Home
|
Current Issue
|
Diary
|
Subscribe
|
Book Orders
Rising Stars
|
Selected Reviews
|
Stop Press
|
Contact & Advertising
|
Links

October - December
2017

Richard Blackford – New Beginnings

David Campbell

Richard Blackford

An appreciation of the noted British composer, whose new second Violin Concerto, commissioned by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, receives its premiere in the Czech Republic in November with soloist Tamsin Waley-Cohen.

The composer Richard Blackford and I were contemporaries at the Royal College of Music. After leaving college our professional paths crossed from time to time for a few years but then our careers diverged, until I found myself sitting in a film session at Pinewood Studios about ten years ago. As the session progressed I was intrigued by a voice from the control room, which sounded very familiar. When I went into the control room I realised that the voice belonged to my old friend, Richard Blackford.

Our friendship has continued to develop over the past decade and Richard has written pieces for me and has become very involved with Musicfest, Aberystwyth, of which I am Artistic Director. Richard and I recently had lunch together and I was able to ask him about the missing years in our friendship and so better understand his music and its influences. Richard started our conversation with the following observation from one of his heroes, the great Japanese artist Hokusai:

“Although I had produced numerous works by my fiftieth year, none of my works done before my seventieth is really worth counting…”

To see the whole article subscribe to Musical Opinion.

Return to top of page


Robert Schumann’s Fourth Sonata in F minor

Reconstructed by Santiago Mantas

Robert Schumann

The distinguished composer, conductor and pianist explains his new completion of Schumann’s unfinished Fourth Piano Sonata, which he has recently recorded for Claudio Records.

The original manuscripts to the six sketches of Robert Schumann's Fourth Piano Sonata in F minor offer a fascinating insight into his creative processes. These sketches were composed in February 1837 and consist of two sketches for a first movement, totalling 66 bars, and the remaining four sketches for the fourth movement - Finale, which totalled 166 bars: both movements were intended to be in sonata form.

I was struck by the immediacy of the first movement's opening which has an arresting and dramatic rising arpeggio, reminiscent of the opening to the Scherzo of Brahms's Third Piano Sonata in F minor. The strongly contrasting second subject is tender and lyrical in nature.      

One of the reasons why Schumann was such a great composer in the Sonata Form was because of his schizophrenic personality, which oscillated between two imaginary characters of his own invention: Florestan - impulsive and spontaneous and Eusebius - inward and dreamy.

 

To see the whole article subscribe to Musical Opinion

Return to top of page


Behind the Curtain: The Undiscovered Music of Geraldine Mucha (1917 – 2012)

Christopher Vinz

Geraldine Mucha

The author tells the remarkable story of this forgotten British-born composer whose music is now being discovered and reassessed.

It could be a scene from an Ealing movie—in a Lyons tea room a distinguished gentleman, Arnold Bax, shares a table with an enchanting schoolgirl with plaits, uniform and a cut-glass accent, enthusiastically tucking into a second plateful of cream cakes. She only talks between mouthfuls, pushing a colourfully illustrated notebook over the table. “I’ve just written another ballet, is it any good?”

Seventy-five years later nothing had changed: she could still be relied on to exclaim at the presentation of a patissieres box and simultaneously make deprecating remarks on her own music. Many decades and a miles separate these two vignettes and in them lies the story of a dedicated composer whose musical career has until now gone unnoticed. But, in her centenary year, we have the opportunity to reassess a lost figure in British music and reclaim Geraldine Mucha and her works from the hinterlands of musical history.

Throughout her unusually long life Geraldine Mucha wrote music constantly.

 

To see the whole article subscribe to Musical Opinion

 

Return to top of page


Freud and Fairytale in fin-de-siècle Viennese culture: Kokoshka, Mahler and Zemlinsky

Melissa Morton

Freud

In Vienna at the turn of the twentieth century, the presence of fairy tales and myths in the arts became associated with ideas surrounding dreams, the unconscious and inner subjectivity.

