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Lincolnshire, England
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Saturday 3 October 2009

Programme

Formed in 1991, London Concertante has become one of the finest chamber ensembles in Europe. The players have brought together a shared passion for chamber music, and with its versatile instrumental grouping they have given concerts all over the world to great acclaim. Also, a large number of recordings have rightfully justified London Concertante's claim to be at the forefront of classical performers in the UK. We are absolutely delighted and extremely privileged to welcome them to South Holland Concerts this evening.

Adam Summerhayes - Leader/Violin
In common with all members of London Concertante, their director - Adam Summerhayes has a huge breadth of experience of chamber music, solo and orchestral work. Having given concerto and recital performances in Holland, France, Spain, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Russia and Croatia and throughout the UK, Adam's discography includes eight CDs with his piano trio and also in duo with his wife Catherine. Having given a great many première performances of works for violin and piano (many written specially for him), his world-première recordings of early works by Copland have received excellent reviews in the national press.

Other members of London Concertante forming the Octet this evening:
Judith Templeman - Violin
Mathew Quenby - Viola
Chris Grist - Cello
Benjamin Griffiths - Bass
Mark Smith - Horn
Elizabeth Drew - Clarinet
Ben Hudson - Bassoon

PROGRAMME

Till Eulenspiegel - einmal anders! Richard Strauss (1864-1949)
(arr. Franz Hasenohrl for violin, double bass, clarinet, bassoon and horn)

OCTET Jean Françaix (1912-1997)
(for clarinet, bassoon, horn and strings)

OCTET in F op.166 D 803 Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
(for clarinet, bassoon, horn and strings)

 

Till Eulenspiegel - einmal anders! Richard Strauss (1864-1949)
(arr. Franz Hasenohrl for violin, double bass, clarinet, bassoon and horn)

Richard Strauss's masterpiece 'Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks' is not only one of the most popular pieces of orchestral music, but it is also one of the cornerstones of the late Romantic period repertoire. The original score, requiring a 100-piece orchestra, presents us with colourful, lush textures and spontaneous outbursts of sound. The story, with origins in German folklore, is presented in the orchestral version with our hero's impish antics and roguish devilment vividly portrayed.

The music is wonderfully descriptive as the young Till (a character possibly born in the district of Brunswick in the thirteenth century) travels around the country pretending to be a butcher, a baker, a wheelwright, a joiner, a monk or physician - whichever lying identity would appear to best serve his interests at the time! His many pranks were also designed to embarrass the rich and powerful of his day and were often cruel. Strauss never provided an absolutely strict programme for the work. Yet we are left in no doubt about Till's fate as the climactic entry of orchestral trombones herald an inevitable judgement upon Till's pranks and his final execution!

Franz Hasenohrl was an Austrian composer and professor of music who lived from 1885 to 1970. His excellent adaption for just five instruments of Strauss's orchestral work clearly required considerable creative imagination. For example, sixteen first and sixteen second violins have been replaced by a single instrument, and the double bass is used to replace the percussion section. The title 'Till Eulenspiegel - einmal anders!' means literally 'Till Eulenspiegel - Another Way'. Although Hasenohrl perhaps wisely reduced the duration of the original from fifteen minutes to eight, his superb reduction still allows us to focus on all the fun of the story as portrayed in the well-loved themes and melodies of the original.

OCTET Jean Françaix (1912-1997)
(for clarinet, bassoon, horn and strings)

Moderato - Allegrissimo
Scherzo and Trio
Andante - Adagio
Mouvement de Valse

It is interesting that Françaix originally inscribed the score of his Octet, written in 1982, 'to Schubert's revered memory'. Certainly the scoring for both Octets is for the same instruments, but here any similarity ends. The serious opening bars of the Moderato quickly lead to a buoyant and playful Allegrissimo with themes presented first by the clarinet and then by the French horn.

The Scherzo is another light-hearted, delicate movement in dance style. Some evidence of the composer's undoubted gift as a writer of film scores can be heard here. The instrumental writing is quite brilliant in this movement both for wind and strings, and a lovely playful excitement is evident throughout.

The beautiful textures in the third movement Andante - Adagio with its warm string writing give us glimpses into many different styles. Not exclusively French in flavour, the movement has moments here when we are occasionally reminded of the style of the early 20th century English 'pastoral school'. Do we perhaps hear touches of Delius?

With some brief strident opening chords we are taken straight into the final Valse. This wonderfully inventive dance movement is full of excitement and surprises. But did Jean Françaix have Sir Richard Rodney Bennett's evocative score for the film Murder on the Orient Express (1979) in mind when he composed this waltz? Probably not! But such music as this is designed to put our senses into a whirl of delight as a fantasy of dreams grips our imagination. Surely this is light music at its best!

OCTET in F op.166 D 803 Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
(for clarinet, bassoon, horn and strings)

Adagio - Allegro
Andante
Allegro vivace
Andante (Variations)
Menuetto & Trio
Andante - Allegro

With its engaging melodies and marvellous interplay between the instruments, the Octet is one of Schubert's most popular chamber works. It was commissioned by Ferdinand Troyer, a Viennese nobleman and amateur clarinettist. It was possibly first performed in 1827, but not published actually for another twenty-six years. Understandably, parallels are frequently drawn between this Octet and the earlier Septet for clarinet, bassoon, horn and strings by Beethoven, a work written in 1799. Although the two pieces have their own unique character throughout, it is interesting to note that the last movement in each of these compositions starts similarly with a slow introduction of exactly eighteen bars.

After the slow introduction, the opening Allegro is dominated by a little dotted rhythm which appears first on the clarinet and later to be taken up by the other instruments. Lovely interplay between clarinet and violin and some beautifully subtle changes of key particularly characterise this movement.

The Andante is again dominated by a beautiful theme stated at the start by the clarinet. This lyrical melody is surely one of Schubert's finest.

The third movement Allegro vivace is a scherzo full of playful gaiety and driven forward by strong rhythmic momentum.

The theme and variations which make up the fourth movement Andante is based on an aria from one of Schubert's early operas - 'Die Freunde von Salmanka'.

Significantly, three of Schubert's chamber works from this period include melodies quoted from earlier compositions. In correspondence, he referred to these quotations as 'rays of sunlight from my past sweet days' - possibly indicating his awareness of gradually deteriorating health.

The fifth movement Minuet is more relaxed and stately than the previous Scherzo, and the following Trio section is in the style of a typical Ländler - an Austrian peasant dance.

After a dramatic introduction, the last movement is full of bubbly excitement with virtuoso writing for all the instruments. Before a thrilling rush to the finish line, Schubert restates the opening of the movement and concludes with an exciting coda.

 

 
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