
    6. Handel/Halvorsen - Passacaglia

     

    Artist Biography

     

    Philippa studied at the Royal Academy of Music, and at the Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing with Professor Lin Yao Ji. Her studies were supported by the Belmore Woodgate Scholarship and the Countess of Munster Musical Trust. Since finishing her research studies culminating in the award of an MMus degree, Philippa now performs extensively as a chamber musician. She has given concerto and chamber performances all over Europe; including her acclaimed debut at the Wigmore Hall, the premiere of the revised Fugue Refractions by Jim Aitchison at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, the Beethoven Series at St John’s, Smith Square, and performances at the Deutsches Museum, Munich, Ulaan Bataar, the Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and The Tate St Ives in the UK and televised performances in Turkey as part of the Ankara International Music Festival with Orkestra@Modern.   Read more...

    Harriet has toured Europe, America and Japan as a soloist, recitalist and chamber musician. Harriet made her highly acclaimed Purcell room debut as part of the Park Lane Young Artists Series. Since then she has given recitals worldwide in prestigious venues such as the Wigmore Hall, Concertgebouw and Beers van Berlage Hall in Amsterdam, the Lysenko Hall of Marble Columns in Kyiv, the Marble Hall in Budapest and the Expo Dome in Japan. She premiered Robert Fokkens violin concerto, written and dedicated to her, at the Southbank Centre, London and in 2012 gave the premiere of Graham Coatman's violin concerto at the Swaledale Festival, which was also written and dedicated to her. Harriet regularly performs concertos both in England and abroad. She has broadcast recitals 'live' for BBC Radio 3, Classic FM and for Hungarian National Radio.   Read more...


     

    Programme Notes

    are available here

     


     

    13 April 2014 - The Villiers String Quartet

     

    The Villiers String Quartet

    String Quartet

     

     

    Programme

    1. Britten - Three Divertimenti
    2. Delius - String Quartet no. 2 - Late Swallows
    3. Elgar - String Quartet op. 83

     

    Artist Biography

    James Dickenson studied both in the UK and the USA and lists Lydia Mordkvitch, Danny Phillips, Jerry Horner, Wen Zhou Li, and Christopher Rowland as some of his many teachers and mentors. After graduating from the Royal Northern College of Music, James left the UK to lead the Degas Quartet in the USA. With this quartet James gave concerts all over the USA, in Carnegie Hall and at the Aspen Music Festival, and held various residencies in over ten universities. Since leaving the quartet in 2007, James returned to the UK to continue his teaching, performing, and chamber music career. An advocate of new music, James has worked closely with many American composers, including Jeffrey Mumford, Andrew Waggoner, and he is currently commissioning a new piece for violin from Shafer Mahoney.

    Japanese-born violinist Tamaki Higashi started violin at the age of seven and was a multiple winner of the South Japan Music Competition in her hometown of Kagoshima. She was invited to study with Lewis Kaplan in New York City, and she received both her bachelors and masters degrees from the Mannes College of Music. After graduating in 2002 she founded the Degas Quartet. Together with her husband James, the Degas Quartet held residencies at Syracuse University and with the Western Piedmont Symphony, working closely with the Cassatt Quartet and Earl Carlyss of the Juilliard Quartet. The Degas Quartet toured frequently within the United States and was featured live on NPR broadcasts, appearing in many prestigious venues and festivals including Carnegie Hall, Aspen Music Festival, and the Library of Congress.

    Tamaki and James moved to the UK in 2007, and since then she has enjoyed a busy schedule as recitalist, teacher, and chamber musician. A passionate advocate for music education and community outreach, Tamaki organised several music projects in North Carolina, USA and Kagoshima, Japan, bringing chamber music to local schools and children's groups.

    She plays on a fine Italian violin by Antonio Ungarini of Fabriano, 1740.

    Carmen Flores attended Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and studied viola at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, Canada. Her principal teachers were Yizhak Schotten and Steven Dann. In 2007 she was appointed Principal Viola of the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, the orchestra of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. She has also performed as guest principal viola with the orchestras of the Canadian Opera Company and the English National Opera.

    Nick Stringfellow began his musical education at Chetham’s School of Music, performing in masterclasses at an early age with Heinrich Schiff and Janos Starker. After further study at the Royal Northern College of Music with Clive Greensmith, he completed his training at the Royal College of Music, studying jointly with Anna Shuttleworth and Anthony Pleeth.

    Nick cut his chamber music teeth as cellist with the London Mozart Ensemble alongside violinist David le Page. He is Principal Cellist with the Orchestra of the Swan, often appearing as soloist with the orchestra and taking part in its extensive education and outreach programmes. Nick has performed with many ensembles including the Fitzwilliam String Quartet and the Brook Street Band, and he has recorded for EMI, Naxos, Somm and Orfeo labels. He is the featured cellist on Schott’s Baroque around the World series and his trio Spirituoso is resident ensemble at Handel House.  Read more...


     

    Programme Notes

    are available here

     


     

    30 March 2014 - Ji Liu

     

    Ji Liu

    Piano

     

     

     

     

     

    Programme

    1. Rzweski – Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues
    2. Debussy – Suite Bergamasque
    3. Camille Saint-Saëns – Danse Macabre
    4. Frédéric Chopin – Nocturne, Op.9 No.2
    5. Frédéric Chopin – Fantasie-Impromptu in C sharp minor, Op.66
    6. Léon Clément Doucet – Chopinata
    7. Ludwig van Beethoven – Piano Sonata No.14 in C sharp minor, Op.27 No.2 Moonlight

     

    Artist Biography

     

    Born in 1990, Ji Liu studied at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. In 2005 and 2006 he took part in the Verbier Festival & Academy in Switzerland where he received the Tabor Piano Award and CUBS Prize from the UBS Bank. He went on to study with Dmitri Bashkirov at the Escuela Superior de Musica Reina Sofia in Madrid and the Royal Academy of Music with Christopher Elton completing his Masters on piano and composition (the latter with Ruth Byrchmore) in 2013. He was selected for representation by Young Classical Artists Trust (YCAT) in 2013.

    From a young age Ji has appeared as soloist at major venues and festivals internationally including Wigmore Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Concertgebouw, Auditorium du Louvre, Salle Cortot, Carnegie Hall (Weill Recital Hall), 92nd Street Y (New York), Rachmaninoff Hall (Tchaikovsky Conservatory, Moscow), Salle Garnier Opéra de Monte-Carlo, Hong Kong Town Hall, the Shanghai Oriental Art Centre and Stavanger Chamber Music Festival. He has performed JS Bach’s Goldberg Variations at the Gstaad Festival and the complete piano music of Isang Yung at the Tongyeong Music Festival in South Korea.

    Engagements during 2013/14 include his debut with the Philharmonia Orchestra, a performance of Liszt’s Totentanz at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and recitals at the Purcell Room and The Sage Gateshead. Earlier this year he recorded a CD for Classic FM including works by Beethoven and Chopin, which is due for release in 2014.   Read more...


     

    Programme Notes

    are available here

     


     

    17 November 2013 - Jubilee String Quartet

     

    Jubilee String Quartet

    String Quartet

    Violin I – Tereza Privratska
    Violin II – Alma Olite
    Viola – Stephanie Edmundson
    Cello – Lauren Steel

     

    Programme

    1. Haydn - string quartet op. 54 no. 2
    2. Mozart - string quartet no. 15 in D minor, KV 421
    3. Janacek - string quartet no. 2, "Intimate Letters"

     

    Artist Biography

     

    First prize winners of the ‘Val Tidone International Chamber Music Competition’ and recipients of the Tillett Trust ‘Young Artists’ Platform’ and the Philharmonia Orchestra MMSF ‘Charles Henderson Ensemble Award’, the Jubilee Quartet was formed in 2006 at the Royal Academy of Music, London, where they currently hold a Leverhulme Chamber Music Fellowship. During this time, they were given instruction under professors such as Thomas Brandis, Garfield Jackson, Martin Outram, and Jon Thorne, and have received masterclasses from the Skampa and Chilingirian Quartets, Pierre Colombet, Miguel da Silva, Hatto Beyerle, and Sylvia Rosenberg.

    The quartet have performed extensively in the UK and their continental tours have included a performance in the presence of former Czech president Vaclav Havel. They also enjoy a variety of outreach work as part of the ‘Live Music Now!’ scheme.

    In May 2012 the quartet performed Chausson’s ‘Concerto for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet’ with Jack Liebeck and Katya Apekisheva at the Purcell Room, and last summer participated in the Lake District Summer Music and St Magnus Festivals.

    In November 2012 the quartet were finalists in the ‘Joseph Joachim International Chamber Music Competition’, Weimar. Recent engagements include concerts around the UK and Italy, including a Purcell Room recital in May 2013 and in September the quartet will attend the ‘Trondheim International Chamber Music Competition’, having been preselected.

    The quartet currently play on fine instruments kindly on loan from the Royal Academy of Music for the duration of their fellowship.

