Members’ evening

Members’ evening had a wide range of interesting pieces

Last night’s members’ evening had a wide range of music – eclectic even – from the traditional, to some pieces with jazz influences and a rarity from South America.

The traditional selections were from the Well Tempered Clavier by Bach and the chosen pieces were from Book 4 – the most difficult to perform.  Angela Hewitt was the pianist and her recordings show great skill and fluidity.  The other traditional selection was of Mozart’s first violin concerto the K207.  Composed when he was probably 17 it is one of five that he composed although there are possibly two more.  Paper analysis suggests an earlier date than originally supposed.

Completely different was Michael Torke’s Javelin one of a series of pieces exploring the relationship between music and colour.  Termed a ‘vitally inventive composer’ by the Financial Times, Javelin is a ‘sonic Olympiad composed for the Atlanta Olympics.

Jazz influences were clearly at work with two acoustic guitar compositions by Clive Carroll The Kid from Clare and Black Nile.  Guitar phenomenon Clive Carroll’s masterful compositions, coupled with his versatility and unparalleled technical virtuosity, have rendered him one of today’s most admired and respected guitarists.

Diego José de Salazar is largely unknown and in writing this it was hard to find anything much about him.  If you do know something, Wikipedia would like to hear from you I am sure.  Bolivian, born in 1659 and his music is classical in style but quite unique.  We heard Saiga el torillo hosquillo this was one of the hits of the evening.

Bantock’s The Frogs of Aristopanes would get the prize for the most curiously name piece of the evening but not only that, it was a version performed with a brass band, in this case the Grimethorpe Colliery band, said by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies to be ‘the finest band in the world’.  They are performing in Sturminster Newton in Dorset in June.

The first half ended with Victoria de Los Angeles performing Piu Jesu from Faure’s Requiem.

The mystery piece turned out to be an orchestrated version of one of Debussy’s preludes by Colin Matthews.  Two arias by Caruso, one from Rigoletto and the other from Othello, the latter sung with Tito Ruffo followed and the evening ended with Lark Ascending  by Vaughan Williams from a poem by George Meredith.

A truly amazing selection of pieces and the chair thanked Anthony for skillfully assembling them especially as he would have been unfamiliar with some.  Evenings such as this can be a collection of hackneyed favourites with little that is unfamiliar.  Although there were some well-known items, the unusual ones added considerable interest.

Peter Curbishley


Next meeting on May 13th

The Case for the Unfinished

The Case for the Unfinished was the title of last nights presentation from Tony Powell.  One might be forgiven for thinking this was about Schubert’s unfinished symphony but in fact it was about other composer’s unfinished works of which of course there are plenty.  Attempts to add another movement to Schubert’s work have not been successful and indeed it is possible that what is left is indeed finished.

Tony instead started with a Night on a Bare Mountain by Mussorgsky.  The final movement was changed by Rimsky Korsakov and this was played first.  Then we heard the original version which was entirely different and a complete contrast.  The point here was that finishing another composer’s work may be acceptable if it is in the spirit of the original.

Mozart
Two evenings devoted to this composer

Another famous unfinished work is the Requiem by Mozart and this was being feverishly composed as he was dying.  It was famously finished by his pupil and sometime collaborator Süssmayr.  There are many arguments about who wrote what bit of the work but nevertheless, there is sufficient of Mozart in the piece to make it a great work of art.  The difference here is that the work was intended to be finished and Mozart was dictating ideas until his actual death.  With Schubert on the other hand, we do not know of his intentions.

Bruckner’s ninth is usually played in its incomplete form but again, a lot of material was left – indeed a substantial number of sketches and completed elements – to enable an attempt to be made to create a final movement.  We heard Sir Simon Rattle conducting a performance and he was quoted as saying that there was ‘more Bruckner in the final movement than there was of Mozart in the Requiem.’  It certainly sounded authentic although there were references to the 5th now and again.

It was a surprise to some present that Puccini did not finish Turandot but the opera was left 15 minutes or so short at his death. It was finished by Franco Alfano yet it is recognisably in the master’s hand.

After a long fallow period following the Great War, Elgar started work on his 3rd Symphony which he did not finish by the time of his death in 1934.  From the surviving material the BBC asked Anthony Payne to finish it and he worked on the project for many years.  The first performance was in 1998 conducted by Andrew Davies.  The usual attribution is to both Elgar and Payne.  We heard part of the 1st movement and most of the 2nd.

