Season 2006/07
Spalding, Lincolnshire, England

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7 October 2006

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3 March 2007

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String Quintet in A major op .18 - Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Allegro con moto
Intermezzo. Andante sostenuto
Scherzo. Allegro di molto
Allegro vivace

Written in 1826, this music is the work of an amazingly talented teenager. It is one of a pair of Quintets composed by Mendelssohn, the second one of which appeared nearly twenty years later. For this work, Mendelssohn originally composed a Minuet for the second movement. But in January 1832, his great friend the violinist Eduard Rietz died, and Mendelssohn revised the Quintet and incorporated the present Intermezzo.

In style, there are many similarities between this work and the youthful, light-hearted composition which immediately preceded it - the ever-popular Octet for strings in Eb. Both pieces display an extraordinary understanding of the required technique in writing for stringed instruments, and there is clear evidence of the influence of Mozart - a composer much loved by Mendelssohn.

The first movement of this work begins with one such example: a truly delightful theme which embodies distinctly Mozartian characteristics. The second movement, Intermezzo, is rhythmic and warm in texture, while the following Scherzo is full of surprise with an exciting, almost explosive quality. The last movement, as expected, is a lively, almost playful finale. What joy Mendelssohn communicates in this music!

String Trio op.19 - Lennox Berkeley (1903-1989)

While Sir Lennox Berkeley is a contemporary of British composers William Walton and Michael Tippett, it is a distinctively French influence in his music that gives his work its unique character. On leaving Oxford, where he was born, he went to study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris in 1926. Her influence, together with those of Ravel and Poulenc (both of whom became personal friends) coloured much of his musical style. He became a Roman Catholic in 1928, and many of his finest works are on religious subjects.

Today, Berkeley is remembered not only for his own superbly-crafted compositions, but also for the significant influence he has had upon the future careers of many distinguished students during his time as Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music. These included Richard Rodney Bennett, William Mathias, Nicholas Maw and John Tavener. Another huge influence in Berkeley's life came from his friendship with Benjamin Britten. Although Britten was ten years younger, he shared a similar approached to composition and inspired Berkeley to compose an opera in the 1950s.

It is in the field of chamber music, however, that many people are familiar with Berkeley's music. His three String Quartets contain much enjoyable music, as does the Horn Trio composed for the virtuoso Dennis Brain. His Oboe Quartet was dedicated to famous oboist Janet Craxton and pianists find both the Piano Sonata op.20 and his Six Pieces op.23 accessible and enjoyable to play.

The String Trio we hear tonight was written in 1984 and is composed in three movements. The first movement begins in languid, lyrical mood, but is contrasted later with a strongly rhythmic section in a punchy 5/8 rhythm. The second movement is built on two main themes - the first being repeated at the end of the movement. The last movement is a dramatic and bustling Rondo where the main theme returns repeatedly in different guises before the final exciting climax.

String Quintet in G minor, K.516 - W.A.Mozart (1756-1791)

Minuetto - allegretto (Minuet and Trio)
Adagio ma non troppo
Adagio - allegro

In the spring of 1787, when Mozart was 31 years of age, he was at the height of his powers. He had just witnessed the success of his opera The Marriage of Figaro and would shortly begin work on Don Giovanni. His famous Symphony in G minor (no.40) would be composed the following year, and many people have drawn obvious parallels between the Symphony no 40 and the String Quintet we are to hear tonight in their use of the dark, intense key of G minor.

What is known is that Mozart's father, Leopold, was suffering his final illness during this time. Leopold died the following year. Whatever is the reason, the G minor Quintet (through its falling melodic lines and constant chromatic harmonies) displays an emotional power throughout that lifts this work into league with the finest of all Mozart's compositions. It truly is a jewel within the medium of string chamber music.

The first movement Allegro begins with a wistful little melody on the first violin - immediately taken up by the viola:

This is followed by a second theme, also introduced by the violin in the same sad key of G minor. The rising and falling motion of the melody constantly re-occurs throughout the movement, under which is a driving accompaniment of repeated quavers.

The Minuet and Trio comes as a second movement in this work instead of being placed more usually as the third. Strong accents characterise this movement. The mood is altogether brighter as the music begins to dance:

The more buoyant mood is enhanced further in the Trio that follows which is in the brighter key of G major.

The third movement, Adagio ma non troppo, takes us into an entirely different world. The five instruments are muted throughout and, from the sombre opening bars, the music travels through many changes of mood. Once again, through falling chromatic melodies in the music, the underlying atmosphere is sombre - even if occasionally broken with almost dance-like passages.

After another slow Adagio opening, the final movement Allegro is a cheerful Rondo in key of G major. The main theme is played on the violin:

Mozart initially intended that this last movement should be once again in the key of G minor. But his final choice of the sunnier major key happily brings this remarkable work to a thoroughly satisfying conclusion.

Programme notes and articles by Peter Case for South Holland Concerts.

Last season we were delighted to invite the well-known Tagore String Trio to South Holland Concerts in partnership, on that occasion, with celebrity oboist Sarah Francis. However, following recent successful recordings of music for string quintet by Krommer which featured two violas, an enlarged ensemble - the Tagore String Quintet - has been exploring the important and varied repertoire for string quintet with its characteristic beauty and richness of sound. We are extremely privileged to welcome the Tagore Trio players back to South Holland with their additional colleagues, in order to share with us some of these magnificent masterworks for string quintet this evening.

We are extremely privileged to welcome the Tagore Trio players back to South Holland with their additional colleagues, in order to share with us some of these magnificent masterworks for string quintet this evening.

Frances Mason (violin) was an international award winner, including the Tagore Gold Medal at the Royal College of Music. She has performed as soloist at Promenade Concerts and led the Music Group of London and the Rasumovsky Quartet. A violin professor at the Royal College of Music, she founded the Tagore String Trio in 1996.

Anne Bradley (violin) appears regularly as soloist and leader with ensembles in St Martin-in-the-Fields and the Purcell Room and works with several chamber orchestras including Guildhall Strings. She has been a member of the Bingham String Quartet since 2000 and also leads the Caspian Quartet.

Martin Outram (viola) has played twice before at South Holland Concerts - on both occasions as violist with the Maggini Quartet with whom he has toured widely and made many hugely successful recordings on the Naxos label. He has performed as guest with the Coull, Alberni and Allegri Quartets, and as soloist and principal viola with all of London's premier chamber orchestras. He has been a professor of the Royal Academy of Music since 1984.

Jonathan Berritt (viola) studied at the Royal Northern College of Music. He was the viola player of the Allegri Quartet for six years and is now principal viola with the English Chamber Orchestra.

James Halsey (cello) has played in Britain, Europe, the Middle East and Australia as cellist of the Auriol and Bingham Quartets and as a soloist. He has performed the solo Bach and Beethoven sonatas in Japan. He is a professor at the Royal College of Music Junior Department and the North East Scotland Music School in Aberdeen.

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