Ensemble 360

Crucible Playhouse, Sheffield
Friday 13 May 2022, 7.15pm

Tickets: £20
£14 Disabled & Unemployed
£5 Students & Under 35s

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Past Event

JANÁČEK Concertino (17’)
MARTINŮ Three Madrigals (16′)
MEREDITH Tripotage Miniatures (15’)
DVOŘÁK Piano Quintet No.2 (40′)

Dvořák’s Piano Quintet No.2 provides a joyous opening to our first live festival in two years. Before this, the world-class musicians of Ensemble 360 have some fun with Anna Meredith’s Tripotage Miniatures, best translated as ‘jiggery-pokery’, plus Martinů’s Three Madrigals for violin and viola, full of playful repartee, and Janáček’s Concertino, featuring movements he compared to a ‘grumpy hedgehog’, a ‘fidgety squirrel’ and ‘a scene from a fairy-tale’. 

Welcome drinks
Celebrate the start of the Festival with us and enjoy a post-concert complimentary glass of wine or soft drink (served to all ticket-holders).

This evening is generously supported by Kate Dugdale.

Sheffield Chamber Music Festival runs 13–21 May 2022

Download a Festival brochure


JANÁČEK Leoš, Concertino

For piano, two violins, viola, clarinet, horn and bassoon

Più mosso
Con moto

Janáček started his Concertino after hearing the pianist Jan Heřman playing his song-cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared in November 1924. The composer told Heřman that he’d played it ‘magnificently, like no one else’, and he soon set to work on a piece for him. The first sketches are dated ‘Prague, 1 January 1925, by the Vltava’ and ‘11 January 1925, on the train from Prague’, but this piece recalls not the nation’s capital where it was conceived, but the Moravian countryside where Janáček grew up and where, in fact, the work was finished: the manuscript is dated on the title page ‘Hukvaldy, 29 April 1925’. Though not stated on the score, the Concertino is programmatic. Janáček wrote to Heřman that ‘it arose from the youthful mood of the sextet Mládí’ and in a letter to Kamila Stösslová he told her that he had composed ‘a piano concerto – Spring. There’s a cricket, midges, a roebuck, a torrent – yes, and a man!’ In a later description from 1927, the theme of spring remained, but Janáček assigned a specific animal character to each of the first three movements: a hedgehog for the first, a squirrel for the second, and various nocturnal animals for the third. According to a note on the autograph manuscript, the fourth movement represents a rushing torrent. The result is one of Janáček’s most enchanting and untroubled chamber works, notable for some typically inventive scoring as well as its great charm. Much to Jan Heřman’s understandable irritation, he didn’t give the first performance of the Concertino that Janáček dedicated to him. In a letter of 1 July 1925, Janáček agreed to let the young pianist Ilona Štěpanová-Kurzová give the première, which she did on 16 February 1926, at a concert of the Club of Moravian Composers in Brno.

Nigel Simeone © 2011

MARTINŮ Bohuslav, Three Madrigals

Poco allegro
Poco andante

It was hearing a performance of Mozart’s Duo in B flat played by Josef and Lillian Fuchs (brother and sister) that inspired Martinů to compose his Three Madrigals in February–March 1947, with the subtitle ‘Duo No. 1’ on the autograph manuscript. Martinů wrote to his friend Miloš Šafránek on 16 May 1947: ‘I have written Three Madrigals for violin and viola … for J. Fuchs and Lillian (his sister) who is a great and unique viola player. I heard them at a concert and was amazed by their artistic quality, so I wrote the Duo for them, and it seems to be good. They are both excited and will put it in their Carnegie recital.’ This was given on 22 December 1947 and in the next day’s New York Times, the venerated critic Virgil Thomson gave a warm welcome to the new work: ‘a delight for musical fantasy, for ingenious figuration [and] for Renaissance-style evocation.’ Josef and Lillian Fuchs performed the Madrigals on many more occasions and when their recording of the work was issued in 1950, it was coupled, appropriately, with the Mozart Duo in B flat.

© Nigel Simeone

MEREDITH Anna, Tripotages Miniatures

I              Lanolin                                 E flat Clarinet & Horn
II             40 Watt                                Piccolo & Double Bass
III           Moth                                      Alto Flute, Oboe & Horn
IV           Buzzard                                 Cor Anglais & Viola
V             Scrying                                  B flat Clarinet, Viola & Double Bass
VI           Majolica                                Tutti (Flute, Oboe, B flat Clarinet, Horn, Viola & Double Bass)
Tripotage Miniatures are a collection of 3 duets, 2 trios and a tutti movement for mixed sextet. Each miniature is around 1-3 minutes long.
The miniatures are exploring different kinds of opacity, glitch, fuzz, shade and grime – imagining underhand dealings that place a sort of filmy surface on top of the material. (My favourite translation of Tripotage from the French is Jiggery Pokery.)
Sometimes this filter seems to drain colour – turning the material almost sepia, sometimes it makes ideas a bit murkier – harder to grasp, slippery and falling through the fingers, sometimes it causes moments to stutter and distort and sometimes it’s about capturing a fleeting feeling of distance, of something out of reach.
There are tiny thematic links between the movements but they could also be played individually – it’s about capturing a moment – even if it’s a slightly shady and disquieting one.
© Anna Meredith

DVOŘÁK Antonín, Piano Quintet No.2 in A Op.81

Allegro, ma non tanto
Dumka. Andante con moto – Vivace – Andante con moto
Scherzo. Furiant – Molto vivace
Finale. Allegro 

Dvořák composed his great A major Piano Quintet in 1887 (a much earlier quintet from 1872 is in the same key) and it was described by Otakar Šourek as one of ‘the most delightful and successful works’ in the whole chamber music repertoire. From the spacious cello theme that opens the quintet, Dvořák shows the seemingly effortless spontaneity of a composer at the height of his powers. The second theme turns the mood more wistful, and the music oscillates between melancholy and warmth, culminating in a jubilant climax. The second movement is a Dumka, with slow outer sections based on a melancholy tune, and a quick central section derived from the same musical idea. The Scherzo – described by Dvořák as a Furiant – begins with one of his most enchanting quick melodies and this is followed by two more: an undulating tune and another of folk-like simplicity, before the opening idea returns. The central Trio provides an oasis – a tune in long notes over which Dvořák introduces fragments of the main theme. The opening melody of the Finale dominates much of what follows. Near the close, a brief fugal section leads to a moment of tranquillity before the final dash to the end.  

Nigel Simeone © 2014