    • Violin I – Omobono Stradivarius (1740)
    • Violin II – Niccolo Gagliano (1735)
    • Viola – Gasparo da Salo (1580)
    • Cello – Rogeri (c.1690)

      Read more...


     

    Programme Notes

    by John Woollard

     

    Haydn (1732 – 1809) - String Quartet in C major Op. 54, No. 2

    1.   Vivace
    2.   Adagio
    3.   Menuetto: Allegretto
    4.   Finale: Adagio - Presto - Adagio

    Joseph Haydn composed six string quartets which are his Opus 54 and Opus 55 during the summer and autumn of 1788. He was then 56 years of age, and had spent the previous thirty years as the Kapellmeister (Head of Music perhaps) for the Esterhazy family. He was at the height of his powers as a composer, and these are very unusual string quartets.

    Johann Tost is one of those people remembered, if at all, for his connection with one of the immortals, Joseph Haydn. That link is not entirely savoury, however, in spite of Tost's being the dedicatee of Haydn's String Quartets, opera 54, 55, and 64. As far as can be determined, Tost was a violinist in the Esterházy orchestra from 1783 to 1789, the last few years of Haydn's tenure as Kapellmeister of that court. It appears that Tost went abroad in 1789 with the intention of selling the rights to some of Haydn's symphonies and quartets to publishers in both Paris and Vienna, without the permission of the composer himself.

    According to letters from the composer to two publishers at that time, Tost's machinations included an attempt to pawn off a symphony by the obscure Bohemian Adalbert Gyrowetz (1763-1850) as one by Haydn. Tost apparently found such business dealings so much to his liking that he quit music-making, married, and became a wealthy cloth merchant in Vienna.

    Be that as it may, Haydn wrote twelve quartets for the violinist Tost, among which are the three of Opus 54. The Quartet in C major, like its siblings, finds Haydn at his inventive peak, taking inspiration from the younger Mozart but always travelling his own road toward the heights.

    Perhaps it is worth noting that after his early successes in Vienna's business world, Johann Tost was himself reduced into harder times. At that point late in his life, he had to return to the violin to make ends meet. One wonders if Haydn's music came to his financial rescue once again.

    Haydn’s dedication of this set “To the Wholesaler Tost” is a wry comment on his friend’s change of fortunes (and perhaps reflects a touch of irony on the composer’s behalf).

     

    Mozart (1756 – 1791) - String Quartet No. 15 in D minor, K. 421

    1.   Allegro moderato
    2.   Andante
    3.   Menuetto and Trio: Allegretto
    4.   Allegretto ma non troppo

    Mozart’s Quartet No 15 in D minor (K421) is notable for a number of reasons. Not only is it the only mature quartet in a minor key but also, and appropriately, it was one of six quartets which Mozart dedicated to Haydn.

    Whilst the history of classical music tends to suggest a timeline of Haydn to Mozart to Beethoven, it is easy to overlook that whilst Haydn was already a famous composer when Mozart was a child, he also outlived Mozart by 18 years. Much of Haydn’s success only came some time after Mozart’s death. Haydn was the paid employee of the Esterhazy family until 1795. He worked for the family, wearing court livery and was required to spend his time at the family seat in Eisenstadt. Only at about the time of Mozart’s death did he start to work for himself and travel abroad to Paris and London, earning for the first time substantial sums of money. In breaking free from his employer and making a self-employed career for himself, he was following Mozart’s example, rather than the other way around.

    Haydn was greatly impressed by what he heard of Mozart’s music. Haydn freely praised Mozart, without jealousy, to his friends. For instance, he wrote to Franz Rott, “If only I could impress Mozart's inimitable works on the soul of every friend of music, and the souls of high personages in particular, as deeply, with the same musical understanding and with the same deep feeling, as I understand and feel them, the nations would vie with each other to possess such a jewel.”

    To the musicologist Charles Burney, he said "I have often been flattered by my friends with having some genius, but he was much my superior." In a letter to his friend Marianne von Genzinger, Haydn confessed to dreaming about Mozart's work, listening happily to a performance of Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro.

    Mozart’s wife Constanze is said to have told Vincent and Mary Novello that the rising melodic figures used throughout the unconventionally phrased second movement Andante were a reference to her cries from the other room while she was in labour with their first child, Raimund, on the 17th of June 1783. Mozart carried on composing during the delivery, occasionally joining his wife to console her about the pain before returning to his manuscript next door, and in the process incorporated, perhaps unconsciously, his wife’s distress.

     

    Janáček (1854 – 1928) - String Quartet No. 2, "Intimate Letters"

    1.   Andante - Con moto - Allegro
    2.   Adagio - Vivace
    3.   Moderato - Andante - Adagio
    4.   Allegro - Andante - Adagio

    Of all composers, Leoš Janáček has to have had one of the most unusual career paths. Born near Brno in Moravia he spent the first fifty years of his life in relative obscurity. He had an extensive musical education, and then set up an organ school in Brno. He specialised in performing and composing church music, but was little known outside his own area.

    In 1904 he composed an opera, Jenůfa, which at first achieved no more than modest success. He carried on writing music and operas without achieving great fame. In 1916 Jenůfa was finally performed in Prague, and received great acclaim for the first time. The change to his life was dramatic. Janáček grudgingly resigned himself to the changes forced upon his work. Its success brought him into Prague's music scene, and in contact with a far wider circle.

    This quartet was composed after a request from the Bohemian Quartet who, in 1923, requested Janáček to compose two string quartets for them. Unusually for a classical work, the nickname "Intimate Letters" was given by the composer, as it was inspired by his long and spiritual friendship with Stösslová, a married woman. The composition was intended to reflect the character of their relationship as revealed in more than 700 letters they exchanged with each other.

    "You stand behind every note, you, living, forceful, loving. The fragrance of your body, the glow of your kisses – no, really of mine. Those notes of mine kiss all of you. They call for you passionately..."

    These are the letters of a great love story. In 1917, the Czech composer Janáček met Kamila Stösslová while on holiday at Luhacovice, a spa resort in Moravia. He was sixty-three and locked in a loveless marriage; she was twenty-six, the wife of an antique dealer frequently away from home. After the holiday, Janacek began writing to Stösslová. Undeterred by her lack of interest in his work and her spasmodic replies, he continued to send her letters until his death eleven years later. An extraordinarily self-revealing portrait emerges of an isolated artist at the height of his creative powers and the beginning of his international fame. It is also a portrait of a lonely man who, as the years went by, came to fantasize about Stösslová as his true "wife" - the inspiration for many of the works of his old age. The letters have been recently edited and published.

    The première of the work took place on 11 September 1928, a month after Janáček died, by the Moravian Quartet. The viola assumes a prominent role throughout the composition, as this instrument is intended to personify Kamila. The viola part was originally written for a viola d'amore, however the conventional viola was substituted when Janáček found the viola d'amore did not match the texture.

     

    3 November 2013 - Morgan Szymanski & Harriet Mackenzie

     

    Morgan Szymanski & Harriet Mackenzie

    Guitar & Violin

     

     

     

    Programme

    1. Vivaldi - Violin concerto No. 9 in D maj. RV230
    2. Ponce - Estrellita
    3. Bartok - Romanian Folk Dances (1915)
    4. Mangore - Una Limosna por el Amor de Dios
    5. Falla - Five Spanish Folk Songs, Spanish Dance
    6. Paganini - Cantabile in D maj.
    7. Bach - solo violin sonata II in A, andante
    8. Piazzolla - Bordell 1900, Cafe 1930, Nightclub 1960
    9.  

     

    Artist Biography

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Born in Mexico City in 1979, Morgan Szymanski started playing the guitar at the age of six. Early studies at the National Music School (Mexico) and the Edinburgh Music School led to a scholarship to study under Carlos Bonell and Gary Ryan at the Royal College of Music (RCM) in London, graduating in 2004 with first class honours. During his studies he won all guitar prizes from the RCM as well as scholarships from the Tillett Trust, Countess of Munster Musical Trust, Leverhulme Trust and a scholarship to study at the Conservatorium of Amsterdam. He immediately went on to become the first solo guitarist to be selected by YCAT and was the first guitarist to be awarded a Junior Fellowship at the RCM, where he completed his Masters with distinction.

     

    Morgan has won many international competitions and has performed as a soloist and with orchestras all over the world. In the UK he has given recitals in venues such as the Wigmore Hall, Cadogan Hall, Bridgewater Hall, Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall, King’s Place, The Sage Gateshead, Royal Opera House, and many festivals. He has also worked with some of the major orchestras and artists such as John Williams and Carlos Bonell (guitar), Mark Padmore (tenor), Alison Balsom (trumpet), Priya Mitchell and Harriet Mackenzie (violin), the Sacconi, Doric and Carducci Quartets, and He regularly broadcasts live on TV and radio worldwide, can often be heard on BBC Radio 3 and has made several CD’s.   Read more...

    Violinist Harriet Mackenzie graduated from the Royal Academy of Music where she was supported by numerous awards : the Musicians Benevolent Fund, Tillett Trust, Hatton Foundation and the Manoug Parikian Award. She is passionate about contemporary music and has collaborated with many musicians and composers who have written works dedicated to her.

