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of the highest quality, we also gained an insight into the issues raised when unearthing and interpreting previously unpublished manuscripts.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.
Telemann was a prolific composer and probably composed more music than any other – over three thousand works are known including 1043 cantatas. He was a contemporary of JS Bach and to Handel and was probably better known than either in his lifetime. However, he is less well known now and the fame of his contemporaries has eclipsed him. There is much to admire and the Society’s presentation by Angus Menzies on 16 February introduced us to the range of his output.
George Philipp Telemann was born in 1681 at Magdebourg in Germany and was clearly a child prodigy being able to play four instruments by the age of 10. His parents wanted him to go into the church and he did indeed start studies in this direction but gave them up after a year. He studied at Leipzig and at 21 became the musical director of the opera there. There were subsequent appointments in Zary, Frankfurt and finally in Hamburg. His first wife died young and his second left him for a Swedish nobleman.
Angus played a range of music from some of his earliest compositions up until his death in Hamburg. Pieces included Concerto in G major for recorder; oboe and violin; Overture in D major from Jubeloratorium; a scene from Orpheus, and the curious Volker overture Turcs; Suisses and Muscovites. He wrote nine operas.
He titled his talk: Geese, frogs and old pepper sacks. The frogs referred to sounds included in one of his early works – a violin concerto; the opera house was once in the goose market (much like Covent Garden used to be adjacent to the market) and pepper sacks was how prosperous members of the Academy were referred no doubt because of their girth.
It was interesting hearing echoes of Handel in some of the pieces with whom he exchanged bulbs as they were both keen on this activity. Handel borrowed much from Telemann. Telemann was godfather to CPE Bach.
He was ‘an amazing, varied and fascinating composer’ Angus said. Although far from unknown he has been overshadowed certainly by Bach and to an extent Handel but nevertheless, he composed much that can be admired. Part of the entry in Groves says: Telemann’s music is easily recognisable as his own, with its clear periodic structure, its clarity and ready fluency. Though four years senior to Bach and Handel, he used an idiom more forward looking than theirs and in several genres can be seen as a forerunner of the Classical style.‘
An enjoyable evening and we were pleased to welcome some more new members.
The Society’s new season got off to a flying start on Monday night with a presentation by Frida Backman of the Backman Trio. The substance of her talk was the making of a music CD which rather underplays what might have been a rather workmanlike presentation. However, it was much more than that. Frida had uncovered a previously unpublished work by Sibelius no less, which they had managed to piece together and perform as part of their first CD.
Frida won’t be unknown to local music lovers and only last Friday, she performed with Salisbury based pianist Lynda Smith in Sarum College as part of their lunch time series of concerts. The Trio was founded in 2009 in London by British pianist Marcus Andrews, Finnish violinist Freda Backman and British cellist, Ruth Beedham. In 2014 they returned to Finland and performed at the Aino Atke festival in Helsinki as part of the CD launch. With financial support from the Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland, the group was able to resurrect the composer Eric Bergman’s piano Trio No 2 of which we heard an extract. Bergman (1911 – 2006) is another of those composers of whom little is heard today but he has a large repertoire of work.
Frida went through the lengthy process of making a CD and included a discussion of the differences between a live and studio performance. With the former of course, there is only one chance and the tension is high to get it right. A studio performance on the other hand involves many hours of takes and retakes and keeping the performance fresh can be difficult to achieve. Unless one is lucky to have a recording contract, there are the costs to consider and then how to launch and promote the finished thing.
The evening ended with a performance of a previously unknown work by Sibelius – Fantasia, performed by the group. It was remarkably accessible and the recording was – in the opinion of the writer – clear, well balanced and bright. It is available from the Collectors Room in Salisbury UK.
Our view of a piece of music can sometimes be clouded by our belief of when it was composed. Somehow, we expect music in the nineteenth century to be romantic and in the twentieth, modern. So if we hear a piece that seems ‘out of its time’ we might in some way find it hard to accept. It was these reflections which led Anthony Powell last night to present a programme of music which was all composed at broadly the same time. What was striking was how different and varied the pieces were: if asked one might have thought half a century spanned their compositions when in fact it was around a decade. Truly, a dance to the music of (short) time.
He started with the overture to Jenufa by Janacek composed in 1894. Janacek was rarely heard until well into this century but is now a regular fixture in concert halls and his operas, such as The Cunning Little Vixen are frequently heard. He followed that up by an extract of the Sinfonietta arguably the most familiar of his works.
We then heard some Elgar who’s Symphonic Study, Falstaff was written only a few years after Janacek’s yet sounded an age apart. Other pieces included the Claude Debussy’s tonal work La Mer written a year or two after Elgar yet sounding completely different.
Another contrast were two extracts from Symphoniesno 3 and 5 by Nielsen. Nielsen is being heard more and more now and his symphonic works at least get performed. Anthony contrasted this with extracts from Mahler and in particular his Symphonyno 1 written two decades earlier but sounding from an altogether different age.
A fascinating programme which illustrated well the variety of musical styles which coexisted in just over a decade.
The next meeting is based on the saxophone as an orchestral instrument and is on November 17. If you weren’t at last nights meeting then don’t forget to bring along your favourite piece (lasting less than 10 minutes) for the Members’ evening on December 1st.
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.
The first evening of the new programme started on Monday with Michael Salmon asking ‘is this another English
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.
The Society launched its new season’s programme this week and hard copies are available in the Tourist Information Office; the Collector’s Room; Oxfam upstairs; and the Library all in Salisbury. Joint chair of the society, Ed Tinline said ‘we have an exciting mix of presentations this year which includes film music, English music, Mozart, Shostakovich and Telemann – something for all tastes.’
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.