THE CHIMPANZEES OF HAPPY TOWN

Ensemble 360

Junction, Goole
Friday 19 April 2024, 10.00am / 1.15pm

Tickets: £3.50

1 free teacher ticket for every 10 tickets paid

Book Tickets

Celebrating the importance of love and happiness, Paul Rissmann’s hour-long musical retelling of Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees’s much-loved picture book returns.

Meet Chutney the Chimpanzee who, with one small act of planting a seed, transforms the lives of the entire town of Drabsville, and teaches its inhabitants to celebrate their differences and make life more colourful along the way!

With narration, visuals from the book and lots of music to introduce the musicians of Ensemble 360, this is a brilliant first concert for 3 – 7 year-olds.

THE CHIMPANZEES OF HAPPY TOWN

Ensemble 360 & Caroline Hallam

Junction, Goole
Saturday 23 March 2024, 2.00pm

Tickets £7

Book Tickets

Celebrating the importance of love and happiness in everyone’s lives, Paul Rissmann’s much-loved musical retelling of Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees’s best-selling picture-book returns.  

Meet Chutney the Chimpanzee who, with one small act of planting a seed, transforms the lives of the entire town of Drabsville, and teaches its inhabitants to celebrate their differences and make life more colourful along the way!   

With narration, visuals from the book and lots of music to introduce the musicians of Ensemble 360, this is a brilliant first concert for 3 – 7 year-olds. 

BEETHOVEN STRING QUARTETS

Ensemble 360

Junction, Goole
Saturday 23 March 2024, 7.00pm

Tickets:

£13

Book Tickets

BEETHOVEN String Quartet Op.59 No.2 Razumovsky
SHAW Entr’acte
BEETHOVEN String Quartet Op.135

 

“Must it be? It must be!” Beethoven inscribed these words on the manuscript of his profoundly moving final String Quartet, Op.135. Written at the end of his life, it’s the creative full stop for one of music’s ultimate geniuses.

The concert will begin with another of Beethoven’s deeply passionate quartets, which he dedicated to the Russian Count Razumovsky.

Between Beethoven, there’s a work by the Pulitzer Prize-winning US composer Caroline Shaw, whose hypnotic string quartet is full of energy and beauty.

BEETHOVEN Ludwig Van, String Quartet in E minor Op.59 No.2 Razumovsky

Allegro 
Molto Adagio. Si tratta questo pezzo con molto di sentimento  
Allegretto. Maggiore (Thème russe)  
Finale. Presto 

“Demanding but dignified” was how the Allgemeine Musik-Zeitung described Beethoven’s new quartets dedicated to Count Rasumovsky when they were first heard in 1807. Composed in 1806, and including Russian melodies from a collection of folk tunes edited by Ivan Prach (published in 1790), these quartets were a major development in the quartet form. But though they were longer and more challenging than any earlier quartets, they were an immediate success. Before the Rasumovsky Quartets were played, Beethoven offered them to publisher Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig – in a job lot with the Fourth Piano Concerto, the Fourth Symphony and Fidelio, but the deal fell through and the quartets were first published in Vienna by the Bureau des Arts et d’Industrie and in London by Clementi. 

While the first of the Rasumovsky Quartets is unusually expansive, the second is more concentrated. From the opening two-chord gesture establishing E minor as the home key, the first movement is tense and full of rhythmic ambiguity. The hymn-like slow movement has a combination of richness and apparent simplicity that blossoms into a kind of ecstatic aria: Beethoven himself is reported to have likened it to “a meditative contemplation of the stars”. The uneasy rhythms of the Scherzo are contrasted by a major-key Trio section in which Beethoven quotes a Russian tune that famously reappeared in the Coronation Scene of Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov. The finale begins with a surprise: a strong emphasis on the note C that is tantalising and unexpected in a movement that moves firmly towards E minor.  

© Nigel Simeone 

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.

BEETHOVEN Ludwig Van, String Quartet in F Op.135

Allegretto
Vivace
Lento assai, cantante e tranquillo

Der schwer gefaßte Entschluß [The difficult decision]. Grave, ma non troppo tanto (Muss es sein? [Must it be?]) – Allegro (Es muss sein! [It must be!]) – Grave, ma non troppo tratto – Allegro

Beethoven’s final string quartet (only the replacement finale of Op.130 is later) was completed in October 1826. After an awful summer during which his nephew Karl had attempted suicide and been imprisoned, Beethoven was able to escape to the tranquillity of Gneixendorf, a village near Krems about fifty miles from Vienna. He arrived at the end of September and his last masterpiece was finished in the following month, much of it composed outdoors (the locals were amused to observe Beethoven singing and waving his arms as he worked). It is dedicated to his friend and supporter Johann Nepomuk Wolfmayer, who was originally to have been the dedicatee of the C sharp minor Quartet Op.131. The F major Quartet Op.135 is much the shortest of the late quartets, and there’s a conciseness and simplicity that perhaps point forward to the direction Beethoven might have pursued in his music had he lived longer. Its less serious mood can also be explained by the circumstances in which it was written: at the end of his tether after his nephew’s problems in the summer, the composer could at last be refreshed. Op.135 seems to be imbued with this new found sense of well-being, and within a relatively conventional movement structure (unlike several of the other late quartets), Beethoven expresses both humour and the deepest seriousness with astonishing brevity. The expressive heart of the work was probably the first part to be composed: the Lento assai, barely fifty bars long, was originally intended for the Op.131 Quartet. The finale has the famous superscription ‘The difficult decision’, based on a question-and-answer motif: ‘Must it be? It must be!’ The origins of this are a Canon jotted down at the end of July 1826, ‘half-humorous, half-philosophical’ as Barry Cooper puts it, providing the ideal theme for a movement that encapsulates the ‘difficult decisions’ taken throughout Beethoven’s career.

