BYSTRÖM Kinderszenen (8’)
ABRAHAMSEN Six Pieces for Horn Trio (15’)
GRIEG Cello Sonata (28′)
A wonderful soundscape evoking the icy Swedish winter opens this concert, written by Swedish composer Britta Byström. It features horn, violin and piano, the same combination as Abrahamsen’s Six Pieces, which is also evocative and plays with the timbre of the different instruments. This Scandinavian programme concludes with Grieg’s Cello Sonata, full of warm-hearted charm, joyous excitement and just the occasional hint of his more famous Piano Concerto.
Sheffield Chamber Music Festival runs 13–21 May 2022
BYSTRÖM Britta, Kinderszenen (Scenes of Childhood) for horn, piano and violin
After starting to learn the trumpet at the age of ten, Britta Byström soon started to compose her own music. Most of her output is for orchestra, but her quest for new and surprising sonorities can also be heard in chamber works including a string quartet (Letter in April), and a piano trio (Symphony in Yellow) as well as the present horn trio. Byström’s Kinderszenen borrows its title from Schumann’s famous piano work and its scoring from Brahms’s Horn Trio, but the music is entirely original in colour and substance. Bystöm says that before starting a composition she always has a clear picture in her mind of the musical world she wants to create, and this is apparent from the first notes of Kinderszenen where fragmentary themes on violin and horn are set against repeated notes on the piano, suggesting perhaps that Byström’s childhood scenes are those of a Swedish winter. The form of this single movement and its contrasting episodes seem to evolve naturally: a fast section is notable for its rhythmic energy but fizzles out on a sustained horn note, giving way to a passage of eerie calm with the violin playing pizzicato against piano trills. A brief return to the vigour of the fast music leads to a recollection of the opening before Kinderszenen dissolves into silence.
Nigel Simeone © 2022
ABRAHAMSEN Hans, Six Pieces for Horn Trio
My 6 Pieces for horn, violin and piano was written in 1984 as a commission from the Danish Radio for a concert where Ligeti’s horn trio should receive its Danish premiere played by Danish musicians.
My trio is based on my work ’Studies for Piano’. While I wrote these studies I tried to ’conjure up’ instrumental parts inside the piano movement. When I received the commission for a horn trio I turned to six of the studies and deepened them by ’screening them’ so that their parts and moods appeared in a clearer way. Furthermore I changed the order of the movements so a new unity appeared, beginning with a steadily hesitating ’Serenade’ in slow-motion followed by the ’Arabesque’ which hardly gets started before it stops. Then ’Blues’, a melancholy melody and ’Marcia Funebre’, like a fossilized picture with a dramatic threatening outburst ending with a quiet but majestic melody in violin and horn, a melody that disappears in the chords of the piano. Before the last movement ’For the Children’ is a large ’Scherzo misterioso’.
© Hans Abrahamsen
GRIEG Edvard, Cello Sonata
1. Allegro agitato
2. Andante molto tranquillo
3. Allegro molto e marcato
Grieg’s great fame as a composer rests largely on the Piano Concerto, a handful of piano pieces, the Holberg Suite and movements from his incidental music for Peer Gynt. One work from the same period as the Piano Concerto was to provide an important source for the Cello Sonata: the incidental music for the play Sigurd Jorsalfar from 1872. The Cello Sonata was started in late 1882 and the first draft was finished in April 1883. Grieg dated the manuscript of his slightly revised version of the work 18 August 1883. It is one of a handful of major chamber works, along with three violin sonatas, one complete surviving string quartet and one left incomplete. The first movement of the Cello Sonata is in sonata form (something of a rarity for Grieg) and opens with a passionate and agitated theme which eventually gives way to a calmer second theme introduced by gentle chords on the piano. The movement ends with an animated coda based on the opening idea (with added hints of the opening phrase from the Piano Concerto). The expressive slow movement is based largely on the recycled ‘Homage March’ from Grieg’s Sigurd Jorsalfar incidental music (aptly enough, since in the original orchestral version this passage is scored for four cellos). The finale opens with a cadenza for the cello before launching into an extended Norwegian dance which occasionally threatens to become bombastic but which ends impressively. The work was dedicated by Grieg to his brother John, an accomplished cellist, and on 1 October 1883, Grieg sent him the first printed copy. The first two performances were given by two of Europe’s preeminent cellists of the time. The premiere was given by Friedrich Grützmacher in Dresden on 22 October 1883; a few days later (on 27 October) Julius Klengel gave the work in Leipzig. Grieg was the pianist on both occasions.
© Nigel Simeone