Friday, May 24, 2024

Shaldon Festival 2015

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Chilingirian Quartet with Timothy Brown

Choral Workshop and Informal Concert 2015 directed by Brian Kay

Fournier Trio


Chilingirian Quartet with Timothy Brown

Sunday 21 June 2015

Chilingirian Quartet with Timothy Brown playing instruments photo
Chilingirian Quartet with Timothy Brown

Concert supported by Exeter and District Classical Music Trust
Levon Chilingirian (violin)
Stephen Orton (cello)
Ronald Birks (violin)
Susie Mészáros (viola)
Timothy Brown (horn)

HAYDN String Quartet in B flat major, Op.55 No.3
MOZART Horn Quintet in E flat major, K407
DVORAK String Quartet No. 13 in G major, Op.106

Concert Review
To have remained an internationally-acclaimed ensemble for well over four decades is a towering achievement, so the Chilingirian String Quartet’s forthcoming visit to the Shaldon Festival was, therefore, eagerly awaited.

We were not disappointed. A demanding programme, expertly and sympathetically executed and featuring a superb guest appearance by the horn player, Timothy Brown, brought the 2015 Shaldon Festival to a fitting conclusion.

The quartet was founded in London in 1971 and has remained in the public eye ever since, having given performances all over the world, including no fewer than fifteen tours of the United States. It was an honour to welcome them to the festival.

The programme began with Haydn’s Op. 55 No. 3 String Quartet in B flat major. Haydn wrote over sixty string quartets and is regarded as the “father” of the genre. At least ten of these are written in this key but this one is notable for the prominent place given to the first violin and its use of chromaticism, a device probably derived from Mozart’s influence.

This device is made use of at the outset, with all players in unison. This sonata-form movement, marked Vivace assai, with its elusive second subject, has an extended development section and is brought to a conclusion after introducing new harmonic and contrapuntal ideas, expertly and skilfully executed by this quartet. The second movement, a theme and variations marked Adagio ma non troppo, is unusual in being slow but is nevertheless dignified and pensive. The quartet achieved a warm and delicate rendering of this movement. The vigorous and jolly Menuetto of the third movement, with its delightful trio section, was notable for the beautiful way the quartet’s individuals were so perfectly integrated. The bustling Presto finale requires some expert virtuosity, particularly in the ensemble writing and this was brilliantly carried out, leading to a resounding, joyful ending.

The Mozart Horn Quintet, in E flat major K407 which followed, introduced to us the talented and internationally renowned horn player, Timothy Brown. In this work, the second violin is replaced with a second viola, so the whole ensemble has a greater richness and warmth and also accentuates the prominence of the violin. This is a work demanding great virtuosity from the horn player and our soloist was clearly a match for the piece. The opening Sonata has a light character with wide leaps for all the players in a playful discourse. The Andante is rather like an accompanied duet for horn and violin and our two players brought this off most impressively. The technical brilliance needed in the two outer movements is here replaced by a decorative lyricism. The sparkling Rondo finale, with its witty ending, contains difficult but humorous contrapuntal part-writing towards the end and our players completed this excellent piece with terrific panache. It was rewarding to see the way in which the horn soloist and the quartet became a single entity in this work.

The audience was rewarded with an encore: Glazunov’s Idyll for Horn and Strings. For this the quartet reverted to its usual format of two violins, viola and ’cello. The piece begins with all the strings muted and as it progresses, the mutes are gradually taken off, first the ’cello, then the first violin; at this point it was interesting to hear the beautiful contrast in timbre between the muted and unmuted strings and the horn. As the central section is reached, the remaining mutes are removed and the piece then slowly and sedately subsides into tranquillity, leading to a long, low note on the horn to the accompaniment of the muted strings, whose final chord is a backdrop for the horn’s reprise of the opening phrase. This is a lovely piece, made all the more interesting by tonight’s artistes.

After the interval, the Chilingirian String Quartet returned to perform Dvorák’s Op. 106 String Quartet in G major. This was written on the composer’s return to his native Bohemia after an extended, and ultimately unrewarding, stay in the USA. The cascade of sound which begins the opening Allegro moderato leads to a second theme reminiscent of a folk tune. The composer cleverly blends these together into a rich canvas of musical ideas leading to a dancing conclusion. The Adagio ma non troppo second movement is the heart of this piece and its melancholic and emotional intensity is exactly the kind of music in which the Chilingirian String Quartet excels. The poignant song-like themes grow into a brilliant climax from which a beautiful melody emerges, progressing to a quiet ending. The Molto vivace third movement is a riot of Czech folk-type themes, rejoicing in cross-rhythms and with not one but two soft and melodious trio sections. The finale opens with a short, subdued introduction, marked Andante sostenuto, leading to the energetic and joyous Allegro con fuoco whose central episode recalls melodies from the opening movement, but in a slow, thoughtful mood. However, the overwhelming effect is the Czech exuberance, leading to a triumphant conclusion. Our players gave a spell-binding and mesmerising account of this, Dvorák’s last string quartet, and were rewarded with a well-deserved extended period of applause.

