New season kicks off

The new season of the Recorded Music Society kicked off with a flying start with a presentation by Tony Powell entitled One Composer’s journey into silence and then resignation.  He was of course referring to Beethoven who, as is well known, became progressively deaf starting at quite a young age in his 20’s.  By 1816 he had lost nearly all his hearing and visitors had to write down what they wanted to say.

This clearly had a traumatic effect on his musical life.  He was a fine pianist and conductor so he was no longer able to do these things.  Even though the music was in his imagination, not to be able to hear what he had composed was a heavy burden to bear.

Tony attempted to take us through his musical life, starting with the youthful compositions and ending with some of the last completed pieces.  It might be tempting to use the major pieces – the symphonies or concertos for example – but instead he chose the smaller scaled compositions: piano trios; ‘cello sonatas; string quartets and piano sonatas.  These are often give a truer insight into a composer’s ‘soul’ if you will, and are harder to compose.  Some may be surprised at this but even composers like Mozart, who could dash off pieces seemingly at will, found the shorter forms harder to complete sometimes taking months.

The big change in the piano trios Tony explained, between Beethoven and the earlier composers, was the role played by the other two instruments.  With Haydn, they were in support of the piano, in the Beethoven’s work, they played an equal role.  This was particularly evident with Op 1 in G Major composed in 1795 when he was in his 20’s.

The style changed and in Op 70 No 2 composed in 1808 we see a greater intensity.  Events in Europe would no doubt had a role to play, in particular the French Revolution and the increase in enlightenment thinking.

He only wrote 5 ‘cello sonatas and we heard extracts from Op 5; Op 69 and Op 102, again a spread through his lifetime showing stylistic changes between 1797 and 1815.

Next to the string quartets and if you were not a Beethoven scholar and heard string quartet No 6 in B flat Op 18, you might be forgiven in thinking it was a piece by Haydn.  The jaunty theme and structure of the quartet typical of that composer.  You would not make that mistake with the last completed quartet (by Beethoven) No 16 Op 135 composed in 1826 the year before he died.

The piano sonatas were a compositional form Beethoven was most comfortable with, possibly because of his piano playing background.  We heard extracts from three: No 1; No 23 (Appassionata) and No 32.  The increase in intensity and complexity was most marked.

This was a most interesting presentation, showing the changing style of Beethoven’s work over his life.  No doubt events in his life – revolution, the Napoleonic wars for example played their part – but his retreat into an inner life would also have been a powerful influence.

Peter Curbishley


Next meeting 1 October at 7:30 as usual

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End of season meeting

New style for our final meeting

The final meeting of the current season of Salisbury Recorded Music Society will be held, tonight, Monday 4th June 2018 at 7.30pm in the usual venue.  The evening will be in the form of a concert, for which Paul Goldman has assembled three historic recordings:

– Bellini: “Norma” Sinfonia/Overture. Vittorio Gui conducting the Orchestra EIAR, Turin, 1937

– Elgar: Cello Concerto. Beatrice Harrison with Elgar conducting The New Symphony Orchestra, London, 1928

– Beethoven: Symphony No 7. Bruno Walter conducting the Columbia Symphony Orchestra, New York, 1969

We hope to see you on Monday and that you will enjoy this rather different style of evening to conclude our 2017-18 season.

June concert

Notice of the June meeting on 4th

The June meeting will be a little different from normal and will be in the form of a concert of three works;

  • Bellini – “ Norma” Sinfonia/Overture – Vittorio Gui conducting the Orchestra EIAR, Turin, 1937 -Historic recording
  • Elgar Cello Concerto, Beatrice Harrison with Elgar conducting The New Symphony Orchestra, London, 1928 – Historic recording
  • Beethoven Symphony No 7 Bruno Walter conducting the Columbia Symphony Orchestra, New York, 1969 – Historic recording.

Normal place and normal time with easy parking.  If you don’t know where we are go to the ‘Find us’ tab on the home page where there is a map and a postcode.  Only £3 for non-members

Early stereo recordings

The last presentation was by Robin Lim on the subject of early stereo recordings.  We are so used to stereo sound now – either through loud speakers or headphones – that we forget that there was a time when sound was in mono only.  We also think that it is a fairly modern invention: modern in the sense of 60’s when stereo records appeared.  It was an example of technology being ahead of its market in that, although the recordings existed, few people could afford the means to play them.

In fact Robin revealed, stereo existed at the end of the nineteenth century in France.  This was at the Paris Electrical Exhibition in 1881.  Separate telephone lines were used to convey the two tracks and a company was set up to exploit the technology which survived until after the Great War.

