The next meeting of the Society is on Monday 29 October at 7:30 as usual and will be a presentation by Ian Lace on Debussy and Ravel – two great French composers. We look forward to seeing you there. It is GDP3 for non-members. Parking is outside the door and is free. Appropriate venue for people with mobility difficulties.
The new seasons programme has now been agreed and contains an exciting mix of composers and presentations. Starting on Monday 17th of September with Anthony Powell’s intriguingly entitled: One composer’s journey into silence and then to resignation.
The programme includes presentations on Debussy, Ravel and Elgar among others. There is also an evening on the music of Valentin Alkan – a ‘neglected genius’ as the presenter will say. We heard something of him last season so hearing more will be interesting. There are many such composers who were immensely popular in their day but are almost unheard of now.
We will be posting details nearer the time so keep an eye on this site to see what’s happening.
If you are not a member details are on a tab at the top of the site and remember parking is easy and free.
Entry is £3 for visitors.
The full programme can be downloaded from the link below and may we ask members to print off a copy and possibly give it to someone who might be interested. We are printing the leaflets so they should be available next week in Oxfam and the TIC (if it hasn’t disappeared that is).
Most people have pdf now but if not, you can get a free download here
The solo violin in classical music
This was a presentation by Salisbury violinist Frida Backman on music for the solo violin.
Perhaps the first thing to say is that there isn’t that much for the solo instrument. Beyond Bach one might be stumped to think of many solo works and although Kodály was mentioned and later his fellow Hungarian Bartók, apart from a few virtuoso performers, there are not many works of note. There is of course a huge repertoire of accompanied violin music and concertos.
The instrument was developed into what we see today in the sixteenth century in Cremona, Italy and one of the first masters was Amati. The instrument consists of no less than 70 parts.
Frida started with some early works by Nicola Matteis who was a violinist in the early eighteenth century and who composed pieces more advanced than his contemporaries. We then heard a piece by Tartini also of this era, and who was influential in teaching the instrument and wrote a treatise which may have influenced Mozart’s father.
The composer of a large amount of solo work was JS Bach and we heard several pieces by him including an arrangement by Fritz Kreisler in a 1904 recording of a partita with a piano accompaniment. We also heard pieces by Biber, Prokofiev, Ysaÿe, and Ravel’s Tzigane composed in the early ’20s.
A brilliant virtuoso of the early nineteenth century was Paganini who’s phenomenal abilities were said to derive from the devil. He was hugely successful and owned no less than 11 Stradivari violins. Two of his caprices were played, numbers 23 and 24.
Frida explained that development of the bow was crucial to the instrument’s success. As music moved out of the salon into the concert hall, more power and volume was needed and the modern bow enabled that to be achieved. However, many players still use a baroque style bow to achieve greater authenticity and Frida played two CDs of the same piece to illustrate the difference in tone.
Frida ended her presentation with a live rendition of a piece by a modern composer Zura Dzagnidze called Intruder composed in 2005. This she played against a backing track with herself.
A most interesting evening exploring the history of this most versatile of instruments.
Picture: Frida Backman
Leonard Bernstein had many talents and at the last meeting of the Society three of them were on vivid display in a presentation by Alan Forshaw. First was his ability as a pianist was shown in a recording, made in 1946, of Ravel’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra from which we heard the first movement. It is no surprise Bernstein liked this piece with its strong jazz influences and powerful rhythms. We also heard him play one of his own compositions, Seven Anniversaries recorded in 1947.
His second great skill was as a conductor for which he was in great demand. He was the principal conductor for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for many years. Examples we heard included the second movement from Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the NYPO with Bernstein conducting from the keyboard and also the Adagietto from Mahler’s 5th Symphony.
He was an accomplished composer in a wide range of genres. Few may of heard of his Clarinet Sonata for example, his first composition. More familiar perhaps is his Symphony No. 1 from which we heard the second movement with its strong rhythms and echoes of Stravinsky. We also heard part of his Symphony No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra both recordings with the NYPO.
He was a composer of operas and first was Trouble in Tahiti – an opera in seven scenes – from which we heard scene 2. Candide did not achieve critical acclaim unfortunately and had to wait two decades before it found a place in the repertoire again. West Side Story is undoubtedly his most successful work, loved the world over and was made into a film. Two extracts were played: Tonight performed by Jose Carreras and Kiri Te Kanawa, and Somewhere, in a performance conducted by Bernstein himself.
Alan explained that Bernstein was the son of a Ukrainian immigrant and it is perhaps worth reflecting on the enormous contribution east European and Russian immigrants made to the life of the United States. Not just musicians, but scientists, writers, mathematicians and in many other areas of cultural life. As the UK is struggling with the ‘threat’ of immigrants fleeing Syria and other war torn areas, it is worth remembering on the benefits that they can bring, as Bernstein did to the USA and musical life generally.
This was an accomplished presentation which gave an insight into the range of talents Bernstein had and the musical legacy he has left behind. A musical polymath indeed.