Ensemble 360

Upper Chapel, Sheffield
Friday 23 September 2022, 3.00pm / 7.00pm

£10 Disabled / UC and PIP recipients
£5 Under 35s & Students 

Past Event

BRUCH Selection from 8 pieces Op.83 (c.20’)
ALBERGA Duo from ‘Dancing with the Shadow’ (5’)
VIEUXTEMPS Capriccio Hommage à Paganini (4’)
MOZART Kegelstatt Trio K498 (20’) 

Pianist Tim Horton is joined by the two newest members of Ensemble 360, Rachel Roberts on viola and Robert Plane on clarinet, for a varied programme. Opening with a selection of Bruch’s elegiac, lush fragments and concluding with Mozart’s innovative Kegelstatt Trio, combined with two lesser-known works, this is the perfect introduction to these fabulous musicians.  

BRUCH Max, Eight Pieces Op.83 for clarinet, viola and piano (extracts)

Bruch composed these pieces in 1908 for his son, Max Felix, who was a clarinettist. Three of the pieces were originally written with an additional harp part, but by the time the work was published in 1910, Bruch had settled on a trio of clarinet, viola and piano. Discussing publication with Simrock in February 1910, Bruch wrote that the pieces had been ‘met with great approval where they were played from the manuscript’ and it’s easy to see why. Bruch always intended separate performances of individual pieces (indeed, he advised against playing all of them together), and selections can be used to make an effective suite.

© Nigel Simeone

ALBERGA Eleanor, Duo from ‘Dancing with the Shadow’

Eleanor Alberga was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and she continued her musical studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London. In an interview she singled out the influence of Caribbean rhythms on her music, alongside the works of European contemporary composers. In Dancing with the Shadow another inspiration was modern dance – something Alberga got to know at first-hand when she became pianist for the London Contemporary Dance Theatre in 1978.

Dancing with the Shadow was completed in 1990, commissioned jointly by the ensemble Lontano and Sue MacLennan’s dance company. The first performance was given at The Place in London on 21 March 1990, played by Lontano under Odaline de la Martinez. The ‘Duo’, for clarinet and piano, is taken from the longer work. Notable for its athletic exuberance, this exciting piece opens with the clarinet alone, soon joined by the piano in a constantly animated dialogue.

© Nigel Simeone

VIEUXTEMPS Henri, Capriccio for solo viola, ‘Hommage à Paganini’

Like other nineteenth-century violinists, the Belgian virtuoso Henri Vieuxtemps liked to play the viola, particularly in chamber music. The Capriccio is the last of a set of six posthumously published pieces (the first five are for solo violin), probably composed in the last decade of Vieuxtemps’ life, after his playing career was ended by a series of strokes. It was composed as a tribute to Paganini (whose viola playing had inspired Berlioz to compose Harold in Italy).

‘Capriccio’ might suggest something rather whimsical, but Vieuxtemps’ work is marked Lento, con molta espressione (slow with much expression) and it is rooted in the key of C minor. The effect is rather sombre and elegiac, in spite of the virtuoso demands of Vieuxtemps’ writing, and the piece ends with two, quiet pizzicato chords.

© Nigel Simeone

MOZART Amadeus, Trio in E flat K498 Kegelstatt

Rondo. Allegretto

This is Mozart’s only trio for his three favourite instruments: clarinet, viola and piano. The nickname ‘Kegelstatt’ means ‘skittle alley’, and legend has it that Mozart wrote the work during a game of skittles. This may be far-fetched, especially given the rather noble character of the music, but what is certain is that he wrote the trio in Vienna, and entered it in his own thematic catalogue on 5 August 1786. The first movement is a marvellous example of Mozart’s invention at its most concentrated and unforced: every element in this sonata-form movement derives from the ornamental turn that is such a distinctive feature of the opening. The Minuet surprises by its almost grand character – no mere courtly dance, but something more imposing – and this is followed by an unhurried Rondo that brings this radiant work to a lyrical conclusion.

© Nigel Simeone