MUSIC FOR PIANO AND WIND

Ensemble 360

Upper Chapel, Sheffield
Saturday 17 September 2022, 7.00pm

£20 
£14 Disabled / UC and PIP recipients
£5 Under 35s & Students 

Past Event

BEETHOVEN National Airs for flute and piano Op.105 and Op.107 (selection)(c.15’)
FARRENC Sextet in C minor Op.40 (23’)
DANZI Wind Quintet in B flat Op.56 No.1 (14’)
BEETHOVEN Quintet for piano and wind in E flat Op.16 (25’)

A joyful showcase of Beethoven and more from the wind players of Ensemble 360. Beethoven’s Quintet for piano and wind is one of the great pieces in the wind repertoire, hugely enjoyable to both listen to and play. Writer of numerous wind quintets, Danzi’s knowledge of the instruments shines through in his melodic writing.  

Inspired by Beethoven’s Quintet, Louise Farrenc’s Sextet adds the flute and is set in the style of a chamber concerto for piano and wind. A brilliant 19th century composer, she is now starting to achieve the recognition her outstanding music deserves. 

BEETHOVEN Ludwig van, National Airs for flute and piano Op.105 & Op.107

The Scottish publisher and folksong collector George Thomson (1751–1851) – a friend of Robert Burns and Walter Scott – first approached Beethoven for some arrangements of Scottish songs as early as 1803, and eventually 25 of them (Beethoven’s Op. 108, for which the composer was well remunerated) were published by Thomson in 1818. Two years earlier, Thomson had written asking for some instrumental variations ‘in an agreeable style, not too difficult’. When he formally commissioned them in June 1818, Thomson also requested ad lib. flute parts, explaining that ‘we have a large number of flautists but alas, our violinists are few’, reminding Beethoven that the music should be ‘in a familiar, easy and slightly brilliant style.’

Thomson received the variations from Beethoven on 28 December 1818, and the National Airs with variations for the piano-forte and an accompaniment for the flute were published in July 1819, in a handsome edition that included a portrait of Beethoven on the title page. As musicologist and museum archivist Pamela Willetts has observed, they were not a commercial success. In 1820, Thomson wrote to Beethoven, grumbling that ‘the variations were not selling and that his outlay was a complete loss.’

© Nigel Simeone

FARRENC Louise, Sextet in C minor Op.40

Allegro
Andante sostenuto
Allegro vivace

The composer of three symphonies and an impressive body of chamber music as well as an extensive catalogue of works for piano (her own instrument), Louise Farrenc has thankfully been rediscovered after a century of neglect. Born Jeanne-Louise Dumont, she came from an artistic family and was encouraged to develop her gifts as a pianist and composer. She studied the piano with Moscheles and Hummel, and her composition teacher was Anton Reicha. In 1821 she married the flautist Aristide Farrenc who subsequently established a publishing business. After a successful career as a travelling virtuoso, Louise Farrenc was appointed professor of piano at the Paris Conservatoire in 1842, a post she held for thirty years. The Sextet for piano and wind quintet was written in 1851–2, immediately after the successful premiere of her Nonet for strings and wind (in which Joseph Joachim was one of the performers).

The first movement – the longest of the three – opens with a dramatic theme, decorated by elaborate piano writing, while the second theme is more lyrical. Broadly-conceived, this movement ends in grand style. The main theme of the slow movement is introduced by the wind alone before the being taken up by the piano, then by the whole ensemble with several short wind solos. The finale begins with an urgent and uneasy theme on the piano which gives way to a delicate second idea. But dramatic intensity is maintained throughout the movement, right up to the turbulent ending.

