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15th November 2010

Chris Grist (Cello)
David Wright (Harpsichord)

 

Programme

 

 

Chris Grist (Cello)

Chris Grist studied at the Guildhall School of Music with the American cellist Nancy Green. His early desire to specialise as a chamber musician has been fully realised. Chris tours throughout the year with the London Concertante, performing the finest works in the chamber repertoire, and he regularly gives concerts at the top venues such as the South Bank and Wigmore Hall, and St Martin-in-the-Fields. His concerts have taken him to Spain, Croatia, USA, Finland and Saudi Arabia.

Chris regularly performs with pianist Warren Mailley-Smith, and also with harpsichordist David Wright, with whom he has embarked on a Bach project. This project includes Bach’s unaccompanied Cello Suites recorded in 2010. Another solo album ‘Romantic Cello’ is on general release and was recorded in April 2009.
  
David Wright (Harpsichord)

Originally from Bethnal Green (and now living in Wisbech), David nurtured an early love of the music of Bach and Mozart and graduated with honours at the Trinity College of Music, where he studied the harpsichord. Later advanced studies at the Royal College of Music brought him further distinctions and honours including first prize in the prestigious international Broadwood Harpsichord Competition. He soon became Artist in Residence at London’s Fenton House, and is now engaged regularly among the artists at Dartington International Summer School and the English Bach Festival.

David is well known for his work at the Handel House Museum in Mayfair, London, where so much has been done to encourage interest in that composer’s music. During 2006/7, much of David’s time was devoted to detailed study of the Bach Goldberg Variations, and he has performed and recorded the work many times throughout the UK and abroad – including performances at the Handel House Museum.  

 The Instruments

The cello that Chris Grist is playing tonight is an English cello attributed to Locky Hill, and was made in 1771. David Wright’s harpsichord is a double manual instrument built by Robert Goble of Oxford in 1993. It is modelled on an instrument by the 18th century German harpsichord maker Christian Zell.

The Programme

Cello Suite no.1 in G major  BVW 1007 - J.S.Bach (1685-1750)

 Cello Suite no.3 in C major  BWV 1009  -  J.S.Bach (1685-1750)

 Sonata for Cello and Harpsichord - G.P.Telemann (1681-1767)

Air in G major and Thirty Variations for Harpsichord (The ‘Goldberg’ Variations) - J.S.Bach (1685-1750)

 

The Programme

Cello Suite no.1 in G major  BVW 1007 - J.S.Bach (1685-1750)

Prélude
Allemande
Courante
Sarabande
Menuet 1 and 2
Gigue

In common with the unaccompanied works by Bach for the violin, the most striking thing we notice about the six Cello Suites is the way in which the composer constructs a multi-textured sound world with just a solo instrument. The opening Prélude in this Suite is a particularly remarkable example. It is actually composed of a series of individual chords. But in Bach’s hands, these chords are broken up into a clever stream of continuous quavers - giving melodic interest to the movement whilst allowing us to hear the underlying harmony.

Bach probably composed the six unaccompaniedSuites for solo cello while he was employed at Cӧthen around 1720. But the original manuscripts are lost, so the source of these works is a copy made by his second wife Anna Magdalena. Well before Bach’s time, the normal cycle of dance movements in a Suite (Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Gigue etc.) had become traditional. But the Minuet and the Bourrée were newer dances, and to these Bach also chose to add a characterful Prélude to open each Suite.    

Cello Suite no.3 in C major  BWV 1009  -  J.S.Bach (1685-1750)

Prélude
Allemande
Courante
Sarabande
Bourrée 1 and 2

The Prélude in this third Suite is quite different in apparent form and style to that in the first Suite. Initially this appears to consist of a stream of semiquaver scales, giving the movement terrific forward momentum. But gradually we hear within this texture an underlying harmony being emphasised. Additionally, in the middle of the movement, Bach employs a device known as a ‘pedal point’ where a constantly repeated low bass note is accompanied by an ever-changing cluster of harmony notes sounding above it. This is a very dramatic effect.

At the end of this Prélude, the cello concludes with some exciting four-part chords emphasising the instrument’s deepest notes. For a cellist, this is facilitated by the key of C major and has a thrilling effect. As in the first Suite, the remaining dance movements are all wonderfully characteristic and afford the player ample opportunity to display the distinctive quality of each - from the running bustle of the Courante to the chordal dignity of the Sarabande.

