IVES Housatonic at Stockbridge (4’)
IVES Mists (2’)
IVES Serenity (2’)
GRIME Bright Travellers (15’)
BRITTEN Ca’ the yowes (4’)
RESPIGHI Il Tramonto (15’)
RAVEL String Quartet (30’)
PRITCHARD Peace (5’)
Soprano Ruby Hughes is celebrated internationally for her soulful tone, emotional intensity and commanding presence. Together with acclaimed pianist Joseph Middleton, they have created intimate performances and recordings, including their highly praised 2021 release of Helen Grime’s moving song cycle ‘Bright Travellers’, exploring the intense joys and pains of early motherhood.
In the second half, Respighi’s beloved sunset song for voice and string quartet brings Hughes together with the string players of Ensemble 360, who will then share Ravel’s dazzling quartet before being rejoined by this very special guest to conclude with a delicate blessing in song.
Song sheets will be available to purchase at this concert.
Please note the earlier start time for this concert.
Sheffield Chamber Music Festival runs 13–21 May 2022
GRIME Helen, Bright Travellers
iv. Milk Fever
v. Council Offices
I came across Fiona Benson’s collection ‘Bright Travellers’ by chance not long after I’d given birth to my son. I was very taken and moved by the series of poems about pregnancy and early motherhood and knew instantly that I wanted to set them. The poems are direct, sometimes funny and achingly beautiful and have a natural musicality about them. Writing this set of five songs was an extremely intense and sometimes emotional experience for me, as the poems move between a huge range of emotions from hope and joy to great sadness.
RAVEL Maurice, String Quartet in F
Allegro moderato. très doux
Assez vif. très rythmé
Très lent Vif et agité
The first two movements of Ravel’s Quartet were finished in December 1902 and the next month he submitted the first movement for a prize at the Paris Conservatoire, where he was still a student. The jury was unimpressed and the Director Théodore Dubois was typically acidic, claiming that it “lacked simplicity”. The failure to win a prize meant that Ravel’s studies with Fauré were over but Ravel persisted with the Quartet, and by April 1903 he had finished all four movements. He put it aside for yet another doomed attempt at the Prix de Rome, but it’s likely that he made further revisions later in the year. The pianist and composer Alfredo Casella recalled running into Ravel in the street in January 1904: “I found [Ravel] seated on a bench, attentively reading a manuscript. I asked him what it was. He said: It is a quartet I have just finished. I am rather pleased with it.” The first performance was given at the Schola Cantorum by the Heymann Quartet, on 5 March 1904. It is dedicated “à mon cher maître Gabriel Fauré”.
In a parallel with Debussy’s Quartet, Ravel makes use of cyclic themes – material heard in the first movement returns in various guises throughout. The second movement is notable for Ravel’s brilliant use of cross-rhythms as all four string players become a kind of gigantic guitar. The rhapsodic slow movement includes a dream-like recollection of the cyclic theme. In the finale, Ravel’s use of irregular time signatures generates a momentum that is not only impossible to predict but impossible to resist. Recollections of the cyclic theme are woven into the texture with great subtlety and the kaleidoscopic string writing produces a conclusion that glitters and surges.
Nigel Simeone © 2012