Next meeting

The next meeting of the Society on Monday 29th April 2019 and will be a members’ evening.  Usual place and usual time, 7:30.  A reminder if you are not a member that there is free parking just outside the door.

The following meeting on 29th April is a members’ evening so please bring along a suggestion for playing.  No more than 10 minutes (including any introduction) it will help Tony to put together a programme for the evening.

16 April 2019

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The Trumpet shall sound

This was the title of the last presentation to the Society by Ed Tinline.  As the title suggests it was a presentation around the trumpet but Ed also included examples of other brass instruments some of which he brought in and one he attempted to play.

The essential point about brass instruments is that the sound is formed by the lips in a mouth piece and then amplified by a conical tube.  Originally, in ancient times, the tubes were very long but the idea of coiling them into the current shapes we see in the modern orchestra made them more manageable.  The addition of valves also made creating a range of sounds possible.  The brass instruments differ from a saxophone say, because the sound in that instrument is created by a reed – similar to a clarinet – so although made from brass it is not in fact classed as a brass instrument.  Although almost all instruments were made of metal, the serpent for example was made of wood but still relied on a mouthpiece to make the sound.  He also explained the role of ‘crooks’ to alter the pitch of the instrument.

Ed played a mixed selection of pieces starting with an extract from the Messiah which gave the evening its title.  We then heard Purcell’s Sonata for trumpet in D major and this was followed by Albinoni’s Concerto for trumpet and organ in F major – and odd paring of instruments but it did in fact work quite well.

A type of horn is the alphorn and Leopold Mozart composed a concerto for alphorn and strings arranged by Dennis Brain.  Rimsky Korsakov’s Concerto for trombone and wind band premiered at a garrison concert in 1878.  To finish the first half we heard part 1 of the Horn Concerto op 23 by Mathew Taylor who was born in 1964 in London.  Well, we didn’t quite finish the first half with that piece but with Flanders and Swann’s Ill Wind, a take off to words of the famous rondo from  Mozart’s Horn Concerto No 4.

… and the second half started off with the real thing.  Mozart wrote his horn concertos for his friend Joseph Leutgeb with whom he had a lifelong – if occasionally stormy friendship.  The instrument of the day was difficult to play and Leutgeb was obviously a skilled performer.

A familiar horn piece is of course Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man written to rally the troop at the entry of the USA into the Second World War.  It’s a piece which is frequently played at public occasions.

An interesting arrangement for brass of Chopin’s Mazurka No 47 in A minor by D Abrams followed.  Gerard Hoffnung was one of the tuba players in this witty piece.   Then it was the first movement of Vaughan William’s Tuba Concerto composed in 1954.  It was originally regarded as a rather eccentric piece but has become an established part of the repertoire.

sousaphone
A sousaphone being played in the south of France.  Photo: author

The final three pieces were by Sibelius: Allegro for brass ensemble and triangle, a piece he submitted anonymously for a competition but did not win!  Holst’s March from the Moorside Suite came next and then part of Strauss’s An Alpine Symphony to finish.  Except, not quite because we heard the Pasadena Roof Orchestra play a piece featuring the Sousaphone.  The instrument was designed for street performance where a big sound was needed but a tuba was too difficult to carry (see photo).

A fascinating evening which illustrated the various issues surrounding brass instruments as well a careful selection of music from several eras.

Next meeting is on 15 April and will feature modern music

Peter Curbishley

 

Next meeting – the trumpet

The next meeting of the Salisbury Recorded Music Society will be held on Monday 1st April 2019 at 7.30pm in our usual venue, when Ed Tinline will be presenting  The trumpet (and other brass) shall sound – a focus on the brass section from Handel onwards.  Given the date, although it will be a bit late in the day for tricks as such, Ed hopes to include a little musical humour during the evening.

We hope to see you on Monday.

Great French singers of the past

Last night’s presentation by Stephen Tucker was a wonderful selection of recordings, both of French song but also of French singers.  Several of the recordings were of some vintage: for example a 1907 version of Emma Calvé singing L’amour est une oiseau rebelle from Bizet’s Carmen.  Also from Carmen, there was a 1911 recording of Paul Franz singing La Fleur que tu m’as jeté.  Franz started life as a labourer working on the roads – from roads to riches you might say.

