Next meeting

The next meeting of the Salisbury Recorded Music Society will be held on
Monday 18th March 2019 at 7.30pm in our usual venue, when Stephen Tucker will present Great French singers of the past – a survey of their voices and repertoire.

Parking is free and convenient.  We look forward to seeing you.

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Charles Valentin Alkan

An evening of the music of this largely unknown French-Jewish composer

There are many people – even among keen classical music enthusiasts – who have never heard of this composer.  At our meeting last night (4 March 2019) this was corrected with an excellent presentation by Alan Forshaw.

It was perhaps unfortunate that Alkan lived at the time of Liszt and Chopin who dazzled the Paris public with their playing and compositions.  These are now household names and their works regularly played in concerts.  Another factor is that Alkan composed largely for the piano so there are no symphonies, operas or song cycles etc.  This narrowness of repertoire combined with the fiendish difficulty of many of his compositions may have led to his virtual disappearance.

Alkan was a prodigy entering the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 6 and giving a recital on the violin, at 7.  He was born in 1813 in Paris.  He started composing at 15 and this composition – Variations on a theme from Steibelt’s Orage Concerto – was the first piece to be played.  The second was Concerto da Camera No 2 in C# minor which was first performed in Bath, England which he visited in 1833.

We then heard extracts from Trois Grandes Etudes Nos 1, 2 and 3.  What was notable about these was that No 1 was for the left hand only and No 2 for the right.  Listening to these justifies the word ‘fiendish’.

Although Alkan composed mostly keyboard works, the next piece was the finale from the Piano Trio with strings.  We then heard four examples from Twelve Studies in all the major keys Nos 1, 5, 8 and 12.  These were followed by some extracts from Concerto for solo piano.

Alkan was overlooked by the Conservatoire when they appointed Marmontel – a mediocre talent and former student of Alkan’s – to the post of head of piano studies.  Following this acute disappointment and sleight, Alkan retired from public view for around 20 years although he did continue to compose.

He was a practising Jew being from a devout Jewish family and for a time, was organist at his local synagogue.  He spoke Hebrew.  Some of his later compositions had Jewish themes.

In some senses his life mirrored his compatriot Berlioz – 10 years his senior – who also had problems with the French musical establishment.  Berlioz composed nothing for the piano but some commentators said Alkan was ‘the Berlioz of the piano’.  They differed in that Alkan continued to follow the German tradition whereas Berlioz forged a new individual path whilst continuing to be an admirer of Beethoven.

The chair of the Society, in his vote of thanks said that, like many he suspected in the audience, he had heard little of Alkan, and Alan had shown what a remarkable and individual composer he was.  His music follows fairly straightforward musical forms – variations for example are quite easy to follow – but he pushed his technique to extreme limits.

There is a society devoted to his works http://www.alkansociety.org 

Peter Curbishley


The next meeting is on 18 March and continuing the French theme, is about great French singers of the past.

Next meeting

The next meeting of the Salisbury Recorded Music Society will be held on Monday 1 April 2019 at 7.30pm in our usual venue, when we shall be very pleased to welcome our own Ed Tinline who will be presenting an evening on the trumpet and other brass instruments.

I hope you will be able to come on Monday.

Second half gets underway

The second half of the season gets underway on Monday 4th February at 7:30 as usual with a presentation on organ music.  We have not had such a presentation in recent years (if at all) and yet there is a large corpus of music written for this ‘king of instruments’.  The music will included works in the 17th century and some written in modern times.  At least one recording was made with the Cathedral’s organ.

Hope to see you there.

Elgar

The next meeting of the Society on 12 November, is about the great British composer, Elgar

We shall be very pleased to welcome Duncan Eves from the Elgar Society, who will be presenting: Elgar – Orchestral Genius.

We look forward to seeing you on Monday.  If you are not a member, the entrance fee is £3 for the evening.  Parking is right outside and is free.

Next Meeting

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.

Member’s Evening

Member’s Evening on 15 October 2018

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.

Peter Curbishley


Next meeting on 29th October