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: M

MACKLAY Sky, Many Many Cadences

I wrote Many Many Cadences for Spektral Quartet and this recording is from their Grammy-nominated 2016 album Serious Business. We first met at The Walden School when they were ensemble-in-residence and we soon found that we were all pondering approaches to musical humor. In this piece I stretch the listeners’ perception of cadences by recontextualizing these predictable chord progressions in very fast cells that are constantly changing key and register. These lonely, disjunct ends-of-phrases eventually congeal and transform into new kinds of phrases and sound objects.

From SkyMacklay.com

MARTINŮ Bohuslav, Quartet for Oboe, Violin, Cello & Piano

Moderato poco allegro
Adagio – Andante poco moderato – Poco allegro

Martinů composed this unusually scored quartet in New York during autumn 1947 and it was first performed in November that year. The dedicatee was Leopold Mannes, a fascinating character in American musical life who invented Kodachrome colour film in his spare time. In 1936, Mannes became President of Mannes College in succession to his father. He attracted an impressive roster of musicians to the faculty, including the conductor George Szell, the theorist Heinrich Schenker, and Martinů for composition. The quartet is a diverting and charming work in two movements, the second of which combines a more serious slow movement with a jolly and affirmative finale which is full of Martinů’s typical rhythmic drive and strong sense of harmonic direction, ending firmly in C major.

Nigel Simeone © 2011

MARTINŮ Bohuslav, Three Madrigals

Poco allegro
Poco andante
Allegro

It was hearing a performance of Mozart’s Duo in B flat played by Josef and Lillian Fuchs (brother and sister) that inspired Martinů to compose his Three Madrigals in February–March 1947, with the subtitle ‘Duo No. 1’ on the autograph manuscript. Martinů wrote to his friend Miloš Šafránek on 16 May 1947: ‘I have written Three Madrigals for violin and viola … for J. Fuchs and Lillian (his sister) who is a great and unique viola player. I heard them at a concert and was amazed by their artistic quality, so I wrote the Duo for them, and it seems to be good. They are both excited and will put it in their Carnegie recital.’ This was given on 22 December 1947 and in the next day’s New York Times, the venerated critic Virgil Thomson gave a warm welcome to the new work: ‘a delight for musical fantasy, for ingenious figuration [and] for Renaissance-style evocation.’ Josef and Lillian Fuchs performed the Madrigals on many more occasions and when their recording of the work was issued in 1950, it was coupled, appropriately, with the Mozart Duo in B flat.

© Nigel Simeone

MEREDITH Anna, Tripotages Miniatures

I              Lanolin                                 E flat Clarinet & Horn
II             40 Watt                                Piccolo & Double Bass
III           Moth                                      Alto Flute, Oboe & Horn
IV           Buzzard                                 Cor Anglais & Viola
V             Scrying                                  B flat Clarinet, Viola & Double Bass
VI           Majolica                                Tutti (Flute, Oboe, B flat Clarinet, Horn, Viola & Double Bass)
Tripotage Miniatures are a collection of 3 duets, 2 trios and a tutti movement for mixed sextet. Each miniature is around 1-3 minutes long.
The miniatures are exploring different kinds of opacity, glitch, fuzz, shade and grime – imagining underhand dealings that place a sort of filmy surface on top of the material. (My favourite translation of Tripotage from the French is Jiggery Pokery.)
Sometimes this filter seems to drain colour – turning the material almost sepia, sometimes it makes ideas a bit murkier – harder to grasp, slippery and falling through the fingers, sometimes it causes moments to stutter and distort and sometimes it’s about capturing a fleeting feeling of distance, of something out of reach.
There are tiny thematic links between the movements but they could also be played individually – it’s about capturing a moment – even if it’s a slightly shady and disquieting one.
© Anna Meredith

MESSIAEN Quartet for the End of Time (extract for family concert)

This ‘interlude’ was the first part that Olivier Messiaen wrote of his spectacular piece, ‘A Quartet for the End of Time’ which he wrote while a prisoner in Germany during the Second World War. It’s a piece full of angels, birds, heavenly creatures, battles, rainbows and more. This is a quieter space in the middle of the almighty hubbub where three instruments, a violin, a cello and the clarinet come together.

MOZART Wolfgang Amadeus, Quintet for Piano and Wind in E flat K452

Largo – Allegro moderato
Larghetto
Allegretto

In a letter to his father on 10 April 1784, Mozart described his new Quintet for Piano and Wind as ‘the best piece I have ever written’. Completed on 30 March 1784 it was given its première just two days later on 1 April, at a ‘grand musical concert’ for the benefit of the National Court Theatre in Vienna. The extraordinary programme consisted of two Mozart Symphonies (almost certainly the ‘Haffner’ and the ‘Linz’), an ‘entirely new concerto’ played by Mozart (either K450 or K451, both recently finished), a solo improvisation, three opera arias and the first performance of an ‘entirely new grand quintet’. It was probably the presence of wind players for the symphonies that prompted Mozart to write one of his most original chamber works for this occasion.

While the first movement is designed on almost symphonic lines (complete with substantial slow introduction), it has a gentler sensibility and textures that recall the kind of dialogue between piano and wind that are such a feature of Mozart’s mature piano concertos. After a slow movement that makes the most of the song-like expressiveness of wind instruments, the finale is a sonata rondo – in essence a theme that returns repeatedly within a developing context – that was also much favoured in the piano concertos. The Quintet is highly original in terms of how it is put together, and the daring with which Mozart explores unusual sonorities.

Nigel Simeone © 2011

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