    As a soloist, recitalist and chamber musician Harriet has toured throughout the world and performed in many prestigious venues such as the Wigmore Hall, South Bank London, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Expo Dome in Japan, Shanghai Oriental Arts Centre, etc. She has broadcast live recitals for BBC Radio 3, Classic FM and Hungarian National Radio. She has also released several CD’s.   Read more...


     

    Programme Notes

    by John Woollard

     

    The History of the Guitar

    The ancestries of the modern guitar track back through many instruments and thousands of years to ancient central Asia. Guitar like instruments appear in ancient carvings and statues recovered from the old Persian capital of Susa. This means that the contemporary Iranian instruments such as the tanbur and setar are distantly related to the European guitar, as they all derive ultimately from the same ancient origins, but by very different historical routes and influences.

    During the Middle Ages, instruments called "guitars" with three and four strings were in use but their construction and tuning was different from the modern guitars. The Guitarra Latina in Spain, had curved sides and a single hole. The Guitarra Morisca, which was brought to Spain by the Moors or at least was heavily influenced by Moorish instruments, had an oval soundbox and many sound holes on its soundboard. By the 15th century, a four course double-string instrument called the vihuela de mano, that had tuning like the later modern guitar except on one string and similar construction, appeared in Spain and spread to Italy; by the 16th century, a fifth double-string had been added. During this time, composers wrote mostly in tablature notation. In the middle of the 16th century, influences from the vihuela and the renaissance guitar were combined and the baroque five string guitar appeared in Spain. The baroque guitar quickly superseded the vihuela in popularity in Spain, France and Italy and Italian players and composers became prominent. In the late 18th century the six string guitar quickly became popular at the expense of the five string guitars. During the 19th century the Spanish luthier and player Antonio de Torres gave the modern classical guitar its definitive form, with a broadened body, increased waist curve, thinned belly, improved internal bracing. The modern classical guitar replaced older form for the accompaniment of song and dance called flamenco, and a modified version, known as the flamenco guitar, was created.

    The History of the Violin

    The violin first emerged in northern Italy in the early 16th century especially from the Brescia area. Many archive documents testify that from 1585-95 Brescia was the cradle of a magnificent school of string players and makers, all called with the title of "maestro" of all the different sort of strings instruments of the Renaissance: viola da gamba (viols), violone, lyra, lyrone, violetta and viola da brazzo. From 1530 the word violin appears in Brescian documents and spread all around north of Italy. While no instruments from the first decades of the century survive, there are several representations in paintings; some of the early instruments have only three strings and were of the violetta type. Most likely the first makers of violins borrowed from three different types of current instruments: the rebec, in use since the 10th century, the Viola da Braccio (or Renaissance Fiddle), and the lira da braccio. By the 1550s the violin had already begun to spread throughout Europe.

    The oldest confirmed surviving violin, dated inside, is the "Charles IX" by Andrea Amati, made in Cremona in 1564. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has an Amati violin that may be even older, possibly dating to 1558 but the date is very doubtful. One of the most famous and certainly the most pristine is the Messiah Stradivarius (also known as the 'Salabue') made by Antonio Stradivari in 1716 and very little played, perhaps almost never and in an as new state. It is now located in the Ashmolean Museum of Oxford.

    The violin has gone through a number of changes since then, but instruments of approximately 300 years of age, especially those made by Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesù, are the most sought after instruments (for both collectors and performers). In addition to the skill and reputation of the maker, an instrument's age can also influence both price and quality.

     

    This afternoon's composers ...


    Vivaldi (1678-1741)

    The creator of hundreds of spirited, extroverted instrumental works, Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi is widely recognized as the master of the Baroque instrumental concerto, which he perfected and popularized more than any of his contemporaries. Vivaldi's rhythms, fluid melodies, bright instrumental effects, and extensions of instrumental technique make his some of the most enjoyable of Baroque music. He was highly influential among his contemporaries and successors. Even as esteemed a figure as Johann Sebastian Bach adapted some of Vivaldi's music.

     

    Ponce (1882- 1948)

    Manuel Ponce was a Mexican pianist and composer whose style underwent a profound change in midlife. After studying with Dukas, Ponce developed a style that combined French Impressionism and neo-Classical contrapuntal techniques. Most of his guitar music and the majority of his more serious and larger works were written in this style. Ponce composed a piano concerto, several large symphonic works for orchestra, and a large quantity of guitar music.

     

    Bartók (1881-1945)

    Through his far-reaching endeavours as composer, performer, educator, and ethnomusicolgist, Béla Bartók emerged as one of the most forceful and influential musical personalities of the twentieth century. With fellow countryman and composer Zoltán Kodály, he travelled throughout Hungary and neighbouring countries, collecting thousands of authentic folk songs. Bartók's immersion in this music lasted for decades, and the intricacies he discovered therein, from plangent modality to fiercely aggressive rhythms, exerted a potent influence on his own musical language.

    As the spectre of fascism in Europe in the 1930s grew ever more sinister, he refused to play in Germany and banned radio broadcasts of his music there and in Italy. A concert in Budapest on October 8, 1940, was the composer's farewell to the country which had provided him so much inspiration and yet caused him so much grief. Days later, Bartók and his wife set sail for America.

     

    Agustín Barrios Mangoré (1885-1944)

    A prominent Paraguayan composer, songwriter and classical guitarist. Famed for his exceptional performances, often while dressed in traditional Paraguayan garb, Barrios Mangoré played and composed virtuosic pieces with a late Romantic flavour which were often infused with native folk elements, and made some of the first classical guitar recordings. He also composed over 300 songs, of which the words were written first as poems.

     

    Falla (1876-1946)

    After early musical studies with his mother, he went on to study in Madrid. During his years in Paris, he received encouragement from Dukas, Debussy, and Ravel. Upon return to Spain in 1914, many of his most famous works were written. Falla was one of a group of nationalistic Spanish composers who championed their native musical idioms. He did this while also infusing his music with impressionistic traits. He remained active on the musical scene of his homeland until the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. With the rise of fascism, de Falla left Spain for South America. He spent his final years in Argentina.

     

    Paganini (1782-1840)

    Niccolo Paganini is perhaps the most famous violinist who ever lived. He was born on October 27, 1782, in Genoa, Italy. His early studies were on the mandolin, instructed by his father, who played mandolin on the side to supplement his income, but he changed instruments in his teenage years, and his stupendous and unmatched virtuosity on the violin made him a legend (and a fortune) in his own time. He is also famous as a composer of prodigiously difficult violin music.

     

    Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

    The musicologist Nicolas Slonimsky states that Bach is "a master comparable in greatness of stature with Aristotle in philosophy and Leonardo da Vinci in art". Bach is the unsurpassed foundational composer of western classical music, creating a gravity that influences music to this day. There was, of course, important music in earlier eras, but many of the fundamental musical techniques used by composers in the classical, romantic, and even the modern eras can be traced back to Bach.

     

    Piazzolla (1921-1992)

    Ástor Piazzolla was instrumental in the renaissance of the tango after World War II. Born in 1921 in Mar del Plata, Argentina, he moved to New York’s lower East Side at a young age. Oddly, it was in New York, where he lived from age three to fifteen that he developed nostalgia for a country he scarcely remembered. He taught himself to play the bandoneon and was swept up in the newest craze in America: the tango of Argentina. Resolved to update the tango, Piazzolla succeeded in shocking tango traditionalists by infusing his tangos with the harmonic language he had learned in Paris, -- Bartok, Schoenberg, and Messiaen--, with the rhythms influenced by Stravinsky and by jazz, in addition to melodic innovations that many saw as severing tango from its roots.

     

    27 October 2013 - Alexandra Dariescu

     

    Alexandra Dariescu

    Piano

     

     

    Programme

    1. J S Bach – Prelude and Fugue in B minor, BWV 893
    2. Shostakovich – 24 Preludes op. 34, Nos. 1-12
    3. Beethoven Sonata No.6 in F, Op.10 No.2 (14’)
    4. Chopin – 24 Preludes op. 28

     

    Artist Biography

    Pianist Alexandra Dariescu is fast becoming one of the most recognised pianists of her generation, winning international competitions and performing to sell-out audiences at venues throughout the world.

    Named BBC Music Magazine’s Rising Star in June 2011, the Romanian graduated from the RNCM in 2008 and was chosen for representation by the Young Classical Artist Trust (YCAT) in the same year. She’s also one of the first musicians to take part in the Philip Langridge Mentoring Scheme which pairs young professional musicians with leading stars of the classical world. For this, Alexandra is mentored by international pianist Imogen Cooper.

    Committed to chamber music, Alexandra has collaborated with the Belcea, Elias, Idomeneo and Sacconi Quartets, and violinist Alina Ibragimova at venues including Wigmore Hall and the City of London Festival. Further afield she has given recitals in the USA, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Moldavia and Argentina, broadcast for BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM, radio and television stations across Romania, Manx Radio, Isle of Man and Nevada Radio in California.