The audience’s persistence resulted in a return to the stage for an encore, the Minuet and Trio from Haydn’s Op. 55 No. 2 String Quartet in F minor, a companion to the opening piece. Although the quartet itself is in the key of F minor, this minuet is in F major. This carefully-crafted gem opens with dialogues between pairs of instruments, with a rhythmic buoyancy and poise. The minuet and its repeat enclose the insistent Trio, in the minor key, sounding a little like a variation on the minuet. The inclusion of this little jewel of the classical period rounded off the concert perfectly.

The evening’s performance was highly memorable and one felt privileged to be present at such an occasion. The Shaldon Festival this year has been marked by some outstanding performances and this was certainly one of them, a perfect conclusion to yet another successful Festival.

Christopher Morris

String Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 55, No. 3, Hob.III:62

Virtually the creator of the string quartet, over his long career Haydn developed it into one of the most expressive, intimate and profound of all musical styles up to the time of Beethoven, who arguably took it to its limit. Haydn composed his quartets in sets, usually of six, each new set appearing after a break of two or more years. Opus 55 No. 3 is part of a set of three, later dedicated to the man who was the principal second violin in Haydn’s Esterházy orchestra, the Hungarian Johann Tost.

The quartet opens with all four players in unison, before each takes his own harmonic path. The E flat Adagio allows the first violin ornate decoration in its central section. It is followed by a cheerful Minuet and Trio and a dashing final movement.

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-1791) Quintet in E Flat major for Horn and Strings, K. 407
Mozart’s works for solo horn were composed almost exclusively for one particular player, Ignaz Leutgeb, his life-long friend and Salzburg compatriot. Leutgeb held the position of first horn in the Archbishop of Salzburg’s private orchestra and was, by all accounts, an extraordinarily gifted player. The Horn Quintet in Eb major is the most difficult to play and pushed the player and the valveless instrument of his time to the limit. It was composed toward the end of 1782 in Vienna when Mozart was entering a period of great success and productivity and perhaps the happiest time in his life.

Like all Mozart’s chamber music the Horn Quintet is utterly charming and perfectly constructed. Interestingly, Mozart chose a string complement that includes two violas instead of the traditional double violins. With the weight shifted to the lower voices the ensemble sound gives greater warmth as an accompaniment to the horn. In addition, the single violin becomes more prominent. Many consider it to be essentially a concerto than a pure chamber work of equal players.

ANTONÍN DVORÁK (1841-1904) String Quartet No. 13 in G major, Op. 106
Early in 1891 Dvorák became professor of composition at Prague Conservatory. However, a few months later he was invited by Mrs Jeanette Thurber to be artistic director of her new National Conservatory of Music based in New York. Her aim, to which Dvo?ák was sympathetic, was to develop a national America style of art music. He immersed himself in spirituals and plantation songs from the South, and transcriptions of American melodies. It resulted in famous masterpieces like the “New World” Symphony No. 9 and the “American” String Quartet. However, homesick for his native Bohemia, Dvorák returned home in April 1895. He enjoyed a long, lazy summer living with his family in the quiet Czech village of Vysoka. In the autumn he wrote this remarkable string quartet in G major, Op.106, finishing it in just under a month. Gervase Hughes, a noted Dvorák scholar, believes it was a “hymn of thanksgiving for his safe return, alive and well, to his native land.” Hughes goes on to say “….except perhaps in the third movement, the mood is appropriately and emphatically ‘national’.

The Chilingirian Quartet is one of the world’s most celebrated and widely-travelled ensembles, renowned for its thrilling interpretations of the great quartets – and commanding performances of the contemporary repertoire.

The Quartet is composed of Levon Chilingirian (violin), Stephen Orton (cello), Ronald Birks (violin), and Susie Mészáros (viola) – highly accomplished musicians who blend four distinct voices into a single extraordinary sound. It is a sound that critics around the world have heralded as “balanced,” “passionate,” “warm,” “subtle,” and “dynamic.”

London has always been a meeting-point for the world’s musicians, and it was in London in 1971 that four prizewinning musicians met and decided to dedicate themselves to chamber music. Word of the new quartet spread rapidly, and within a short time the Chilingirian Quartet was claimed by London’s critics to be an ensemble that would have a major impact on the world of the string quartet.

