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: D

D’RIVERA Paquito, Cape Cod Files

Chiquita Blues 

The Cuban-American composer, saxophonist and clarinettist Paquito D’Rivera was born in Havana. After working with several Cuban ensembles (including the National Symphony Orchestra), D’Rivera decided to defect to the United States in 1980. Since then he has had an extremely successful career as both a jazz and classical musician in America with twelve Grammy Awards to his name. Cape Cod Files was written in 2009 for the clarinettist Jon Manasse and pianist Jon Nakamatsu and was first performed by them on 11 August 2009 in Cotuit, Massachusetts, as part of the 30th Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival. 


D’Riveira has written that ‘Benny@100’ was ‘inspired by Benny Goodman’s unique way of jazz phrasing, as well as his incursions in the so-called classical arena. This movement is a celebration of 100th birthday.’ ‘Bandoneon’ evokes the sound of the Bandoneon, the instrument that is sometimes described as ‘the soul of the tango’. D’Riveira writes that ‘Lecuonerias’ comprises ‘unaccompanied solo clarinet improvisations around some of the melodies written by the foremost Cuban composer, Ernesto Lecuona.’ And ‘Chiquita Blues’ was inspired by a novel about the extraordinary life of the Cuban singer and actress known as Chiquita (Espiridona Cenda) who was just 26 inches tall and had a successful career on stage in New York. 


© Nigel Simeone

DANZI Franz, Wind Quintet in B flat Op.56 No.1

Andante con moto
Menuetto allegretto

Danzi was brought up in Mannheim, where he joined the orchestra run by the Elector Karl Theodor while still a teenager, as a cellist. His father was principal cellist in the orchestra (which moved, with Karl Theodor, to Munich) and he was praised by Mozart for his playing in the first performance of Idomeneo in 1781. In 1784, he was succeeded by his son, who later became an assistant Kapellmeister in Munich, before taking on the role of Kapellmeister in Stuttgart and later Karlsruhe. Though Danzi was a fine cellist, his fame as a composer rests largely on his nine woodwind quintets – works which show a consistent understanding of idiomatic wind writing.

The Quintet in B flat was one of a set of three first published in 1821, with a dedication to Anton Reicha – Danzi’s most important predecessor as a composer of wind quintets. After an amiable and well-crafted first movement in B flat major, Danzi reveals a more pensive side to his nature in the short Andante con moto, in D minor, its main thematic material being heard first on the oboe, then the bassoon. The Minuet is sturdy, while in the Trio section Danzi creates a witty dialogue between all five instruments. The last movement is a jaunty rondo.

© Nigel Simeone

DAVIES Tansy, Yoik

Tansy and I have been collaborating on nature and the horn for many years. A horn player herself, Tansy really understands the primal connection the sound of the horn stimulates in the deepest layers of our shared human experience.  This aspect of her oeuvre fascinates me and I feel it strongly when playing “Yoik”. The haunting lyricism interspersed with a special playing technique sounding like the resonance found in an icy wind of distant memory is just wonderful. Tansy wrote the following about the piece:

A Yoik is not merely a description; it attempts to capture its subject in its entirety: it’s like a holographic, multi-dimensional living image, a replica, not just a flat photograph or simple visual memory. It is not about something, it is that something. It does not begin and it does not end.

A Yoik is not a song in the sense that it is about something. The melody is closely connected to the referential object in an indissoluble relationship. Linguistically this is expressed through the fact that one does not yoik about somebody or something, there is a direct connection; one yoiks something or someone.

The structure of a Yoik follows the Sami worldview of “No beginning, no end”. Sami see the world as following the circular patterns of nature. Living in a whited-out world of snow, often without horizon; perceptions of space, depth, time and environment are all closely-knit mysteries, to which the culture – and the Yoik – are intrinsically connected.

The name Christine Chapman is transmuted here – into the melody of my Yoik for Horn – so this is a yoik for and of her. The piece was composed by the river Medway in Kent, England. It is also a Yoik for that river, in the early morning.