Finally, Mahler and the unfinished 10th.  Mahler left a lot of notes and a ‘short score’ that is, not a fully orchestrated version.  Mahler had discovered that his wife had been unfaithful and this added to the turmoil in his life.  Initially his widow resisted attempts to finish and fully orchestrate the score but later relented.   There were several attempts and many statements by musicians saying it shouldn’t be done.  Deryck Cooke worked on the score and this was first performed in 1964.  Alma Mahler had changed her mind once she had seen the finished work and heard a performance.  We listened to one movement which was extremely ‘Mahler like’ in its sound and development.

This was a most interesting evening and shed light on the difficulties and problems of trying to finish another composer’s work.  Composition is a highly individual activity and however many notes and sketches are left, what would have ultimately been produced can never be recreated.  But if the attempts are honest to the original composer’s style and intentions, a worthwhile result can be achieved.

The group next meets on 5 February 2018.

Members’ evening

UPDATE: 23 November

If you have arrived here having read the report in the Salisbury Journal, welcome.  Our next meeting – the last this year – is on Monday 27th and you would be very welcome to come.  £3 for non-members.

The last meeting was a members’ evening where each will present and play a piece which they particularly like and want to share with others.  A wide variety of pieces were performed:

  • it was probably the first time in some years we had heard Wolf-Ferrari and in this case it was the last 2 movements from the Jewels of Madonna
  • Mozart followed with a rare outing of Varrei Spiegarvi o Dio, an aria interopolated into another, now lost opera.
  • we do not often hear the bassoon as a solo instrument but a piece by Weber – andante and Hungarian rondo showed the instrument off well.  It can sound strained in the higher registers but the soloist managed to avoid this
  • back to Mozart and a movement from a quintet K593 he composed around a year before he died
  • Alec Roth has almost certainly never been played before and is a composer with a slight Salisbury connection.  We heard an excerpt from string quintet #2
  • this was followed by some Schubert songs – always a favourite
  • Bach and two cantatas from his time in Leipzig – BWV 8 and 95
  • there was then a mystery piece and this defeated the audience.  It was part of Symphony #4 by the Polish composer Schmidt-Kowalski and several were impressed by this extract.
  • the penultimate piece was a Chopin ballade and to finish
  • .. Mendelssohn’s Scherzo from the Midsummer Nights Dream, but played on two pianos

A very diverse programme with no clear theme except that they were pieces loved by the members.

Mozart’s Last Year

Mozart’s last year was the title of a presentation to the Society by group member Peter Curbishley.  There probably isn’t another composer about whom there are so many myths particularly surrounding his death in December 1791, almost exactly 225 years ago.  The film Amadeus by Peter Shaffer did not help.  Although entertaining, it gave credence to wild rumours about poisoning which are now known to be untrue.
Pic: Anthem Arts

Peter played extracts from most of the works he wrote in the final months of his life.  This included of course the Requiem, but also from the operas The Magic Flute and La clemenza di Tito.  The Magic Flute was a huge success and is the fourth most performed opera ever written.  La Clemenza di Tito by contrast was a failure and languished unperformed until the 1950s.  This was in part due to a part written for a castrato, a practice which, mercifully, died out soon after the opera was written.

Members also heard extracts from the Clarinet Concerto written two months before his death, a string quintet and the last Horn Concerto.  Despite the huge body of brilliant music Mozart had composed before he died, he was Peter explained, only just beginning.  Part of the last piano concerto, finished in the early part of that year.  Had he lived into the nineteenth century who knows what he might have produced.  His death – from a streptococcal throat infection not poison – was a tragic loss to the world of music.
This was the last meeting of the first part of the programme and the next meeting is in February.  Seasons greetings to all our readers.

The Golden Years

During the years 1781 – 1791 the residents of Vienna enjoyed a golden age.  There was freedom of speech, the establishment of an open and tolerant society and even an end to the death penalty in the Hapsburg empire.  Indeed, the enlightenment had truly arrived.

Image result for haydn
Haydn

And the music: both Haydn and Mozart were alive producing between them, masterpieces at the rate of one every other month.  1791 saw the untimely death of Mozart of course (and Mozart’s last year will be the subject of a future presentation on 28th of November) and by now political events were beginning to have their effects in Austria.