© Nigel Simeone

DANZI Franz, Wind Quintet in B flat Op.56 No.1

Allegretto
Andante con moto
Menuetto allegretto
Allegretto

Danzi was brought up in Mannheim, where he joined the orchestra run by the Elector Karl Theodor while still a teenager, as a cellist. His father was principal cellist in the orchestra (which moved, with Karl Theodor, to Munich) and he was praised by Mozart for his playing in the first performance of Idomeneo in 1781. In 1784, he was succeeded by his son, who later became an assistant Kapellmeister in Munich, before taking on the role of Kapellmeister in Stuttgart and later Karlsruhe. Though Danzi was a fine cellist, his fame as a composer rests largely on his nine woodwind quintets – works which show a consistent understanding of idiomatic wind writing.

The Quintet in B flat was one of a set of three first published in 1821, with a dedication to Anton Reicha – Danzi’s most important predecessor as a composer of wind quintets. After an amiable and well-crafted first movement in B flat major, Danzi reveals a more pensive side to his nature in the short Andante con moto, in D minor, its main thematic material being heard first on the oboe, then the bassoon. The Minuet is sturdy, while in the Trio section Danzi creates a witty dialogue between all five instruments. The last movement is a jaunty rondo.

© Nigel Simeone

BEETHOVEN Ludwig van, Quintet for wind and piano in E flat Op.16

Grave. Allegro ma non troppo
Andante cantabile
Rondo. Allegro ma non troppo

Beethoven completed his Quintet for Piano and Wind in 1797, five years after his arrival in Vienna, taking Mozart’s quintet for the same instrumental combination as his model. It’s probably no coincidence that one of Beethoven’s closest friends – Nikolaus Zmeskall von Domanovecz – owned the autograph manuscript of Mozart’s work at the time. Yet despite some obvious parallels in terms of structure and even some of the thematic material, the Beethoven Quintet sounds very individual. As the Canadian musicologist Cliff Eisen has written: ‘Beethoven [remained] true to his own voice, some obvious modellings of his quintet on Mozart’s notwithstanding: their keys and unusual scoring are identical, and both begin with elaborate slow introductions. At 416 bars, however, the first movement of Beethoven’s quintet far exceeds Mozart’s in scale: as in so many of his chamber and solo works, Beethoven aspires to the symphonic, something that is alien to Mozart’s greater intimacy and concision.’

© Nigel Simeone

HARMONIEMUSIK

Ensemble 360 & Guests

Channing Hall, Sheffield
Friday 16 September 2022, 7.00pm

£15 
£10 Disabled / UC and PIP recipients
£5 Under 35s & Students 

Past Event

BEETHOVEN Sextet in E flat Op.71 (18’) 
BEETHOVEN Octet in E flat Op.103 (23’) 
MOZART ‘Harmoniemusik‘ from The Marriage of Figaro (18’) 

Music for wind instruments (Harmoniemusik) was regularly composed in the 18th and 19th centuries, and Beethoven’s Sextet and Octet are two of the finest examples of this genre. The Sextet was reviewed at its premiere as “distinguished by fine melodies and a wealth of new and surprising ideas”, and the Octet is just as lyrical. 

 This concert features guest appearances from participants in Music in the Round’s Wind Development programme, Bridging the Gap: Tamara Sullivan (oboe), Ola Akindipe (clarinet) Ben Garalnick (horn) and Florence Plane (bassoon). 

 

A bar will be serving beer, wine and soft drinks from 6.30pm. 

BEETHOVEN Ludwig van, Sextet in E flat Op.71

Adagio. Allegro
Adagio
Menuetto. Quasi Allegretto
Rondo. Allegro

When Beethoven sent the score of his Sextet to the publisher Breitkopf & Härtel in 1809, he was modest about it: ‘The Sextet is from my early days and, moreover, it was written in a single night. There is really no other way to say that it written by a composer who produced some better works.’

Scored for pairs of clarinets, bassoons and horns, it was composed in 1796 (the high opus number is misleading). The Sextet is an elegantly crafted piece in which the young Beethoven also explores some unusual sonorities, not least the rich lower registers of all six instruments in the Adagio where the bassoon presents the main theme. The vigorous Minuet and Trio is launched by the sound of hunting horns, while the Rondo is a spirited movement, bringing this little-known work to a cheerful close.