BBC and World Service broadcasts of the Chilingirian Quartet were soon followed by invitations to the Edinburgh, Aldeburgh, and Bath festivals, and to the most important cities throughout Europe.

In 1976, a triumphant debut in New York made the Chilingirians a sought-after group throughout the United States. The Quartet has since made over 15 coast-to-coast tours of the USA and Canada. Extensive tours of Australia, New Zealand, South America, Africa, and the Far East make the Quartet equally well known around the world.

In 1988, the group became the first-ever Quartet-in-Residence at the Royal College of Music, where it continues to offer master classes to many of the world’s most promising young musicians.

The Quartet has built an extensive and critically-acclaimed discography of works by Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Bartok, Dvorak, and other major composers. And, it released groundbreaking recordings of masterworks by contemporary composers such as Michael Tippett, John Tavener, Hugh Wood, and Michael Berkeley.

The Chilingirians have also appeared extensively on TV and radio programs around the world, including an ongoing series of broadcasts for the BBC.

Now in its fifth decade, the Chilingirian Quartet continues to tour, record, and teach, amassing one of the music world’s most impressive resumés.

Timothy Brown has enjoyed a long and varied international career as a horn player since his professional debut over fifty years ago.

He was Principal Horn in the Bournemouth Symphony, the BBC Symphony and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and has played as guest principal abroad with many orchestras including the Czech Philharmonic. He has worked with many distinguished conductors including Igor Stravinsky, Benjamin Britten, Otto Klemperer and Gunter Wand.

As a soloist and chamber player he has performed and recorded much of the horn repertoire on both period and modern instruments. His discography includes the complete Mozart horn concertos (on natural and modern horn), concertos by Vivaldi, Bach, Telemann and Haydn as well as chamber music by Mozart, Beethoven, Spohr and, with Ian Bostridge, Schubert and Britten.

Since leaving the BBCSO after twenty years’ service he remains Principal Horn with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields while also playing and teaching in Britain and abroad.

Choral Workshop and Informal Concert 2015 directed by Brian Kay

Photo of Brian Kay
Brian Kay

Saturday 20 June 2015
Choral Workshop and Informal Concert

BRIAN KAY Musical Director

HANDEL Zadok the Priest
HANDEL O Ruddier than the Cherry (from Acis and Galatea)
HANDEL Ombra mai fu (from Xerxes)
HANDEL The King Shall Rejoice
PUCCINI Messa di Gloria

The Shaldon Festival Choir has developed an enviable reputation for enthusiastically embracing new challenges and warmly welcoming its guest conductors. This year was no exception.

Brian Kay is internationally renowned as a choral conductor and as a broadcaster with the BBC, having twice won a Sony Award as Music Presenter of the Year. Returning by popular acclaim, this was Brian’s third visit to conduct the Shaldon Festival Choir.

The first half of the evening’s programme comprised work by George Frideric Handel, including two of the four Coronation Anthems composed specially for the coronation of George II in Westminster Abbey in 1727. The best known of them, Zadok the Priest, has been performed at every coronation since. There could hardly be a more rousing start to a choral evening! With skilful manipulation of musical suspense, Handel’s introit is not choral at all but a long slow layering of sound from the strings before the choral entry on “Zadok the Priest!” bursts forte tutti upon the audience with great drama and power. Brian Kay brought out the best from the 150 assembled singers with the massed voices singing with confidence and conviction. What an opening – truly thrilling!

What followed was in delightful contrast. Two Handel arias showcased the musical skills of the evening’s two soloists. Firstly, baritone Julian Rippon sang “O Ruddier than the Cherry” from Acis and Galatea. Julian is a well-known and well-loved performer at the Shaldon Festival and he was warmly received. He took a moment to reveal his full range of tones as the opening was somewhat dry and lacking colour, and the piano rather overpowered the singer, but Julian soon hit his stride to reveal the qualities of the aria. Secondly, tenor Anando Mukerjee appeared for the first time at the Shaldon Festival and was an immediate sensation. Hailed as India’s finest tenor, he has sung in concert halls across the world with a very varied range from art-song to oratorios, with music from the Baroque to the modern age. His rendering of Ombra Mai Fu from Xerxes, an aria that celebrates the wonderful shade of the plane tree, held the audience rapt as his beautifully expressive voice filled the church with the tender longing of this most justly popular of Handel’s arias.

