Bright, shiny and new

Wine merchants often say that particular wines needed ‘careful selection’ especially after a poor harvest and these words came to mind after last night’s presentation of new music by Peter Horwood.  Some modern music is difficult to take to especially if melody, harmony and structure have all been abandoned in the name of some kind of ‘ism.  Under the title of Bright, shiny and new, Peter had selected works composed this century and what a fine selection it was.  With perhaps a few notable exceptions, many of the composers were unfamiliar and their pieces for the most part unheard.

He focused on works which were approachable starting with extracts from Flight by Oliver Davis, a violin concerto composed in 2012.  Davis only graduated in 1994 yet has many pieces to his name.  This is definitely a composer to look out for and the concerto was melodic and definitely ‘approachable’.

Philip glassThis was followed by three pieces by Philip Glass: first piano etude No. 17 which was more lyrical than we have come to expect from this composer; the third movement of his Symphony No. 10 which had rhythmic brass and a march like theme and thirdly, the second movement of Symphony No. 10 which had a magical feel to it.  It is easy to be put off by some of Glass’s music but this selection was certainly a ‘way in’ to this composer.

We moved on to Kenneth Fuch’s string quartet No. 5 called the American.  This was followed by James MacMillan’s Tu es Petrus  (no, not the wine!) from his percussion concerto with plainchant (sounds odd described thus but it does work) premiered in 2010 which has been performed in Westminster Cathedral.  We also heard his more modest O Radiant Dawn from his Strathclyde motet.

On to the Baltic next and a piece by he Finnish composer Rautavaala, born in 1928, called Incantations – a percussion concerto – and the extract we heard had a xylophone accompanied by a string ensemble.  He has written eight symphonies and is described as a ‘neo-romantic’.

Valentyn Sylvestrov
Valentyn Sylvestrov

The Ukrainian composer Valentyn Sylvestrov contributed some pieces next, first Bagatelles Nos. 1 -3 and then, Waltz of the Hours.  Sylvestrov was one of those who struggled under the yolk of ‘Soviet Realism’ but has lived to tell the tale.  Parts of his work were reminiscent of Mahler.

Finally, two pieces by Pêteris Vasks: the first movement from his Cello Concerto No. 2 composed in 2015 and started with a long solo section followed by the orchestra and this was followed by Viatore – a tribute to the Finnish composer Avo Pärt. Vasts had to leave Latvia during the Soviet era as he was a Baptist and had to finish his training in Lithuania.

… well not quite final because we had a brief extract from the music to Pirates of the Caribbean composed by Hans Zimmer. 

This was a particularly enjoyable evening and one of discoveries.  That the speaker was able to come up with nearly two hours of approachable music composed in this century was an achievement.


Next meeting on 15th and is of Bernstein

 

 

 

 

Berlioz Miscellany

Evening of the music by Berlioz

Last night the Society was pleased to welcome Alastair Aberdare, Chair of the hector-berlioz-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.

 

 

Next meeting: Berlioz

The next meeting of the Society is on Monday 16 November and please note theHector Berlioz earlier start time of 7pmIt 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.

Remember: 7 o’clock start!

New season kicks off at the end of the month

The new season kicks off at the end of this month with Ed Tinline playing music by

Sibelius
Sibelius

Sibelius.  This is on 21st  September at the usual time of 7.30.  Ed is currently researching his presentation and where else but Finland itself at the 150th anniversary festival?

Copies of the programme are to be found in the Collector’s Room in Endless St; Oxfam upstairs; the Tourism Information Centre and the Library.  You can also download it here:

2015 16 programme

Don’t forget you can see us on Twitter now and you can find us at @salisburyai.

On a sad note, members will be sorry to hear of the death of David Phillips who passed away on 25th of August after a short illness.  David was a loyal member for many years although he wasn’t able to attend recently.  Our thoughts are with his family.

Hope to see you on 21st.

