Ensemble 360

Royal Spa Centre, Leamington Spa
Sunday 10 March 2024, 3.00pm

£2 Children/ Students

Past Event

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.

BRAHMS Johannes, Serenade No. 1 in D Op. 11, nonet version reconstructed by David Walter

Allegro Molto
Scherzo: Allegro non troppo
Adagio non troppo
Scherzo: Allegro
Rondo: Allegro

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

MARTINŮ Bohuslav, Nonet H374

Poco allegro

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

DOHNÁNYI Ernst von, Sextet in C Op.37

Allegro appassionato
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