Nigel Simeone © 2011

DEBUSSY & MORE

Ensemble 360

Junction, Goole
Saturday 20 January 2024, 3.00pm

Tickets:

£13

Past Event

DEBUSSY Premiere Rhapsodie
YORK BOWEN Clarinet Sonata
HARRISON Drifting Away
WEBER Grand Duo Concertant Op.48

 

Praised by International Record Review as “an eloquent and impassioned clarinettist [whose] playing is full-blooded and committed”Robert Plane, one of the newer members of Ensemble 360, has been a remarkable addition to this highly regarded group.

Debussy’s impressionistic Premiere Rhapsodie, performed by Rob and pianist Tim Horton, moves from a dreamy opening to a virtuosic conclusion. The pair will also perform Drifting Away, the work of Pamela Harrison, an often overlooked English composer who Rob has done much to champion.

The concert concludes with Weber’s celebrated duo marked by soaring melodies and dazzling cadenzas.

DEBUSSY Claude, Première Rapsodie for Clarinet and Piano

The test pieces specially composed for the final exams at the Paris Conservatoire have something of a bad reputation. Many of them are routine competition showpieces but sometimes a work of much more lasting importance was written for these occasions. Such is the case with Debussy’s Première Rapsodie, completed in January 1910 for the clarinet concours at the Conservatoire that summer (Debussy also dashed off a sight-reading test for the same competition, published as his Petite pièce for clarinet and piano). Debussy himself was a member of the jury and he found most of the players unsatisfactory in the Rapsodie. However, the eventual winner, Vandercruyssen, impressed him. Debussy wrote to his friend and publisher Jacques Durand that Vandercruyssen ‘played by heart, and like a great musician’. A year later, Debussy prepared the better-known version of the piece for clarinet and orchestra, but the original with piano is superbly written for both instruments. The clarinettist David Pino has claimed, with justification, that the Première rapsodie was ‘the first major work for solo clarinet written in the twentieth century’.

It opens in a mood of stillness (marked ‘Rêveusement lent’ – ‘dreamily slow’), with the piano adding gentle momentum in the accompaniment after a few bars, and the clarinet – instructed to play pianissimo but also ‘sweetly’ and ‘penetrating’ – introducing a languorous theme that gradually becomes more animated. A sudden speeding up introduces a more capricious idea that is briefly stopped in its tracks by a series of trills and a return to earlier music. But the faster speed soon returns, starting with rumbling low notes on the piano and a series of upward flourishes on the clarinet. This gives way to a new section marked ‘Modérément animé (‘Moderately animated) and ‘playful’, a passage that quite brilliantly exploits the possibilities of the clarinet, especially its ability to play rapid figurations and lyrical lines. A return to the slower music gives way, finally, to a thrilling conclusion.

What makes this such an outstanding work is that Debussy combines extremely idiomatic writing – appropriate for a piece that was intended to demonstrate a player’s technical command – with musical ideas that have memorable substance. On 16 January 1911 the clarinettist Paul Mimart (to whom the work was dedicated) gave the first performance in a concert, at the Salle Gaveau in Paris, in one of the concerts promoted by the Société musicale indépendante. According to Debussy’s biographer Léon Valas, another performance took place at the end of 1911 in Russia, and it was greeted by the audience with confusion. A baffled Debussy wrote to a friend: ‘Surely this piece is one of the most immediately pleasing I have ever written!’

© Nigel Simeone

YORK BOWEN Edwin, Clarinet Sonata in F minor, Op.109

Allegro moderato 
Allegretto poco scherzando 
Finale. Allegro molto 
 

York Bowen was a virtuoso pianist (in 1925 he made the first ever recording of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto) and had a parallel career as a prolific composer whose output included instrumental works written for many distinguished soloists, among them violinist Fritz Kreisler, oboist Léon Goossens, violist Lionel Tertis and horn player Denis Brain. When York Bowen heard the clarinettist Pauline Juler give the first performance of Gerald Finzi’s Five Bagatelles at one of the National Gallery Concerts in January 1943, he was immediately inspired to compose a work for her. The result was the Clarinet Sonata in F minor, given its premiere by Juler and the composer later that year. 

 

Starting with a wide-ranging theme for the clarinet (extending over two and a half octaves), this vibrant, lyrical work explores the technical possibilities of the clarinet with consummate skill. The second theme is closely related to the first, and the movement ends with a coda based on the work’s opening. The Scherzetto is a capricious counterpart to the first movement and elements of it are also heard at the start of the finale, marked Allegro molto. This is a rondo in which music from the opening movement is also recalled before an imposing coda brings this remarkable post-romantic sonata to a powerful close.  

 

© Nigel Simeone 

HARRISON Pamela, Drifting Away (for clarinet and piano)

Pamela Harrison studied at the Royal College of Music with Gordon Jacob (composition) and Arthur Benjamin (piano), and she composed several important works during the Second World War, including a String Quartet first performed in 1941 at the National Gallery Concerts. She wrote several important works for clarinet, inspired in part by a warm friendship with Jack Brymer for whom she composed a rugged and dramatic Clarinet Sonata in 1953, following this with a Clarinet Quintet in 1956. Drifting Away dates from two decades later: it was first performed by Brymer in 1975 at Sherbourne School. The title was derived from lines by W.B. Yeats: 

 
I heard the old, old men say 
All that’s beautiful drifts away 
Like the waters. 

 

Appropriately enough, this tender and evocative work, exquisitely crafted, was played by Brymer at the memorial service for Pamela Harrison in 1990.  

