It’s becoming an annual tradition for Ensemble 360 to follow the morning Sunday Family Concert with a large-scale afternoon chamber music concert and in using all eleven members of the group, this year’s is rather special. Brahms’s first Serenade and Martinů’s Nonet have been much enjoyed by Leamington audiences before, but the Sextet by Dohňanyi is programmed for the first time. Written in Budapest in 1935, it is a Romantic work, richly scored and bubbling in tunes.
Scherzo: Allegro non troppo
Adagio non troppo
Brahms’s D major Serenade is well known as his first orchestral work – but, like the D minor Piano Concerto from the same period, it had a complicated genesis. It was first conceived in 1857 as a Serenade for eight instruments in three or four movements, and a year later it had become a work in six movements, now scored for nine instruments. By 1860, it had been rewritten for full orchestra – the version that survives today (though Brahms even considered developing that into his first symphony, but decided to leave well alone). The nonet version was performed in public on 28 March 1859 at a concert in Hamburg, and a year later the orchestral version was given its premiere in Hannover. Whether Brahms destroyed the chamber version, or whether the material simply vanished is not known, but a skilful reconstruction reveals something of Brahms’s original conception: a work much closer in spirit to the serenades and divertimentos of Mozart than the reworked orchestral version.
© Nigel Simeone 2013
This work dates from the last year of Martinů’s life and he wrote it with a specific ensemble in mind: the Czech Nonet. This Nonet is one of Martinů’s most fluent and skilful chamber works and in the outer movements his music suggests something akin to the joyful music-making of a group of Czech folk musicians. The heart of the work is the lyrical central Andante.
Martinů was far from home (he spent his last years in Switzerland) and in this movement he seems to bid a fond farewell to the Czech homeland that he knew he would never see again. The first performance was given by the Czech Nonet at the Salzburg Festival on 27 July 1959 and Martinů died a month later, on 28 August.
Nigel Simeone © 2011
Allegro con sentimento
Presto, quasi l’istesso tempo
Born in Hungary, Dohnányi’s early compositions had been praised by Brahms, and he always had a strong sense of being part of the Austro-German Romantic tradition. In this respect he was very different from his classmate at the Budapest Academy, Béla Bartók, but his music is always beautifully crafted and has very individual harmonic touches. The Sextet for piano, violin, viola, cello, clarinet and horn was completed on 3 April 1935 and it is the most unusually scored of his chamber works. It was first performed in Budapest on 17 June 1935, with the composer at the piano, and received warm reviews. One critic specifically praised the unusual choice of instruments, commenting that ‘the combination … is neither coincidental nor arbitrary.’
The musical structure is unified by Dohnányi’s use of a dramatic rising motif – often on the horn – that is first heard right at the start. The first movement is brooding and tense, but ends with hope (the rising motif returning in triumph). The Intermezzo includes a rather sinister march, while the third movement is a set of variations that includes one that is scherzo-like. This leads directly into the finale – an almost dizzyingly ebullient movement which suggests a kind of jazzed-up Brahms.
Nigel Simeone © 2011
When King Colin’s golden underpants go missing, it’s Sir Scallywag to the rescue! Brave and bold, courageous and true, he’s the perfect knight for the job… even if he is only six years old!
Original music by our children’s Composer-in-Residence, Paul Rissmann, features instruments including strings, woodwind, and horn, presented together with story-telling and projected illustrations from the best-selling children’s book by Giles Andreae and Korky Paul.
Performed by the wonderfully dynamic and hugely engaging Ensemble 360 and Polly Ives, this concert is a great introduction to live music for children. It’s full of wit, invention, songs and actions, and plenty of opportunities to join in.
BERWALD Grand Septet in B-flat (25′)
MOZART Clarinet Quintet in A K581 (35′)
BEETHOVEN Septet in E-flat, Op.20 (40′)
An evening featuring three celebrated works of chamber music, all on a larger scale.
Beethoven’s Septet was his most popular work; an inventive, celebratory piece, full of youthful energy and generosity of spirit, punctuated by fanfares, solos, cadenzas and exuberant fireworks! The evening begins with a Romantic septet, inspired by Beethoven, and written by his Swedish younger contemporary, Berwald; Mozart’s sublime Clarinet Quintet follows.
Finale: Allegro con spirito
The influence and popularity of Beethoven’s Septet spread across Europe and the work was regularly performed in Berwald’s native city of Stockholm. Now widely regarded as the most important Swedish composer of the nineteenth century, during his lifetime Berwald was seldom able to earn a living from his music, working instead as a successful physiotherapist and, later, manager of a glass works. None of this should lead us to underestimate either Berwald’s creative talent or his imaginative handling of musical form. Both are apparent in this Septet. Completed in 1828, it may have been a reworking of an earlier piece for the same forces. Even so, it is a relatively early work, composed two decades before his best-known pieces such as the Symphonie sérieuse and Symphonie singulière. The musical language is consistently appealing, owing something to contemporary opera and to composers such as Spohr, but the melodies and harmonies have an idiosyncratic character that is entirely Berwald’s own (as at the start of the Allegro molto in the first movement, or the opening of the finale). In terms of the Septet’s design, the most striking innovation comes in the second movement which has a very quick Scherzo embedded within a seemingly conventional slow movement.