#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

Pietro Mascagni

The last meeting of the Society took place on Monday 20 April.  It focused on the Italian composer Pietro Mascagni.  He was the son of a baker in Lavorno and studied at the Milan Academy. He lived from 1863 to 1945 and in the 1930s and during World War II worked reluctantly, and with difficulty, under Mussolini’s fascist regime.  He wrote 15 operas and one operetta.

mascagniIn England we tend to remember him only for his one-act opera Cavalleria Rusticana, the piece that made him famous overnight and gave him financial security for the rest of his life.  At its first performance it received no less than 60 curtain calls.  In his native Italy and elsewhere in Europe his works are better remembered and the presenter Ron Seaman played us some examples.  He was seen as the heir to Verdi but as time went on, it was Puccini who wore that mantle.  Among the pieces played were Mein ester Walzer, my first waltz; the Apotheosis of the Stork; and the ballet music for Fiori del Brabante.  We also heard extracts from Cavalleria including the final scene; Intermezzo and the Easter Hymn.  We also heard extracts from his last opera Nerone.

He is a composer who made it big early in his life and yet did not quite follow it up as he matured.  Listening to the range of his work it was perhaps surprising that he never composed film scores as some of his compositions, which had strong melodic lines, could have been adapted.

It was interesting to hear some works not often performed to gain a wider perspective of this composer.

Continue reading “Pietro Mascagni”

Meeting

The last meeting of the Society was on Monday, March 2nd.  We were pleased to welcome a speaker from EM Records, based locally at Blandford Forum, which is the recording arm of the English Music Festival and fulfils the EMF’s aims of celebrating and preserving overlooked works by British composers throughout the centuries.  It has a strong focus on the early twentieth century: the Golden Renaissance of English music. EM Records resolves to bring this glorious music to a world-wide audience. In keeping with the unique spirit of the Festival, each disc released by EM Records will contain at least one World Première recording. 

As well as learning some of what is involved in preparing, recording and producing CDs of the highest quality, we also gained an insight into the issues raised when unearthing and interpreting previously unpublished manuscripts.  Recordings of better known English composers like Vaughan Williams, Holst and Stanford were interspersed with some lovely recordings of works by lesser known lights such as David Owen Morris and Henry Walford Davies, the latter being the composer of the instantly recognisable RAF March past.

This is the second time the Society has gone behind the scenes, so to speak, and heard about the process of recording a CD.

See also English Music Festival

Mozart and his paper

Mozart
Mozart

Although the first two programmes this season have concentrated on more modern composers, Peter Curbishley took us back at the Society’s meeting on 20 October, to the 18th century with an erudite presentation cryptically named ‘Mozart and his Paper.’  It was based largely on the work of the late Alan Tyson.  Although Mozart’s music is so well known there are still mysteries concerning his compositions that need to be explored.

We learned that at the time Mozart was composing, paper was so expensive that musicians were often unable to acquire more than limited supplies.  It was still a craft based industry unchanged for 600 years.  Samples varied widely and it is from the watermark of the paper that we know where an individual piece was written.  This often provided insights into Mozart’s compositional process and showed that some compositions took time, often several years, before reaching fruition.  The Hunt Quartet for example may have taken four years.

Other mysteries were then exposed.  The Horn Concerto in D presents an enigma: did Mozart write the rondo or not?  Although the greater part of the manuscript was found in Krakow, the rondo turned up later in St Petersburg, but in a different handwriting.

We heard an excerpt from the Paris Symphony and  although this is the only Mozart symphony which survives from this time, there is a letter written to his father that mentions a second symphony, although there is no trace of it.  There are two versions of the slow movement however and paper studies have revealed which was the final version.

The Piano Concerti provide further surprises he said.  On examination of the manuscripts it appears that the first movement is often in a different handwriting from subsequent movements and on different paper.  It now seems possible that Mozart would, from time to time, write a first movement and then await an opportunity – a commission perhaps – to write the remaining movements.

A popular and celebrated great composer, yes, but one who is full of surprises.

New season gets underway

The first evening of the new programme started on Monday with Michael Salmon asking ‘is this another English

Vaughan Williams
Vaughan Williams

renaissance?’  After the deaths of Elgar, Vaughan-Williams, Delius and Britten, new British music has often appeared to lack direction and to a certain extent quality.  However, since 1950, there has been a significant change and Michael will be looking at a group of modern British composers whose music, although always intensely lyrical, appears, in many cases to follow the 19th century French School with its harmony, impressionism and minimalism.

Note this was a change to the published programme.

A review will appear here shortly.

New site

This is the site for the Salisbury Recorded Music Society. Welcome. You’ll find more about us in the ‘About’ tab at the top of the site. To see where we meet, look in the ‘Find us’ tab. We’ll be publishing more material here as time goes on but we have just held our last meeting of the season so it will be quiet for a while.

We are affiliated to the Federation of Music Societies.