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Chamber Contrasts Soloists of the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Wigmore Hall
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PROGRAMME NOTES Would patrons please ensure that mobile phones are switched off. Please stifle coughing as much as possible and ensure that watch alarms and any other electronic devices that may become audible are switched off.
Monday 20 December 2010 | 7.30pm Soloists of the London Philharmonic Orchestra Julian Rowlands bandoneón DEBUSSY Sonata for flute, viola and harp Jaime Martin flute, Alexander Zemtsov viola Rachel Masters harp
BAX Elegiac Trio Jaime Martin flute, Alexander Zemtsov viola Rachel Masters harp
tone of mourning for the executed leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916. By contrast, Vaughan Williams’s pre-war Phantasy Quintet for strings is unmistakably English in its echoes of folk song, and its four-movements-in-one structure is indebted to the viol fantasias of the English Renaissance. Puccini’s 1890 Crisantemi, which picks up the elegiac tone of the Bax, transfers the composer’s Italianate vein of operatic melody to the string quartet (and later lent its melodies to his opera Manon Lescaut). And in his Five Tango Sensations for bandoneón and string quartet, written in the later, ‘international’ phase of his career, Astor Piazzolla explored the different moods of the national dance of his native Argentina.
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Phantasy Quintet
CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862–1918) Sonata for flute, viola and harp (1915)
Vesselin Gellev, Julia Rumley violins Alexander Zemtsov, Laura Vallejo violas Susanne Beer cello
Pastorale: Lento, dolce rubato – Vif et joyeux – in Io Tempo | Interlude: Tempo di Minuetto | Final: Allegro moderato ma risoluto
This work was written in the summer of 1915, and published the following year as the second in a projected set of ‘Six Sonatas for various instruments, composed by Claude Debussy, French musician’ – as the title-page proudly (and, in wartime, significantly) proclaims. But by the time of his death in 1918, Debussy had completed only half the series, this and the sonatas for cello and violin with piano. Beyond that, there is only a tantalising glimpse of what might have been: we know the other sonatas would have been for oboe, horn and harpsichord, for clarinet, bassoon, trumpet and piano, and for all the instruments of the preceding sonatas together with a double-bass.
PUCCINI Crisantemi Vesselin Gellev, Julia Rumley violins Alexander Zemtsov viola, Susanne Beer cello
PIAZZOLLA Five Tango Sensations Julian Rowlands bandoneón Vesselin Gellev, Julia Rumley violins Laura Vallejo viola, Susanne Beer cello The London Philharmonic Orchestra’s Chamber Contrasts series at Wigmore Hall is generously supported by Dunard Fund.
NATIONAL AFFINITIES For once, there is nothing in this programme from the central Austro-German tradition of chamber music – leaving the way open for a colourful mixture of other nationalities. Debussy proudly published his Sonata for flute, viola and harp during the First World War as the work of a ‘French musician’, and its cool, clear textures evoke the world of France in pre-Revolutionary times. The affinities of Arnold Bax’s Elegiac Trio for the same instruments, and from the same period, are less with the composer’s native England than with his beloved Ireland, in the Celtic flavour of its writing for the harp, and in its
Commentators have often suggested that the leanness and clarity of Debussy’s late works allies them to the artistic products of France in the eighteenth century; and the sound of the plucked harp strings in the trio Sonata evokes in particular the highly ornamented harpsichord music of François Couperin and the paintings of Watteau, with their guitar-playing Pierrots and masqueraders. The tone of the work is set by the opening Pastorale, which has rhapsodic outer sections around a more rhythmic middle section. The central Interlude is a rondo in minuet time, with more animated episodes. The finale has an overall A–B–A outline, but also includes a reference back to the opening of the work just before the end. This epitomises a work which anyway feels all of a piece, with a continuously unfolding line rather than strong contrasts, and above all a consistent and distinctive sonority, at once cool and sensuous.
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ARNOLD BAX (1883–1953) Elegiac Trio for flute, viola and harp (1916) Although he was a Londoner by birth and education, Arnold Bax acquired an early love of Irish landscapes and Irish literature – he wrote poetry, short stories and plays under the pen-name of Dermot O’Byrne – and a strong commitment to the cause of Irish independence. His Elegiac Trio bears the date of April and May 1916, which was the time of the brutally suppressed Easter Rising in Dublin and the subsequent execution of many of its ringleaders. But the dating may perhaps be symbolic rather than a record of when the work was actually written: certainly the first performance was not until the following March, in London. And a later composition date would make it more likely that Bax heard about Debussy’s recently published Sonata before choosing the same instrumentation of flute, viola and harp. The work is in a single movement, in modal G minor, marked ‘Moderate Tempo. Smooth and flowing.’ Bardic harp arpeggios accompany the first melody, which is shared between the viola and flute and then continued in a double strand. The harp leads into a middle section in E major, with a new melody marked ‘sweet and expressive’, which begins on the flute and is later taken up sonorously by flute and viola an octave apart. A transition of trills and harp harmonics leads to a shortened reprise of the first section; and the piece concludes with a ‘Much slower’ coda on the second theme, ending very quietly in the major.