Leopold Stokowski – Picture BBC

But it was in the ’30s that stereo started to make its mark and this was linked to parallel developments in being able to store sound for playing later.  An example from this era was Leopold Stokowski playing an excerpt of Die Walkerie by Wagner from 1932.  The recording was surprisingly good but with a degree of background noise.  Nevertheless, the vigour of the recording and the balance between the two speakers was excellent.

An Englishman, Anthony Blumlein, perfected the single track system and with developments in America, the modern stereo record was born.  From 1934, a recording of Sir Thomas Beecham playing part of Mozart’s Jupiter symphony and the quality of the recording was outstanding.  Some modern filtering had probably been applied by even so, it was eminently listenable to.  Sir Thomas once said ‘The English do not like music but they absolutely love the noise it makes!’

Film music on the other hand was developing rapidly and soon had 8 tracks on which to record.  We heard Stokowski again with the Russian dance from the film Fantasia which was made before the war.

During the war, the Allies listened to German radio and were surprised to hear recorded

Walter Gieseking.  Picture: Pininterest

music of high quality being transmitted.  When the war ended there was a rush to find out how the Germans had done it and they had indeed made great technical advances.  Unfortunately, a lot of the recordings were in the Russian sector and most disappeared after the war.  One at least survived and this was Gieseking playing Beethoven’s the Emperor concerto with the Berlin Radio Orchestra, and the sound and playing was simply outstanding.  Indeed, one had to remind oneself that this was a recording from the war and not a modern cd.

Robin also touched on ‘accidental stereo’.  This is where in the early days two recordings were made as a kind of insurance in case one of the machines failed.  Modern technology has enabled these two be blended together to give a stereophonic effect.  Apparently discs were sent to Elgar after the recording was done and he kept them and they have survived.  This has enabled the two recordings to be blended and as an example, we heard an extract from the ‘cello concerto.  We also heard Elgar conducting a version of ‘Oh God our help in ages past’.  This was made in February 1928.  The sound was authentic but the stereo was not so evident.  Even so, a remarkable achievement.

It was a fascinating evening, in which Robin married the development of a technology with the sound it produced.


Before the meeting we had a brief agm.  All the officers were reelected en bloc.  The Society made a small surplus in the year.  The chair thanked all those who opened up, did the refreshments, prepared the programme and also the members who continue to support us.  Over 2,000 people have visited this Web site.  New members are always welcome.  Copies of the programme are in the Oxfam music room, the Tourism Information Centre in Salt Lane and the Collector’s Room in Endless Street.

Next meeting on 17 October.

 

 

 

 

 

Sir Charles Mackerras

The last meeting of the Society was a presentation by Anthony Powell of the conducting of Sir Charles Mackerras illustrated by extracts from some of his recordings.  Mackerras was born in Schenectady in USA to Australian parents but they returned to their home country when he was two to live in Sydney.

He was a precocious talent and wrote a piano concerto when he was 12.  His parents were not convinced a musical life would be a viable profession so sent him to The King’s School with its focus on sport and discipline hoping that he would pursue a different career.  It was not to be and at the age of 16 went to the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music where he studied oboe, piano and composition.

Vaclav Talich

At 19 he was the principal oboist with the ABC Sydney Orchestra.  A few years later he sailed for England and began his career at the Saddlers Wells Theatre.  He studied conducting with Vaclav Talich (pictured) in Prague and returned to resume his career at the English National Opera.

There then followed a distinguished career with a variety of famous orchestras including the BBC Concert Orchestra; Covent Garden; the Met and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.  He was the first non Briton to conduct the BBCSO at the Proms.

Tony selected a wide range of his conducting and started with a piece by Sir Arthur Sullivan followed by a piece by Delius: Paris: the song of a great city first performed in 1899 in Germany and this recording with the Liverpool Philharmonic.

Mackerras had a great attachment to Czech music – indeed he spoke the language fluently – and we heard the Symphonic poem: the Noonday Witch by Dvorak.  This was followed by an extract of the familiar Sinfonietta by Janacek.

The classics were not neglected and two movements from Mozart’s Symphony No. 32 in G major performed with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.  Then it was Beethoven’s seventh followed by Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5.  All these extracts illustrated the close attention to rhythm and pace which Mackerras had.  This was particularly illustrated by an extract from Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, a piece of great energy and requiring great skill to keep the orchestra together.  This was an electrifying performance.

To record Handel’s Messiah using no less than 26 oboes were needed – which is what the composer required – meant it had to be done at night finishing in the small hours.  After the final scene of Janacek’s Jenufa we heard the final movement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, again with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchesta.

