About The Music

Dip into our programme notes for pieces presented by Music in the Round. Covering music that is forthcoming and has been recently performed, learn more about the works and also listen to brief extracts. 

About The Music: A

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

ADAMS John, Fellow Traveler

Fellow Traveler is a short single movement for string quartet, composed as a fiftieth birthday present for the stage director Peter Sellars, Adams’s long-time collaborator and librettist for his opera Doctor Atomic. It’s a characteristic piece of Adams in his most immediately appealing style, marked by punchy rhythms and urgent momentum, that harks back to some of Adams’s most successful earlier works such as Shaker Loops and A Short Ride in a Fast Machine. 

© 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

ALKAN Charles-Valentin, Comme le vent (arr. for Calefax)

Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813–1888) was a prodigy, described as a child with ‘amazing abilities’ at his audition for the Paris Conservatoire in 1820. In the 1830s he established friendships with Liszt and Chopin and gave concerts with both of them. After experiencing bitter professional disappointments in the late 1840s, Alkan became a virtual recluse between 1850 and 1873 when he reappeared unexpectedly and his playing excited a younger generation including Saint-Saëns. An extraordinary pianist (Liszt said that Alkan possessed the finest technique he had ever known) he was also a strikingly original composer. ‘Comme le vent’ is the first of his 12 études in all the minor keys, first published in 1857 during his years of retreat. Marked prestissimamente it is a dizzying tour de force. 

© Nigel Simeone 

ANDREW Kerry, Fruit Songs

Kerry Andrew

 

Kerry Andrew is a London-based musician, and author. Her debut novel, Swansong, was published by Jonathan Cape in 2018 and her second SKIN in 2021. She made her short story debut on BBC Radio 4 in 2014 with One Swallow and was shortlisted for the 2018 BBC National Short Story Award.

 

Kerry is the winner of four British Composer Awards and is best known for her experimental vocal, choral and music-theatre work, often based around themes of community, landscape and myth. She sings with Juice Vocal Ensemble and has released two albums with her band You Are Wolf: Hawk to the Hunting Gone (2014), a collection of avian folk-songs re-interpreted, and Keld (2018), inspired by freshwater folklore.

 

© David Higham Associates

 

Fruit Songs

I mango
II plum
III blackberry
IV cherry
V apple

I never treat a poem as a ‘straight’ setting: ‘mango’ is fairly schizophrenic in nature, with sections of percussive phonetics interspersed with sung chunks of the whole text. ‘plum’ is simpler, only picking out ‘forgive me’ as a refrain. In ‘blackberry’, I chose an 11-note row, with 1 quaver pitch to a syllable, which is then deconsructed. ‘cherry’ examines a range of extra-vocal techniques using only the word ‘Oh!’, and has a more theatrical interplay between singer and guitarist. For ‘apple’, I stripped down the Drinkwater poem to what I saw as its essentials. Particular musical influences for these songs include Björk, Meredith Monk, Sheila Chandra, English folk, Japanese, West African and Indian music.

 

© Kerry Andrew

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