Christine Chapman

DE FALLA Manuel, Pantomime and Ritual Fire Dance from ‘El Amore Brujo’

El amor brujo, known in English as Love, the Magician began as gitaneria (danced entertainment) in 1915. In due course, Falla expanded the orchestration and made some other changes before the definitive version of the ballet was given for the first time on 22 May 1925, at the Théâtre du Trianon-Lyrique in Paris, conducted by the composer. Four years before then, Falla’s own piano arrangement of the Ritual Fire Dance was published in London and it immediately became a very popular recital piece with pianists including Arthur Rubinstein and Myra Hess. The Pantomime that precedes it here begins with some bold splashes of Andalusian colour before turning to a lilting theme in 7/8 time. In the ballet, the Ritual Fire Dance is the moment when the gypsy Candela seeks to cast out the malign ghost of her dead husband. During this dance, which grows from sinister beginnings to a ferocious climax, the ghost is drawn into the flames and vanishes forever. Falla made the present arrangement of the Pantomime and Ritual Fire Dance for piano and string quintet in 1926.


© Nigel Simeone 

DEBUSSY Claude, La Mer arr. for two pianos by André Caplet

De l’aube à midi sur la mer (From dawn to midday on the sea) 
Jeu de vagues (Play of the waves) 
Dialogue du vent et de la mer (Dialogue of the wind and the sea) 

The sea’s central importance to Debussy is well documented in his letters. In September 1903 he wrote to his close friend and fellow composer Andre ́Messager about La mer, noting the amusing irony of composing the piece in the resolutely landlocked department of the Yonne in north-west Burgundy, and describing his approach to the work with an interesting analogy to landscape painting: 

‘I’m working on three symphonic sketches … the whole to be called La mer. You’re unaware, maybe, that I was intended for the noble career of a sailor and have only deviated from that path thanks to the quirks of fate. Even so, I’ve retained a sincere devotion to the sea. To which you’ll reply that the Atlantic doesn’t exactly wash the foothills of Burgundy, and that the result could be one of those hack landscapes done in the studio! But I have innumerable memories, and those, in my view, are worth more than a reality which tends to weigh too heavily on the imagination.’ 


In July 1904 Debussy left his first wife Lilly Texier and eloped to Jersey with the singer Emma Bardac. In an undated letter from the Grand Hotel in St Helier he wrote to his publisher Durand that ‘The sea has behaved beautifully towards me and shown me all her guises.’ He returned to the subject while staying at the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne, where he was correcting the proofs of La mer: ‘It’s a charming, peaceful spot. The sea unfurls itself with an utterly British correctness.’ 


The English critic Edward Lockspeiser was unhesitating in describing La mer as ‘the greatest example of an orchestral Impressionist work’ and it does not seem unduly far-fetched to see a parallel in Claude Monet’s seascapes from the 1890s. The three movements form a magnificent large-scale symphonic whole which is fully maintained in André Caplet’s brilliant arrangement for two pianos. A gifted composer in his own right and a trusted friend of Debussy’s, Caplet has transcribed the work with dazzling effectiveness, remaining entirely true to the spirit of Debussy’s orchestral original. 


© Nigel Simeone

DEBUSSY Claude, Piano Preludes Nos 4, 6 & 7 from Book 1

By 1909, Debussy had already composed some of his defining works, including the enthusiastically-received tone poem, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (1894). He had also heard and experienced music outside of the Western Classical tradition.

The fourth prelude of Book I, “Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir” (“The sounds and fragrances swirl through the evening air”), takes both its title and inspiration from the poetry of Charles Baudelaire. It is a gentle waltz-like piece in A major with melodies that seem to float as effortlessly as the sounds and fragrances in Baudelaire’s line. Even the harmonies seem tinged with a dusky hue, giving musical evocation to the twilight setting. The prelude is built around three principal ideas and embodies a sort of ternary design, with a brief middle section in the key of A-flat major. It is gentle and subdued, and nowhere is to be found a disturbing phrase or melodic figure. The only true point of contrast within the prelude is a melody in octaves accompanied by a persistent sixteenth-note countermelody. This, however, simply returns us to a variant of the opening melodic motif and the prelude’s serene close.

Des pas sur la neige (Footsteps in the Snow, No. 6) shows Debussy’s unparalleled creativity in using harmonic colours. An omnipresent ostinato runs throughout as a representation, perhaps, of a barren, snow-covered land. Musically, a similar parallel exists: it is a ‘blank’ canvas upon which an array of harmonies are added at different points. These rich sonorities transform the scenery from desolate to ominous to poignant, all before returning to the original key of D minor.

One of the most technically impressive of this first volume is Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest (What the West Wind Saw, No. 7) – robust and at times aggressive, this prelude captures the wind’s fury with the sweeping arpeggios, dominant 7th chords, and perhaps surprisingly dense textures – not to mention the massive chords at the conclusion which maximize the instrument’s low register. However furious the character may be, Debussy’s signature innovative style remains present.