The range of this conductor’s performances was well illustrated and the pieces carefully chosen to give good examples of his style and ability.  Sir Charles died in 2005.  He had received many honour including a CBE; Medal of Merit from Czech Republic and was made Honorary President of Edinburgh International Festival Society.


Next meeting on May 9th and is a member’s evening

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A personal musical journey

Last nights meeting was a presentation by Anthony Powell in which he played music which he has enjoyed over his life.  As we move into the electronic age, and increasingly people download their music from the internet, it is hard to remember that there are people who’s first experience was with 78s.  For younger readers these are discs that rotated at 78 rpm.  They didn’t last long and any piece of any length involved several disks and several trips to the turntable to turn them over.

The first piece was Beethoven’s Egmont overture which was a transcription from a 78 and was recorded by Toscanini.  Typical of this conductor it was a very forthright performance and sounded good despite the fact it was mono and of some vintage.

Tony’s first LP (can we all not forget our first LP and the trip back from the shop to play it for the first time?) was Beethoven (again) 5th Symphony conducted by Bernard Haitink.  This was a live recording at Birmingham and the audience burst into applause at the end of this thrilling piece.

Next was Mahler and the end of his Symphony No. 3 followed by Rimsky Korsakov and this was a version recorded from a Decca 7″ record which were popular around 40 or so years ago.  Many of us took advantage of these budget priced discs.

Next we heard the finale of the thrilling Shostakovich Violin concerto.  Alongside the music Anthony had brought in a collection of signed autographs of composers and conductors.  Some he had acquired by writing to Russia at a time when this was an unusual thing to do.

A lifelong liking for the Late Quartets of Beethoven was illustrated by an extract from No 16 in F major.  There are pieces that stay with you throughout your life and you never tire of them.

This was followed by the Sanctus from Berlioz’s Grande Messe Des Morts performed in St Paul’s cathedral and conducted by the late Sir Colin Davies a Berlioz specialist.  A feature of the evening was the large preponderance of live recordings which, although sometimes less than perfect, do have a certain electricity to them which a studio recording can lack.

The rest of the programme included;

  • Robert Simpson’s Symphony No. 4

    Thomas Ades
  • Beethoven’s Misa Solemnis
  • 3rd movement from Thomas Adès’s Violin Concerto (2005)
  • two songs by Richard Strauss
  • and the evening finished – appropriately enough – with final part of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony No. conducted by Klaus Tenndstedt recorded in 1989

A most enjoyable evening and truly a Dance to the Time of Music.

#Programme for 2015/16 now being finalised

Members and supporters might like early sight of the new provisonal programme for 2015/16.  We have continued the recent innovation of having a live performance even though we are called the ‘recorded’ music society.  We have some speakers who are familiar as well as some new faces so there should be plenty to interest music lovers.  You will find the pdf version clearer for technical reasons.

2015 16 programme (pdf)

Date Speaker and title
2015
September 21 Ed Tinline.  Music from Sibelius 150th Anniversary Festival, Lahti, Finland
October 5 Barry Conaway.  ‘1911 – new music of a sunset year’ including Delius, Elgar, Mahler and Sibelius
October 19 Peter Curbishley  ‘… but I don’t like modern music’.  Music by Schoenberg, Shostakovich and other ‘moderns’
November 2 Christopher Guild.  ‘The music of Roland Center (1913 – 1973) and the influence of Britten, Shostakovich, Ravel and Vaughan Williams on his work’ (provisional title)
November 16 Alastair Aberdare.  ‘A Berlioz Miscellany’.  Lord Aberdare is a member of the Berlioz Society
November 30 Members’ Evening
2016  
February 1 TBA
February 29 A Baroque Evening.  David Morgan, Sue Wyatt, Sally Reid and David Davies will bring their baroque instruments to give a live performance, including music by Corelli, Gottfried Finger and Handel
March 14 Anthony Powell.  ‘A personal musical journey – 60 years of discovery, including works by Beethoven, Mahler, Vaughan Williams, Britten and Butterworth
April 4 Robin Lim.  Title to be confirmed
April 18 TBA
May 9 Members’ evening
May 23 Jon Hampton.  ‘The art of the arranger’.  To include works by Boccherini, arranged by Berio, Bach by Elgar and Schubert by Britten

Please note that some elements may change so it is always worth coming to this site to get the up to date position.  We are always looking for new presenters and if you would like to volunteer that would be appreciated.  If you are nervous about being on your feet then someone else can do the presentation for you if you prefer.  We look forward to seeing you in the autumn.

Shostakovich
Shostakovich