    In June Alexandra made her début at the Royal Albert Hall.   Read more...


     

    Programme Notes

    by John Woollard

     

    J S Bach – Prelude and Fugue in B minor, BWV 893

    Bach’s keyboard works were originally written for organ, clavichord, and harpsichord, and are among the most important and well-known of his compositions. Widely varied and ranging over the entire span of his lifetime, they are a central part of the modern repertoire for keyboard.

    Bach was himself a prodigious talent at the keyboard, well known during his lifetime for both his technical and improvisational abilities. Many of Bach's keyboard works started out as improvisations.

    Bach’s two series of 24 Preludes and Fugue written for the keyboard are generally considered to be amongst the most influential works in the history of Western classical music. Bach gave the title, ‘The Well-Tempered Clavier’ (Das Wohltemperierte Klavier) to a collection of solo keyboard music, a book of preludes and fugues in all 24 major and minor keys, dated 1722, composed "for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning, and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study." Bach later compiled a second book of the same kind, dated 1742, with the title "Twenty-four Preludes and Fugues." The two works are now considered to make up a single work, The Well-Tempered Clavier, or "the 48," and are referred to as The Well-Tempered Clavier Book I and The Well-Tempered Clavier Book II respectively. This afternoon’s work is the very last of the two series.

    Both sets were widely circulated in manuscript, but printed copies were not made until 1801, by three publishers almost simultaneously in Bonn, Leipzig and Zurich. Bach's style was considered old-fashioned in the early Classical period at a time when music had neither contrapuntal complexity nor a great variety of keys. However by the 1770s the Well-Tempered Clavier began to influence the course of musical history, with Haydn and Mozart studying the works closely.

    Composers and performers such as Ludwig van Beethoven and Camille Saint-Saëns first showed off their skills as child prodigies playing the entire cycle of Bach's 48 Preludes and Fugues.

    Modern composers have continued to draw inspiration from Bach's keyboard output, and Shostakovich wrote his own set of Preludes and Fugues after the Bach model. Jazz musicians and composers, in particular, have been drawn to the contrapuntal style, harmonic expansion and rhythmic expression of Bach's compositions, especially the works for keyboard.

     

    Shostakovich – Preludes Op. 34, Nos. 1-12

    1.   No. 1, in C major
    2.   No. 2, in A minor
    3.   No. 3, in G major
    4.   No. 4, in E minor
    5.   No. 5, in D major, Velocity etude
    6.   No. 6, in B minor
    7.   No. 7, in A major
    8.   No. 8, in F sharp minor
    9.   No. 9, in E major
    10.   No. 10, in C sharp minor
    11.   No. 11, in B major
    12.   No. 12, in G sharp minor

    By the time the 26 year old Shostakovich came to compose his 24 Preludes Op. 34 for piano in 1932-1933 the genre of the prelude had become very important as a means of expression for the piano composition. Shostakovich absorbed the stylistic features of the earlier music of the genre.

    The genre of the prelude was deeply rooted in the Baroque era, not only with Bach but also extensively developed by such prominent composers as Johann Pachelbel who was one of the first to pair preludes (or toccatas) – and fugues in the same key. Bach’s work largely influenced later generations of composers – especially in Romantic and Impressionistic eras.

    In the mid-19th century, Frédéric Chopin created his 24 Preludes, Op. 28 as independent concert pieces. He was the first composer who liberated the genre of prelude from its original introductory purpose (as in the Well Tempered Clavier). They are also written in the 24 major and minor keys but proceed through the circle of fifths (i.e. No. 1 C major, No. 2 A minor, No. 3 G major, etc.). At the end of the 19th century (1896), the Russian composer Scriabin in his 24 Preludes Op. 11 followed the same tradition. Shostakovich was the next composer who followed the same pattern – in his Preludes op. 34.

    There was another tradition Shostakovich intended to follow. In the 20th century, Claude Debussy composed his two books of impressionistic piano preludes, which influenced many later composers (including Shostakovich). Debussy, unlike previous composers of preludes, announced the titles for each prelude at the end of the piece (while a Roman numeral serves as the heading), thus considering his preludes to be programmatic musical compositions. A couple of decades later, Shostakovich wrote these Preludes - pieces that do not have programme titles.

    The 24 Preludes Op. 34, written in the early period of Shostakovich’s life, are a crystal-clear reflection of the later, mature Shostakovich’s compositional style. They provide a glimpse into the young Shostakovich’s personal life and cover an emotional range from sardonic humour and playfulness to excruciating pain and sombreness. With the composer's infamous Pravda denunciation three years away - late 1932 and early 1933 was a period of great compositional success for the young man. He composed these preludes at almost a pace of one every two days. They were likely designed to show off his virtuosic capabilities, as he was embarking on a career as a concert pianist. Following the model of Bach, Chopin and Scriabin the preludes traverse all the keys, but they are far from academic exercises and more like “psychological sketches”. The pieces are short but extremely technically challenging. As might be expected from Shostakovich, the lines are jagged; with leaps of up to two octaves between notes.

    Shostakovich revisited the genre in the 1960s with 24 Preludes and Fugues more consciously based upon Bach’s compositions.

     

    Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 6 in F major, Op. 10, No. 2

    1.   Allegro
    2.   Allegretto
    3.   Presto

    Beethoven’s three Piano Sonatas, Op. 10 were sketched and composed between 1796 and 1798. They appear to have one foot in the eighteenth century, and the other in the nineteenth, bridging the gap between the formal classical elegance of Haydn and Mozart, and an altogether more exploratory romanticism. A public and accessible utterance becomes private and individual, a long way from accepted taste and convention. As early as 1796 Beethoven was increasingly affected by his developing deafness. The three sonatas together demonstrate the start of a seismic change of style, perhaps in response to his own life and its problems.

    No. 6, the middle of the group dates from 1797, two years after Beethoven’s first public appearance in Vienna. Not only did he appear in many benefit concerts during that time (one of which was in aid of Mozart’s widow, Constanze, at which Beethoven played her husband’s 20th Piano Concerto), but he also took part in several pianistic duels with other Viennese and visiting virtuosos, each of whom had their own fan camp.

    Gelinek, one of these competitors told Czerny’s father that he was going to compete with “some foreigner” that very evening and planned to make mincemeat out of him. When later asked about the outcome he said, “I’ll never forget yesterday evening! Satan himself is hidden in that young man. I have never heard anyone play like that! He improvised on a theme which I gave him as I never even heard Mozart improvise… He can overcome difficulties and draw effects from the piano such as we couldn’t even allow ourselves to dream about”.

    Beethoven dedicated the three sonatas of his Op. 10 to the Countess Anna Margarete von Browne. Her husband, Count von Browne-Camus, was an officer (of Irish descent) in the Russian Imperial Service in Vienna and himself a generous patron of Beethoven's between 1797 and 1803. He received a number of dedications of his own and, following the gift of these sonatas to his wife, he presented the composer with a riding horse, which Beethoven characteristically forgot until he received a large bill for fodder.

    Op. 10 No. 2 is the shortest among Beethoven's early sonatas. He dispenses with a slow movement, instead dividing a Haydnesque first movement and a mock fugal finale with an Allegretto that has the characteristics of a minuet, for all its minor-key earnestness.

     

    Chopin – 24 Preludes, Op. 28

    1.   Agitato – C major
    2.   Lento – A minor
    3.   Vivace – G major
    4.   Largo – E minor
    5.   Molto allegro – D major
    6.   Lento assai – B minor
    7.   Andantino – A major
    8.   Molto agitato – F-sharp minor
    9.   Largo – E major
    10.   Molto allegro – C-sharp minor
    11.   Vivace – B major
    12.   Presto – G-sharp minor
    13.   Lento – F-sharp major
    14.   Allegro – E-flat minor
    15.   Sostenuto – D-flat major ("Raindrop Prelude")
    16.   Presto con fuoco – B-flat minor
    17.   Allegretto – A-flat major
    18.   Molto allegro – F minor
    19.   Vivace – E-flat major
    20.   Largo – C minor
    21.   Cantabile – B-flat major
    22.   Molto agitato – G minor
    23.   Moderato – F major
    24.   Allegro appassionato – D minor

    We return to the theme of this afternoon’s concert for our last work, half way between the worlds of Bach and Shostakovich. Chopin's 24 Preludes, Op. 28, are a set of short pieces for the piano, one in each of the twenty-four keys, originally published in 1839. The French edition was dedicated to the piano-maker and publisher Camille Pleyel, who had commissioned the work for 2,000 francs (equivalent to nearly £20,000 in present day value). The German edition was dedicated to Joseph Christoph Kessler, a composer of piano studies during Chopin's time. Ten years earlier, Kessler had dedicated his own set of 24 Preludes, Op. 31, to Chopin. Although the term prelude is generally used to describe an introductory piece, Chopin's stand as self-contained units, each conveying a specific idea or emotion.

    Chopin wrote them between 1835 and 1839, partly at Valldemossa, Majorca, where he spent the winter of 1838–39 and where he had fled with George Sand and her children to escape the damp Paris weather.

