MUSIC FOR OBOE & STRINGS

Ensemble 360

Cast, Doncaster
Saturday 22 June 2024, 7.15pm

Tickets*
£16
£13 (Under 26s)

*Box office charges may apply

Book Tickets

BRITTEN Phantasy Quartet Op.2 (13′)
ELGAR Andante and Allegro (7′)
MOZART String Quartet in D K.499 (25′)
FINZI Interlude for strings and oboe (11′)
CLARKE Poem for string quartet (10′)
BAX Oboe Quintet (18′)

Ensemble 360 returns with a captivating programme of virtuosic music which combines the haunting world of the oboe with the richness of the strings. Featuring one of Benjamin Britten’s most assured early works, alongside Bax’s celebrated quintet and Rebecca Clarke’s haunting ‘poem’ for string quartet. This is a captivating programme centred on exquisite English music for oboe, beautiful miniatures and expansive chamber music.

BRITTEN Benjamin, Phantasy Quartet in F sharp minor

Andante con moto – Allegro vivace – Andante con moto

Bridge had already been successful in Walter Wilson Cobbett’s competition to write a ‘Phantasy’ – Cobbett’s reinvention of the Elizabeth Fantasy as new single-movement chamber works – and in 1910 he (along with Vaughan Williams and others) was commissioned by Cobbett to compose a Phantasy Piano Quartet. It’s a work in a satisfying arch form based on free-flowing musical ideas all of which derive from the powerful opening gesture. Bridge’s most famous pupil, Benjamin Britten, wrote in a programme note for the Aldeburgh Festival about this piece. He described the music as ‘Sonorous yet lucid, with clear, clean lines, grateful to listen to and to play. It is the music of a practical musician, brought up in German orthodoxy, but who loved French romanticism and conception of sound—Brahms happily tempered with Fauré.’

Nigel Simeone 2013

ELGAR Edward, Andante and Allegro for oboe and strings

This very early piece, composed in about 1878, was probably written to be played at the Worcester Glee Club. The manuscript in the British Library is, curiously, headed ‘Xmas music’ on the oboe part. The Andante is graceful, and the second movement is reminiscent of a Mendelssohn Scherzo.

Nigel Simeone 2013

MOZART Amadeus, String Quartet in D K499

1. Allegretto
2. Menuetto and Trio. Allegretto
3. Adagio
4. Allegro

 

Like Haydn before him, Mozart habitually published his string quartets in groups of six (the ‘Haydn’ Quartets) or three (the ‘Prussian’ Quartets). Between these two sets there is a single work, entered in Mozart’s manuscript catalogue of his own works on 19 August 1786 as ‘a quartet for 2 violins, viola and violoncello’. The autograph manuscript (in the British Library) is simply titled ‘Quartetto’. It was published in 1788 by the Viennese firm founded by Mozart’s friend Franz Anton Hoffmeister and it has come to be known as the ‘Hoffmeister’ Quartet as a result. The first movement opens with a theme in octaves that outlines a descending D major arpeggio – an idea that dominates much of the movement despite some startling harmonic excursions along the way. The development section is marked by almost continuous quaver movement that gives way magically to the opening theme at the start of the recapitulation. The Minuet has an easy-going charm that contrasts with the sterner mood (and minor key) of the Trio section. The great Mozart biographer Alfred Einstein thought the Adagio spoke ‘of past sorrow, with a heretofore unheard-of-depth’. It is not only a deeply touching movement but also an extremely ingenious one, not least when the initial idea heard on two violins returns on viola and cello, investing the same music with a darker, richer texture. The finale is fast and playful, but there’s also astonishing inventiveness in the flow of ideas, from the opening triplets with their chromatic twists to a contrasting theme which scampers up and down the scale. A few sudden and surprising dynamic contrasts keep the listener guessing right to the end.

 

Nigel Simeone

FINZI Gerald, Interlude for Strings and Oboe

Gerald Finzi began work on this piece in 1932 but only completed it four years later, in 1936. The first performance was given at the Wigmore Hall by Leon Goossens (to whom Finzi subsequently dedicated the work) and the Menges Quartet, on 24 March 1936. Finzi was particularly touched by Goossens’s enthusiasm for the piece, having been unsure if the great oboist would be interested in the work: a nervous composer wrote to his friend Howard Ferguson: “I see that Leon, the pride of oboeland, is playing with the Isolde Menges Quartet … Perhaps he’ll say that the Interlude isn’t big enough for him.”

He needn’t have worried, but this lovely work is just one of four published pieces of chamber music by Finzi.

 

Nigel Simeone © 2012

BAX Arnold, Oboe Quintet

Tempo molto moderato – Allegro moderato – Tempo primo
Lento espressivo
Allegro giocoso – Più lento – Vivace

 

Bax wrote his Oboe Quintet in 1922, just after completing the first of his seven symphonies. The inspiration for writing a work for oboe and strings was the playing of the great oboist Leon Goossens, to whom the work is dedicated. Bax’s biographer Lewis Foreman has drawn attention to the Irish elements in the music of this work: not only the jig-like final movement, but also in some of the atmospheric writing earlier in the work. The first movement begins with some richly harmonized string chords, and the oboe’s first entrance is rhapsodic, and rather melancholy. The main Allegro moderato has a strong, muscular drive and also demonstrates Bax’s brilliant instrumental technique, drawing a remarkable range of colours from the strings. A wistful recollection of the opening music brings the movement to a serene close. The slow movement opens with a beautiful first violin melody (again, suggestive of Irish folk music). The oboe enters with something rather different: a wistful, cadenza-like passage that is then developed with the strings. While there is plenty of veiled lyricism in this movement, Bax always remains a little questioning, and there’s a slightly uneasy calm at the close. The finale begins in overtly Irish high spirits, but this movement isn’t quite the romp that the opening might suggest. As Lewis Foreman put it, ‘all too soon clouds cover the sun and the spectres return’ in a passage that is slower and more reflective. The dance-like music returns but even at the close there is a brief moment of reflection before the final cadence.

 

Nigel Simeone © 2011