The second Coronation Anthem of the evening, The King Shall Rejoice closed the first half of the programme. With the orchestra at the premiere in 1727 numbering, according to a witness, “about 160” with a chorus of 47, Shaldon boasted an orchestra of one – Peter Adcock on the Yamaha C6 grand piano. This fine instrument is now on regular loan from the Newton Abbot and District Society of Arts, NADSA. Peter is official accompanist to the Festival and uses his considerable musical skills to the great benefit of the Festival. While The King Shall Rejoice cannot match the sheer drama of Zadok the Priest, the rich interplay of voices matches the power of the words and concludes with a satisfyingly grand finale.

The second half of the programme comprised Giacomo Puccini’s Messa di Gloria. Better known for composing some of the world’s best known operas like Madam Butterfly, Puccini grew up in a family of church musicians and while still only a teenager, became church organist of various churches in and near Lucca, his home city in northern Italy. And it was as a teenager that Puccini first heard Verdi’s Aida, an experience so powerful, it set the course of his life as a composer of operas.

Puccini composed the Mass as his graduation exercise from the Istituto Musicale Pacini in 1880 and already those distinctive Puccini operatic trademarks are apparent with startling key changes and restless changes of mood. Both soloists excelled in this piece. Julian Rippon sang the extended bass solo for the Crucifixus with powerful solemnity while Anando Mukerjee’s tenor solo with unaccompanied chorus ‘et incarnatus est’ had a searing poignancy that stayed in the mind long after the end of the concert. The duet in the Agnus Dei was well-balanced with Peter Adcock’s sensitive accompaniment and revealed operatic flourishes so familiar from later works by Puccini.

But it is in the Gloria, after which the work is named and that occupies nearly half the mass that we most clearly sense Puccini’s trademark operatic skills – memorable melodies, rhythmic intensity and powerful dramatic gestures. Here the Shaldon Festival Choir was at its best, clearly relishing the work’s best-known melody, which, repeated in several forms and with extended unison singing, sent the audience away with the clear vocal line firmly embedded in the memory.

This work is not performed as often as other better-known masses, and the singers had to work very hard throughout the workshop day to learn the music ready for the evening performance. At times, the lack of familiarity showed, with heads occasionally buried into scores and parts lacking intensity and definition – work in progress, we can say. But that is part of the importance of the day for the singers, discovering music that may well be new to them under the leadership of a master choral director. Brian Kay is deservedly popular. His relaxed and encouraging manner inspires confidence and readily wins over singers and audience alike. His commentary throughout the performance was laced with delicious anecdotes and genuinely funny jokes. But all this is backed by a highly developed musicianship and a genuine love of directing choirs that will ensure Brian will return at some later date to lead another workshop. Typical of the man, he wrote at length to the Festival committee after the performance thanking them for their hospitality and remarked,
“It was all hugely enjoyable for me, particularly as the choir made such a good job of so much music in such a short amount of time… The balance of the voices seemed better than ever, particularly with such a splendid bass section and a tenor line-up more numerous than before! All in all a good day and so good to see so many in the audience too.”

We concur!

Roger Kirk

Brian Kay divides his working life between the broadcasting studio and the concert platform. His many presentations for BBC radio have included Brian Kay’s Sunday Morning, Brian Kay’s Light Programme, the weekly listeners’ request programme 3 for all and Choirworks – all on Radio 3 – on Radio 2 the popular programmes Melodies for You and Friday Night is Music Night, and for Radio 4, Comparing Notes and Music in Mind. His former BBC World Service programme Classics with Kay reached an audience of millions all over the world. Brian’s television presentations have included the competitions to find the Cardiff Singer of the World and the Choir of the Year, and for fifteen years, the New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna. He has twice won a Sony Award as Music Presenter of the Year, including the coveted Gold Award in 1996.

On the concert platform, he presents and narrates concerts with many of the leading orchestras. His narrations include Peter and the Wolf, Paddington Bear’s First Concert, Tubby the Tuba, Babar the Elephant, The Snowman, The Musicians of Bremen, Walton’s Facade, Honegger’s King David and Bliss’s Morning Heroes.

Brian Kay is Conductor and Musical Director of Vaughan Williams’s Leith Hill Musical Festival in Surrey, and of the Burford Singers, near to his home in the Cotswolds. He is also Principal Conductor of The Really Big Chorus, with which he regularly conducts massed voices in London’s Royal Albert Hall (Verdi’s Requiem, Carmina Burana, The Armed Man, Mozart’s Requiem, The Dream of Gerontius, Messiah, and in 2010 the world premier performance of Karl Jenkins’s Gloria) together with recent concerts in Salzburg, Seville, Prague, Venice, Dubrovnik, Madeira, Malta, St. Petersburg and Cape Town, a performance of Handel’s Messiah in China, in Beijing’s Forbidden City Concert Hall and an annual singing cruise to such destinations as the Baltic, the Aegean, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean and the Nile.