Another example was Emile Vanni Marcoux singing Une grande innocence from Pelléas et Mélisande: the interesting point here is that the recording was made in 1910 during the composer Debussy’s lifetime.

Some of the recordings were scratchy of course reflecting the technology available at the time, but we heard a number of now largely forgotten singers in their full glory.

Stephen played a total of 20 songs and they included Meyerbeer – hugely popular in the middle of the nineteenth century – Gounod’s Faust, Berlioz and in particular Le Spectre de la rose from Nuits d’Ete.  Berlioz also composed a version of the Faust legend, Le Damnation de Faust was a failure and was eclipsed by Gounod.

We also heard pieces by Massenet, Delibes, Lalo and Duparc.  The evening was entitled Cette chanson est pour vous and the evening ended with a version of Madame, cette chanson est pour vous with Django Reinhardt.

A most enjoyable and informative evening listening to tracks and recordings one would not normally ever come across.

Peter Curbishley

Charles Valentin Alkan

An evening of the music of this largely unknown French-Jewish composer

There are many people – even among keen classical music enthusiasts – who have never heard of this composer.  At our meeting last night (4 March 2019) this was corrected with an excellent presentation by Alan Forshaw.

It was perhaps unfortunate that Alkan lived at the time of Liszt and Chopin who dazzled the Paris public with their playing and compositions.  These are now household names and their works regularly played in concerts.  Another factor is that Alkan composed largely for the piano so there are no symphonies, operas or song cycles etc.  This narrowness of repertoire combined with the fiendish difficulty of many of his compositions may have led to his virtual disappearance.

Alkan was a prodigy entering the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 6 and giving a recital on the violin, at 7.  He was born in 1813 in Paris.  He started composing at 15 and this composition – Variations on a theme from Steibelt’s Orage Concerto – was the first piece to be played.  The second was Concerto da Camera No 2 in C# minor which was first performed in Bath, England which he visited in 1833.

We then heard extracts from Trois Grandes Etudes Nos 1, 2 and 3.  What was notable about these was that No 1 was for the left hand only and No 2 for the right.  Listening to these justifies the word ‘fiendish’.

Although Alkan composed mostly keyboard works, the next piece was the finale from the Piano Trio with strings.  We then heard four examples from Twelve Studies in all the major keys Nos 1, 5, 8 and 12.  These were followed by some extracts from Concerto for solo piano.

Alkan was overlooked by the Conservatoire when they appointed Marmontel – a mediocre talent and former student of Alkan’s – to the post of head of piano studies.  Following this acute disappointment and sleight, Alkan retired from public view for around 20 years although he did continue to compose.

He was a practising Jew being from a devout Jewish family and for a time, was organist at his local synagogue.  He spoke Hebrew.  Some of his later compositions had Jewish themes.

In some senses his life mirrored his compatriot Berlioz – 10 years his senior – who also had problems with the French musical establishment.  Berlioz composed nothing for the piano but some commentators said Alkan was ‘the Berlioz of the piano’.  They differed in that Alkan continued to follow the German tradition whereas Berlioz forged a new individual path whilst continuing to be an admirer of Beethoven.

The chair of the Society, in his vote of thanks said that, like many he suspected in the audience, he had heard little of Alkan, and Alan had shown what a remarkable and individual composer he was.  His music follows fairly straightforward musical forms – variations for example are quite easy to follow – but he pushed his technique to extreme limits.

There is a society devoted to his works http://www.alkansociety.org 

Peter Curbishley


The next meeting is on 18 March and continuing the French theme, is about great French singers of the past.

Next meeting

The next meeting of the Salisbury Recorded Music Society will be held on Monday 4th March 2019 at 7.30pm in our usual venue, when Alan Forshaw will present: “Charles-Valentin Alkan – Neglected Genius”

Alkan was a lonely 19th Century genius, virtuoso pianist and composer of some of the most difficult and powerful piano works written. Together with Chopin and Liszt was the darling of Paris musical society until he became a recluse and is now largely unknown and forgotten.

I hope you will be able to come on Monday.