© Nigel Simeone

BEETHOVEN Ludwig van, Octet in E flat Op.103

Allegro
Andante
Minuet
Presto

The high opus number of Beethoven’s Octet for two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons and two horns is misleading since it is one of the composer’s earliest pieces from his Vienna years: he started it while still in Bonn – and finished it in 1793, shortly after his arrival in the Austrian capital. It was reworked two years later as the String Quintet Op.4. Woodwind chamber music was all the rage in the late eighteenth century, nowhere more so than in Vienna, and it was usually written for performance outdoors. Like Haydn, Mozart and many others, the young Beethoven fulfilled the late eighteenth-century taste for Harmoniemusik (music for wind band) with cheerful, relatively undemanding works, of which his most substantial was this Octet.

Beethoven’s Octet was completed just when he started to take lessons from Haydn – and the wisdom and subtlety gained from those can be heard in his string quintet transcription (despite Beethoven’s far-fetched claim that he ‘learned nothing’ from his sessions with Haydn). But the Octet in its original version is one of Beethoven’s freshest early works. He clearly had good players in mind – the orchestras in Bonn and Vienna at the time evidently had wind sections with a taste for virtuosity, as can be heard especially in the delightful finale of this four-movement work. The first movement is engaging and straightforward, while the lyrical Andante has particularly prominent parts for oboe and bassoon. The Minuet is interesting: it’s already a long way from the courtly dance of its title, and an early example of what Beethoven would soon develop into the scherzos familiar from his symphonies.

© Nigel Simeone

MOZART Amadeus, ‘Harmoniemusik’ from Le nozze di Figaro for wind octet

Harmoniemusik – music for wind ensemble – was something that delighted Mozart, both as a composer (producing what are perhaps the finest serenades for woodwind ever written) and as someone who was willingly entertained by the arrangements that were often made of favourite numbers from operas of the day. Mozart himself alludes to this in a delightful way with the musical entertainment during the banquet in Act Two of Don Giovanni when a wind band plays tunes from operas by Soler, Sarti and also the aria ‘Non più andrai’ from Mozart’s own Nozze di Figaro.

Contemporary wind arrangements of Mozart’s music proliferated, including extracts from Figaro, Don Giovanni and Die Entführung aus dem Serail, while a selection of Harmonie arrangements from Die Zauberflöte was advertised in the Wiener Zeitung in January 1792. All provide delightful music for entertainment and sometimes include interesting clues about performance practice (giving an oboist, for example, an ornamented vocal line that included decorations as performed by singers but not included in the printed score of the opera itself). The identity of early arrangers is sometimes hard to determine, though the oboist Johann Wendt was particularly important as chief arranger for the Harmonie established by Emperor Joseph II in 1782. The best Harmonie arrangements, by Wendt and others, remain a charming way to experience operatic music in a new guise.

© Nigel Simeone

BEETHOVEN STRING QUARTETS

Ensemble 360

Upper Chapel, Sheffield
Saturday 10 September 2022, 7.00pm

£20
£14 Disabled / UC and PIP recipients
£5 Under 35s & Students

Past Event

BEETHOVEN 
String Quartet Op.18 No.3 (25’)
String Quartet Op.95 Serioso(21’)
String Quartet Op.59 No.1 (41’) 

A chance to hear quartets from Beethoven’s early and middle periods, both marked by wit and invention, formal control and deft construction. The monumental first ‘Rasumovsky’ quartet follows, an intense work that marked a sea-change in Beethoven’s writing and is passionate, defiant and deeply moving.  

(Rescheduled from 5 February 2022.)

BEETHOVEN Ludwig van, String Quartet in D Op.18 No.3

Allegro
Andante con moto
Allegro
Presto

The Quartet Op.18 No.3 is a landmark in Beethoven’s career: it’s his first string quartet. He began it in the Autumn of 1798, finishing it early the following year, and eventually placed it as the third of the Op.18 set. As a preparation, Beethoven immersed himself in quartets by other composers, especially Mozart and his teacher Haydn – he copied out two of Mozart’s Haydn quartets just as he was beginning work on his Op.18.