DEBUSSY Claude, Première Rapsodie for Clarinet and Piano

The test pieces specially composed for the final exams at the Paris Conservatoire have something of a bad reputation. Many of them are routine competition showpieces but sometimes a work of much more lasting importance was written for these occasions. Such is the case with Debussy’s Première Rapsodie, completed in January 1910 for the clarinet concours at the Conservatoire that summer (Debussy also dashed off a sight-reading test for the same competition, published as his Petite pièce for clarinet and piano). Debussy himself was a member of the jury and he found most of the players unsatisfactory in the Rapsodie. However, the eventual winner, Vandercruyssen, impressed him. Debussy wrote to his friend and publisher Jacques Durand that Vandercruyssen ‘played by heart, and like a great musician’. A year later, Debussy prepared the better-known version of the piece for clarinet and orchestra, but the original with piano is superbly written for both instruments. The clarinettist David Pino has claimed, with justification, that the Première rapsodie was ‘the first major work for solo clarinet written in the twentieth century’.

It opens in a mood of stillness (marked ‘Rêveusement lent’ – ‘dreamily slow’), with the piano adding gentle momentum in the accompaniment after a few bars, and the clarinet – instructed to play pianissimo but also ‘sweetly’ and ‘penetrating’ – introducing a languorous theme that gradually becomes more animated. A sudden speeding up introduces a more capricious idea that is briefly stopped in its tracks by a series of trills and a return to earlier music. But the faster speed soon returns, starting with rumbling low notes on the piano and a series of upward flourishes on the clarinet. This gives way to a new section marked ‘Modérément animé (‘Moderately animated) and ‘playful’, a passage that quite brilliantly exploits the possibilities of the clarinet, especially its ability to play rapid figurations and lyrical lines. A return to the slower music gives way, finally, to a thrilling conclusion.

What makes this such an outstanding work is that Debussy combines extremely idiomatic writing – appropriate for a piece that was intended to demonstrate a player’s technical command – with musical ideas that have memorable substance. On 16 January 1911 the clarinettist Paul Mimart (to whom the work was dedicated) gave the first performance in a concert, at the Salle Gaveau in Paris, in one of the concerts promoted by the Société musicale indépendante. According to Debussy’s biographer Léon Valas, another performance took place at the end of 1911 in Russia, and it was greeted by the audience with confusion. A baffled Debussy wrote to a friend: ‘Surely this piece is one of the most immediately pleasing I have ever written!’

© Nigel Simeone

DEBUSSY Claude, Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp


Debussy originally planned a set of six instrumental sonatas but only lived to complete three of them. The first was for cello and piano (August 1915), the third for violin and piano (finished in April 1917), but in terms of instrumentation the most unusual of the three was the second sonata, scored for flute, viola and harp. Debussy completed it in October 1915 at the end of a productive summer spent on the Normandy coast, and the first performance took place on 7 November in Boston, Massachusetts. Debussy heard the work for the first time a month later, on 10 December, when it was given in Paris at one of the concerts put on by his publisher Durand. The viola part was played on that occasion by Darius Milhaud. 


The work was inspired by the clarity and elegant proportions of French Baroque music, but the musical language is very much of its own time. The ethereal Pastorale is based on fragmentary but distinctive musical ideas, while the central Interlude, delicately coloured in places by whole-tone harmonies, is marked ‘Tempo di minuetto’ – the most obvious nod to the Baroque. The finale is directed to be played ‘Allegro moderato ma risoluto’ and the muscular quality of the ideas presented at the start dominate the movement. There’s a brief recollection of the ‘Pastorale’ before a short, exultant coda. 


© Nigel Simeone 

DEBUSSY Syrinx (excerpt for ‘Close Up’)

This piece for flute is one of the most famous pieces for the instrument. It is named after the nymph Syrinx from Ancient Greek mythology. The flute-playing mischievous faun Pan falls in love with Syrinx, but she does not return his love so turns herself into a water reed and hides in the marshes…

DOHNÁNYI Ernst von, Sextet in C Op.37

Allegro appassionato
Allegro con sentimento
Presto, quasi l’istesso tempo

Born in Hungary, Dohnányi’s early compositions had been praised by Brahms, and he always had a strong sense of being part of the Austro-German Romantic tradition. In this respect he was very different from his classmate at the Budapest Academy, Béla Bartók, but his music is always beautifully crafted and has very individual harmonic touches. The Sextet for piano, violin, viola, cello, clarinet and horn was completed on 3 April 1935 and it is the most unusually scored of his chamber works. It was first performed in Budapest on 17 June 1935, with the composer at the piano, and received warm reviews. One critic specifically praised the unusual choice of instruments, commenting that ‘the combination … is neither coincidental nor arbitrary.’