 

© Nigel Simeone 

WEBER Carl Maria Von, Grand Duo Concertant in E flat Op.48

Allegro con fuoco 
Andante con moto 
Rondo. Allegro 
 

Weber’s own diaries contain a wealth of information about when he composed this work. The first movement to be written was the Rondo finale, completed in Munich on 5 July 1815 and a note from a few days later mentions sketches “for the sonata with clarinet and piano”. By 19 July Weber had also written the slow movement, describing it as an “Adagio”. It wasn’t for another year that he turned his attention to the first movement – noting in Berlin on 5 November that the “First movement of the Duo in E flat was written down”, and finally on 8 November “Allegro in E flat for the Clarinet and Piano Duo finished.” The work was published by Schlesinger in Berlin six months later, Weber noting that he received printed copies on 19 June 1817.  

 

What is remarkable about this work, given its rather fragmented composition history, is that the finished piece has such concentration and coherence. An early review in the Allgemeine Musik-Zeitung was full of praise: “The whole piece has an original and fiery spirit as well as tender heartfelt feelings; a thorough development of ideas comes without any pedantry … The harmonic and melodic aspects of each movement are beautifully balanced against each other and both instruments are treated with a perfect knowledge of what each can do.” 

 

The ebullient and virtuoso writing for the two instruments in is one of the glories of the Grand Duo. It was conceived as a real partnership for clarinet and piano, with neither part dominating the proceedings. The results are very rich melodically but also extremely successful in terms of Weber’s handling of large-scale forms. Though the work was called Grand Duo concertant when it was published, it’s interesting to note from Weber’s diaries that he referred to this substantial three-movement work at least once as a “Sonata”. 

 

© Nigel Simeone  

MOZART, SCHUMANN & MORE

Ensemble 360

Junction, Goole
Thursday 16 November 2023, 7.00pm

Tickets:

£13

Past Event

BRUCH Selection from 8 Pieces (c.20′)
SCHUMANN Fantasy Pieces Op.73 (11′)
CLARKE Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale (14′)
MOZART Kegelstatt Trio (20′)

Pianist Tim Horton is joined by two more recent additions to Ensemble 360, the world-class Rachel Roberts on viola and Robert Plane on clarinet.

A selection of Bruch’s elegiac, lush fragments open the concert and a selection of playful and romantic ‘fantasy pieces’ follow.

Schumann’s three short pieces pair cello and piano in perfect balance, as they range across wildly contrasting fantastical melodies, moving from a dreamy opening plunging into a fiery finale. Mozart’s innovative Kegelstatt Trio concludes this perfect introduction to these fabulous musicians.

BRUCH Max, Eight Pieces Op.83 for clarinet, viola and piano (extracts)

Bruch composed these pieces in 1908 for his son, Max Felix, who was a clarinettist. Three of the pieces were originally written with an additional harp part, but by the time the work was published in 1910, Bruch had settled on a trio of clarinet, viola and piano. Discussing publication with Simrock in February 1910, Bruch wrote that the pieces had been ‘met with great approval where they were played from the manuscript’ and it’s easy to see why. Bruch always intended separate performances of individual pieces (indeed, he advised against playing all of them together), and selections can be used to make an effective suite.

© Nigel Simeone

SCHUMANN Robert, Fantasy Pieces Op.73

Zart und mit Ausdruck [Tender, with expression] 
Lebhaft, leicht [Lively, light] 
Rasch und mit Feuer [Quick and passionate] 

 

Schumann’s three Fantasy Pieces Op.73 were sketched very quickly – in just two days on 11 and 12 February 1849 – and he wrote them to enchant: on the original manuscript, Schumann calls them “Soirée Pieces” (Soiréestücke). He was eager to hear them tried out: on 18 February, less than a week after finishing the work, a rehearsal was held chez Schumann in Dresden. Clara played the piano and was joined by the clarinetist Kroth from the Court Orchestra. Though intended for clarinet, the pieces were published six months later in alternative versions for violin and cello, and later in arrangements for other instruments – including flute, oboe, viola and double bass. Schumann was fascinated at the time by the possibilities of combining different solo instruments with piano, and worked with extraordinary speed during February 1849: the day after finishing the Fantasy Pieces he started the Adagio and Allegro for horn. As Clara herself put it, “all the instruments are having a turn” – and the very same day that the Fantasy Pieces had their first run-through, Schumann began one of his most astonishing instrumental experiments: the Konzertstück for four horns and orchestra.  

 

The three Fantasy Pieces were intended to appeal to professional players and to talented amateurs. Far from composing showpieces for the clarinet, Schumann uses a musical language that has a feeling of intimacy and tenderness, recalling the style and sound world of some of his most expressive solo piano pieces. One later performance deserves a special mention: a private concert in Rüdesheim in which Brahms and the great clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld played both of Brahms’s late Clarinet Sonatas, ending their recital with Schumann’s Fantasy Pieces. Heinz von Beckerath later recalled that though it took a little while for him to appreciate Brahms’s masterpieces, “the Schumann pieces were delightful”. 

 

Nigel Simeone © 2012 

CLARKE Rebecca, Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale

After studies at the Royal College of Music (where her teachers included Stanford for composition and Lionel Tertis for the viola), Rebecca Clarke began her career as a viola player in Sir Henry Wood’s Queen’s Hall Orchestra, one of London’s first female professional orchestral players. After moving to the United States, Clarke completed her best-known work, the Sonata for Viola and Piano, in 1919. It tied for first place (with a piece by Ernest Bloch) in a composition prize offered by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge and Clarke followed this with a Piano Trio in 1921. Coolidge commissioned Clarke’s Rhapsody for Cello and Piano in 1923. After returning to London in 1924, Clarke became a busy chamber music performer with less time to devote to composition. When war broke out in 1939, Clarke was in the United States visiting her brothers, one of whom was Hans Clarke, a distinguished biochemist. With the war at its height, she could not return to Britain and in the end she settled in New York. There, by chance, she met James Friskin, a pianist and composer she had known in their student days. They married in 1944 and Clarke stopped composing.

The Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale is one of her last works, written in 1941. It was dedicated to Clarke’s brother Hans and his wife Fietzchen. In an interview in 1978, Rebecca Clarke described the Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale as ‘very simple’ and admitted that she didn’t offer it to any publishers: it ‘came at a time when I was just not bothering about showing things to publishers.’ This was partly due to modesty, but it also reveals something of the obstacles Clarke had to overcome in order to achieve the recognition she deserved (it was eventually published in 2000). Writing for clarinet and viola without piano accompaniment was clearly a challenge Clarke relished and the ingenuity of the dialogue between the two instruments is testimony to her inventiveness and skill. The work is in three sections: the quiet sobriety of Prelude (marked Andante semplice) leads to an angular Allegro vigoroso followed by a rather melancholy Pastorale, marked Poco lento. The quality of the musical ideas here reveals a composer of real character whose career had been blighted by discouragement and depressive illness.

© Nigel Simone 2018

MOZART Amadeus, Trio in E flat K498 Kegelstatt

Andante
Menuetto
Rondo. Allegretto

This is Mozart’s only trio for his three favourite instruments: clarinet, viola and piano. The nickname ‘Kegelstatt’ means ‘skittle alley’, and legend has it that Mozart wrote the work during a game of skittles. This may be far-fetched, especially given the rather noble character of the music, but what is certain is that he wrote the trio in Vienna, and entered it in his own thematic catalogue on 5 August 1786. The first movement is a marvellous example of Mozart’s invention at its most concentrated and unforced: every element in this sonata-form movement derives from the ornamental turn that is such a distinctive feature of the opening. The Minuet surprises by its almost grand character – no mere courtly dance, but something more imposing – and this is followed by an unhurried Rondo that brings this radiant work to a lyrical conclusion.

© Nigel Simeone

BACH CELLO SUITES

Ensemble 360

Junction, Goole
Saturday 28 October 2023, 3.00pm

Tickets:
£13

Past Event

JS BACH Cello Suite No.1
JS BACH Cello Suite No.3
JS BACH Cello Suite No.6 

Ensemble 360’s celebrated cellist Gemma Rosefield brings a selection of Bach’s beloved Cello Suites to Goole.  

Well-loved and intimate, these Suites are some of the most frequently performed and recognisable solo compositions ever written for unaccompanied cello, and regularly feature in film and television soundtracks.

BACH Johann Sebastian, Cello Suites 5 & 6

Cello Suite No.5 in C minor, BWV 1011 

Prelude 
Allemande 
Courante 
Sarabande 
Gavotte I / II 
Gigue 

 

Cello Suite No.6 in D, BWV 1012 

Prelude 
Allemande 
Courante 
Sarabande 
Gavotte I / II 
Gigue 

  

Bach’s Cello Suites were probably composed in about 1720 during Bach’s time in Cöthen. It isn’t known for whom Bach wrote them, though there are at least two likely candidates working in Cöthen at the time: Christian Ferdinand Abel (1682–1761), a great friend of the composer for whom Bach wrote the three sonatas for viola da gamba and harpsichord (BWV 1027–9), and Carl Berhard Lienicke (d. 1751), the leading cellist of the Cöthen orchestra. Whether either of them was the player Bach had in mind is a matter of pure speculation since no documentary evidence has come to light. Equally uncertain is why Bach wrote them. The likeliest explanation is that they were intended – like much of his keyboard music – for private performance. 

© Nigel Simeone  

CLOSE UP: MUSIC FOR CURIOUS YOUNG MINDS

Ensemble 360 & Aga Serugo-Lugo

Junction, Goole
Saturday 11 March 2023, 11.00am / 2.00pm
Past Event

A tour through the wondrous world of chamber music, specially created for young audiences, combining some of the most well-known music ever written as well as some new works from surprising places.

This brand-new concert includes thrilling adventures told through music, cheeky characters and epic heroes along with mind-blowing musical games and the chance to join in and make music together.

Introduced by Aga Serugo-Lugo, this is a friendly hour of fun and the finest string quartet music. Ideal for 7-11 year olds.

The concert includes extracts from:

SCHUBERT ‘Death And The Maiden’
HAYDN ‘The Bird’
MOZART String Quartet In E Flat
WEIR String Quartet
SUK  Meditation on an Old Czech Chorale
MEREDITH Short Tribute to Teenage Fanclub
BEETHOVEN ‘The Harp’
BURLEIGH Oh Lord, What a Morning
STRAVINSKY Pieces for String Quartet
DVOŘÁK ‘American Quartet’

SCHUBERT String Quartet in D Minor (excerpt for ‘Close Up’)

Hey Presto! We begin with a twitchy chase from Franz Schubert, which he told the string players should be played ‘presto’ meaning ‘very quick or very fast’. How does the sound change when each musician plays on their own? How do you feel when they all play the same tune together? This tense piece kicks off an exciting hour of music…

HAYDN Russian Quartet No.3 (excerpt for ‘Close Up’)

Haydn was the composer who did most to first create a form of music for two violins, a viola and a cello: a group we know as a string quartet. This piece has the nickname ‘The Bird’ — can you hear why?

MOZART String Quartet In E Flat K428 (excerpt for ‘Close Up’)

This beautiful tune is almost like a lullaby and shows how gentle the sound of the strings can be. Listen to the way the first violin plays a tune and the other three instruments rock gently back and forth underneath, creating a warm blanket of sound. This is music to wrap up warm within. How does it make you feel?

WEIR String Quartet (excerpt for ‘Close Up’)

This string quartet was written by a composer who is making music today, the wonderful Judith Weir. A piece full of mysteries, inspired by a medieval Spanish tune. This quartet sounds like a strange landscape where it’s easy to get lost among these lopsided rhythms where nothing is quite as it seems…

SUK Josef, Meditation on an Old Czech Chorale (excerpt for ‘Close Up’)

This piece was written at the start of the first world war and is full of the drama and sadness of a scary time. But it ends full of hope with long notes seeming to climb into the air. Look and listen out for all the times the musicians play across the strings to make two or more notes sound at once — a technique called double stopping.