He was, for ten years, Chorus Master of the Huddersfield Choral Society, and Conductor of the Cheltenham Bach Choir, the Bradford Festival Choral Society, the Cecilian Singers of Leicester, and the Kendal-based Mary Wakefield Westmorland Festival. He frequently Guest-Conducts choirs and orchestras in many parts of the country and has directed choral courses at the summer schools of Dartington and Ardingly. Further afield, in New Zealand he has conducted the Orpheus Choir of Wellington and the Auckland Choral Society, and in Sheffield, Massachusetts, the Berkshire Choral Festival. He is a Vice President of the ABCD (the Association of British Choral Directors) and of the RSCM (Royal School of Church Music).

Brian Kay has twice appeared at the Royal Variety Show – in 1978 as a member of the King’s Singers (he was a founder member, and as the bass voice in the group performed over 2000 concerts world-wide) and in 1987 conducting the Huddersfield Choral Society. He sang the voice of Papageno in the Hollywood movie Amadeus (his wife, the soprano Gillian Fisher sang Papagena). He has also been the lowest frog on a Paul McCartney single, one of the six wives to Harry Secombe’s Henry V111th, and a member of the backing group for The Pink Floyd!

Fournier Trio

Fournier Trio photo
Fournier Trio

Friday 19 June 2015

Chiao-Ying Chang piano
Sulki Yu violin
Pei-Jee Ng cello


BEETHOVEN Variations on an original theme in E flat major, Op. 44
ARENSKY Piano Trio No.1 in D minor, Op.32
BRAHMS Piano Trio No. 1 in B major, Op. 8 (revised)

Concert Review
Friday night is traditionally a platform for young musicians. This year the Festival welcomed a young Piano Trio, the Fournier Trio, who are already established performers with critically acclaimed debuts at both the Wigmore Hall and Purcell Room in London. Winners of the 2013 Parkhouse Award, this trio is made up of three exceptional young artists. Taiwanese pianist Chiao-Ying Chang is a top prize winner at the Leeds International Piano Festival, Korean violinist Sulki Yu is a laureate of the Menuhin violin competition, whilst Australian Pei-Jee Ng was a winner of the Symphony Australia Young Performer of the Year Competition.

The Fournier Trio opened the concert with a less familiar work by Beethoven, Variations on an original theme in E flat major, Op. 44. The intentionally simple-minded theme, almost a joke of a beginning, is a series of simple unadorned arpeggios in octave unisons by all three players. Beethoven then develops fourteen variations, decorative in the tradition of the eighteenth century but with contrasting spirit and textures employed. Immediately we were treated to beautiful and sympathetic ensemble playing by the Trio. Played with a delicate touch, each of the variations was a pleasure to listen to individually. The balance was perfect allowing each variation to sing through the accompanying instruments. The dialogue between violin and cello worked well in the seventh variation, and the piano playing was always crisp and clear.

This was followed by Anton Arensky’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, dedicated to the cellist Karl Davidov who is regarded as the founder of the Russian school of cello-playing. This accounts for the fact that the cello plays such a prominent role, having most of the principal themes. The piece opened with a strong Allegro, the deeply emotive passages flowed effortlessly from one player to another. The Scherzo was filled with electrifying moments particularly Chiao-Ying Chang’s piano playing; the rapidly ascending and descending passages were played with great verve and power. In the third movement Elegia we heard a duet between the violin and cello played with warmth and feeling by Sulki Yu on violin and Pei-Jee Ng on cello. The piece concluded with a fast-paced and dramatic Finale, finishing with great flourish.

After the interval we were treated to Brahms Piano Trio No. 1 in B major, Op.8 (revised) one of the most sumptuous in the piano trio repertoire. Brahms composed this first of his three Piano Trios at the age of 21, then pruned and recomposed it in his late 50’s. The four movements demonstrated the full dynamic range and musical ability of the Fournier Trio: the exquisite and refined playing of the cello melody in the opening Allegro, a rollicking romp in the Scherzo but always kept in control, the buildup of drama in the Adagio and the spectacular and powerful climax of the final Allegro movement. It was a consummate display of technical brilliance and musicianship.

It is an exhilarating feeling when an audience knows it has just been enthralled by a performance from young musicians early in their career who are inevitably destined for greatness on the world stage.