The musical structure is unified by Dohnányi’s use of a dramatic rising motif – often on the horn – that is first heard right at the start. The first movement is brooding and tense, but ends with hope (the rising motif returning in triumph). The Intermezzo includes a rather sinister march, while the third movement is a set of variations that includes one that is scherzo-like. This leads directly into the finale – an almost dizzyingly ebullient movement which suggests a kind of jazzed-up Brahms.

Nigel Simeone © 2011

DORÁTI Antal, Duo Concertante for oboe and piano

Antal Doráti’s long and distinguished conducting career has tended to overshadow his work as a composer. As a brilliantly gifted teenager, he began his studies at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest at the age of fourteen and from the start, his musical development was in the best possible hands: his composition teachers included Zoltán Kodály and his piano teacher was Béla Bartók. After graduating from the Academy in 1924, he joined the music staff at the Budapest Opera, making his conducting debut the same year.  

Notable later orchestral appointments included posts with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Stockholm Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. His numerous recordings included a pioneering set of the complete Haydn symphonies, made for Decca with the Philharmonia Hungarica. 

Doráti also found time to compose a number of pieces, ranging from an opera (The Chosen) to orchestral works (including a symphony) and the present Duo concertante for oboe and piano, completed in 1984 and dedicated to the great Swiss oboist Heinz Holliger who gave the first performance in Washington, D.C. on 21 April 1984 with the pianist Karl Ritter. A modern re-interpretation of a Hungarian rhapsody, the structure draws on traditional Hungarian dance forms, opening with a slow lassú and following this with a friss – a quick movement marked molto vivace 

© Nigel Simeone 

DVOŘÁK ‘American’ String Quartet (excerpt for ‘Close Up’)

This piece brings our concert to a celebratory end, from Czech composer Anton Dvořák. Listen out for all the places it gets louder, or faster — or both! — or where the quartet hang back to build tension. This piece uses folk tunes from Czechoslovakia, where Dvořák was born and started writing, and includes a native American tune, and music from all the people like him who had travelled to live and work in the USA. Bringing these together, our concert ends with an explosion of joy!

DVOŘÁK Antonín, Piano Quintet No.2 in A Op.81

Allegro, ma non tanto
Dumka. Andante con moto – Vivace – Andante con moto
Scherzo. Furiant – Molto vivace
Finale. Allegro 

Dvořák composed his great A major Piano Quintet in 1887 (a much earlier quintet from 1872 is in the same key) and it was described by Otakar Šourek as one of ‘the most delightful and successful works’ in the whole chamber music repertoire. From the spacious cello theme that opens the quintet, Dvořák shows the seemingly effortless spontaneity of a composer at the height of his powers. The second theme turns the mood more wistful, and the music oscillates between melancholy and warmth, culminating in a jubilant climax. The second movement is a Dumka, with slow outer sections based on a melancholy tune, and a quick central section derived from the same musical idea. The Scherzo – described by Dvořák as a Furiant – begins with one of his most enchanting quick melodies and this is followed by two more: an undulating tune and another of folk-like simplicity, before the opening idea returns. The central Trio provides an oasis – a tune in long notes over which Dvořák introduces fragments of the main theme. The opening melody of the Finale dominates much of what follows. Near the close, a brief fugal section leads to a moment of tranquillity before the final dash to the end.  

Nigel Simeone © 2014 

DVOŘÁK Antonín, Piano Trio in G minor Op.26

Allegro moderato
Scherzo. Presto – Trio. Poco meno mosso – Presto da capo
Allegro non tanto

Dvořák composed this Piano Trio in January 1876 at a time of great personal sadness: his daughter Josefa had died in infancy a few months earlier and the composer embarked on three works: this trio, the String Quartet in E major, and the Stabat mater, each of which can be considered a kind of memorial to Josefa. It was first performed on 29 June 1879 with Dvořák himself at the piano at a concert in the Bohemian town of Turnov. The mood of the trio is predominantly melancholic and tender, with a strong aura of nostalgia, but there is a clear national identity too.