MEREDITH Anna, Short Tribute to Teenage Fanclub (excerpt for ‘Close Up’)

Anna Meredith is another musician writing music today. She makes music for her band as well as for classical musicians, often mixing up instruments usually seen in an orchestra with rock and pop instruments. This piece combines the two and is a tribute to one of her favourite bands performed by string quartet who don’t use their bows at all but pluck their instruments in a technique called ‘pizzicato’.

BURLEIGH Henry Thacker, Oh Lord, What A Morning (excerpt for ‘Close Up’)

This is a traditional song created by enslaved Africans in America. The composer and singer Harry Burleigh was the grandchild of slaves who became a famous musician and helped share music by black people with the rest of the world. This simple song looks forward to a better time when injustices like slavery and racism will end. Perhaps you can hear both the sadness and the hope in this beautiful music.

BEETHOVEN ‘The Harp’ Quartet (excerpt for ‘Close Up’)

This beautiful quartet is known as ‘the harp’ because in the first part, all four musicians have sections where they pluck the strings their instruments rather than using the bow. Can you hear the difference?

STRAVINSKY Igor, Three Pieces for String Quartet (excerpt for ‘Close Up’)

This spiky, short piece of music was created in Russia at the same time Suk wrote the piece we heard earlier. Stravinsky uses the plucking technique we heard in the Meredith and Beethoven, as well clashing notes and unexpected changes in pulse and speed. Stravinsky keeps us guessing what he’ll do next!

DVOŘÁK ‘American’ String Quartet (excerpt for ‘Close Up’)

This piece brings our concert to a celebratory end, from Czech composer Anton Dvořák. Listen out for all the places it gets louder, or faster — or both! — or where the quartet hang back to build tension. This piece uses folk tunes from Czechoslovakia, where Dvořák was born and started writing, and includes a native American tune, and music from all the people like him who had travelled to live and work in the USA. Bringing these together, our concert ends with an explosion of joy!

SIR SCALLYWAG & THE GOLDEN UNDERPANTS

Ensemble 360 & Polly Ives

Junction, Goole
Saturday 21 January 2023, 11.00am / 2.00pm

Book online or call the box office 01405 763652

Past Event

When King Colin’s golden underpants go missing, it’s Sir Scallywag to the rescue! Brave and bold, courageous and true, he’s the perfect knight for the job… even if he is only six years old! 

Original music by our children’s Composer-in-Residence, Paul Rissmann, features instruments including strings, woodwind, and horn, presented together with story-telling and projected illustrations from the best-selling children’s book by Giles Andreae and Korky Paul.  

Performed by the wonderfully dynamic and hugely engaging Ensemble 360 and Polly Ives, this concert is a great introduction to live music for children. It’s full of wit, invention, songs and actions, and plenty of opportunities to join in. 

BOHEMIAN QUARTETS

Ensemble 360

Junction, Goole
Saturday 11 March 2023, 7.00pm

£15 per concert
Book online or call the box office 01405 763652

Past Event

SUK Meditation on an Old Czech Chorale (7’)
SMETANA String Quartet No.1 From My Life (31’)
Arr. BURLEIGH  (adapted for string quartet by Jeremy Birchall)
   I’ve been in the storm
Oh Lord, what a morning
(7′)
DVOŘÁK String Quartet No.12 American Quartet (26’) 

Opening with Suk’s Meditation on the Chorale St Wenceslas and including the African-American composer Burleigh’s quartet settings of I’ve been in the storm and Oh Lord, what a morning, this sumptuous evening of music concludes with Dvořák’s most famous quartet.  

This turbulent and thrilling selection of music tracks the relationship between nineteenth century quartet writing in eastern Europe and the musical conversations that played a decisive role in the evolution of chamber music.  

SMETANA Bedřich, String Quartet No.1 in E minor ‘From my Life’

Allegro vivo appassionato
Allegro moderato à la Polka
Largo sostenuto
Vivace

In 1874 Smetana fell ill with an infection that led within months to total deafness. For peace and quiet he moved to the village of Jabkenice in Central Bohemia, and it was here that he produced this overtly autobiographical quartet in 1876. Smetana supplied his own commentary on the work. It opens with ‘the call of fate (the main motif, first heard on the viola) into the struggle of life. The love of art in my youth; inclination towards romanticism in music as well as in love and life in general; a warning about my future misfortune – that fateful ringing of the highest tones in my ears which told me of my coming deafness.’

The second movement (à la Polka) brings back, according to Smetana, ‘memories of the merry time of my youth’, while the third ‘reminds me of the beauty of my first love for the girl who later became my faithful wife. The struggle with unhappy fate, the final achievement of my goal.’ For the fourth movement Smetana wanted to depict: ‘the recognition of a national awareness of our beautiful art, the pleasure derived from it and the happiness of success along the way until a terrible-sounding high tone starts ringing in my ear (in the quartet a high E) … as a warning of my cruel fate.’

The first performance took place in Prague on 29 March 1879. During his last years, Smetana’s behaviour became increasingly erratic. Early in 1884 he was moved to an asylum in Prague where he died a few months later.

© Nigel Simeone 2015

BURLEIGH Henry Thacker, I’ve been in the storm & Oh Lord, what a morning

Henry (Harry) Burleigh was born in Pennsylvania in 1866 – his grandfather had been emancipated from slavery in the 1830s and his father fought for the Union Navy during the American Civil War. As a child, Burleigh’s grandfather taught him the melodies that were commonly sung by enslaved African-Americans. In his teenage years he developed into a fine classical singer, making regular solo appearances at churches and synagogues.