Enid Hayles 22 June 2015

Variations on an original theme in E flat major, Op. 44

Beethoven’s 14 Variations on an original theme for piano, violin and cello were published as Op. 44 in 1804 but there are sketches of the work dating back as far as 1792, the year now conventionally assigned as the composition date, when Beethoven was twenty-two years old and already displaying a mastery of the theme and variations form.

The central delight of a theme and variations is the sheer variety a composer can achieve with a single idea, in a sense, changing that material as much as possible while retaining something of the original. Beethoven achieves this by, variously, changing the instrumentation, melody, rhythm, harmony and duration and thereby the colour, mood and pace of the music.

ANTON ARENSKY (1861 – 1906)
Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 32
I. Allegro moderato – II. Scherzo (Allegro molto) – III. Elegia (Adagio) – IV. Finale (Allegro non troppo)

Anton Arensky, composer, pianist, conductor and teacher, was a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov and later taught Rachmaninov and Scriabin. His parents were both amateur musicians and by the time he was 9 Arensky was already composing songs and piano pieces. He entered the St Petersburg Conservatory in 1879, graduated with the Gold Medal in 1882 and immediately joined the faculty of the Moscow Conservatory, a marked distinction for a twenty-one- year-old. In Moscow he received friendly encouragment from Tchaikovsky, whose musical style had the greatest impact on Arensky’s development as a composer. Resigning in 1895 he returned to St. Petersburg as director of the Imperial Chapel until 1901 when he focussed on composing and touring as a successful concert pianist and conductor. A high lifestyle had a detrimental effect on his health and he died from tuberculosis in a Finnish sanatorium a few months before his forty-fifth birthday.

Rimsky-Korsakov wrote in his memoirs, somewhat acidly but also presciently, that Arensky’s oeuvre would slip into obscurity as his style was too derivative of his own work and that of Tchaikovsky. His Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 32 has, however, retained its place in the repertoire and remains his most frequently performed extended composition. It was written in memory of the cellist Karl Davidov, who had been director of the St. Petersburg conservatory while Arensky was a student there. The cello is featured prominently, no doubt in honour of Davidov, and perhaps also as a tribute to Arensky’s father who played the cello. Apparently using Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, op. 49, as a model, Arensky’s Trio demonstrates his lyrical gifts as well as his deftness in organising convincing musical discourse.

JOHANNES BRAHMS (1833 – 1897)
Piano Trio No. 1 in B major, Op. 8 (revised)
I. Allegro con brio – II. Scherzo: Allegro Molto – III. Adagio – IV. Allegro

In 1854, at the age of twenty-one, Brahms published his first chamber composition, the Piano Trio in B major, Op. 8. This was momentous as he was severely self-critical and had destroyed several earlier chamber works, but it wasn’t well received at its public performance in 1855. A notice in The New York Times referred to ‘the usual defects of a young writer, among which may be enumerated length and solidarity’. Brahms had shared Clara Schumann’s desire for a different first movement and when, thirty-five years later, his new publisher asked if he would like to revise any of his works already in print, Brahms seized the opportunity. Despite his claiming, “I didn’t provide it with a new wig, just combed and arranged its hair a little”, the changes were radical: he shortened the work by about one-third, significantly modifying all but the scherzo.

Lasting nearly half of its total duration, the first movement is a massive sonata beginning with a beautiful theme in the cello, jarred by violent contrast and escalating into a mountain of dramatic development. A restless character dominates most of the trio from the first movement’s secondary themes to the brooding march of the scherzo to the wind-blown sweep of the final rondo. Typical of Brahms, the textures are thick, frequently juxtaposing the heavy romantic piano with the strings unified in a variety of parallel harmonies and symmetric counter motions. To counterbalance such weight the third movement is the lightest and is perhaps the most emotionally compelling. The soft musical meditation focusses primarily on the piano with echoing commentary by an ethereal chorus of strings. The Adagio, having benefitted greatly from a new second theme, opens with a disquieting theme introduced by the cello leading to a dramatic climax after which the piano presents a second equally restless theme. Following extensive development of these ideas the recapitulation and coda lead to a glorious sweeping conclusion, unusually in B minor and not the home key.

Formed in 2009, the London-based Fournier Piano Trio is rapidly emerging as one of the leading young piano trios. Winners of the 2013 Parkhouse Award they were awarded both 2nd Prize and Audience Prize at the 6th Trondheim International Chamber Music Competition in 2011. The trio has made critically acclaimed debuts
at both the Purcell Room and Wigmore Hall in London and in 2011 embarked on it’s first European Tour after their selection for ‘New Masters on Tour’ at the International Holland Music Sessions, the tour culminated in their debut at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw.

