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July - September
2020

'Unfolding a dream’ – realising the concept of symphonic film

Howard Blake

Howard Blake

As a 19-year old composition student at the Royal Academy of Music I studied comparative art.  Wagner had disgraced the notion of a gesamtkunstwerk since it had given birth to the flawed utopianism of Hitler. The concept of a philosopher/god capable of personally fusing every available means of expression into an overwhelming musico/theatrical experience traversing four days -‘The Ring’ - was not to be discussed as an artistic direction, let alone emulated. My first viewing of ‘The Battleship Potemkin’ with full orchestral score persuaded me that were Wagner living he would have pursued the path of film rather than theatre.

In the early days of film around 1900 it appeared obvious to many that moving art (film) would rapidly replace static art (framed pictures).  Attempts were made by UFA in Germany and at the start of sound by such as Dali and Bunuel in Paris and Aleksandrov  and Eisenstein in Moscow, but from the start film, the cinema, was voraciously appropriated by the scriptwriter and actor industries.

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Ian Venables’s Requiem

Ahead of an important release on the award-winning SOMM Label, pianist Graham J Lloyd discusses

Ian Venables

I was fortunate enough to attend both the liturgical and concert premieres of Ian Venables's new Requiem. Afterwards, I mused on what an enormous task it must be for a composer to reach the point where their first creative ideas have, after alchemic transformation, become a fully fledged work that is about to be heard by an audience for the first time. In Venables’s case, that journey from ‘genesis’ to ‘birth’ was a mere(!) two years and now his Requiem has been recorded on Siva Oke’s award-winning SOMM label by the choir for whom it was written. Adrian Partington and Gloucester Cathedral Choir gave the work its first liturgical performance in the hallowed atria of that building in November 2019 as part of their All Souls’ Day service. However the Requiem received its first concert performance earlier that year by the London-based choir Evoke, under its dynamic conductor Victoria Ely. After these performances, I mused further on what makes a composer write a particular piece of music and asked the questions “…why do composers choose write requiems” and more specifically “ why did Venables write his?”

When the 15th century Franco-Flemish composer Johannes Ockeghem began writing his polyphonic setting of the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass - Missa pro defunctis or Mass for the dead, little could he have known that nearly 600 years later, composers would still be using that liturgical form as a way of expressing thoughts and feelings on the ineffable nature of the human condition and in particular death itself

 

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‘Music is Music’ – Barenboim plays ‘Take the A-train’, Miles Davis and John McCabe

Monica McCabe

John McCabe

Reflects on a little-appreciated influence on her late husband’s music throughout his composing life.

In his last public speech, given on May 22nd 2014 at the event known as the Ivors, where he was presented with the BASCA Award for Classical Music, John McCabe said, ‘I want to finish by briefly touching on my own musical credo….It is that Music is Music. I have never seen the point in dismissing any type of music out of hand. I firmly believe in the inter-relationships of different musics. It’s significant to me that Frank Sinatra apparently and quite rightly revered the music of Vaughan Williams. I’ve had a long and wonderfully enjoyable career in music, a very diverse one, too….I still enjoy my LPs of Indian classical music and my pop and jazz singles from the 1960s and 70s – these connections have, I believe, enriched the musical resources with which I can compose.’

Recently I had cause to look through my late husband’s pop and jazz singles, and also his LPs and CDs of these genres. The resulting list was surprising even to me. John’s library of classical LPs and CDs was vast, and far outnumbered his jazz and pop collection, and yet this was in itself substantial, ranging from Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Charlie Mingus, Stan Getz, Quincy Jones and five albums of Jacques Loussier, to Dusty Springfield, The Supremes, the Beach Boys and three volumes of the Beatles.

 

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Recording the Complete Piano Works of Beethoven:

Martino Tirimo in conversation with Malcolm Miller

Martino Tirimo

Part I of an extended interview with the distinguished pianist.

Timely for the Beethoven 250 Anniversary, Martino Tirimo has released a 16-CD set of the Complete Piano Works [Hänssler Classic HC19032]. Whilst there are numerous recorded cycles of Beethoven sonatas, a single set of all the piano music, including variations, bagatelles and smaller pieces spanning Beethoven’s life is a monumental and uniquely challenging achievement. In this interview, the pianist speaks about his recording project, his education, career and influences, and his ideas about interpreting Beethoven.

Tirimo was born and grew up in Larnaca, Cyprus; his father was a violinist and opera conductor and it was through performing together that he was introduced to Beethoven.

“I was very fortunate in that my approach to piano playing was very unusual; it came through Italian opera and through playing chamber music with my father.

 

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Musica in Tempore Belli – Lockdown Listening

What our correspondents have been listening to

Malcolm Arnold

Piers Burton-Page

To my surprise and delight I have recently been invited to become the Hon. President of the Malcolm Arnold Society, stepping into the shoes of the late and much lamented Keith Llewellyn. So I cannot do better here than identify the piece of Malcolm's which for me exemplifies much that I love about this great British composer. In these troubled days, the piece I think I would happily endorse for anyone with an open mind, and perhaps with some pre-existing knowledge of how chamber music works, is his Second String Quartet, Opus 118: I am sometimes puzzled as to why it does not appear much more often on the concert platform, as it is attractive and eminently playable, as well as illuminating various aspects of the composer's many-sided musical personality. In it one can find, in no particular order, within its four highly contrasted movements: melodic inspiration, harmonic richness, deft humour, Irish whimsy, flashes of aggression, meticulous instrumental craftsmanship .... much else besides, and all welded into a satisfying half-hour whole.