At the age of 26 he moved to New York to study at the National Conservatory of Music, which coincided with the arrival of the Conservatory’s new director, Antonín Dvořák, who’d been brought to America with the specific role of laying the foundations of an authentic national musical style. Dvořák was thrilled by Burleigh’s voice, and there’s some evidence to suggest that it was Burleigh who introduced certain melodies to Dvořák which would find their way into the ‘New World’ Symphony and ‘American’ String Quartet.

Burleigh’s long career was centred around performing and publishing his arrangements, helping to popularise Swing Low, Deep River and Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen. He died at the age of 82 and his body is interred in Erie, the town where he was born and which celebrates his music and wider legacy with a week-long annual festival.

© Tom McKinney

DVOŘÁK Antonin, String Quartet in F Op.96 The American Quartet

Allegro ma non troppo
Lento
Molto vivace
Finale. Vivace ma non troppo

Dvořák was teaching in New York in 1893, and for his summer holiday he travelled over a thousand miles westwards, to the village of Spillville in Iowa, set in the valley of the Turkey River. It had been colonized by Czechs in the 1850s and in these congenial surroundings Dvořák quickly wrote the String Quartet in F major. On the last page of the manuscript draft, he wrote: ‘Finished on 10 June 1893, Spillville. I’m satisfied. Thanks be to God. It went quickly.’

Coming immediately after the ‘New World’ Symphony (which was to have its triumphant première in New York later in the year), the quartet has a mood that suggests something of his contentment in Spillville. Dvořák’s assistant Josef Kovařík recalled the composer’s routine: walks, composing, playing the organ for Mass and talking to locals, observing that he ‘scarcely ever talked about music and I think that was one of the reasons why he felt so happy there.’

Just how ‘American’ is the quartet? While remaining completely true to himself, Dvořák admitted that ‘as for my … F major String Quartet and the Quintet (composed here in Spillville) – I should never have written these works the way I did if I hadn’t seen America’. The first performance was given in Boston on New Year’s Day 1894 by the Kneisel Quartet.

© Nigel Simeone

BEETHOVEN, BERWALD & MOZART

Ensemble 360

Junction, Goole
Saturday 21 January 2023, 7.00pm

Book online or call the box office 01405 763652

Past Event

BERWALD Grand Septet in B-flat (25′)
MOZART Clarinet Quintet in A K581 (35′)
BEETHOVEN Septet in E-flat, Op.20 (40′)

An evening featuring three celebrated works of chamber music, all on a larger scale.

Beethoven’s Septet was his most popular work; an inventive, celebratory piece, full of youthful energy and generosity of spirit, punctuated by fanfares, solos, cadenzas and exuberant fireworks! The evening begins with a Romantic septet, inspired by Beethoven, and written by his Swedish younger contemporary, Berwald; Mozart’s sublime Clarinet Quintet follows.

BERWALD Franz, Grand Septet in B flat

Adagio
Allegro molto
Poco adagio
Prestissimo
Poco adagio
Finale: Allegro con spirito

 

The influence and popularity of Beethoven’s Septet spread across Europe and the work was regularly performed in Berwald’s native city of Stockholm. Now widely regarded as the most important Swedish composer of the nineteenth century, during his lifetime Berwald was seldom able to earn a living from his music, working instead as a successful physiotherapist and, later, manager of a glass works. None of this should lead us to underestimate either Berwald’s creative talent or his imaginative handling of musical form. Both are apparent in this Septet. Completed in 1828, it may have been a reworking of an earlier piece for the same forces. Even so, it is a relatively early work, composed two decades before his best-known pieces such as the Symphonie sérieuse and Symphonie singulière. The musical language is consistently appealing, owing something to contemporary opera and to composers such as Spohr, but the melodies and harmonies have an idiosyncratic character that is entirely Berwald’s own (as at the start of the Allegro molto in the first movement, or the opening of the finale). In terms of the Septet’s design, the most striking innovation comes in the second movement which has a very quick Scherzo embedded within a seemingly conventional slow movement.

MOZART Wolfgang Amadeus, Clarinet Quintet in A K581

Allegro 
Larghetto 
Menuetto 
Allegretto con variazioni  

The Clarinet Quintet was completed on 29 September 1789 and written for Mozart’s friend Anton Stadler (1753–1812). The first performance took place a few months later at a concert in Vienna’s Burgtheater on 22 December 1789, with Stadler as the soloist in a programme where the premiere of the Clarinet Quintet was a musical interlude, sandwiched between the two parts of Vincenzo Righini’s cantata The Birth of Apollo, performed by “more than 180 persons.” 

From the start, Mozart is at his most daringly beautiful: the luxuriant voicing of the opening string chords provides a sensuously atmospheric musical springboard for the clarinet’s opening flourish. The rich sonority of the Clarinet Quintet is quite unlike that of any other chamber music by Mozart, but it does have something in common with his opera Così fan tutte (premièred in January 1790), on which he was working at the same time. In particular, the slow movement of the quintet, with muted strings supporting the clarinet, has a quiet rapture that recalls the trio ‘Soave sia il vento’ (with muted strings, and prominent clarinet parts as well as voices) in Così. The finale of the Quintet is a Theme and Variations which begins with folk-like charm, then turns to more melancholy reflection before ending in a spirit of bucolic delight. 

Nigel Simeone © 2012 

BEETHOVEN Ludwig Van, Septet in E flat Op.20

Adagio – Allegro con brio
Adagio cantabile
Tempo di menuetto
Tema con variazioni. Andante
Scherzo. Allegro molto e vivace
Andante con moto alla marcia – Presto
Written in 1799, Beethoven’s Septet was one of his most popular works during his lifetime. The number of movements serves as a reminder that the Septet had its origins in the popular form of the divertimento. Beethoven’s Septet was first performed in a concert at the Burgtheater in Vienna on 2 April 1800 and it was published – after a tetchy exchange between Beethoven and his publisher – in 1802. Aiming high in terms of potential benefactors, Beethoven dedicated it to Maria Theresa – the last Holy Roman Empress and the first Empress of Austria. The Septet’s success was immediate and lasting, and this came to be rather resented by Beethoven who felt the public should take more interest in his bolder later music.