The first movement opens with an arching theme (characterised by a leap of a minor seventh between the first two notes). The slow movement, in B flat major, begins with a luxuriant presentation of the main theme, but the texture soon becomes more spare and fragmented, with numerous dramatic contrasts. The Scherzo-like third movement has a minor key Trio section, while the final Presto is notable for its unquenchable energy. Composer Robert Simpson wrote that this music ‘flies at once into the sky, alighting when and where it wishes’ – from the stormy development section to the unexpectedly quiet ending.

© Nigel Simeone

BEETHOVEN Ludwig van, String Quartet in F minor Op.95 Serioso

Allegro con brio
Allegretto ma non troppo, attacca subito
Allegro assai vivace ma serioso. Più allegro
Larghetto espressivo. Allegretto agitato. Allegro

‘The Quartet is written for a small circle of connoisseurs and is never to be performed in public.’ Thus wrote Beethoven to Sir George Smart in October 1816. The kind of public concerts he had in mind – mixed programmes of vocal and instrumental music – would indeed make an odd setting for a work of such concentrated intensity. Composed in 1810 and revised for publication in 1815, Beethoven dedicated it to his friend, Nikolaus Zmeskall von Domanovetz, a talented amateur cellist who worked as Hungarian Court Secretary in Vienna.

One of Beethoven’s shortest and most tautly argued quartets, it was the composer himself who called it Quartetto serioso on the autograph manuscript. The Beethoven expert William Kinderman sums up its character as ‘dark, introspective, and vehement’, and it’s no surprise that Beethoven takes a similarly pithy approach to form: a much-shortened recapitulation in the first movement, a slow movement that eschews lyricism in favour of a chromatic fugal section, and a prickly Scherzo (more of an anti-Scherzo really, since it is not only completely lacking in any kind of humour, but is even marked ‘serioso’). The finale sustains this tension and agitation until the last moment – then something extraordinary happens: the music takes a sudden turn to F major, and there’s a dash to the finish. The American composer Randall Thompson commented that ‘no bottle of champagne was ever uncorked at a better time.’

© Nigel Simeone

BEETHOVEN Ludwig van, String Quartet in F Op.59 No.1 Razumovsky

Allegro
Allegretto vivace e sempre scherzando
Adagio molto e mesto – attacca
Thème Russe. Allegro

The first of Beethoven’s three quartets written for Prince Razumovsky was composed in 1806 and performed the next year. Like the ‘Eroica’ Symphony (1804–5) it shows Beethoven expanding the possibilities of the form to produce something on an epic scale while retaining the essential intimacy of a string quartet. The first movement is introduced by a cello theme which musicologist Lewis Lockwood describes as ‘opening up a musical space of seemingly unbounded lyricism and breadth.’ The Scherzo, in B flat major, is an unusual movement: while it has no distinct Trio section, it is also Beethoven’s longest Scherzo to date, even though Beethoven removed a large repeat while revising the work. The slow movement has the unusual marking mesto – ‘mournful’ – and is cast in the tragic key of F minor. It ends on a trill that leads seamlessly into the finale. This is based on a Russian theme – a charming and appropriate choice since Razumovsky was the Russian Ambassador to Vienna at the time.

© Nigel Simeone

BEETHOVEN Ludwig van, String Quartet in E flat Op.127

BEETHOVEN Ludwig van, Piano Sonata No.32 in C minor Op.111

BEETHOVEN Ludwig van, Piano Sonata No.31 in A flat Op.110

BEETHOVEN Ludwig van, Piano Sonata No.30 in E Op.109

BEETHOVEN Ludwig van, String Quartet in F Op.135

BEETHOVEN Ludwig Van, String Quartet in E minor Op.59 No.2 ‘Rasumovsky’

BEETHOVEN String Quartet No.5

FOUR BY FOUR Beethoven’s String Quartets discussion

Beethoven Grosse Fuge