During the 2012 season the trio made appearances at the Bath International Music Festival, Newbury Spring Festival and Chichester Festivities and they toured Scotland extensively as part of their Tunnell Trust Award. In 2013 they made an appearance at the
Devizes Festival and toured Asia with concerts in Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia. This included a visit to Singapore’s Yong Siew Toh Conservatory to give masterclasses and perform in the ‘Ones to Watch’ Series.

David Takeno has been a continuous influence on the trio’s development since the formation of the ensemble. During the trio’s early years they were Leverhulme Chamber Music Fellows at the Royal Academy of Music where they worked with renowned pedagogues Thomas Brandis, Christopher Elton, Michael Dussek and Sung-Won
Yang in addition to their duties as mentors to student chamber groups.

Since 2011 the Fournier Trio have been ‘Artist-in-Residence’ at Wolfson College, University of Oxford where they continue to perform recitals and conduct masterclasses.

In addition to their recital performances throughout the UK, the trio have made regular visits to the Trondheim International Music Festival, in 2010 performing Faure’s Piano Quartet No.2 with Lawrence Power and in 2012 collaborating with Sir Peter Maxwell Davies in a
performance of his Piano Trio in addition to giving masterclasses.

The trio are passionate about contemporary music and have worked with leading British composers Gary Carpenter, Hugh Wood, Timothy Salter and Daniel Kidane to expand the piano trio repertoire. The trio plans to record their debut album later this year for USK Recordings,the disc will include Timothy Salter’s Piano Trio along side the Faure and Ravel Trios.

They have participated in masterclasses by Martin Lovett, Gabor Takacs-Nagy, Susan Tomes, Leif Ove Andsnes, Ralph Kirshbaum and Daniel Hope. The Fournier Trio are grateful to the Kirckman Concert Society, Park Lane Group and Philharmonia Orchestra MMSF for their support.


VOCES 8 performance photo

Thursday 18 June 2015
Programme entitled LUX

Haec Dies – William Byrd
Die Himmel erzählen die Ihre Gottes – Heinrich Schutz
Straighten Up and Fly Right – Nat King Cole and Irving Mills
I’ve Got the World on a String – Harold Arlen arr. Jim Clements
The Luckiest – Ben Folds arr. Jim Clements
Mother of God Here I Stand – John Tavener
Bogoroditse Devo – Sergei Rachmaninov
Jubilate Deo – Giovanni Gabrieli


Skyfall – Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
Ubi Caritas – Ola Gjeilo
Were You There – Trad. Spiritual arr. Bob Chilcott
Underneath the Stars – Kate Rusby arr. Jim Clements
Il Est Bel et Bon – Pierre Passereau
Fire! Fire! – Thomas Morley
Ain’t That a Kick in the Head – Jimmy Van Heusen
Mrs Robinson – Simon and Garfunkel
I Won’t Dance – Jerome Kern arr. Jim Clements
It Don’t Mean a Thing – Duke Ellington arr. Ben Parry

The arrival of the superb vocal octet VOCES8 was anticipated with great excitement by many, especially as they were not only to give a performance of their ‘LUX’ programme, (recently released as their second CD) but also to run a children’s workshop in the afternoon.

No-one was disappointed! The workshop was a great success as 50 children from Shaldon Primary school and Teignmouth Community College learnt how to warm up not only their voices but also their bodies and their brains – in a really fun way! All of the octet led sections of this and developed quickly a strong rapport with the children. The children also rehearsed their parts in the chorus of the Adele song ‘Skyfall’ which was added into the evening programme.

The evening began with a beautifully blended and lively performance of Byrd’s ‘Haec Dies’ followed by Schutz’s powerful ‘Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes’ with its imitative sections contrasting with the block chords sounding like brass instruments.

A change of programme here brought us ‘Straighten Up and Fly Right’, a Nat King Cole song with delicious harmonies and some elegant movement too. Harold Arlen’s ‘I’ve Got the World on a String’ with slick singing and movement came next and then ‘The Luckiest’ by Ben Folds in a beautiful and moving arrangement by Jim Clements.

Tavener’s ‘Mother of God Here I Stand’ was powerfully spiritual and the Rachmaninov ‘Bogoroditse Devo’ from his All-Night Vigil elicited a long held silence from the audience before applause seemed appropriate.

The first half ended with Giovanni Gabrielli’s ‘Jubilate Deo’, a wonderfully rousing piece with antiphonal sections and a resonating final chord.