Vaughan Williams interpreted Cobbett’s brief in an unusual fashion, by writing a piece in four separate short movements, albeit played without a break and unified by a recurring motto theme. This motto is the initial rising phrase, in the pentatonic scale of many English folk songs, of the unsupported viola melody which begins and ends the calm, meditative Prelude. The second movement is a Scherzo in very fast 7/4 time, beginning over an insistent cello ostinato – both features suggesting the influence of Vaughan Williams’s friend Holst. In the midst of its busy activity, slower-moving rising phrases recall the motto theme. The third movement, in slow sarabande time, is scored for a muted quartet of violins and violas, without the cello, and again alludes several times to the rising curve of the motto. The final Burlesca begins as a series of variations on the opening ostinato cello figure, which is later doubled in speed, freely varied at a slightly faster tempo, and transformed into a radiant cello melody. At the tempo of the Prelude, the motto returns on the first viola against a held chord, leading to a violin cadenza (anticipating The Lark Ascending, which Vaughan Williams was to write in 1914). But the last word is with the Burlesca theme, now more relaxed in tempo and evaporating into thin air.
INTERVAL 20 minutes Please check that your mobile phone is switched off, especially if you used it during the interval.
RALPH VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872–1958) Phantasy Quintet for two violins, two violas and cello (1912) Prelude: Lento ma non troppo – | Scherzo: Prestissimo – | Alla Sarabanda: Lento – | Burlesca: Allegro moderato
GIACOMO PUCCINI (1858–1924) Crisantemi (1890)
Vaughan Williams’s Phantasy Quintet for strings was completed in 1912, two years after the successful premières of the Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis and the Sea Symphony. It bears a double dedication ‘to W.W. Cobbett, Esq., and the members of The London String Quartet’. Cobbett, businessman, amateur musician and enthusiastic patron of chamber music, had requested a contribution to his series of publications of ensemble works in sectional single-movement forms, emulating sixteenth and seventeenth century English viol fantasias, which he called ‘phantasies’. The London String Quartet, augmented by a second viola, gave the resulting work its first performance in London in March 1914.
This musical spray of ‘Chrysanthemums’, flowers traditionally associated in Italy with funerals, is one of the few works by Puccini not designed for the operatic stage. It was written early in 1890 (in one night, the composer claimed) in memory of Amadeo di Savoia, Duke of Aosta. The piece is a single slow movement, an Andante mesto (‘sad’) in C sharp minor – a rare key for a string quartet, but, as Puccini must have known, the key of Beethoven’s great Op. 131. There is an opening section of fragile beauty, mostly played pianissimo but rising to a brief forceful climax; then comes a middle section with a new theme, which gains in expressiveness when it is repeated on first violin and cello two octaves apart; and
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an exact repeat of the first section is followed by a short coda. The two melodies of this touching elegy are of rare distinction – as Puccini recognised when he re-used them a couple of years later in the last act of his opera Manon Lescaut. ASTOR PIAZZOLLA (1921–1992) Five Tango Sensations, for bandoneón and string quartet (1983/1989) Asleep | Loving | Anxiety | Despertar | Fear The Argentine composer and bandoneón (accordion) player Astor Piazzolla refreshed the tradition of the tango with the influences both of his classical training – notably with Nadia Boulanger – and of jazz, forming a series of quintets and larger ensembles to play what became known as nuevo tango, or ‘new tango’. As his international fame spread, he also appeared as a soloist with symphony and chamber orchestras, and entered into collaborations with many leading performers in the jazz and classical fields. Among these were the members of the San Francisco-based Kronos Quartet, a group with famously eclectic musical sympathies. After hearing a concert by the Quartet in New York in 1987, Piazzolla within days wrote the players the five-minute Four to Tango. This led to a request for a ‘large quartet piece’, which sadly was never fulfilled. But Piazzolla did produce
a piece for himself to play with the Kronos by rewriting five movements of an earlier work for bandoneón and string quartet, the 1983 Sette Sequenze or ‘Seven Sequences’, as Five Tango Sensations. He and the Quartet gave the first performance of the new version in New York in November 1989, and recorded it shortly afterwards, in what was to prove Piazzolla’s last studio session. The published score of the Five Tango Sensations, edited by Piazzolla’s regular pianist Pablo Ziegler, draws on the versions of the pieces in the Sette Sequenze as well as the Kronos versions; and tonight’s bandoneónist Julian Rowlands has also compared Piazzolla’s recordings of the two versions, to establish the degree to which the solo part may be embellished and varied. For the most part in these five mood-pieces, the bandoneón sustains a melodic line over a richly harmonised and sometimes intricate accompaniment for the strings. But ‘Anxiety’ includes melodic writing for each of the strings; the bandoneón begins ‘Despertar’ (Spanish for ‘waking up’) with an extended solo; and the final movement, ‘Fear’, starts with one of Piazzolla’s trademark syncopated fugues.