    The brevity and apparent lack of formal structure in the Op. 28 preludes caused some consternation among critics at the time of their publication. No prelude is longer than 90 bars (No. 17), and the shortest, No. 9, is a mere 12 bars. Robert Schumann said: "They are sketches, beginnings of études, or, so to speak, ruins, individual eagle pinions, all disorder and wild confusions." Franz Liszt's opinion, however, was more positive: "Chopin's Preludes are compositions of an order entirely apart... they are poetic preludes, analogous to those of a great contemporary poet, who cradles the soul in golden dreams..."

    More recently, the preludes have been the subject of more positive criticism. Musicologist Henry Finck said that "if all piano music in the world were to be destroyed, excepting one collection, my vote should be cast for Chopin's Preludes." Biographer Jeremy Nicholas writes that "Even on their own, the 24 Preludes would have ensured Chopin’s claim to immortality."

    The Op. 28 preludes have become standard fare for pianists of all types, and many have recorded the set, beginning with Alfred Cortot in 1926. Chopin himself never played more than four of the preludes at a single public performance.

    Like Chopin's other works, the Op. 28 preludes are not named or further described, in contrast to many of Schumann's and Liszt's pieces.

    5 May 2013 - Heath Quartet

     

    The Heath Quartet

    String Quartet

    Violin Oliver Heath
    Violin Cerys Jones
    Viola Gary Pomeroy
    Cello Christopher Murray

     

    Programme

    1. Haydn : String quartet in G, Op. 77 No. 1
    2. Beethoven : String Quartet in C, Op. 59 No. 3 “Rasumovsky”
    3. Mendelssohn : String quartet No. 5 in E flat, Op. 44 No. 3

     

    Artist Biography

    The Heath Quartet is rapidly emerging as an exciting and original voice on the international chamber music scene. Selected for representation by YCAT in 2008 they immediately went on to win 1st Prize at the Tromp International Competition in Eindhoven and 2nd Prize at the Haydn International Competition in Vienna. In 2011 they were awarded a prestigious Borletti-Buitoni Special Ensemble Scholarship and in the same year undertook two complete Beethoven Quartet cycles at the Fàcyl Festival in Salamanca Spain and at Greyfriars Church in Edinburgh. The Quartet were presented with a Bank of Scotland Herald Angel Award after unanimous praise from The Herald's music critics in Edinburgh.
    Engagements this season include recitals at Wigmore Hall as part of the Emerging Talent scheme, including the premiere of a new work by Luke Bedford and collaborations with Stephen Hough and Ian Bostridge. They make their debut at the Kissingen Winterzauber Festival in Germany, the deSingel Arts Centre in Antwerp as part of a Britten Day, return to the Netherlands, and tour throughout Argentina.   Read more...

     

    Programme Notes

    by John Woollard

     

    JOSEF HAYDN (1732 – 1809) – String Quartet in G major, Op. 77, No. 1, Hob.III:81

    1.   Allegro moderato
    2.   Adagio
    3.   Menuetto. Presto
    4.   Finale. Presto

    Josef Haydn is perhaps best known for the fact that he wrote at least 104 symphonies, nearly all of which are still featured in concert programmes, but his staggering output also included 45 piano trios, 62 piano sonatas and 68 string quartets. Perhaps somewhat overshadowed until recently by his disciple, Ludwig van Beethoven, he now is beginning to re-emerge as the consummate musician and composer that he was. He can justly lay claim to the title of father both of the symphony and the string quartet, but also did much to change the position of the composer. Both he and Mozart started their careers in the 18th century tradition as servants of rich nobles and churchmen. Haydn broke the mould. By the time this quartet was written he was established in his own right, touring Europe and writing music for commissions from impresarios such as Salomon in London. In particular his visits to London was a huge success. Audiences flocked to Haydn's concerts; he augmented his fame and made large profits, thus becoming financially secure.

    1799 quietly witnessed a great turning point in the history of the string quartet. With Mozart gone, both an elderly Haydn and a young Beethoven were simultaneously working on a new set of string quartets: Haydn’s last and Beethoven’s first and for this noteworthy “passing of the baton”, the composers shared a common patron. A young Prince Lobkowitz commissioned both composers around the same time. Beethoven’s Op. 18 was published at the end of 1801, Haydn’s Op. 77 in early 1802. It is no surprise that Haydn’s last quartets are often called “Beethovenian” just as Beethoven’s first quartets may be called “Haydnesque.” Together, they comprise a great high water mark of the mature Viennese style before Beethoven’s middle period expansion. And just as Beethoven’s quartets are “early”, close to Haydn as a model, Haydn’s final quartets represent his own most modern, consolidated and polished efforts in the form with many forward looking aspects, and were so influential on Beethoven, even looking forward another thirty years with pre-echoes of the music of Mendelssohn.

    In summary, this “late” work of Haydn’s shows absolutely no diminution of craft, creativity or energy. Apparently as a conscious choice, Haydn chose to quit on a high note leaving yet another exemplar of a genre he largely invented and surely perfected. This work and its companion Op. 77 work are the last string quartets he finished, though he still had another ten years of life ahead.

     

    LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770 – 1827) - String Quartet in C major, Op. 59 No. 3, “Rasumovsky”

    1.   Andante con moto - Allegro vivace (C major)
    2.   Andante con moto quasi allegretto (A minor)
    3.   Menuetto (Grazioso) (C major)
    4.   Allegro molto (C major)

    Without Haydn’s example, Beethoven might have found it much more difficult to carve out his pre-eminent position as a composer in early 19th Century Viennese life. By the time he started work on his Op. 59 quartets, Mozart had already been dead for 14 years, whilst Haydn was still very much alive and composing, providing much ceremonial and large scale ecclesiastical music for the city.

    Beethoven's middle period, sometimes called his 'heroic' period, began with a huge spiritual crisis around 1801: he realized, or finally admitted to himself and close friends, that he was going deaf, a disability that was disastrous professionally (much of his living was earned as a pianist), but that also - and in the end just as significantly - caused him to withdraw from social life. His emergence from this crisis was, by means of a compositional development: to a series of grand 'public' works that would cement his reputation as Europe's most celebrated composer of instrumental music: the Eroica symphony, the 'Waldstein' and 'Appassionata' piano sonatas all come from this period; and so too do the three quartets Op. 59 - which were written around 1805-6.

    Haydn may well be regarded as the father of the string quartet, but when he stopped composing quartets in 1799, he passed the baton to the younger composer, who then developed the form out of all recognition. The idea of the string quartet, its unprecedented prestige in the Western canon, is inescapably associated with Beethoven, who dedicated himself to the medium with peculiar intensity at three separate periods of his life, and who in the process created a body of work that all subsequent composers felt (some more willingly than others) they were obliged to emulate. The Beethoven quartets have long been regarded, by listeners and players alike, as the pinnacle of the repertoire: never to be played or talked about without a sense of reverence for one of the weightiest monuments of our culture.

    The Viennese knew that they were in the presence of genius when they encountered Beethoven’s work, but they did not fully understand it. Whilst it might be common nowadays to regard modern composers as incomprehensible, we blame the composer for our lack of comprehension. Viennese audiences tended to blame themselves for not being equipped to fully understand Beethoven’s message. What's striking is how far back this reverential attitude goes. Of course, there are famous stories of the incomprehension some of Beethoven's early audiences felt; but, remarkably and quite unusually for the period, the lack of understanding was very often assumed to be the fault of the audience rather than the piece in question. The message was plain: these works were complicated for a reason; they were not entertainment; and they needed to study them in order to understand them. This attitude, which was common to most of Beethoven's instrumental works, gradually spread through Europe in the early decades of the nineteenth century, and was fuelled rather than dampened by the composer's death in 1827. In short, Beethoven's most famous works were powerful drivers in enormous changes in the ways music was performed, listened to and written about; Amongst these were the decisive emergence of silent, attentive listening; the parallel emergence of instrumental music as more serious than vocal music; an increasing sense that a certain strand of this instrumental music, now commonly called 'classical music', was spiritually uplifting and morally superior; a new hierarchy between the composer and the performer, one that saw the latter as merely a vehicle to express the thoughts of the former; and an increased attention to, and reverence for, the score as a repository of the 'work'. Beethoven’s work simply marks the decisive emergence of 'our' classical musical world, with its concert going, its silent listening, and all the rest. That is why Beethoven is such an icon – not just for the quality of his music but also because he set the parameters by which classical music has developed over the last 200 years.

     

    FELIX MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847) – String Quartet No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 44 No. 3

    1.   Allegro vivace
    2.   Scherzo: Assai leggiero vivace
    3.   Adagio non troppo
    4.   Molto allegro con fuoco

    Mendelssohn benefited hugely from the way in which music had developed as a result of Beethoven. A grandson of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, Felix Mendelssohn was born into a prominent Jewish family, although initially he was raised without religion and was later baptised as a Reformed Christian. Mendelssohn was recognised early as a musical prodigy, but his parents were cautious and did not seek to capitalise on his talent. He came from a solidly middle class and well respected Berlin family and his Jewish descent did not limit his horizons. No one would have considered the neatly dressed, mild-mannered Mendelssohn a colossus.