‘Skyfall’ followed the interval and the children performed with confidence and obvious enjoyment, greatly encourage by their trainers. ‘Ubi Caritas’ by Gjeilo was fresh sounding and moved us from a melancholy mood to major resolution at the end. A lovely arrangement of the spiritual ‘Were you there’ and Kate Rusby’s ‘Underneath the Stars’ came next and then we were taken back to the 16th century for ‘Il est Bel et Bon’ by Passerau, amusingly explained and performed, and Morley’s Fire! Fire!.

‘Ain’t That a Kick in the Head’, a lovely slick smooth jazz number, complete with a resonant vocal bass and hi-hat, was our next treat, followed by the Simon and Garfunkel favourite ‘Mrs Robinson’. All too quickly the last two numbers, ‘I won’t dance’ (Jerome Kern) and ‘It don’t mean a thing’ (Duke Ellington) brought this wonderfully varied and entertaining concert to an end.

What a superbly talented group VOCES8 are, with the ability to sing equally well in any style, and to choreograph their performances with great skill and attention to detail (including matching shoes!), where appropriate. They are consummate artists, engaging teachers and hugely entertaining performers, and showed us all that music is music, whatever the genre. We loved it all!

Kate Hill-Art 22/6/15

“The singing of VOCES8 is impeccable in its quality of tone and balance. They bring a new dimension to the word ‘ensemble’ with meticulous timing and tuning.” Gramophone

The British vocal ensemble VOCES8 is now established as one of the most versatile and best-loved singing groups in the world. Touring extensively throughout Europe, North America and Asia, the ensemble performs a repertory from Renaissance polyphony to contemporary commissions and arrangements.

In recent seasons VOCES8 has performed at venues such as the Wigmore Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Cite de la Musique Paris, Tokyo Opera City, National Concert Hall Taipei, National Centre for the Performing Arts Beijing, Shanghai Concert Hall, Tel Aviv Opera House and Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall. Highlights of the 2014/2015 season include performances at Bozar Brussels, Lund Festival, Berliner Dom, Hamburg Laeiszhalle, Canterbury Festival, 3 Choirs Festival, Moscow International House of Music, the ACDA National Convention in Salt Lake City, return visits to Tokyo Opera City, Wigmore Hall, Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall, La Folle Journée France, and a debut tour of Canada.

Artistic collaborations have included the Philharmonia Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, period ensemble Les Inventions, violinist Hugo Ticciati and cellist Matthew Sharp. The group is delighted to commission renowned contemporary composers including Ola Gjeilo, Roxanna Panufnik, Alexander Levine, Eriks Esenvalds and Ben Parry, alongside Jim Clements as the ensemble’s Arranger in Residence.

With an ongoing programme of recordings and live broadcast, VOCES8 is heard regularly on international television and radio, including MPR, the BBC and Classic FM. VOCES8 is a Decca Classics Artist and will release its second album, ‘Lux’ this season. The debut album, ‘Eventide’, went straight to the top of the Classical Charts on its release. The ensemble has also recorded a series of award-winning discs for Signum Classics, with ‘A Purcell Collection’ released most recently in April 2014 (BBC Music Magazine Critics Choice). In 2013, the ensemble was nominated for seven CARA Awards, winning in the categories for Best Classical Album and Best Classical Song. VOCES8 is an Ambassador for Edition Peters with whom it publishes arrangements and educational material, including the ‘VOCES8 Songbook’ and the ‘VOCES8 Method’.

As the flagship ensemble of the charitable music foundation Voces Cantabiles Music (VCM), VOCES8 has an enviable reputation for its education work. The ensemble leads an innovative series of music education workshops reaching 20,000 people annually around the world with the aim of inspiring creativity and excellence through music. The innovative education work of VCM has received praise from UNESCO and since 2005 has raised £1 million towards music education in the UK. In 2013 VCM established the Gresham Centre in partnership with the Diocese of London, a vocal Centre for Excellence at Sir Christopher Wren’s beautiful St Anne & St Agnes Church in the City of London. This season VOCES8 continues as resident ensemble at Bedford School, Ardingly College, Bradfield College and The Grey Coat Hospital, and begins a new relationship with Birmingham University. It also leads the Milton Abbey Summer School.

VOCES8 has received support from Arts Council England, the Musicians Benevolent Fund and the Worshipful Company of Musicians. The group is also grateful for the support of official sponsor, T.M.Lewin.

Critics have showered VOCES8 with praise, celebrating their “radiant” and “luminous” sound, “imaginative theatricality” and spotlighting their “impressive stage presence”.
“The slickest of the lot…fans of a cappella ought to hear this.” CD Review, BBC Radio 3

“Eight beautifully integrated solo voices… Every number here has something particularly arresting within it, all supported by persuasive and committed singing.” BBC Music Magazine Choral and Song Choice, A Purcell Collection