Programme notes by Anthony Burton © 2010
FUTURE CONCERTS BY SOLOISTS OF THE LONDON PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA AT WIGMORE HALL Saturday 30 April 2011 | 7.30pm John Ryan horn
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Mozart Horn Quintet in E flat, K407 Strauss Sextet from ‘Capriccio’ Schubert String Quintet in C, D956
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Monday 20 June 2011 | 7.30pm Katya Apekisheva piano John Ryan horn Nicholas Carpenter clarinet Brahms Horn Trio in E flat, Op. 40 Martinů Sextet for piano and wind Beethoven Wind Sextet in E flat, Op. 71 Brahms Clarinet Trio in A minor, Op. 114
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Chamber Contrasts The London Philharmonic Orchestra returns to the Wigmore Hall for a series of concerts for small ensembles. This evening’s performers are: Vesselin Gellev (violin) was born in Bulgaria and has performed as soloist with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Spoleto Festival Orchestra and New Haven Symphony Orchestra, among others. He won First Prize at the Concert Artists Guild competition in New York as a member of the Antares Quartet and has recorded several CDs as Concertmaster of Kristjan Järvi's Grammynominated Absolute Ensemble. He often performs as a guest leader with orchestras such as the RPO, RSNO and Mahler Chamber Orchestra. He studied at the Juilliard School and joined the Orchestra as Sub-Leader in 2007. His chair is supported by John and Angela Kessler. Julia Rumley (violin) was a Fellow at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where she also completed her Master of Music degree and Post-Graduate Diploma. She was a member of the Philharmonia for two years before accepting the No. 4 first violin position in the London Philharmonic. A recent winner of the Park Lane’s Young Artists Trust she has also received scholarships and awards from the Canada Council of the Arts, the LSO String Scheme and the Canadian Music Competition. Alexander Zemtsov (viola) was born in Ufa, USSR, and studied in Moscow, Maastricht and Berlin. He was appointed Principal Viola of the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 2003. He is also a member of The Hermitage Trio and as a soloist has played with the Belgian Radio Orchestra, Konzertverein Orchester Vienna and London Philharmonic Orchestra. His recordings have been released on the Naxos, Chandos and LPO live labels. He is a Professor of Viola at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and at the Konservatorium in Vienna. His chair is supported by the Tsukanov Family. Laura Vallejo (viola) graduated in 1999 in Spain and, in 2001, obtained a Master of Music degree from Yale University where she studied viola with Jesse Levine and
Susanne Beer (cello) has been Co-Principal Cellist in the London Philharmonic Orchestra since 1995. She has also been invited to play as a guest principal with numerous other orchestras in England as well as abroad. She has been coaching as a freelancer at several colleges in England and Spain, and plays chamber music with members of the World Orchestra for Peace, founded by Sir Georg Solti. Jaime Martin (flute) was born in Santander, Spain, and studied in Spain and Holland. As a soloist he has performed with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Moscow Virtuosi, London Mozart Players and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Moscow Conservatory, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées and Queen Elizabeth Hall. He has also made chamber music recordings with Pinchas Zukerman, Emma Johnson and the Gaudier Ensemble. Jaime joined the London Philharmonic Orchestra as Principal Flute in November 2009. Rachel Masters (harp) has been Principal Harp of the London Philharmonic Orchestra since 1989. She made her debut at Wigmore Hall in 1982 and since then has played as a soloist with this country’s leading orchestras and chamber ensembles. She has also recorded concertos by Alwyn, Ginastera, Glière and Mozart as well as Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols with the Choristers of King’s College Cambridge. She has been a Professor at the Royal College of Music since 1982. Julian Rowlands (bandoneón) studied music at Southampton University focusing on performance, composition and twentieth century repertoire. After becoming involved with tango music, the sound and expressive possibilities of the bandoneón led him to
chamber music with the Tokyo String Quartet. She also received a Professional Studies Diploma in 2003 from the Cleveland Institute of Music. Laura has been a guest principal violist in the Orquesta Sinfónica de Navarra in Spain and the Aarhus Symfoniorkester in Denmark, and teaches youth orchestras in Spain. She joined the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 2004.
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study the instrument with the leading Argentinian player, Victor Villena. He is a member of the British tango ensemble Tango Siempre, with whom he has performed at major arts venues in the UK and Europe, and is principal bandoneónist of the London Tango Orchestra. Julian gives recitals as a soloist, and with duo partners Adam Khan (guitar) and Ivo de Greef (piano). He has also appeared on BBC radio and television.
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Concert presented by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Front cover photograph of Susanne Beer by Patrick Harrison. † Supported by Macquarie Group