 

The first movement is a beautifully proportioned and genial sonata form with a slow introduction. It’s clear from the start that all the instruments are expected to operate as soloists (in a letter to his publisher, Beethoven stressed that every instrument was obligato). The Adagio opens with a long-breathed clarinet melody that is taken over by the violin while clarinet and bassoon play a counter-melody, all supported by a gently pulsating accompaniment in the lower strings. The Minuet that follows demonstrates Beethoven the recycler: he uses the same theme here as in the Piano Sonata Op.49 No.2 (which, despite its opus number, predates the Septet). The relaxed mood is maintained in the charming theme and variations. The Scherzo is launched by a horn call from which much of what follows is derived – even the start of the Trio has thematic links with this tune (or rather an inversion of it) but the high-lying cello theme and a texture dominated by the strings provides a very effective contrast. The finale begins with one of the few significant uses of a minor key in the work: a stern slow march that soon gives way to a rollicking Rondo based on a deliciously memorable tune.

Nigel Simeone 2013

CHOPIN: WORKS FOR SOLO PIANO

Tim Horton

Junction, Goole
Thursday 1 December 2022, 7.00pm

£15 per ticket

Book online or call the box office 01405 763652

Past Event

R SCHUMANN Kreisleriana Op.16 (32′)
STOCKHAUSEN Klavierstück VII (7’)
CHOPIN Two Nocturnes Op.27 (12’)
CHOPIN Three Mazurkas Op.59 (11’)
CHOPIN Sonata No.3 in B minor Op.58 (26’) 

Tim Horton continues his exploration into the music of one of the greatest composers for piano, Frédéric Chopin. Few musicians have had an influence on other composers quite like Chopin, and Tim has selected a sequence of some of his most beautiful music to illustrate this. Robert Schumann’s music is of intense passion that leaps without warning from tender to wild melodies, while Karlheinz Stockhausen’s approach to the piano was to find an entirely new world of sound, creating fascinating spine-tingling sonorities. 

Please note the change to the previously advertised programme for this concert.
We apologise for any disappointment this may cause.

SCHUMANN Robert, Kreisleriana Op.16

Writing to a Belgian friend in 1839, Schumann wrote that of all his piano pieces, ‘I love Kreisleriana the most’, though he went on to admit that ‘only Germans will understand the title.’ In the same letter, he explained that ‘Kreisler was created by E.T.A. Hoffmann, an eccentric, wild and ingenious musician. There are many things about him you will like.’ The volatile mood-swings of Kreisleriana and the almost improvised feeling of some pieces are brilliantly imaginative musical evocations of the fictitious Kreisler’s personality. By turns passionate, intimate, capricious, dream-like and dramatic, Schumann wrote the pieces for Clara Wieck (whom he was to marry in 1840). Schumann told her that in Kreisleriana ‘you will play the main role, and I wish to dedicate it to you. You will smile so sweetly when you recognize yourself in them.’ Ultimately, the dedication was changed (Clara was afraid that accepting it would risk worsening the strained relations with her father), and the first edition, published in 1838, had an inscription from Schumann ‘to his friend F. Chopin’. Although Chopin’s reaction to the work was lukewarm, the following year he reciprocated by dedicating his Second Ballade to Schumann.

Nigel Simeone

STOCKHAUSEN Karlheinz, Klavierstück VII

Karlheinz Stockhausen began his series of Klavierstücke in 1952 while he was studying with Olivier Messiaen at the Paris Conservatoire. Klavierstück VII was composed in 1954 (a year after he left Paris) and extensively revised in 1955. One of the most remarkable features of the piece is the use of silently depressed keys allowing sympathetic vibrations to be set up. The result is that different sonorities are created by the same pitch – a technique that can be heard throughout the work.

© Nigel Simeone

CHOPIN Frédéric, Two Nocturnes Op.27

Chopin completed the pair of Nocturnes Op.27 in 1836 and they were dedicated to Countess Thérèse d’Apponyi, wife of the Austrian ambassador in Paris. In the rather desolate first nocturne, in C sharp minor, the Chopin scholar Arthur Hedley detected hesitation and anxiety, and a mood of night-time and mystery. Its companion piece, in D flat major, serves as a complete contrast, bringing light where there had been darkness. The opening melody – described by Hugo Leichentritt as ‘achingly beautiful’ – unfolds over a gently undulating accompaniment. Listening to this magnificent pair of pieces, it is no surprise that Schumann welcomed Chopin’s nocturnes as heralds of a new age in piano composition.

© Nigel Simeone

CHOPIN Frédéric, Three Mazurkas Op.59

Chopin’s mazurkas, inspired by the folk dances of his homeland, are often where he was at his most experimental, particularly with harmonies. The three Mazurkas Op.59 were composed in 1845. The first, in A minor, contains daring modulations, the second (dedicated to Mendelssohn’s wife, Cécile) is richly melodic (the main theme subtly varied and decorated as the piece progresses), while the third presents a rather brittle angular melody, often supported by chromatic harmonies.