Allegretto con variazioni
The Clarinet Quintet was completed on 29 September 1789 and written for Mozart’s friend Anton Stadler (1753–1812). The first performance took place a few months later at a concert in Vienna’s Burgtheater on 22 December 1789, with Stadler as the soloist in a programme where the premiere of the Clarinet Quintet was a musical interlude, sandwiched between the two parts of Vincenzo Righini’s cantata The Birth of Apollo, performed by “more than 180 persons.”
From the start, Mozart is at his most daringly beautiful: the luxuriant voicing of the opening string chords provides a sensuously atmospheric musical springboard for the clarinet’s opening flourish. The rich sonority of the Clarinet Quintet is quite unlike that of any other chamber music by Mozart, but it does have something in common with his opera Così fan tutte (premièred in January 1790), on which he was working at the same time. In particular, the slow movement of the quintet, with muted strings supporting the clarinet, has a quiet rapture that recalls the trio ‘Soave sia il vento’ (with muted strings, and prominent clarinet parts as well as voices) in Così. The finale of the Quintet is a Theme and Variations which begins with folk-like charm, then turns to more melancholy reflection before ending in a spirit of bucolic delight.
Nigel Simeone © 2012
Adagio – Allegro con brio
Tempo di menuetto
Tema con variazioni. Andante
Scherzo. Allegro molto e vivace
Andante con moto alla marcia – Presto
Written in 1799, Beethoven’s Septet was one of his most popular works during his lifetime. The number of movements serves as a reminder that the Septet had its origins in the popular form of the divertimento. Beethoven’s Septet was first performed in a concert at the Burgtheater in Vienna on 2 April 1800 and it was published – after a tetchy exchange between Beethoven and his publisher – in 1802. Aiming high in terms of potential benefactors, Beethoven dedicated it to Maria Theresa – the last Holy Roman Empress and the first Empress of Austria. The Septet’s success was immediate and lasting, and this came to be rather resented by Beethoven who felt the public should take more interest in his bolder later music.
The first movement is a beautifully proportioned and genial sonata form with a slow introduction. It’s clear from the start that all the instruments are expected to operate as soloists (in a letter to his publisher, Beethoven stressed that every instrument was obligato). The Adagio opens with a long-breathed clarinet melody that is taken over by the violin while clarinet and bassoon play a counter-melody, all supported by a gently pulsating accompaniment in the lower strings. The Minuet that follows demonstrates Beethoven the recycler: he uses the same theme here as in the Piano Sonata Op.49 No.2 (which, despite its opus number, predates the Septet). The relaxed mood is maintained in the charming theme and variations. The Scherzo is launched by a horn call from which much of what follows is derived – even the start of the Trio has thematic links with this tune (or rather an inversion of it) but the high-lying cello theme and a texture dominated by the strings provides a very effective contrast. The finale begins with one of the few significant uses of a minor key in the work: a stern slow march that soon gives way to a rollicking Rondo based on a deliciously memorable tune.
Nigel Simeone 2013
HOWARD SKEMPTON The Moon is Flashing
BEETHOVEN An Die Ferne Geliebte Op.98
HOWARD SKEMPTON Piano Concerto
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS On Wenlock Edge
The music of Howard Skempton makes a recognisable feature in the Leamington Music Festival programmes, and what a delight to have two works that are new to Leamington audiences this year. Both are works originally scored for soloist and full orchestra, which have been re-scored by the composer for chamber ensemble.
We are pleased to welcome James Gilchrist back to the area after a gap of some eight years. This concert was originally conceived to celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday back in 2020 and we couldn’t lose the opportunity of having a tenor of this eminence perform the great composer’s only song cycle, An die ferne Geliebte, to complement RVW’s sublime On Wenlock Edge in his birthday celebrations.
Concert generously supported by Maurice Millward
Benjamin Nabarro and Claudia Ajmone-Marsan violins
Rachel Roberts viola, Gemma Rosefield cello
Tim Horton piano with guest double bassist
Mozart Piano Quartet in G minor K478
Dvořák String Quintet No 2 in G Op 77
Schubert Piano Quintet in A D667 ‘The Trout’
Ensemble 360 has traditionally followed the morning Family Concert with a large-scale chamber concert attracting growing and enthusiastic audiences. The Dvořák and Schubert Quintets make a feature of the double bass adding an extra sonority, as we trip through Bohemian woods and listen to the babbling stream teeming with trout.
Concert generously supported by David and Gina Wilson
Best-selling children’s book, Izzy Gizmo, tells the enchanting story of an intrepid young inventor who puts her talents to work to rescue a crow that can’t fly. This brand-new family concert brings Izzy’s mechanical marvels and infectious creative spirit to life!
Performed by Ensemble 360, narrated by Polly Ives, and with pictures from the book, this concert is a great introduction to live music for children. Original music by Paul Rissmann features pots, pans, whistles and household items (as well as orchestral instruments).
Ideal for ages 3-7 but great fun for everyone, it’s full of wit, invention, songs and actions, and plenty of opportunities to join in.