    His music was not “colossal.” The time he lived in was not good for such colossal ideas. People wanted to maintain the status-quo. After years of warfare and financial instability, people became more conservative in their politics, their ideas, their issues. Rather than debate the humanitarian issues of the Napoleonic Era, they were more concerned about fashion or how to make a good enough living to leave money and property to their sons, about having their daughters married to good men who could provide for them.

    Rather than deeper, intensely personal issues like “the meaning of life,” people discussed what material things could give their life meaning. Rather than looking for adventure, men sought lives in business rather than the military. People didn't want that kind of excitement in their lives.

    Mendelssohn took great advantage of the new order. Instead of taking up a position as the servant of a great lord or King, he was able to carve a career for himself as both a composer and a conductor. He associated with royalty not as an equal but certainly not as a lowly member of the household. He regularly visited England where he was highly regarded and met Queen Victoria and her musical husband Prince Albert, who both greatly admired his music. He worked as a composer, conductor and pianist, holding positions that even today still exist such as the Chief Conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Mendelssohn lived a comfortable life. His music sounds comfortable, but it is also as much a part of the age Mendelssohn lived in. The “Biedermeir” age in Germany – very similar to the Victorian Age in England later in the century – was an era when people didn't express their emotions in public. It was a “comfortable” age when you wanted stability, not adventure. People didn't want to take risks because you might lose what you had. Rather than being emotional, they were sentimental.

    7 April 2013 - Kathryn Rudge & James Baillieu

     

    Kathryn Rudge

    Lieder & Arias

    Mezzo Soprano Kathryn Rudge
    Piano James Baillieu

     

    Programme

     

    Mozart 'Le Nozze di Figaro'
     Non so piu
     Voi Che Sapete

     

    Schubert
     Frühlingsglaube
     An die Laute
     Nachtstück

     Im Abendrot

     

    Tosti
     Aprile
     L’alba separa dalla luce l’ombre

     

    Bizet 'Carmen'
     Seguidilla

     

    Quilter 7 Elizabethan Lyrics
     Weep you no more
     My Life's Delight  Damask Roses
     The Faithless Shepherdess  Brown is my Love
     By a Fountainside
     Fair House of Joy Bridge
     Thy hand in mine
     Where she lies asleep
     Love went a riding

     

    Wood
     Roses of Picardy

     

    Novello
     We'll gather Lilacs

     

     

    Artist Biography

    Mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge was featured as the new face of classical music in ‘The Times Rising Stars of 2012′. She made her much praised professional opera debut in 2012 as an ENO Young Artist at the London Coliseum in the role of Cherubino in Mozart’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’. She was also ‘Debutante of the Month‘ in the International Opera Now Magazine. In 2012 she made her debut with Opera North in the role of Sesto in Handel’s ‘Giulio Cesare’ to critical acclaim. In the autumn of 2012 she made her debut with Glyndebourne Touring Opera revisiting the role of Cherubino in their new production of Mozart’s ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’. In 2013 she will perform the role of Annio in Opera North’s production of Mozart’s ‘La Clemenza di Tito’ Kathryn is currently represented by the Young Classical Artists’ Trust.  Read more...

    Described by The Daily Telegraph as ‘in a class of his own’, pianist James Baillieu has been the prize-winner of the Wigmore Hall Song Competition, Das Lied International Song Competition (in both 2009 & 2011), Kathleen Ferrier and Richard Tauber Competitions. Over the last year he has recorded for BBC Radio 3 with the Elias Quartet and Allan Clayton while giving solo and chamber recitals throughout Europe and further afield, collaborating with singers Jared Holt, Gerard Collett, Sir Thomas Allen, Katherine Broderick, Martene Grimson, Jacques Imbrailo, Sarah-Jane Brandon and Kishani Jayasinghe. Festivals and venues have included Wigmore Hall, Festpillene i Bergen, the Aldeburgh, Cheltenham, Aix-en-Provence, Derry and Norfolk & Norwich Festivals. He was selected for representation by Young Concert Artists Trust (YCAT) in 2010.  Read more...

     

    Programme Notes

    by John Woollard

     

    What is a Mezzo Soprano?

    Classical singers are always categorised. Every singer is identified in concert and opera programmes by a label used to identify their voice type. Whilst the four basic voice types are soprano, alto, tenor and bass, there are so many variations, and extra categories.

    “Mezzo Soprano” is Italian, loosely translating as half-soprano or semi-soprano. It could be said to be half way between soprano and alto or contralto, but that would be no more than a rough guide. Mezzo-sopranos generally have a heavier, darker tone than sopranos. The mezzo-soprano voice resonates in a higher range than that of a contralto. In current operatic practice, female singers with very low tessituras are often included among mezzo-sopranos, because singers in both ranges are able to cover the other, and true operatic contraltos are very rare. Any singer will use the labels to promote themselves, as the type of voice dictates the roles and works they can tackle. In Germany the system requires even more detailed categorisation. Mezzo sopranos themselves are divided into three sub groups – the lyric, dramatic and coloratura mezzo, and each defines the roles which the singer is expected to be able to tackle. The labels however can be no more than guides. Carmen is perhaps the most prominent mezzo soprano role in 19th century opera, but any opera director who had told Maria Callas that she could not tackle the role because she was a soprano probably would not have lasted long!

    While mezzo-sopranos typically sing secondary roles in operas, notable exceptions include the title role in Bizet's Carmen, Angelina (Cinderella) in Rossini's La Cenerentola, and Rosina in Rossini's Barber of Seville (all of which are also sung by sopranos). Many 19th-century French-language operas gave the leading female role to mezzos, including Béatrice et Bénédict, La damnation de Faust, Don Quichotte, La favorite, Mignon, Samson et Dalila, Les Troyens, and Werther, as well as Carmen.

    Typical roles for mezzo-sopranos include the triad associated with contraltos of "witches, bitches, and britches": witches, nurses, and wise women, such as Azucena in Verdi's Il trovatore; villains and seductresses such as Amneris in Verdi's Aida; and "breeches roles" (male characters played by female singers) such as Cherubino in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro. Mezzo-sopranos are also well represented in baroque music, early music, and baroque opera. Some roles designated for lighter soubrette sopranos are sung by mezzo sopranos, who often provide a fuller, more dramatic quality. Such roles include Despina in Mozart's Così fan tutte and Zerlina in his Don Giovanni. Mezzos also sometimes play dramatic soprano roles such as Santuzza in Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana, Lady Macbeth in Verdi's Macbeth, and Kundry in Wagner's Parsifal.

    A coloratura mezzo-soprano has a warm lower register and an agile high register. The roles they sing often demand not only the use of the lower register but also leaps into the upper tessitura with highly ornamented, rapid passages. What distinguishes these voices from being called sopranos is their extension into the lower register and warmer vocal quality. Although coloratura mezzo-sopranos have impressive and at times thrilling high notes, they are most comfortable singing in the middle of their range, rather than the top.

    Many of the hero roles in the operas of Handel and Monteverdi, originally sung by male castrati, can be successfully sung today by coloratura mezzo-sopranos. Rossini (who was married to one of the century’s most famous mezzos, Isabel Colbran) demanded similar qualities for his comic heroines, and Vivaldi wrote roles frequently for this voice as well. Coloratura mezzo-sopranos also often sing lyric-mezzo soprano roles or soubrette roles.

    The lyric mezzo-soprano has a very smooth, sensitive and at times lachrymose quality. Lyric mezzo-sopranos do not have the vocal agility of the coloratura mezzo-soprano or the size of the dramatic mezzo-soprano but are ideal for most trouser roles.

    Finally, a dramatic mezzo-soprano has a strong medium register, a warm high register and a voice that is broader and more powerful than the lyric and coloratura mezzo-sopranos. This voice has less vocal facility than the coloratura mezzo-soprano. The dramatic mezzo-soprano can sing over an orchestra and chorus with ease and was often used in the 19th century opera, to portray older women, mothers, witches and evil characters. Verdi wrote many roles for this voice in the Italian repertoire and there are also a few good roles in French Literature. The majority of these roles, however, are within the German Romantic repertoire of composers like Wagner and Richard Strauss.

    18 November 2012 - Rhodes Piano Trio

     

    Rhodes Piano Trio

    Piano Trio

    Violin Michael Gurevich
    Cello David Edmonds
    Piano Robert Thompson

     

    Programme

    1. Beethoven : Piano Trio in C min., Op. 1 No. 3
    2. Schumann : Piano Trio No. 3 in G min., Op. 110
    3. Mendelssohn : Piano Trio No. 1 in D. min. Op. 49

     

    Artist Biography

     

    In 2011 the Rhodes Piano Trio won 2nd Prize at the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition. Selected for representation by YCAT in 2010, over the last year the Trio has given recitals at Purcell Room, Bridgewater Hall, the Chester, Lake District Summer Music, Edinburgh Fringe and Festspiele Mecklenburg Vorpommern Festivals. Earlier this year the Trio took part in masterclasses with Menahem Pressler, Mitsuko Uchida in Aldeburgh and with Ferenc Rados and Andras Keller at IMS Prussia Cove. Engagements this season include debut recitals at Wigmore Hall, Barbican and Schwetzinger Festspiele.