Sigmund Freud explored these connections in The Interpretation of Dreams, originally published in 1899. Freud explained the connection between the dream and the unconscious that ‘a dream is the fulfillment of a wish’. A theme throughout his work is the idea of hidden meanings, suggesting that dreams require interpretation to discover the ‘latent thought content’. Many of his analyses of dreams involve the decoding of symbols originating in myths and fairytales. In early twentieth century Vienna these new debates in psychology intermingled with ideas in painting, literature, drama and music, through intellectual discussions in cafés such as the Café Landtmann, which was frequented by intellectuals including Freud, Mahler and Alternberg.

Whilst fairytales do not seem to be inherently linked with psychology and inner thought process, they take on this significance around the turn of the century in Vienna because of the link with childhood, memory, and adolescence – issues which were widely debated at the time.

To see the whole article subscribe to Musical Opinion

Return to top of page


Revisiting Goyescas

José Menor

José Menor

At the peak of his creativity, Enrique Granados (1867-1916) developed a style inspired by the Spanish painter Francisco de Goya. Imagining his own Romantic ideal of 18th-century Madrid, this style materialised in his masterpiece, Goyescas – which means ‘in the manner of Goya’, a large-scale Suite depicting a love story with a tragic ending.

Goyescas – Los majos enamorados (Goyescas – The Gallants in Love) is written in two books. Book 1 contains four pieces: Los requiebros (The Compliments); Coloquio en la reja (Conversation at the Window); El fandango de candil (Fandango by Candlelight); and Quejas, o La maja y el ruiseñor (Complaints, or The Maiden and the Nightingale). Book 2 contains two pieces: El amor y la muerte (Balada) (Ballade of Love and Death) and Epílogo: Serenata del espectro (Epilogue: Serenade of the Spectre).

Being both an interpreter and a composer, I believe one needs to know which musical elements define the style of a work, in order to make choices about interpretation. This is crucial in Goyescas.

It strikes me as odd that so little musical analysis has been published on this work, despite its significance. Curiously, it seems that Goyescas appeals more to pianists (because of its big technical challenges) and biographers (because of the circumstances of Granados’ tragic death) than to composers and analysts.

To see the whole article subscribe to Musical Opinion

Return to top of page


The Ship that became a piece of music

Gokstad Ship

The Gokstad Ship – a symphonic poem by leading Scottish composer John McLeod - will be revived by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (conducted by their principal conductor Thomas Dausgaard) at a concert in Glasgow’s City Halls on Saturday 9th December for later broadcasting on BBC Radio 3’s ‘Hear and Now’ series.

Here the composer reminisces on its history and subsequent transformation into one of his most successful orchestral works.

‘It is now over 35 years since the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland commissioned me to write a work for its first high profile tour in 1982 to Orkney, the Faroes and Scandinavia, and it was an exciting time for me to hear wonderful performances of the piece, conducted by Nicholas Braithwaite in Kirkwall, Torshaven, Bergen, Oslo, Copenhagen and Göteborg.

Also accompanying us on the tour was a relatively unknown 16 year old, Evelyn Glennie playing in the percussion section and a very young Nigel Kennedy who played the Tchaikovsky violin concerto in several of the concerts. We also had a BBC TV crew filming our every move resulting in a fascinating documentary film called ‘Summer of the Longship’ which can now be seen on You Tube. I myself conducted further performances in Edinburgh and Glasgow and the work was then taken up by other orchestras including the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Polish Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra of Krakow.

To see the whole article subscribe to Musical Opinion

Return to top of page


John McCabe on his Second Symphony – the composer and his audience

John McCabe

In this article, edited by his widow, who contributes the introductory paragraphs, the composer writes of the background and cinematic inspiration for his remarkable Second Symphony.

