Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Shaldon Festival 2017

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Innovation Chamber Ensemble

Choral Workshop and Informal Concert 2017 directed by Gavin Carr

Amatis Piano Trio

Julian Bliss Septet

Innovation Chamber Ensemble

Innovation Chamber Ensemble
Innovation Chamber Ensemble

Sunday 25 June 2017

Innovation Chamber Ensemble
David Le Page Violin
Catherine Leech Violin
Louise Williams Viola
Catherine Yates Viola
Richard Jenkinson Cello
Jessica Burroughs Cello
John Tattersdill Double bass

Schönberg: Verklärte Nacht
Mozart: Grand Sestetto Concertante in E Flat, K364
Richard Strauss: Metamorphosen

The Innovation Chamber Ensemble is a truly amazing ensemble that, through seemingly intuitive commitment to each other, engages their audience in a compellingly spellbinding musical journey.

Mention Schoenberg and the reaction is often tainted by thoughts of abstruse atonalism and squeaky gates! However, Verklarte Nacht (Transfigured Night) is a pre-Serial piece firmly within late Romanticism, yet hinting at things to come in terms of harmony and chromaticism. Schoenberg was a great admirer of Wagner and it is interesting to reflect that the opening few bars of the Prelude to Tristan and Isolde can be analyzed in terms of pure Serialism.

Programme music, usually the domain of a full orchestral palate, was given the intimacy that only a small ensemble can achieve through imperceptible nods and glances and the more overt passionate dialogue between the cello and violin. The group’s use of mutes and harmonics, expressing the shimmering beauty of the moonlight, brought the text to life transporting and transfixing us on this transfiguring evening of musical delight.

We moved from the 2nd Viennese School to the Vienna of Mozart and a tremendously clever arrangement of the Sinfonia Concertante in Eb. Close your eyes and the horns and oboes were there! Subtle gradations of tone and dynamics lifted the concertante violin and viola from the texture in the solo sections. Beautifully crafted interplay between the soloists, and astonishing unanimity within the group, in terms of little shifts of tempo and in exploiting the relatively new (at the time) concept of crescendo, made it an absolute joy!

In the darkest winter days of 1945, the Vienna State Opera had been obliterated and a month previously the Dresden Opera had been carpet-bombed into oblivion; this the venue of so many of Richard Strauss’ own premieres. Grief-stricken, Strauss set to work on the Metamorphosen.

Such huge sadness, pathos yet warmth, was conveyed by the faultless playing of each individual. Almost an equal partnership of roles within the immensely rich and sonorous scoring of this remarkable work brought out compassionate and selfless contributions from each member of the ensemble. Heart-wrenching unresolved suspensions, and the scotch-snap rhythmic device in the second theme, were all conferred with dignity and stunning musicality. As the final chord faded literally to nothing with breathtaking bow-control, the long reflective silence held us in awe of this incredible ensemble and a profoundly moving evening of music making.

Nigel Crabtree 26th June 2017

Innovation Chamber Ensemble
Strings from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

‘Amazingly rich and well-articulated sound quality is a significant feature of the Innovation Chamber Ensemble…The superb interaction between the Ice players in general is admirable making it possible for them to capture and convey every mood they might choose…’ (Birmingham Post)

The Innovation Chamber Ensemble was formed in 2002 by the principal string players of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra to make a unique ensemble who strive for performances of the highest calibre. This ‘conductor less’ group ranges in size to a maximum of sixteen string players and incorporates both enthusiasm and many years of experience from working with ‘worldclass’ musicians such as Sir Simon Rattle, Sakari Oramo and Andris Nelsons. Due to its versatility I.C.E. is able to perform in venues that would be impossible for the ensemble’s bigger cousin.

I.C.E. was launched to the world in September 2002 with concerts firstly in its orchestral home of the West Midlands and then at the Wigmore Hall in London. The Independent newspaper commented at the time that this was one of the top events to happen nationally in the U.K (second only to a new production of Siegfried). The concert in Birmingham also created major press and radio coverage and prompted Blue Rhythm Records to approach the group about recording the event live. This recording, titled ‘ICE ON FIRE’ is available with distribution to all major outlets and shops through Nova via Pinnacle, through the Britannia Music magazine and at www.bluerhythm.co.uk and innovationchamberensemble.co.uk.

