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: P

PANUFNIK Roxanna, Horą Bessarabia

Roxanna Panufnik initially composed Hora Bessarabia as a violin solo for the Yehudi Menuhin Violin Competition in 2016, writing that she had ‘drawn inspiration from Yehudi Menuhin’s love of Eastern European Gypsy music – using Romanian melodies and fiendish-but-fun Bulgarian Gypsy rhythms.’ The contest finalist Ariel Horowitz asked Panufnik to make an arrangement for her and the double-bass player Sebastian Zinca. The result is a piece in the form of a dance alternating slow and fast sections, the bass part adding a conversational element to what had been a solo piece. The slow passages resemble a Romanian ‘Doina’, improvisatory in feel with both instruments occasionally imitating the sound of a cimbalom, while the faster ‘Hora’ sections become increasingly animated, leading to the thrilling rhythmic charge of the closing bars. 


© Nigel Simeone

PEEL Hannah, The Almond Tree

Hannah Peel

Mercury Prize, Ivor Novello and Emmy-nominated, RTS and Music Producers Guild winning composer, with a flow of solo albums and collaborative releases, Hannah joins the dots between science, nature and the creative arts, through her explorative approach to electronic, classical and traditional music


From her own solo albums to composing soundtracks like Game of Thrones: The last Watch, or to orchestrating and conducting for artists like Paul Weller, her work is ambitious, forward-looking, always adapting and re-inventing new genres and hybrid musical forms

Hannah is a regular weekly broadcaster for BBC Radio 3’s Night Tracks

© Hannah Peel


The Almond Tree

This is a track from Hannah Peel’s 2011 debut album The Broken Wave, which she described as a collection of songs covering themes ranging from “joy and hope of falling in love through to the pain and loss of betrayal.” In 2018 The Almond Tree featured in the opening episode of the Channel 4 / Netflix series Kiss Me First.

Hannah performing The Almond Tree in 2011 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piZCfrpa9kE


PRITCHARD Deborah, Peace

PROKOFIEV Sergei, Overture on Hebrew Themes

Prokofiev composed this piece for clarinet, string quartet and piano in 1919, while he was on tour in the USA. It was commissioned by the Zimro Ensemble, a Russian group who had recently arrived in America. The ‘Hebrew’ themes Prokofiev used were very probably composed by Simeon Bellison, the group’s clarinettist. The premiere was given by Prokofiev with the Zimro Ensemble in New York on 2 February 1920.


Nigel Simeone 2014

PROKOFIEV Sergei, Quintet in G minor

Tema con variazioni
Andante energico
Allegro sostenuto, ma con brio
Adagio pesante
Allegro precipitato, ma non troppo presto


Prokofiev’s Quintet Op.39 of 1924 incorporates music from Trapeze, a ballet he composed at the same time. Written while Prokofiev was living in Paris for a company that could only afford a small instrumental ensemble, the original ballet comprised eight movements of which six were used in the Quintet. The language is often astringent but Prokofiev is highly imaginative in the way he uses limited resources to the fullest possible effect. After a Theme and Variations that moves from a deadpan opening to frenetic energy before returning to the music of the start, the second movement opens with a double bass solo before some rather acidic writing for the whole ensemble. The short Allegro sostenuto, ma con brio is a witty scherzo-type movement that is followed by the darkest part of the Quintet, a brooding Adagio pesante notable for some unusual instrumental colours including sul ponticello string writing. The Allegro precipitato is another brilliant, highly animated exploration of intriguing sonorities, while the concluding Andante is more stately to begin with, becoming a little livelier in the central section, and ending vigorously, with the parts marked tumultuoso e precipitato.

PUCCINI Giacomo, 5 songs for trumpet and piano

Storiella d’amore (1883)
Sole e amore (1888)
E l’uccellino (1899)
Canto d’anime (1904)
Avanti Urania! (1896)

Storiella d’amore was Puccini’s first published work, printed in the magazine La musica popolare on 4 October 1883, with a note from the publisher proudly announcing that it was ‘a work by the young maestro Giacomo Puccini, one of the most distinguished students to graduate this year from the Milan Conservatory.’ Originally a song for voice and piano, it contains some intriguing pre-echoes of Mimi’s Act One aria from La bohème. 

Sole e amore from 1888 has even more explicit links with the same opera: the tune of this song is identical to that of the Quartet in Act Three. 

The charming E l’uccellino was written in 1899 as a cradle song for the infant son of a friend.  

Canto d’anime has links to Puccini’s lifelong fascination with technology – whether fast cars, speedboats or, in this case, the gramophone: this song, with words by Luigi Illica (librettist of Bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly) was commissioned by the Gramophone Company who subsequently issued a recording of it. 

Marked ‘Allegro spigliato’ (‘Fast and breezy’), Avanti Urania! was composed in 1896 to celebrate the acquisition of a handsome steamboat called Urania by Puccini’s friend, the industrialist Marchese Ginori-Lisci. 


© Nigel Simeone

PURCELL Henry, arr. BRITTEN Chacony in G minor, Z730 

Purcell composed this Chacony in about 1680, probably to be played by the Twenty-Four Violins, the string orchestra established by Charles II (imitating the similar ensemble set up by Louis XIV at Versailles). Its purpose was likely to have been to accompany dancing at court or perhaps as incidental music for a play. Britten was a fervent admirer of Purcell’s music and he began this arrangement for string quartet or string orchestra in late 1947, conducting the first performance in Zurich on 30 January 1948. In 1963, he made some revisions and the score was published in 1965. In the preface to that edition, Britten wrote the following about the work: ‘The theme, first of all in the basses, moves in a stately fashion from a high to a low G. It is repeated many times in the bass with varying textures above. It then starts moving around the orchestra. There is a quaver version with heavy chords above it, which provides the material for several repetitions. There are some free and modulating versions of it, and a connecting passage leads to a forceful and rhythmic statement in G minor. The conclusion of the piece is a pathetic variation, with dropping semi-quavers and repeated “soft” – Purcell’s own instruction.’ 

Nigel Simeone, 2022 

PURCELL Henry, Fantasias

Purcell’s fifteen Fantasias, originally written for viols in 3, 4, 6 and 7 parts, were probably all composed in 1680. The style of this music – imitating the vocal motet – comes from a tradition of instrumental fantasia-writing that goes back to the Renaissance. Yet despite the self-imposed restrictions of the genre, and its apparent anachronism, Purcell reinvents this form with music of extraordinary beauty and expressiveness. The Fantasias in this evening’s concert were all written for four voices, emphasizing the link between these concise and concentrated masterpieces and the emergence of the string quartet in the next century.

Nigel Simeone 2013


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