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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Ed Tinline. Music from Sibelius 150th Anniversary Festival, Lahti, Finland
Barry Conaway. ‘1911 – new music of a sunset year’ including Delius, Elgar, Mahler and Sibelius
Peter Curbishley ‘… but I don’t like modern music’. Music by Schoenberg, Shostakovich and other ‘moderns’
Christopher Guild. ‘The music of Roland Center (1913 – 1973) and the influence of Britten, Shostakovich, Ravel and Vaughan Williams on his work’ (provisional title)
Alastair Aberdare. ‘A Berlioz Miscellany’. Lord Aberdare is a member of the Berlioz Society
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
Anthony Powell. ‘A personal musical journey – 60 years of discovery, including works by Beethoven, Mahler, Vaughan Williams, Britten and Butterworth
Robin Lim. Title to be confirmed
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.