The meeting was held last night, Monday 14th March at the usual time and usual place. The presentation was by Anthony Powell and the title of the talk was A personal musical journey – 60 years of discovery. Tony presented a range of works he has enjoyed over the years which included Beethoven; Mahler; Richard Strauss and Robert Simpson.
For details of where we meet see the ‘Find us’ tab on the home page. Parking is right outside and is free. A fuller report will appear soon.
The presentation will be preceded by a Committee meeting so if any member has a point to bring to their attention please get in touch.
We look forward to seeing you. Next meeting is on 4 April.
Yes, we are the ‘recorded’ music society but this is an exception. Members will recall a previous evening at which David Davies performed on the keyboard. Now we are delighted to see him return for an evening of baroque music played by David and some friends. These include David Morgan and Sue Wyatt (violins), Sally Reid (‘cello) and David himself who will be on the harpsichord. It will be more than just the music as there will be some explanation about the music and the instruments.
The programme includes works by familiar composers including Boyce, Bach, Handel and Corelli as well as some less well know composers such as Veracini, Krieger, Leclair and Finger.
For non-members, tickets on the door will be a modest £2 for the evening.
7.30 on Monday 29th February at the rear of the Guide’s Centre. Details of how to find us is on the ‘Find us’ tab. Parking is easy and free. We look forward to seeing you. Space is limited so please arrive in good time.
Leonard Bernstein had many talents and at the last meeting of the Society three of them were on vivid display in a presentation by Alan Forshaw. First was his ability as a pianist was shown in a recording, made in 1946, of Ravel’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra from which we heard the first movement. It is no surprise Bernstein liked this piece with its strong jazz influences and powerful rhythms. We also heard him play one of his own compositions, Seven Anniversaries recorded in 1947.
His second great skill was as a conductor for which he was in great demand. He was the principal conductor for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for many years. Examples we heard included the second movement from Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the NYPO with Bernstein conducting from the keyboard and also the Adagietto from Mahler’s 5th Symphony.
He was an accomplished composer in a wide range of genres. Few may of heard of his Clarinet Sonata for example, his first composition. More familiar perhaps is his Symphony No. 1 from which we heard the second movement with its strong rhythms and echoes of Stravinsky. We also heard part of his Symphony No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra both recordings with the NYPO.
He was a composer of operas and first was Trouble in Tahiti – an opera in seven scenes – from which we heard scene 2. Candide did not achieve critical acclaim unfortunately and had to wait two decades before it found a place in the repertoire again. West Side Story is undoubtedly his most successful work, loved the world over and was made into a film. Two extracts were played: Tonight performed by Jose Carreras and Kiri Te Kanawa, and Somewhere, in a performance conducted by Bernstein himself.
Alan explained that Bernstein was the son of a Ukrainian immigrant and it is perhaps worth reflecting on the enormous contribution east European and Russian immigrants made to the life of the United States. Not just musicians, but scientists, writers, mathematicians and in many other areas of cultural life. As the UK is struggling with the ‘threat’ of immigrants fleeing Syria and other war torn areas, it is worth remembering on the benefits that they can bring, as Bernstein did to the USA and musical life generally.
This was an accomplished presentation which gave an insight into the range of talents Bernstein had and the musical legacy he has left behind. A musical polymath indeed.
Wine merchants often say that particular wines needed ‘careful selection’ especially after a poor harvest and these words came to mind after last night’s presentation of new music by Peter Horwood. Some modern music is difficult to take to especially if melody, harmony and structure have all been abandoned in the name of some kind of ‘ism. Under the title of Bright, shiny and new, Peter had selected works composed this century and what a fine selection it was. With perhaps a few notable exceptions, many of the composers were unfamiliar and their pieces for the most part unheard.
He focused on works which were approachable starting with extracts from Flight by Oliver Davis, a violin concerto composed in 2012. Davis only graduated in 1994 yet has many pieces to his name. This is definitely a composer to look out for and the concerto was melodic and definitely ‘approachable’.
This was followed by three pieces by Philip Glass: first piano etude No. 17 which was more lyrical than we have come to expect from this composer; the third movement of his Symphony No. 10 which had rhythmic brass and a march like theme and thirdly, the second movement of Symphony No. 10 which had a magical feel to it. It is easy to be put off by some of Glass’s music but this selection was certainly a ‘way in’ to this composer.
We moved on to Kenneth Fuch’s string quartet No. 5 called the American. This was followed by James MacMillan’s Tu es Petrus (no, not the wine!) from his percussion concerto with plainchant (sounds odd described thus but it does work) premiered in 2010 which has been performed in Westminster Cathedral. We also heard his more modest O Radiant Dawn from his Strathclyde motet.