A review in the Athenaeum following the first London performance in May 1880 expressed some reservations about Dvořák’s handling of form in the first movement, but praised ‘a succession of charmingly fresh and piquant ideas, more or less suggestive of the nationality of the composer. Some of the themes are so unmistakably Slavonic in character that Dvořák may possibly have culled them from the stores of folksongs ready to be utilized with effect in instrumental composition. Whether this be so or not, the entire trio, and especially the two middle movements, pleases on account of its thematic beauty and easy, unstudied expression.’

© Nigel Simeone

DVOŘÁK Antonín, Slavonic Dances Nos.1&2

Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances were the pieces that first brought the composer worldwide fame. Thanks to the support of Johannes Brahms, Dvořák had been introduced to the publisher Simrock in Berlin, and having taken on the composer’s Moravian Duets, Simrock asked him for some dances. Inspired by Brahms’s Hungarian Dances Dvořák set to work on a set of his own based on the rhythms and forms of Czech folk dances – though unlike Brahms (who used Hungarian gypsy melodies), Dvořák invented his own tunes. Whether in their original version for piano four hands, or in the composer’s dazzling orchestrations, or in numerous arrangements (including an entertaining if clattery one for two pianos, eight hands), they soon became immensely popular – but they are also pieces that are ingenious, substantial and highly original. Dvořák took traditional dance forms into the concert hall with genuine affection and obvious relish, ranging from the slow-fast style of the Dumka, to the wildness of the Furiant. The first set of eight dances appeared in 1878, and a second set was composed in 1886. They stand as a wonderful celebration of Slavonic folk styles seen through the eyes of a great Czech composer, and they were also important for Dvořák’s future creative work: in many of his later concert pieces he adapts the same dance types that he had explored in the Slavonic Dances – from the Furiant-type scherzos of the Sixth Symphony and Piano Quintet, to the Dumka used in several pieces, notably the amazingly original Dumky Trio which comprises six of them in a row. As for the Slavonic Dances, they quickly became a major international success, and in 1893 Dvořák himself conducted three of them at the Chicago World’s Fair.


Nigel Simeone © 2011

DVOŘÁK Antonín, Slavonic Dances Op.46, Nos.1 & 2

Presto (furiant)
Allegretto scherzando (dumka)

It was Brahms who recommended his publisher Simrock to take on the Bohemian composer Antonín Dvořák, then in his thirties but largely unknown outside Prague. After the success of the Moravian Duets in 1878, Simrock immediately asked Dvořák for a set of Czech dances for piano four-hands as companion pieces to Brahms’s Hungarian Dances. Dvořák was delighted at the prospect and wrote them quickly between 18 March and 7 May 1878, producing a set of very stylised pieces drawing on the forms and characteristics of Czech folk dances. The Slavonic Dances immediately enjoyed huge success, and in 1886 Dvořák produced a second set. The first dance is a furious Presto in the style of a furiant (very fast, with syncopations and cross-rhythms). The second is the only one of the set for which the composer took inspiration from beyond Czech lands: its origins were a Ukrainian Dumka, a wistful lament which is intercut with livelier episodes.  

© Nigel Simeone 

DVOŘÁK Antonin, String Quartet in F Op.96 The American Quartet

Allegro ma non troppo
Molto vivace
Finale. Vivace ma non troppo

Dvořák was teaching in New York in 1893, and for his summer holiday he travelled over a thousand miles westwards, to the village of Spillville in Iowa, set in the valley of the Turkey River. It had been colonized by Czechs in the 1850s and in these congenial surroundings Dvořák quickly wrote the String Quartet in F major. On the last page of the manuscript draft, he wrote: ‘Finished on 10 June 1893, Spillville. I’m satisfied. Thanks be to God. It went quickly.’

Coming immediately after the ‘New World’ Symphony (which was to have its triumphant première in New York later in the year), the quartet has a mood that suggests something of his contentment in Spillville. Dvořák’s assistant Josef Kovařík recalled the composer’s routine: walks, composing, playing the organ for Mass and talking to locals, observing that he ‘scarcely ever talked about music and I think that was one of the reasons why he felt so happy there.’

Just how ‘American’ is the quartet? While remaining completely true to himself, Dvořák admitted that ‘as for my … F major String Quartet and the Quintet (composed here in Spillville) – I should never have written these works the way I did if I hadn’t seen America’. The first performance was given in Boston on New Year’s Day 1894 by the Kneisel Quartet.

© Nigel Simeone


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