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

KANGA Zubin, Steel on Bone

As a pianist, moving away from the keys and into the body of the piano feels like touching the bones, flesh and sinew of the instrument. It feels both more delicate and precise, and also more violent (for both player and piano) than interfacing with the keyboard. Steel on Bone is inspired by two types of films: medical documentaries and the samurai films of Akira Kurosawa. Steel is the material of both the scalpel and the katana, used for healing and for fatal duels. Using steel implements in the body of the instrument, the pianist draws delicate and violent sounds, transmogrifying them using MiMU’s multi-sensor gloves.

MiMU gloves https://mimugloves.com/

KLUGHARDT August, Schilflieder Op.28

Drüben geht die Sonne scheiden [The sun is sinking over there] 
Trübe wirds, die Wolken jagen [Darkness falls, the clouds are flying] 
Auf geheimen Waldespfade [Along a secret forest path] 
Sonnenuntergang [Sunset] 
Auf dem Teich, dem regungslosen [On the pond, the motionless one] 

August Klughardt may not be a familiar name today, but his career as a composer and conductor was distinguished. In 1869 he moved Weimar to become music director at the ducal court, and there he met and befriended Franz Liszt. A few years later he met Wagner and became associated with the New German School, a group of young composers who promoted the progressive values of Liszt, Wagner and Berlioz. But Klughardt was also attracted to Schumann’s music and to conventional forms (he wrote six symphonies). The Schilflieder (‘Reed Songs’) were composed in 1872 during his time in Weimar, are they notable for several reasons. First, there’s the instrumental combination for oboe, viola and piano – an ensemble for which very little has been composed. Second, the poetic inspiration is quite explicit: in the published score, Nikolaus Lenau’s poems are printed above the music, almost like song lyrics, with specific moments and moods reflected by Klughardt in his sensitive musical reflections on Lenau’s melancholy tales of man amid nature. Third, the score bears a fine dedication: ‘To Franz Liszt, in deepest admiration’ – an indication of the warm friendship between the two composers at this time.  


Published in 1832, Lenau’s Schilflieder have been set as songs by numerous composers from Robert Franz in 1842 to Schoenberg and Berg at the turn of the century, but Klughardt’s instrumental settings are notable for being a piece of chamber music that is so intimately linked to the poems that inspired it. Lenau’s poems prompted several great composers to write purely instrumental music – Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No.1, Richard Strauss’s Don Juan and the third movement of Mahler’s Symphony No.3 – but Klughardt in his Schilflieder seems to be the only composer to have taken Lenau as the source for a piece of chamber music.  The subtitle – ‘Fantasiestücke’ – at once recalls Schumann, and his influence is strong throughout these five pieces. The first, is marked ‘slow and dreamy’ and the second ‘Impassioned’. The central movement, ‘Gentle, quietly moving’ is followed by the most dramatic of the five, marked ‘Fiery’, and the final piece brings the set to close in a mood of tranquillity.  


© Nigel Simeone 

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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