John McCabe’s Symphony No. 2 was written in 1971, just before he and I became closely associated and later married. The commission came via the Feeney Trust. This had been established by John Feeney, son of the founder of the Birmingham Post. He died in 1905, and out of a deep interest in the Arts, and concern for the life of Birmingham, among other good deeds, left a Trust whose income was to be applied to public charities in the city, and for the promotion of arts.

John’s Second Symphony was one of a whole series of works commissioned on behalf of the CBSO, and the first performance took place on September 26th 1971, under the outstanding conductor Louis Frémaux, who has recently died. It was quickly recorded for HMV, together with John’s work for soprano and orchestra, Notturni ed Alba, of which the CBSO and Frémaux also gave the first performance, though this was a Three Choirs commission. This recording has been reissued several times since then, most recently in a boxed set of Frémaux’s recorded performances with the CBSO, by Warner Classics.

The subject, or inspiration for the symphony caused considerable consternation at the time, and John wrote a long article, entitled The Film behind the Symphony, about the composition of the work, which was published by Chesters, in 1975, in a book of articles compiled and edited by Peter Dickinson, by other Feeney Trust-commissioned composers.

To see the whole article subscribe to Musical Opinion

Return to top of page


Toscanini and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

Robert Matthew-Walker

Toscanini

Marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of Arturo Toscanini, the author comments on aspects of the conductor’s relationship with the music of Beethoven, in the light of the performance given by the maestro in New York in 1938 – a broadcast recently issued by Immortal Performances for the first time in good quality sound.

The truism that Beethoven’s symphonies have formed the backbone of the orchestral concert repertory for over two centuries is accepted by all musicians – but what, precisely, does this mean in practice?

In the virtual quarter-century that elapsed from Beethoven’s First Symphony (1800) to his Ninth (1824), the composer not only found himself growing as an artist in terms of range and depth of expression, but also gradually suffering the worst possible affliction that can befall any musician – the onset of profound deafness.

Quite what that must have meant in terms of day-to-day life we can, of course, only guess – although we have moving first-hand testimony from several of the composer’s close associates - but it would appear that Beethoven came to accept his condition as fate, being driven through his composing to the creativity of his inner ear – and his inner mind.

To see the whole article subscribe to Musical Opinion

Return to top of page


Julian Jacobson: Masterpieces of Beethoven, Schubert and Prokofiev and other matters

A profile compiled by James Palmer

Julian Jacobson

Julian Jacobson, who has established a reputation as a pianist of extraordinary breadth and versatility, celebrates his 70th birthday this autumn with a series of Sunday afternoon concerts entitled Masterpieces of Beethoven, Schubert and Prokofiev, at St John’s Smith Square on 22 October, 26 November, 11 February and 11 March 2018.

The series features Prokofiev’s mighty War Trilogy, the 6th, 7th and 8th sonatas – widely regarded as the crowning glory of his output of piano music – a rare opportunity to hear the trilogy performed in sequence in the first three concerts. In the final concert Julian will play four pieces from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet and he will be joined by his regular duo partner, Mariko Brown, in Gershwin’s An American in Paris, in Julian’s own virtuoso transcription for piano four hands.

A highly respected Beethoven pianist, Julian’s repertoire is firmly centred on the great classics of the repertoire - in recent years he has become particularly known for his Beethoven cycles and marathons (playing the complete 32 sonatas on three occasions in one day, most recently in 2013). He has also been an acclaimed exponent of contemporary music including jazz (giving the UK premiere of Ligeti's Études in 1987 among many others), and as a much sought-after duo and ensemble pianist he has partnered many leading British and international soloists. His concert tours have taken him to over 40 countries worldwide and he has recorded more than 30 CDs.

To see the whole article subscribe to Musical Opinion

Return to top of page

 


Home
|
Current Issue
|
Diary
|
Subscribe
|
Book Orders
Rising Stars
|
Selected Reviews
|
Stop Press
|
Contact & Advertising
|
Links