We held our first member’s evening this season and it turned out to be excellent. A small, but perfectly formed selection of music was put forward and we heard a mixture of old favourites and some completely new pieces.
We started with a concerto in D by Johann Fasch a contemporary of Bach and Telemann. Not a composer we have heard played before I think so it was interesting to hear this.
This was followed by the familiar K393 Solfeggio and the Great Mass in c minor by Mozart. This was followed by some extracts from Mendelssohn’s Elijah.
A surprise addition was John Downland’s songs Go Crystal Tears, Mrs Winter’s Jump and I saw my Lady Weep. Forward in time to the romance from Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust which resulted in a considerable financial loss for the composer.
Finally, and perhaps to shake everyone up, we heard the Drunkard from Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. A rumbustious piece to finish the first half. This composition was banned from performance in Russia and led the composer to live in fear of his freedom.
After the break it was Darius Milhaud’s suite for alto sax Scaramouche.
This was followed by some songs which may have been played in Shakespeare’s plays presented from his own disc by Jeremy Barlow. This will merit a fuller presentation in future.
We finished with a live recording of Mahler’s symphony No 8 (final two sections) which rounded the meeting off wonderfully.
So we spanned the centuries and the styles and heard the new and the familiar.
The next meeting takes place on Monday 8th of May and will be a member’s evening. If you have a particular piece you like or want to hear played then liaise with Anthony Powell. Usual place usual time.
Members’ evening on November 14th produced a wide range of interesting, not to say eclectic, offerings from members. Clearly, as a group, we listen to a wide range of sources and this was reflected in the music played.
First off was a trombone concerto by Derek Bourgeois, born in 1941 and this piece was composed in 1988. We heard the 3rd movement which showed the incredible versatility of the instrument played by Christian Lindberg.
Next – and a complete break in time and tone after the flamboyance of the trombone piece – we heard some selected pieces from the Well-Tempered Clavier by Bach. Quite what instrument these were written for as there is no instrument called the clavier but it is likely they were for clavichord, harpsichord or small organ. They were composed for purposes of tuition and to teach feeling as well as technique.
A complete change again with the title theme to the Carpetbaggers by Elmer Bernstein. Bernstein was a prolific composer for the film industry and his scores include 10 Commandments, The Magnificent 7 and the Great Escape. This was an arrangement by Lalo Schifrin.
Next, Korngold, a prodigy and prolific composer and from his opera Die Stadt, we heard the lovely Gluck, Das mir Verlieb sung by Renée Fleming.
Female composers are not that common and so it was a pleasure to be introduced to Marie Jaëll and her Cello Concerto from 1882. She was a pupil of Camille Saint-Saëns and Liszt. Marie Jaëll probably represents the most authoritative and accomplished expression of the nineteenth century woman musician. In spite of her coming from the provinces and despite the heavy social restrictions imposed on artists of her gender, she nonetheless succeeded in being recognized as a virtuoso, a composer and as a teacher. Support from her husband – the Austrian pianist Alfred Jaëll – greatly contributed to the positive reception of her initial works for the piano, but it was by herself, armed with her talent and her resolve in the latter part of her life, that she faced up to the Parisian hurly-burly in which she proved herself to be one of its distinctive figures. While her learning method is still taught in various different countries, little interest thus far has been shown in her music, which in the greater part is held in the Bibliothèque Nationale et Universitaire in Strasbourg. Formidable and ambitious symphonic works are revealed on this book-cd as well as a significant facet of her compositions for the piano [Source; Wikipedia].
We then heard an extract from Schubert’s Piano Trio No 2 in E flat. Also by contrast – and harking back to the Venetian evening last month, part of Marcello’s music based on Psalm 11.
Rameau is not a composer we have heard much of at the Society so it was interesting to hear the lively Musette and Tambourin en rondeau pour Terpsicore. Not much is known about his life and he was fairly obscure for many years. There has been something of a revival in recent years and his pieces now appear in concerts.
Another American composer – albeit of Armenian and Scottish descent – is Alan Hovhaness who was another prolific composer who was very popular in the ’50s and ’60s but is less heard today.
Finally, a familiar composer to the Society – Gerald Finzi and his Romance for String Orchestra. There is something in Finzi’s music that seems to capture a sense of a pre First World War world of lazy afternoons in the country.
The next meeting of the Society – the penultimate – is on May 9th and is a members’ evening. This is where individual members can suggest pieces which can be played with or without an introduction by them as they wish. It is usually and enjoyable evening, eclectic of course and everyone’s choice is different. Usual place, usual time.
New members are welcome and the entry is a modest £2 to help us defray costs.
The final meeting of the season takes place on 1 June at the usual place and usual time. It is a change to the programme and will be a presentation by Ian Lance entitled ‘A critic’s choice, 2014’.
This has been an interesting year and members have heard a range of unusual pieces, some by rarely heard composers and some lesser played works by famous composers. The new programme is in preparation and will be available later in the summer. If you have any ideas for inclusion in the programme, or you know of someone who could present something, we would be delighted to hear from you.
The Society met for the last time before Christmas and listened to selections by members of their favourites. There was an extremely wide ranging and very interesting choice of music starting with a version of Ruslan and Ludmilla played by a horn ensemble. Other items included the prelude to Mascagni’s opera William Ratcliff demonstrating that he was not just a ‘one opera’ composer.
Among other presentations was a mono recording of Bach’s The Well Tempered Clavier. Bach composed these before the piano forte was invented so some modern renditions are not entirely faithful to the sort of sound he intended. This early recording by Edwin Fischer was perhaps truer to that. Also by Bach we heard an aria from St Matthew Passion where the alto and violin weave through the melody.
For Wagner lovers – and even for non-Wagner lovers – we heard the well known prelude to the Master Singers. A lighter touch was provided by Dudley Moore playing And the Same to You – a parody of Beethoven, performed at Beyond the Fringe.
Other pieces included:
Gustav Mahler’s Ruckertleider No 5 sung by Janet Baker
Beethoven’s Bagatelles (selection of)
Mozart’s Vedrai carino from Don Giovanni
Gerald Finzi’s In Terra Pax
an exceprt from Verdi’s Aida
the wonderful Fantasy in F Minor by Schubert
one of the songs from Four Last Songs by Strauss
and we finished with part of The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
So a fine end to the first half of the season and we wish all our readers a happy Christmas.
The new season starts off on February 2 with a fascinating presentation by Frida Backman of the Backman Trio who will be taking us through the process of making a CD from rehearsal to the finished thing. We look forward to seeing you then. Details of where we are on the home page. Please check back here nearer the time for any change to the arrangements.