    All three members of the Rhodes Piano Trio enjoy great success individually, Robert Thompson completing his solo studies with Peter Frankl at Yale University, David Edmonds with Gregor Horsch in Dusseldorf and Michael Gurevich as a Junior Fellow at the RNCM and member of the London Haydn Quartet.  Read more...

     

    Programme Notes

    by John Woollard

     

    BEETHOVEN – Piano Trio No. 3
      in C minor, Op. 1 No. 3

    1.   Allegro con brio
    2.   Andante cantabile con variazioni
    3.   Menuetto. Quasi allegro
    4.   Finale. Prestissimo

    Prince Carl LichnowskyBeethoven as a pianist and enthusiastic writer of chamber music needed to find a medium in which he could write works which he would be able to perform. During his early years he experimented with various combinations of instruments, aiming to find a group which balanced the sounds of the instruments in such a way that no one instrument dominated. In 1785 he wrote an early set of piano quartets, which included a viola player, but he rejected that as a medium as he was not satisfied with the balance. The three String Trios Op. 1 were by no means his first works, nor even his first published works. They were dedicated to Karl Alois, Prince Lichnowsky, a patron who financed Beethoven extensively, allowing him to pursue the unusual path of a freelance musician at a time when so many composers and players served in the households of the rich and powerful.

    The choice of piano trio was safe and practical. Safe, because the piano trio was considered a generally lighter genre with a less daunting history than the string quartet. Practical, because Beethoven himself was a brilliant pianist in need of performance material favoring his participation and leadership. Haydn had written a large number of wonderful piano trios that were essentially piano sonatas with string reinforcements. Mozart had written a handful, at least two of them masterworks worthy for three independent players. But both composers wrote trios with three or fewer movements, never exceeding around twenty minutes in length and hardly ever reaching the depths of their other chamber works. With his three new piano trios, Beethoven raised the stakes by adding a fourth movement, extending the length, deepening the emotional expression, giving almost equal roles to each of the players and gathering a great diversity of character and mood within a single set.

    The works received their first performance in 1795 in Lichnowsky’s Vienna palace, and amongst the guests was Haydn himself, who is said to have told Beethoven, "You give me the impression of a man with more than one head, more than one heart and more than one soul!" Whilst Haydn greatly approved of the first two Trios he advised Beethoven to withhold publication of the Third Trio, suggesting that it was perhaps too serious too soon; the public would neither understand nor approve. This rankled Beethoven and contributed to a rather cool relationship between the two composers.

     

    SCHUMANN - Piano Trio No. 3 in G minor, Op. 110

    1.   Bewegt, doch nicht zu rasch
        (animated, but not too quickly)
    2.   Ziemlich langsam (larghetto)
    3.   Rasch (quickly)
    4.   Kräftig, mit Humor (strongly, with humour)

    Daguerrotype from 1850Robert Schumann had a life long history of medical problems which influenced his life and music in many ways. Throughout his life he had episodic periods of depression which significantly reduced his compositional output. At the age of 34 he had a complete nervous breakdown and refused to listen to any of his music. Ten years later in 1854 he tried to take his own life by jumping in the Rhine. He was admitted into an asylum and died there two years later. Schumann created two contrasting personas – Florestan (spontaneous) and Eusebius (introverted) and these characters repeatedly occur in his compositions. This combined with obsessive repeated rhythms, fleeting phrases, abrupt transitions and radical use of harmony, it has been argued constitutes a musical mind beset with Bipolar disorder, but he was still capable of writing some of the finest and original music of the romantic period.

    From 1850 to 1854, Schumann composed in a wide variety of genres. Critics have disputed the quality of his work at this time; a widely held view has been that his music showed signs of mental breakdown and creative decay. More recently, critics have suggested that the changes in style may be explained by "lucid experimentation".

    Composed in 1851, the last of three works that Schumann wrote for this combination of instruments, the Trio is separated in time from the two earlier trios by a period of serious mental instability for the composer. He had taken the post of conductor of the prestigious Städtische Musikverein zu Düsseldorf, a position for which he was entirely unsuited according even to his friends. He neglected his duties, often to enable him to find the time to compose, and his behaviour on the podium quickly aroused the hostility of musicians and audience.

    ‘Robert is working busily on a Trio for piano, violin and cello’, Clara Schumann confided to her diary on 11 October 1851, ‘but he won’t let me hear any of it at all until he is completely finished. I only know that it is in G minor’. The first rehearsal of the new work, a fortnight or so later, made a deep impression on Clara. ‘It is original’, she wrote, ‘and increasingly passionate, especially the scherzo, which carries one along with it into the wildest depths’.

    Clara Schumann was able to play both the Trio and the D minor Violin Sonata during a chamber music evening at their house, on 15 November. The string players on that occasion were Schumann’s violinist friend Joseph von Wasielewski, and the principal cellist of the Düsseldorf orchestra, Christian Reimers.

    Schumann’s last piano trio is a piece that has all but disappeared from the repertoire. Together with some of his other late chamber works, it has sometimes been cited as evidence of the composer’s weakening creative strength—a judgement with which any listener carried away by the surging passion of its opening Allegro, the warmth of its slow movement or the sweeping continuity of its scherzo may find it hard to concur. If the finale strikes us as rather more episodic, it nevertheless draws the threads of the work together with remarkable subtlety.

     

    MENDELSSOHN – Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49

    1.   Molto allegro agitato
    2.   Andante con moto tranquillo
    3.   Scherzo. Leggiero e vivace
    4.   Finale. Allegro assai appassionato

    It has been suggested that the reason so many composers wrote so few trios is that three is a crowd and difficult to maintain in true harmony. Yet it remains a fact that some of the greatest musical experiences come from trios, such as Beethoven’s Archduke, Dvorák’s Dumky and Brahms’ great Horn Trio. Haydn’s vast output of quality music includes 125 baryton trios and thirty-one piano trios, while Mozart left only seven piano trios, one more than Beethoven. It is perhaps significant that writing for three instruments invariably brings out the best in a composer, and equally so that Mendelssohn’s two piano trios belong to the last years of his short yet highly productive life. A life which, seen in retrospect, covered an enormous musical spectrum and finally burnt out in an excess of energy.

    Haydn died less than four months after Mendelssohn was born, and the following year saw the births of both Chopin and Schumann, with Liszt only a year later. When Mendelssohn was born, Beethoven had eighteen more productive years to live, Berlioz was a boy of six, Rossini was flexing his creative muscles at seventeen, Schubert was twelve, and only four years later both Verdi and Wagner were to arrive in the world. Mendelssohn, uniquely among his contemporaries, was born into a wealthy, cultured Berlin household, where artists were constant visitors and the youngsters of the family were encouraged to develop their own creative instincts.

    Small wonder that young Felix became a master musical craftsman before reaching his teens. Much of the credit for this belongs to the Sunday musical gatherings in the Mendelssohn home, when first rate amateur as well as visiting professional players would get together to perform music, including the works of the boy of the house. No budding composer could have asked for a better training ground in which to develop his gifts. Much of that early music survived, and some of it was even approved by the composer for publication in later years, but an early trio of that time appears to have been destroyed. He was not to attempt another piano trio for more than twenty years.

    Twenty years in which he established a considerable reputation as a highly practical and equally cultured artist, whose friends ranged from Weber and Goethe to Cherubini, Rossini, Paganini, Chopin, Liszt and Schumann, who sent Mendelssohn the newly discovered score of Schubert’s Great Symphony in 1838. Mendelssohn’s musicianship knew no bounds, and he was famous for conducting the first ‘modern’ performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion in 1829, a month after his own twentieth birthday. He was also associated as conductor with the great Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig, while his regular visits to England had brought his own music to the forefront of English programmes, enhanced by his friendship with Queen Victoria.

    The trio was completed on 23 September 1839 and published the following year. The trio is one of Mendelssohn's most popular chamber works and is recognized as one of his greatest along with his Octet, Op. 20. During the initial composition of the work, Mendelssohn took the advice of a fellow composer, Ferdinand Hiller, and revised the piano part. The revised version was in a more romantic, Schumannesque style with the piano given a more important role in the trio. Indeed, the revised piece was reviewed by Schumann who declared Mendelssohn to be "the Mozart of the nineteenth century, the most illuminating of musicians."

