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: S

SCHUBERT Octet (extract for family concert)

We begin with a chase! In this ‘scherzo’ or musical joke you will hear eight musicians playing a game of musical hide and seek as they pass this cheeky tune around the group.

SCHUMANN Robert, Märchenerzählungen Op.132

Lebhaft, nicht zu schnell
Lebhaft und sehr markiert
Ruhiges Tempo, mit zartem Ausdruck
Lebhaft, sehr markiert

Schumann wrote his Märchenerzählungen (‘Fairy Tales’) for the unusual combination of clarinet, viola and piano in October 1853. Whether he chose these instruments with Mozart’s ‘Kegelstatt’ Trio in mind is uncertain, though it was the only other significant work for that particular ensemble. The pieces are haunting and enigmatic: if these miniatures were intended to depict particular stories, Schumann never said. Soon after finishing Märchenerzälungen he had a catastrophic breakdown and spent the last years of his life in an asylum. The pieces are dedicated to Albert Dietrich, who studied with Schumann and was a friend of Brahms. All three collaborated on the F-A-E Sonata for Joseph Joachim.

© Nigel Simeone 2015

SHAW Caroline, Entr’acte

Entracte was written in 2011 after hearing the Brentano Quartet play Haydn’s Op. 77 No. 2 — with their spare and soulful shift to the D-flat major trio in the minuet. It is structured like a minuet and trio, riffing on that classical form but taking it a little further.

From Caroline Shaw Editions.

SIERRA Arlene, Butterflies Remember a Mountain

This work, my second for piano trio, was inspired by a study of Monarch butterfly migration patterns, as well as by elements from Ravel’s Trio and my own song setting “Diving Girl” from the cycle Streets and Rivers. The work’s title is derived from the three movement titles as follows:
  • Butterflies
  • Remember
  • A Mountain
Butterflies Remember A Mountain was commissioned by the Philharmonische Gesellschaft Bremen. It is dedicated with admiration to the trio of Nicola Benedetti, violin, Leonard Elschenbroich, cello, and Alexei Grynyuk, piano.

SLATER Angela Elizabeth, The Light Blinds

The Royal Philharmonic Society commissioned Angela Elizabeth Slater as one of its 2021/22 Composers to write this work for Ensemble 360 at Music in the Round’s Sheffield Chamber Music Festival.

The Light Blinds for clarinet quintet explores the drama in extremes of light and darkness, charting a path through the spaces created by the tension of these opposing states. It draws on a short poem that I wrote whilst travelling home from a Music in the Round concert in 2021, following a day exploring the natural landscape around Sheffield.

The first material I wrote for this work was a short solo clarinet fragment, which is heard in the opening of the second section, exploring the line ‘The Light Blinds’. I used this material to shape and construct the rest of the piece, with this short 7/8 material acting as a central organising principle; the entire structure and pitch content emerges from it. This clarinet material is essentially veiled through it being stretched and texturally displaced within the quartet before being revealed in crystalline contrast with the solo clarinet against pulsing harmonics in the quartet. This ‘light blinds’ material becomes increasingly agitated, collapsing in on itself to form and explore the line ‘the dark engulfs’. Here the quartet concentrates on the lowest tessituras of their instruments and is accompanied by the bass clarinet, moving between dramatic and fragile multiphonics and aggressive rumbling material that pulls us further into the depths.

The dark engulfs
and the light blinds
in neither a sight
is seen in clarity
a blur, desperate to find a firm grip
in focus

Poem by Angela Elizabeth Slater

STRAVINSKY Three Pieces for Clarinet (extract for family concert)

All alone now, the clarinet couldn’t sound more different than the last time we heard it. Spiky, jazzy, confusing, exciting… this is a short piece that will keep you guessing!

SUCKLING Martin, Visiones (after Goya)

On page 10 of the Goya sketchbook generally known as the Witches and Old Women album, there is an image captioned by a single word: ‘Visiones’. An elderly couple dance, apparently suspended mid-air in an awkward embrace: his attention seems elsewhere; she may be picking his pocket. The pen-strokes are few, and the ink and wash technique makes the image seem as though momentarily conjured out of smoke. But without a doubt they are dancing, this strange couple, ready to step off the page, so alive is the penmanship. Peeking out from behind a fold of the lady’s skirt or the man’s cloak is a grinning face, all sunken eyes and wrinkled skin, laughing at – what? The dancers, the viewer, the world?

As I drew together materials for this clarinet trio, Goya’s vision haunted my dreams. It’s not the piece but it drew the piece into its orbit: three odd characters, bound together in dance. There is a kind of beauty there, I think, and elegance, and poise, and some sweet melancholy. But also obsession and violence and no way out. As I shaped the piece, these ideas shaped my thinking.

There are three sections:

#1: Cello and clarinet circle each other in repeated microtonal lyrics, while the piano, completely separate, taps out ecstatic pirouettes in the extreme upper register.

#2: A fragment of the lyric figure becomes something approaching a lullaby; the three instruments combine to create a single expanding harmonic texture, which, increasingly mechanical, gets stuck in irregular loops. The process repeats. Then repeats again.

#3: A distorted memory of what has gone before. The piano is now the melodic lead; the cello a crazed, fragmentary virtuoso, unable to find a ‘pure’ tone; the clarinet restricted to a simple pattern of soft multiphonics. The spinning dance intrudes, then overwhelms.

From martinsuckling.com

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