Tim Rowe took us through some of these masterpieces with some carefully selected excerpts from the great works.  He started with the Gran Partita by Mozart which is a serenade for 13 mostly wind instruments.  Wind ensembles of various kinds were very popular at this time and the K361 is certainly the most popular.

Casals Quartet

This was followed by a Haydn string quartet, opus 33/1 played by the Casals Quartet (pictured).  Haydn is considered the ‘father’ of the string quartet and the form had a profound influence on Mozart.  Even though there are only 4 instruments, the form is extremely difficult to master and although Mozart could compose at great speed, modern paper studies show that he struggled to complete several of his own quartets.

Opera was hugely popular at this time and we heard extracts from several of Mozart’s pieces.  These included the overture from The Marriage of Figaro, arias from Don Giovani and finally three arias from Cosi fan Tutti.  For many, this is his finest opera, but strangely it was condemned by both Beethoven and Wagner.

Other pieces included part of the Mass in C minor and the piano sonata Alla Turca played on a forte piano.

A most interesting evening of a momentous period in musical history.

Apology

We must apologise to members for the problems we had with the keys to our normal venue.  Unfortunately, we were given the wrong set of keys so we had to repair to Ed and Sue Tinline’s house to hold the meeting.

The next meeting is a member’s evening and is on 14 November at the usual place – assuming that is we can get in!

 

 

Next meeting

The next meeting takes place tonight, 28 November when Peter Curbishley will be presenting ‘Mozart’s last year’.  Mozart died in December 1791 and the last year of his life was full of incident and great music.  Some masterpieces including the Requiem and the Magic Flute were composed as well as La clemenza da Tito.

Many people have been influenced by the Peter Shaffer play, Amadeus which, although entertaining, was full of nonsense.  The presentation will try and give some of the facts surrounding his last year and of course, play some of the music …

Mozart
Two evenings devoted to this composer

New season

By now, existing members will have received their invitation letter and programme for the 2016/17 season.  We are pleased with what we have in the programme which includes a ‘live’ event and outside speakers on Bruckner and Delius.  We have stayed away from Bruckner because his symphonies are on a massive scale but we are delighted that Terry Barfoot has risen to the challenge to give us a presentation on this important composer.  Proms listeners will have had a treat this year with several of his works being performed.

If you are new to this site we hope you will give us a try and if you just want to come along to an evening – because you have a particular interest in a composer for example – then it is only £3 to help cover costs.

One of our guiding principles is to widen knowledge of the musical world and speakers will often try to introduce unfamiliar pieces, either by composers who are almost forgotten or less well known pieces by major composers.

Parking is easy with plenty of space and we are within walking distance of the town centre.

 

 

New season’s programme

Two evenings devoted to this composer
Two evenings devoted to this composer

The new season’s programme has now been finalised and will soon be printed for distribution.  You can see a copy of the brochure here ahead of publication.  The committee has put together an excellent programme with two outside speakers and one, for the first time, from the Delius Society.  We have one ‘live’ music evening as well as presentations on a wide range of topics from Society members themselves.

Meeting arrangements are as before and parking is easy.  New members are always welcome – we’ve had several this year – and if you want to come along to an evening without commitment, there is a small fee of £3 to help with our expenses.

Existing members: if you can do anything to help promote events that would be appreciated.

The first evening will be on Monday 19 September.

Programme

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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Next meeting

THE next meeting of the Society will be tonight, Monday, 18th April starting at 7:30 usual place.  See the ‘Find us’ tab on the front page for a map or details if this will be your first visit.  The presentation will be by Anthony Powell – no stranger to the Society – who will be taking about the conductor Sir Charles Mackerras and illustrating his talk with examples of his conducting.

Sir Charles Mackerras. Picture filharmonie-brno.cz

Mackerras was one of the great polymath conductors of the 20th century, with interests that ranged from the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan to the high opera of Wagner and Strauss.  His rigour and empathy with both music and musicians, as well as his intellectual curiosity, earned acclaim and respect from across the musical world.  Any performance directed by Mackerras – particularly one featuring Janacek – bore the imprimatur of unsurpassed authority.

In the 1960s he was at the forefront of the period instrument movement, uncovering the original intentions of composers such as Handel, Mozart and Beethoven, and bringing to audiences some of the first “authentic” performances to be heard in Britain.  Of particular note was a production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro at Sadler’s Wells in 1965 in which he controversially – and to some ridicule – reinstated the appoggiaturas and other ornamentation that would have been used in the 18th century.

From the Telegraph