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: K

KNUSSEN Oliver, …Upon One Note

Purcell’s only five-part fantazia (Z745) gains its title ‘upon one note’ from the middle C which sounds throughout. From the first bar Oliver Knussen begins to distort the rhythms and pitches of his model while retaining the fixed C, which thus finds itself surrounded occasionally by very alien harmony indeed. As though out of a mist, the diatonic tonality of the original emerges from time to time to mark the ends of the sections, which follow the same plan as those of Fantazia 7 (Benjamin). During the final fast section Purcell’s music re-asserts itself unequivocally so that the closing bars are entirely as he wrote them.

© Mark Edgley Smith

KNUSSEN Oliver, Ophelia’s Last Dance

Ophelia’s Last Dance (Ophelia Dances, Book 2) is based on a melody dating from early in 1974, which was among several ideas intended for – but ultimately excluded from – Oliver Knussen’s Third Symphony (1973-79). Some of these evolved into the ensemble piece Ophelia Dances, Book 1 (1975), but this one, which nonetheless continued to haunt him from time to time over the years. After the death of his wife, Sue Knussen, it reminded the composer of a happier time and eventually, on the occasion of Paul Crossley’s 60th birthday recital in 2004, he decided to give it a tiny frame of its own so it could be shared with listeners other than the one in his head. The present 10-minute work – written in 2009/10 – is the result. A number of other ‘homeless’ dance-fragments, related more by personal history and mood than by anything more concrete, are bound together by means of variously wrought transitions to and from rondo-like recurrences of the original melody.

From fabermusic.com

KURTÁG György, Hommage à R Schumann for clarinet, viola and piano, Op. 15d 

Molto semplice piano e legato 
Feroce agitato 
Calmo scorrevole 
Adagio poco andante  

Kurtág scored his Hommage à R. Sch. for the same instrumental combination as Schumann’s Märchenerzählungen, Op. 132, completing the work in 1990. Each of the movements has a subtitle, and most of them refer to the imaginary characters that were such a significant spur to Schumann’s imagination. The first – whimsical and capricious – is headed ‘Kapellmeister Johannes Kreisler’s Curious Pirouettes’, a reference to E.T.A. Hoffmann’s character who inspired Kreisleriana. Next is a quiet canon subtitled ‘Eusebius: the delimited circle’, alluding to the introspective Eusebius figure in Schumann’s own writings. After this comes ‘Florestan’s lips tremble in anguish once more’, evoking Florestan, Eusebius’s outgoing counterpart. The fourth movement has a subtitle in Hungarian which translates as ‘I was a cloud, now the sun is shining’, a quotation from a poem by Attila Jószef (1905–1937). It is followed by ‘In the Night’, an urgent and restless night piece. The sixth movement is much the longest, subtitled ‘Meister Raro discovers Guillaume de Machaut’. Raro was the moderating influence in Schumann’s imaginary brotherhood, between the extremes of Florestan and Eusebius. Here the music resembles a solemn processional recalling both the Medieval spirit and technical procedures of Machaut.   

© Nigel Simeone, 2022 



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