Plus another nine eminent musicologists and critics.

 

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Elgar as Cryptographer – Tuning and Turing

Wayne Packwood

Edward Elgar

In the musical world Sir Edward Elgar is known as one of the greatest English composers with compositions such as the Enigma Variations, the Pomp and Circumstance Marches and The Dream of Gerontius. All are enjoyed by thousands daily.

What is lesser known about Sir Edward is that he was accomplished in the skills of cryptography, and that to Sir Edward, these two talents within his world were entwined so much, it would be difficult to progress with only one element. An example of this equilibrium was the love of his pets. Meg, Marco & Mina I am sure many have spotted that when you lay the names of his constant companions in a line in the order they came into his possession, Meg & Mina form the word Enigma without interrupting Marco, he also ensure the letters were methodically placed. i.e. You start at the letter E (2nd letter from start then jump to the letter N (2nd letter from the end)

 

 

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The Life and Music of Nikolay Anosov

Gregor Tassie

The significance of the notable Soviet musician, a composer and conductor, thee father of Gennady Rozhdestvensky, is outlined in this unique article.

The name of Anosov will be familiar to only a small number of the musical public for his work was rarely seen in the West - despite an enviable number of recordings - his death at the age of just 62 years was a terrible loss to Russian music. He is better known as the father of Gennady Rozhdestvensky - one of the 20th -century’s most celebrated conductors. Anyone looking at their portraits will be amazed at the facial similarity and indeed their manner of conducting. Wisely, when he began his career, Rozhdestvensky decided to take his mother’s name to avoid confusion with audiences.

 Nikolay Anosov was born in 1900 in the southern city of Borisoglebsk, the son of the local Volga-Kamsk bank manager. Nikolay had three sisters who all enjoyed successful careers. His mother’s family had a notable background for her grandfather fought in the Crimean War and was captured by the British and spent two years imprisoned in Portsmouth. During his time in England he became acquainted with the exiled liberal writer Alexander Herzen the editor of The Bell who called for the end of serfdom and for a liberal constitutional democracy in Russia. Nikolay’s father died in 1918, and his mother suffered because of the family’s association with the bank. Nikolay’s musical education started at home at the age of four, his studies at the Alexandrov Gymnasium in his hometown gave him a firm background in the arts and in languages, and in 1918 he enlisted at the agricultural institute in Moscow. Anosov volunteered for the Red Army in 1919, joining the artillery school in Petrograd and took part in storming the Kronshtadt rebellion in 1921.

 

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L’histoire du violon d’un soldat dans la guerre et la paix

Jenny Benoit

L’histoire du violon

One day in Paris in about 1906 Lucien Durosoir was at a flea market when he saw an old violin case. He asked the merchant to open it. Inside, there was a violin - dirty, almost black. The merchant told him that he had bought it at the flea market in Geneva.

Lucien Durosoir bought this violin for next to nothing and had it restored. He owned a Stradivarius violin, but this one - it sounded great.

Lucien played concerts with it and years later, when he enlisted inthe French Army in 1915, took it to the War with him. When practicing between German attacks, he was noticed by a French General, who asked him to form a group of musicians and play for French Officers in their mess. "The violin saved my life" – he said after the War.

Fritz Kreisler, also serving at that time in the German Army, was similarly engaged and played in the officers’ mess on the other side of the front line. Lucien Durosoir formed a trio with Maurice Maréchal and André Caplet Maréchal had made his cello out of mortar bomb boxes.

Lucien Durosoir was not sent to the front line but served as stretcher-bearer.

After the War, he was invited to be principal violin in the Boston Symphony Orchestra, but his mother had suffered a stoke and he stayed with her in his house in France, where he began to write music. Lucien Durosoir is considered today as French Post-Romantic composer, and following his death in 1954 the violin was kept for many years in the French Army Museum in Paris. The violin was eventually returned to Lucien Durosoir’s son, who set up a foundation "Musicians between War and Peace".

 

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The Incidental Music for Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing by Erich Wolfgang Korngold – marking the centenary of the first production in Vienna in 1920.

Brendan G Carroll

Erich Wolfgang Korngold

In 1918, as the Great War drew to a close, the 21-year-old former wunderkind Erich Wolfgang Korngold was confined to barracks in Vienna as musical director of his regiment. His military service had already interrupted work on a major new opera, Die tote Stadt, and apart from some marches and the grandiose, ceremonial Kaiserin-Zita-Hymne for the coronation of the Empress Zita, who briefly succeeded Emperor Franz Josef before the eventual collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he had written very little music for over two years.

It was at this point that Korngold received a commission to write an incidental score for a new stage production of Shakespeare's witty comedy Much Ado About Nothing, or, as it is known in German, Viel Lärmen um Nichts.  The commission came from a local theatre company, the Wiener Volksbühne, and the production was to be staged in the charming baroque Schlosstheater at Schönbrunn Palace.  Korngold was enchanted by the whole idea and having read almost all of Shakespeare's plays in German translation in his early teens (in the renowned Schlegel-Tieck version), he was already familiar with the play and enthusiastically set to work.

 

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