On to the Baltic next and a piece by he Finnish composer Rautavaala, born in 1928, called Incantations – a percussion concerto – and the extract we heard had a xylophone accompanied by a string ensemble. He has written eight symphonies and is described as a ‘neo-romantic’.
The Ukrainian composer Valentyn Sylvestrov contributed some pieces next, first Bagatelles Nos. 1 -3 and then, Waltz of the Hours. Sylvestrov was one of those who struggled under the yolk of ‘Soviet Realism’ but has lived to tell the tale. Parts of his work were reminiscent of Mahler.
Finally, two pieces by Pêteris Vasks: the first movement from his Cello Concerto No. 2 composed in 2015 and started with a long solo section followed by the orchestra and this was followed by Viatore – a tribute to the Finnish composer Avo Pärt. Vasts had to leave Latvia during the Soviet era as he was a Baptist and had to finish his training in Lithuania.
… well not quite final because we had a brief extract from the music to Pirates of the Caribbean composed by Hans Zimmer.
This was a particularly enjoyable evening and one of discoveries. That the speaker was able to come up with nearly two hours of approachable music composed in this century was an achievement.
The Society will meet again for the first time in 2016 tonight Monday February 1st at 7.30 pm in the usual place. The presentation will be by Peter Horwood and the title is Bright, Shiny and New. This will be a selection of 21st Century composers who are approachable and stimulating. It will include pieces by Philip Glass (pictured); Valentine Silvestrov; Peteris Vasks; Oliver Davis; Kenneth Fuchs; James Macmillan and Einojuhani Rautavaara.
If you want to know where we meet, details are in the ‘Find us’ tab on the Home page. There is easy parking. New members very welcome.
Last night the Society was pleased to welcome Alastair Aberdare, Chair of the Berlioz Society who presented what he calls a Berlioz Miscellany. This was an illustrated presentation with portraits and photographs of the composer and scenes from his operas.
Most of the music played was by British conductors for example, Sir Roger Norrington; the late Sir Colin Davies and John Eliot Gardiner. It these conductors, along with others in the past such as Sir Thomas Beecham, who have done much to popularise this composer and expand the repertoire of recorded compositions. It is also noteworthy that the finest biography is by the Society’s president, David Cairns.
Alastair said there were two key facts about Berlioz: one is the creation of mood by using different orchestrations and the second is that he is always ‘telling a story’. In addition to being a fine composer, Berlioz wrote several books including Evenings in the Orchestra and a treatise on orchestration. He was also a journalist and some of his pieces are being made available on the Berlioz website
The first piece was the youthful overture Les Francs-Juges which older readers will recall was used in the BBC programme Face to Face. The second piece was a wistful melody le Jeune Pâtre Breton. For some who still see this composer as someone writing for big forces, the delicacy of his songs can be a surprise.
Next was the Marche funèbre pour la dernièr scène d’Hamlet. Berlioz was captivated by Shakespeare and wrote several pieces based on his works most famously, Romeo and Juliet. This was followed by La Course l’abîme from La Damnation de Faust a work which failed to appeal when it was first introduced and the negative reaction greatly disappointed the composer.
This was followed by the Pantomime scene from his great work Les Troyens which Berlioz never heard in its complete form and was pronounced unperformable for many years. The Duo Nocturne from Beatrice and Bénédict followed which was based on another of Shakespeare’s plays Much Ado About Nothing. Back to the songs with a performance by Dame Janet Baker of Spectre de la Rose from the charming song cycle Les nuits d’été and there was just time to hear a movement from Te Deum.
An excellent evening.
In two weeks it’s the members’ evening starting at 7.30 as normal on 30 November.
The next meeting of the Society is on Monday 16 November and please note the earlier start time of 7pm. It will be a presentation by Alastair Aberdare entitled A Berlioz Miscellany. Alastair is a member of the Berlioz Society and is a frequent contributor to the Berlioz Society Bulletin. We are delighted to welcome him to Salisbury. Berlioz was a fascinating composer who’s works were profoundly original and are frequently played today. In addition to his musical work he was an accomplished journalist and author.
For further details of the composer, his works, photographs, performances and much else go to a website dedicated to him. This site is packed with information and is well worth a look.
The next meeting is tonight, 2 November, and will concentrate on the music of Ronald Stevenson. A prolific composer of around 500 works, he was born in Blackburn in 1928 and died in Scotland in 2015. He was a pianist/composer in the manner of Liszt and Busoni. Christopher Guild will be presenting and he will play works transcribed by Stevenson composed by Percy Grainger, Busoni and the Scottish composer Ronald Centre. 7.30 as usual.
We are saddened to report the death of Vic Riches who died following a heart attack. Vic was a stalwart of the Society and was one of the founder members in 2002. He moved to Chichester about two years ago but last returned to present an evening in 2014. He will be sadly missed.