 Sonata for Cello and Harpsichord - G.P.Telemann (1681-1767)

The Telemann Sonata was performed instead of the planned Sonata for Cello and Harpsichord op.1 no.4 in D minor HWV 362 - G.F.Handel (1685-1759)

 Air in G major and Thirty Variations for Harpsichord (The ‘Goldberg’ Variations) - J.S.Bach (1685-1750)
                   
Air - Andante espressivo

Var. 1    Allego moderato
Var. 2    Allegretto
Var. 3    Canon (unison) – Poco andate

Var. 4     Poco Andante
Var. 5     Allegro vivace
Var. 6     Canon (on the second) –Allegretto

Var. 7     Un poco vivace – Gigue
Var. 8     Allegro
Var. 9     Canon (on the third) – Moderato

Var. 10   Fughetta – Un poco animato (Theme appears every four bars)
Var. 11   Allegro e leggiero
Var. 12   Canon (on the fourth) in contrary motion – Allegretto moderato

Var. 13   Andantino (A florid melody)
Var. 14   Allegro moderato
Var. 15   Canon (on the fifth) in contrary motion – Andante (Minor key)

Var. 16   Overture – Maestoso ; Allegretto (Two contrasted sections)
Var. 17   Allegro
Var. 18   Canon (on the sixth) – Con moto  

Var. 19   Allegro vivace (flowing semiquavers throughout)
Var. 20   Allegro
Var. 21   Canon (on the seventh) – Andante con moto (Minor key)

Var. 22   Alla breve
Var. 23   Allegro moderato
Var. 24   Canon (on the eighth) – Allegretto con moto

Var. 25   Andante espressivo (Minor key)
Var. 26   Allegro
Var. 27   Canon (on the ninth) – Un poco vivace

Var. 28   Allegro
Var. 29   Brilliante
Var. 30   Quodlibet

Air - Andante espressivo (repeat)

This popular masterpiece, composed at Leipzig in 1742 for a two-manual harpsichord, is Bach’s final keyboard work in a series published under the collective title of Clavierϋbung or Keyboard Practice Pieces. This title most certainly does not imply that this is a book of beginners’ study material. The Clavierϋbung is a collection of material which demonstrates many keyboard styles, and it also offers the musician the opportunity to study advanced ornamental techniques of which Bach himself was such a brilliant exponent.

The Clavierϋbung as a whole,therefore, contains some of the most profound and ambitious music ever composed for the harpsichord, and the Goldberg Variations represents one of the most significant achievements in keyboard writing throughout the whole of the Baroque period. Although a few musicians have expressed uncertainty about it, it is generally believed that the main theme (Air or Aria) of the Goldberg Variations first appeared in a small musical notebook which the composer had presented to his second wife Anna Magdalena in 1725. The theme is heard at the opening of the work.

All the variations which follow, though very individual in character, are of similar length, and are based more obviously on thebass line of the Air (and often on its implied harmony)rather than on the melody or its rhythm. The Air itself is actually constructed in two halves, each half being of equal length (16 bars). While the thirty-two variations employ, for example, many different time signatures and keys, they nevertheless follow a common basic structure. However, even the bass line itself is frequently heavily ornamented or decorated as well.

In the long listing above it can be seen that the basic pattern of the work consists the Air followed by ten sets of three variations. In each set, the two variations are followed by a Canon - employing a special treatment of the material, not unlike a sophisticated musical round. These Canons are often brilliantly constructed and interweave two or three parts together. The series of Canons opens with an example where the main tune is echoed in unison - that is, at the same pitch. They then progress through wider and wider intervals of a third, a fourth, a fifth etc. until we reach the Canon of a ninth.  Bach was an extraordinary master of this kind of writing. The final piece is a called a Quodlibet which has been described as a ‘potpourri’ in which Bach cleverly fuses together two German folk songs.

Frankly, we don’t really need to understand the intricate construction of this piece in order to savour fully this wonderful music. But, as we travel with the composer on his complex musical journey, which ends with a final and very welcome re-statement of the opening Air, it is not hard to admire Bach’s considerable resourcefulness and musical ingenuity which is so brilliantly demonstrated in this work.

 

 

 


 
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