    21 October 2012 - Bartholomew Lafollette & Mishka Momen

     

    Bart Lafollette

    Piano and Cello Recital

    Cellist Bartholomew Lafollette
    Piano Mishka Momen

     

    Programme

    1. JS Bach : Suite No. 3 in C major for unaccompanied cello
    2. Beethoven : Sonata No. 1 in F, Op. 5 No. 1
    3. De Falla : Suite Populaire Espagnole
    4. Brahms : Cello Sonata No. 1 in E min., Op. 38

     

    Artist Biography

    Cellist Bartholomew Lafollette was a pupil at the Yehudi Menuhin School from 1997 In 2003 he won a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music & Drama where he continued his studies with Louise Hopkins. In 2007 he was selected for representation by Young Concert Artists Trust. As a recitalist and chamber musician Bart Lafollette has appeared at major venues including Wigmore Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Bridgewater Hall, Fairfield Halls Croydon, the Purcell Room, St. George's Bristol, and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall.  Read more...

     

    Pianist Mishka is the youngest pupil ever to have been admitted by the Purcell School at the age of six on a full scholarship and where she was a pupil of Ilana Davids. Mishka is now a final year scholarship student at the Guildhall School of Music and has been studying with Imogen Cooper as her only student since 2006. Mishka has won several prestigious prizes and made her solo debut at the age of 10 since when she has performed in all of London’s major venues, Royal Festival Hall, Purcell Room, Barbican, Wigmore Hall, etc. She is regularly invited to give recitals hosted by the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe and the Chopin Society UK. She has performed abroad in Germany, New York, Prague, Mumbai and is a committed chamber musician.  Read more...

     

    Programme Notes

    by John Woollard

     

    JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH – Suite No. 3 in C major for unaccompanied cello, BWV 1009

    1.   Prelude
    2.   Allemande
    3.   Courante
    4.   Sarabande
    5.   Bourrée I
    6.   Bourrée II
    7.   Gigue

    Bach worked in Köthen from 1717 to 1723 as Kapellmeister for Prince Leopold von Anhalt-Köthen, and it was during his stay in this minor German principality that Bach composed some of his most celebrated music, including the Brandenburg Concertos, The Well-Tempered Clavier and his suites for unaccompanied cello.

    At Cothen Bach came into contact with two extraordinary musicians - the violinist and gamba player Christian Ferdinand Abel and the cellist Christian Bernard Linike. Either of these virtuosos may have been responsible for Bach's composition of six solo cello suites between 1717 and 1723. In these scores Bach transcended the limitations of Baroque convention. The cello was used as a virtuoso instrument rather than one that merely filled in a bass line. One of the most striking aspects of these suites is that they are unaccompanied. It was as if the composer were announcing the instrument's emergence. He also challenged the technical facility of the exponents of the new instrument. Here the cellist is totally unsupported. The skill of the performing artist is on display.

    The original manuscript of these cello suites has been lost. Contemporary performances have been based on facsimiles by Bach's widow Anna Magdalena and his student Kellner. These copied manuscripts often omit bowings, tempo markings, and ornaments. Many cellists have produced their own performing versions of these scores. The great cellist, conductor, and humanitarian Pablo Casals was responsible for introducing these remarkable works to 20th century audiences. While his approach was highly romanticized, Casals's deep love and respect for Bach and his innate humanity shine through every bar of his recordings of the suites. An historically informed performance of these works is as much a personal artistic choice as a performance conceived in more contemporary terms. Casals's more expressive approach with its roots in the 19th century concept of cello playing and composition was informed by works such as the Beethoven and Brahms in today’s programme, but is equally valid for its deeply felt eloquence. Casals worshipped Bach above all other composers. One of the fascinating aspects of these suites and the mysteries surrounding them is that each performer can bring his own personal concept and approach to the music. These works totally reconceived the cello as a solo instrument

     

    BEETHOVEN - Sonata No. 1 for cello    
    and piano in F major, Op. 5 No. 1

    1.   Adagio sostenuto - Allegro
    2.   Rondo. Allegro vivace

    Both Mozart and Haydn, Beethoven's older contemporaries, spent a lot of their career touring Europe and writing music and giving performances as the musical celebrities of their day. In February 1796 Beethoven set off on his own tour of central Europe visiting Prague, Dresden and Berlin, then the capital of Prussia. King Frederick William II was himself a music lover and talented amateur cellist who often played in string quartets and even his own opera orchestra and Beethoven soon set about composing works for the virtuoso court cellists, French brothers, Jean-Pierre and Jean-Louis Duport, during his stay.

    The modern cello emerged during the eighteenth century, and the elder Duport is often credited with the invention of the spike which modern cellists use to stabilise the instrument whilst it is being played. Hurriedly composed as they were these two sonatas mark the first modern cello and piano pieces, giving the instrument an equal voice with the piano part, in contrast to the previous obbligato role that composers assigned to the cello. Beethoven faced serious concerns as to whether the newly invented piano might swamp the sound from the gut strings of the cello, especially when playing more contemplative music, and he therefore avoided writing a slow movement for the sonata, providing instead a slow introduction, and an extended cadenza near the end of the work which would give the cellist an opportunity to display the sound of the instrument without being masked by the sound of the piano part. 

    Beethoven gave the first performance of both sonatas with Jean-Louis Duport at a concert at the Royal Palace which were highly acclaimed, and he also gave several solo piano recitals On his departure he received from the King a gold snuff-box filled with Louis d'ors and Beethoven declared with pride that it was not an ordinary snuff-box, but such a one as “it might have been customary to give to an ambassador ". He later said that he enjoyed his visit to Berlin more than any other city and there is some evidence that the King tried to recruit the composer as his court music director. Sadly the death of Frederick William II the next year put an end to any plans for his return as the new King was far less interested in music

    The works were published the following year in Vienna upon his return, dedicated to King Frederick William II himself.

     

    FALLA - Suite populaire espagnole (6 songs arr. for cello and piano, from "7 Canciones populares españolas")

    1.   El paño moruno
    2.   Nana
    3.   Canción
    4.   Polo
    5.   Asturiana
    6.   Jota

    Manuel de Falla, born in Cadiz in 1871, is today perhaps the most famous exception to the general rule that the best known “Spanish” music was written by Frenchmen such as Bizet, Debussy, Chabrier and Ravel. Falla studied initially in Madrid, but on the advice of his teachers moved to Paris in 1907 where he met many of the composers who had an influence on his style. King Alfonso XIII of Spain granted him a stipend to stay in Paris, where he gradually developed his mature style. In 1914 at the request of a Spanish singer, he completed a set of songs for soprano and piano, which he called “Siete canciones populares Españolas”, but declined to allow them a first performance in Paris because he found French audiences preferred Spanish music written by their own composers.

    The songs returned to Madrid with Falla when he was forced to leave France after the outbreak of the First World War, and they received their first performance in 1915 in Madrid, as something of a homecoming celebration for the composer. Following his return, Falla wrote most of the orchestral music for which he is now remembered, and instrumentalists identified the songs as good material for arrangements for them to play. Ten years later, Polish violinist Paul Kochanski reworked six of the songs for violin and piano, and a year or two later, French cellist Maurice Maréchal produced the version of the Suite for cello and piano, which we are going to hear this afternoon.

    In the original vocal/piano score, the keyboard evokes all types of Spanish musical voices. In the frequently sparse accompaniments you can identify the strumming of guitars, the clattering of castanets, and the stamping of Flamenco boots on hard floors. The six pieces reflect images of Seville, Andalusia, Asturias, and Aragon.

    Sadly Falla, having had to leave France because of the First World War, was further exiled by the Spanish Civil War, spending the end of his life in Argentina, because of his Republican sympathies.

     

    BRAHMS – Cello Sonata No. 1 in E minor, Op. 38

    1.   Allegro non troppo (E minor)
    2.   Allegretto quasi Menuetto (A minor)
    3.   Allegro (E minor)

    Brahms was a severe self-critic, perhaps more than any of the great composers, and destroyed much of the music he wrote. In 1862 he wrote the first two movements of this sonata, together with an Adagio which he then discarded, and it was not until 1865 that he managed to complete the work. The period that he worked on the Sonata marked momentuous changes to the composer’s life. In 1862 he was a young composer/pianist struggling to make a name for himself in the shadow of the memory of Robert Schumann, who had died in 1856. By 1865, he had moved to Vienna to take up a position as a conductor, a change which was to have a profound effect upon him, and would eventually allow him to concentrate on his work as a composer. It is dedicated to Josef Gänsbacher, a Viennese singing professor and amateur cellist, who had secured the post of conductor of the Wiener Singakademie for the composer. Brahms himself said of the sonata that it was "a homage to J. S. Bach" and the principal theme of the first movement is based on Bach’s The Art of the Fugue.

    Brahms performed the sonata with Gänsbacher in July 1865. In the course of a private performance for an audience of friends, Brahms played so loudly that Gänsbacher complained that he could not hear his cello at all. "Lucky for you, too", growled Brahms, and let the piano rage on. Brahms offered the sonata to publishers Breitkopf & Härtel, who turned it down. He also sent the sonata to another publisher describing it, in one of the most inaccurate statements made by a major composer about his own work, as "a violoncello sonata which, as far as both instruments are concerned, is certainly not difficult to play". Simrock published it in 1866, and in 1867 it received its professional premiere in Basel,  Switzerland on 12th February, by Moritz Kahnt (cello) and Hans von Bülow (piano).