Czech composer Jan Vanhal (frequently known by his German name - Johann Baptist Wanhal) was born in Bohemia, and started musical education in singing, violin and keyboard from the age of eight. By the time he was eighteen, Vanhal had become organist in the Czech town of Opocno. This was soon followed by the more important post as choirmaster at Hnevceves. In around 1759, by travelling to Vienna, Vanhal was able to study with the composer Dittersdorf, and soon acquired a reputation as an accomplished musician and teacher.
Later in his life, Vanhal visited many European cities, giving concerts and providing music for royal and noble courts. For example, he was chief musician to the court at Dresden. However, by the mid-1770s he began to suffer a mental illness, from which he never really fully recovered. However, in his later years he worked as a freelance musician, performing in various chamber music groups - including a string quartet with Mozart, Haydn and Dittersdorf.
His numerous compositions included symphonies, concertos and music for small ensembles, and may have been somewhat eclipsed by the music of more famous European contemporaries such as Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Yet his voice is characteristically his own, and his handling of stylist matters and delicacy of instrumentation shows considerable individuality and imagination.
The Six Quartets op.7 date from around 1771, and although sometimes published with a flute option they are, clearly, best suited to the oboe. However, a year earlier Vanhal composed a similar set of six equally delightful quartets in which he expressly indicated a flute as the solo instrument.
This is a relatively early work dating from around 1816. Schubert composed this joyful Allegro, together with a few bars of an Andate, for an intended string trio - yet the remainder of the work remained uncompleted. Later, he did, however, compose a completely new string trio in Bb (D.581), and another in the same key for piano with strings (D.898).
The single movement work we will hear tonight is very much in the classical style of Haydn and Mozart while it displays many of Schubert's beautiful lyrical textures. It remains a firm favourite of players and audiences alike. Such was the prolific output of this teenaged composer that, prior to this composition, he had already written no fewer than 144 songs within one year while also engaged on stage works, masses and other music for the church.
Among those who play either woodwind or brass, and those who simply love the repertoire of these instruments, there is often a special affection for the music of Gordon Jacob. He composed over seven hundred works before his death at the age of 88, and his contribution to the musical life of this country has been enormous. Yet, sadly, much of his music is not widely performed. He composed imaginatively and sympathetically for each solo instrument - strongly evident in the many wind and string Concertos which he composed throughout his long life. To the general musical public, however, he is probably best known for his film scores and his glorious arrangement of the National Anthem. Brilliant, too, are his superb orchestral arrangements of both Holst's famous Suite in Eb (originally for military band) and Elgar's rousing Organ Sonata.
Jacob's complete understanding of the colours and sonorities of wind instruments is, perhaps, most obviously appreciated in his chamber music. This repertoire is large, mostly tuneful, and highly accessible. The pieces range from short, charming duos and trios to full-scale concert works such as this Oboe Quartet - inspired by the leading oboist of his day, Leon Goossens. This is altogether more substantial than many of his chamber pieces, displaying a characteristic 'Englishness' of voice. (Jacob was a frequent correspondent of Vaughan Williams.)
Following a first London performance by Goossens in 1938,
it became immediately popular with audiences. As well as superb writing
for the solo instrument, this essentially cheerful piece contains some
difficult and sophisticated string writing. (Listen especially for the
playful rhythms between all instruments in the final Rondo.)
SERENADE IN C for STRING
TRIO ERNÖ DOHNÁNYI (1877-1960)
Erno Dohnányi is the grandfather of the well-known conductor Christoph von Dohnányi who became principal conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in 1997.
Particularly well known for his famous Variations on a
Nursery Theme for piano and orchestra, Erno Dohnányi was a prolific
Hungarian composer writing in many forms. As a pianist, he ranked among
the finest of his time. A contemporary of Béla Bartók,
he studied at the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest. Following a thriving
career as a soloist, composer and teacher, he eventually returned to
the Academy to become its Director. In 1947, he finally settled in the
United States, and died there in 1960.
After the vigorous opening March, the Romance features
a gentle viola melody played over a pizzicato accompaniment. The Scherzo
is a busy and energetic movement, and is followed by a second slow movement
which is a set of variations on a chorale-like theme. The final joyful
Rondo contains material largely derived from the second theme in the
Mozart's famous Oboe Quartet was written in Munich at the time that his opera Idomeneo was produced in around 1781. It was composed for Friedrich Ramm, who had met Mozart earlier in Mannheim where Ramm was principal oboist at the court orchestra. Mozart clearly developed a love of the instrument, as four years earlier he had dedicated another major work, his Oboe Concerto in C, to a fine oboist in the Salzburg orchestra.
The Oboe Quartet is quite a different composition from the works which Mozart had written for flute and strings only a few years earlier. The oboe here is treated as an equal partner in the ensemble, in contrast with the flute quartets where the soloist tends to assume a more dominant role.
Though this quartet is a three-movement work (with no Minuet), there is considerable contrast of expression within it. The first movement, Allegro, though graceful and stylish, affords plenty of opportunity for neat agility from the oboist.
The second movement, Adagio, in the contrasting key of D minor, is in the style of an expressive lament. The final Rondeau is a dance movement based on a lively oboe theme which is later developed with florid scales and passage-work to bring the piece to a wholly satisfying conclusion:
Sarah Francis is a leading oboe soloist and chamber musician. Her internationally praised recordings range from Albinoni and Handel to twentieth-century British music including Britain's six metamorphoses after Ovid for oboe which she has recorded three times. Important concertos have been written for her by Gordon Crosse and Anthony Payne and William Mathias. She is a professor at the Royal College of Music and has recently given masterclasses at conservatoires abroad including Moscow, Cologne, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Geneva.
Frances Mason studied as a child with the great violinist Albert Sammons. At the Royal College of Music she won many prizes, including the Tagore gold medal for best student of the year. She was a prize winner in the Carl Flesch and BBC violin competitions and has played as soloist with the leading London orchestras. After performing around the world leading the Music Group of London, she now leads the Tagore String Trio, the Rasumovsky String Quartet and the Dartington Piano Trio. She is a professor at the Royal College of Music.
Brian Schiele studied at the Royal College of Music, where he was the first winner of the Aronowitz Prize for viola. He played for 10 years with the Auriel String Quartet, appearing with them all over Britain, Europe and the Middle East. He has given many performances of Hindemith's Trauemusik, the Walton Viola Concerto and Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola. Currently he is a member of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Tagore String Trio.
won many solo and chamber music prizes at the Royal College of Music.
With Brian Schiele he played with the Auriol String Quartet for 10 years
and he subsequently joined the Bingham String Quartet. He has toured
widely overseas and has broadcast frequently for the BBC, Channel 4
television and in Australia. His solo performances range from Bach and
Haydn to Shostakovich and he is a professor at the Royal College of
Music Junior Department.
Website designed created and maintained by Mel Hopkin