Members’ evening

A range of interesting music from members

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.

Derek Bourgeois. Picture: YouTube

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.

Renee Fleming. Picture: Broadwayworld.com

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.

Source: en-wiki

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.

Next meeting on 28 November on Mozart.

 

 

Film music

Shostakovich
Shostakovich

After a short agm, the meeting was presented by Alan Forshaw with a programme of #filmmusic.  He discussed various film compositions of Shostakovich, Hans Zimmer and Korngold who composed primarily ‘serious’ music but who, for different reasons (political, financial, etc.) produced film scores throughout their careers.  This was the first time the society has listened to an evening devoted to this genre.

Film music is a little unregarded as a part of the music scene, indeed, a quick look in Groves for Shostakovich for example, reveals only a single passing reference to his compositions for the cinema and none in the list of works.  Yet for modern composers, writing for the cinema or composing advertising jingles provides them with valuable income before fame beckons (if it ever does).

Shostakovich wrote in the time of ‘Soviet Realism’ and falling foul of the censors could have dire consequences for any artist.  The films are long forgotten and include Alone (1930); The Great Citizen (1938); and Piragov (1947).  Alan also played extracts from wonderfully named film The Counterplan (1932) which included extracts called ‘The Workers Gather’ and ‘Song of the Counterplan’.  It would be hard to imagine queuing round the block for a film of that title today.  One could hear echoes of his later works in some of these pieces and it was interesting to hear them with the benefit of great symphonies such as the Leningrad in one’s mind.

By way of contrast, Alan played extracts from the award winning film composer Hans Zimmer.  He has written for over a 150 films including the Gladiator; The Thin Red Line; and Rain Man and has won many awards.  Extracts included The Last Samurai (2003) and The Da Vinci Code (2006).  Zimmer worked briefly with a pop group known as the Buggles, famous for their No 1 hit Video Killed the Radio Star.

Finally, Korngold who was born in Brno in 1897.  He was recognised early as a prodigy and had early successes with a ballet and two operas.  He then moved to Hollywood and composed much film music and we heard extracts from The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and The Sea Wolf (1941).   

It is interesting to note the difference between an opera and a film music composer.  Name an opera and most people interested in music will know the composer.  Name a film and few would know who wrote the music.  The other problem is the music may die with the film if it wasn’t a box office success.  But the music we heard tonight was worthy of a wider audience in its own right.