© Nigel Simeone

CHOPIN Frédéric, Sonata No.3 in B minor Op.58

Chopin developed many new forms of piano music, from the kind of audacious miniatures found among the mazurkas to extended single-movement works such as the ballades and scherzos. But he also wrote three piano sonatas, drawing on structures inherited from Mozart and Beethoven. The Piano Sonata No.3, Op. 58, was completed in 1844 and its first movement is in sonata form. Even so, the music seems closer to the world of Chopin’s ballades than to any classical models, particularly in the rhapsodic development section. The outer sections of the Scherzo are filled with rapid movement, the ideas delicate and airy, while the slow Trio is richly harmonised but never loses its hints of unease. After a declamatory opening, the slow movement – a Chopin nocturne in all but name – is dominated by the song-like melody heard near the start, the mood changing for a dream-like central section before returning to the opening idea. The finale has a seemingly unstoppable momentum and energy, and for Marceli Antoni Szulc, Chopin’s first Polish biographer, this movement evoked images of the Cossack Mazeppa on a galloping horse.

© Nigel Simeone

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS 150

Ensemble 360

Junction, Goole
Thursday 3 November 2022, 7.00pm

Book online or call the box office 01405 763652

Past Event

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS The Lark Ascending (15’)
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Concerto for Oboe and Strings (19’)
RAVEL Sonatine for piano (12’)
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Piano Quintet in C minor (30’) 

Celebrating the 150th birthday of the celebrated composer who embodies the sound of English music. The evening opens with Vaughan Williams’ most famous work, The Lark Ascending, recently voted No.1 in the Classic FM Hall of Fame for a record 12th time, in its original version for piano and violin. This is followed by his Concerto for Oboe and Strings, the compact Sonatine by the composer’s friend and mentor Maurice Ravel, and the evening concludes with his expansive Quintet. 

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Ralph, The Lark Ascending

Vaughan Williams began The Lark Ascending before the outbreak of the First World War, taking his inspiration from George Meredith’s 1881 poem of the same name. But he set this ‘Romance’ aside during the war and only finished it in 1920. The violinist Marie Hall gave the first performance of the original version for violin and piano in Shirehampton Public Hall (a district of Bristol) on 15 December 1920. Vaughan Williams dedicated the work to her, and she went on to give the premiere of the orchestral version six months later, when it was conducted by the young Adrian Boult at a concert in the Queen’s Hall in London. Free, serene and dream-like, this is idyllic music of rare and fragile beauty.

© Nigel Simeone

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Ralph, Concerto for Oboe and Strings

Rondo pastorale
Minuet and Musette
Finale (Scherzo)

Vaughan Williams started to compose his oboe concerto in 1943, immediately after the Fifth Symphony, and it was completed in 1944. His friend and biographer Michael Kennedy wrote that ‘a discarded scherzo from the symphony was turned into part of the oboe concerto’, and he described it as a ‘satellite work’ to the symphony. It was written for the oboist Léon Goossens and the premiere was planned for the 1944 Proms. That concert was cancelled due to the risk of flying-bombs over London and Goossens gave the first performance in Liverpool on 30 September 1944.

The bucolic first movement – an unconventional rondo – is marked Allegro moderato and it uses both the oboe’s spiky agility and its lyrical capabilities, with short cadenzas near the start and finish. In his book on Vaughan Williams, Frank Howes noted that the Minuet and Musette was ‘wayward in its key scheme’ and described the whole movement as ‘pseudo-classical’ in character. The central ‘Musette’ section is based on drones, played by the oboe. Headed ‘Finale (Scherzo)’, the last movement is predominantly very fast, but perhaps the highlight of the whole Concerto is the slower central section, the soloist musing over richly-harmonised string chords, before a return of the fast material and a quiet, sustained close.

© Nigel Simeone

RAVEL Maurice, Sonatine

Modéré
Mouvement de menuet
Animé

Ravel composed his Sonatine in 1903–5, just after finishing the String Quartet and the song-cycle Shéhérazade. After several fruitless attempts to win the Prix de Rome, Ravel finally decided that he should pursue his own musical path, and the Sonatine was one of the first results – a work of great refinement, on a much smaller scale than the piano cycle Miroirs that he worked on at the same time.

Ravel’s title evokes something of the elegance of the Classical period, though from the very start it is obvious that Ravel is not attempting any kind of pastiche. Even so, the first movement is in a clearly defined sonata form. The opening presents a singing theme in octaves with a shimmering accompaniment in the inner parts. The second theme is gentler, supported by typically luminous harmonies. The Minuet is a graceful dance, and the finale is driven by the almost omnipresent rapid notes heard at the start of the movement. There are moments of repose, but the movement surges to a flamboyant conclusion.

Ravel dedicated the Sonatine to his friends Ida and Cipa Godebski. The premiere was given in Lyon on 10 March 1906 by Mme Paule de Lestaing, and first performed in Paris on 31 March 1906, by Gabriel Grovlez.

© Nigel Simeone

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Ralph, Quintet in C minor for violin, viola, cello, double bass and piano

Allegro con fuoco
Andante
Fantasia, quasi variazioni

This Quintet in C minor, scored for the same instrumentation as Schubert’s Trout, was composed in 1903 and revised twice before the first performance at the Aeolian Hall on 14 December 1905, but after a performance in 1918 it was withdrawn by Vaughan Williams. It was finally published in an edition by Bernard Benoliel a century after its composition. Vaughan Williams’s friend and biographer Michael Kennedy speaks of ‘the shadow of Brahms looming over’ the work, and this seems especially true of the expansive first movement. The expressive, romantic melody of the Andante second movement is more characteristic of its composer at this stage in his career, and it has some similarity to the song Silent Noon, composed the same year. The finale is a set of five variations, ending with a beautiful bell-like coda.

As Michael Kennedy observes, what matters with an early work such as this is not whether it anticipates Vaughan Williams’s later masterpieces (for the most part, it doesn’t), but that it is impressive in its own right. He does, however, make an intriguing observation: ‘Vaughan Williams may have withdrawn the Quintet but he did not forget it, for in 1954 he used the theme of the finale, slightly expanded, for the variations in the finale of his Violin Sonata.’

© Nigel Simeone