The profile of the Ensemble has also been subsequently raised by significant coverage by both of the nation’s classical radio channels. Classic F.M. featured ‘ICE on Fire’ as CD of the week and also previewed many of the group’s concerts with interviews and features. The Innovation Chamber Ensemble has played ‘Live’ on B.B.C. Radio 3 and ICE on Fire’ has also received air time on BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 2, Saga and many regional radio stations. The group has also appeared on BBC 4 and the Creative Channel Network television. Articles about I.C.E. have appeared in the Strad, Musical Opinion and Classical Music magazines and Independent, Daily Mirror, Birmingham Post, Evening Mail and many local newspapers.

The group’s repertoire is hugely diverse and includes standards by Bach and Vivaldi and encapsulates the great Romantic masters as well as the 20th Century giants of Bartok, Britten, Stravinsky and Schönberg. I.C.E. is also firmly committed to the works of living composers. The two launch concerts featured works by Paul da Vinci alongside that giant of the light music field Robert Farnon (who after hearing the ICE recording of Song of Scandia penned Richard a lovely arrangement of Pictures in the Fire). Further premieres have included Colin Twig’s Echoes of Eternity (for cello & strings premiered in Birmingham and subsequently performed in Suffolk and 2007 Deal Festival) and Ivor McGregor’s Septet.

The groups concerts have included several performances at Wigmore Hall and performances at CBSO Centre, Birmingham, St Davids, Fishgaurd and Deal festivals (both 2007 & 2008), concerts in various parts of the country and a special relationship with the county of Shropshire where the group has appeared no less than five times in the last twelve months.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Grande Sestetto Concertante in E flat K364

Allegro maestoso

Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major for violin, viola and orchestra, K.364, was his most significant composition during 1779, a work from the transitional period leading up to his maturity. Nothing is known of the occasion for which it was written and the autograph score has disappeared. Only a few bars of the first movement and a sketch for a cadenza remain in Mozart’s hand so today we rely upon printed parts published by André in 1802. However, in 1808, a version for string sextet appeared with the composer’s name given as A.W. Mozart, with his initials reversed, and without acknowledgement of the arranger. It is possible that the autograph score was used to create this version for there are significant differences between it and the one published by André.

Mozart wrote for a scordatura viola, i.e. with the instrument tuned up a semitone above the usual tuning, placing it in D major, in order to solve the difficulties of tonal balance between the solo instruments. In the anonymously arranged sextet version great ingenuity was shown in re-allocating the solo lines between the six instruments and Mozart’s problem of balance was resolved by giving some of the viola passages to the first ‘cello. As if to compensate, the viola, instead of the violin, is allowed to open the finale. The orchestral parts are distributed amongst the instruments, and the cadenzas, too, are divided amongst the players, sometimes requiring the inclusion of additional material. The Grande Sestetto has now been edited by the well known harpsichordist, conductor and scholar Christopher Hogwood to provide an acceptable edition, with inconsistencies ironed out and alterations made, to make it compatible with modern performance practices.

The long first movement is remarkably full of thematic motifs maintaining a joyful mood. A dark hue pervades the Andante as it turns to the key of C minor. Deep emotions seem to be involved here and it has even been suggested that Mozart was paying tribute to his mother who had died during the previous year while she was accompanying him to Paris. With a return to happier thoughts the Presto finale brings a lighthearted Rondo based on lively dance tunes.

Programme notes provided by John Dalton, February 2008, courtesy of Making Music.

Richard Strauss: Metamorphosen
Adagio – agitato – adagio

Strauss composed this unusual piece, a study for 23 solo strings, in 1945. The war was nearly over, and the Allies were advancing through a defeated and dispirited Germany. Metamorphosen can be seen as a lament by the 81-year-old Strauss for his fallen country and its vanished past.

Although Strauss made a version of this piece for string septet, the work, in the form in which we most often hear it, is scored for ten violins, five violas, five ‘cellos and three double basses. It variously features solo instruments, groups of strings, and the whole 23-piece orchestra. The piece is built up on six themes, divided into two groups of three. These themes undergo considerable development and transformations – the metamorphoses of the title – to produce an elaborate texture in which instrumental groups contrast with each other and from which lyrical solo passages now and then emerge.

The work is tinged with desolate tragedy from the very outset, as two violins present the despondent opening theme. This is followed by a progression of sad chords that remind the listener of the Funeral March from Beethoven’s Eroica symphony. The reminder is not coincidental, for at the very end of this bleak work, these chords come back as a counterpoint to the actual music from Beethoven’s symphony.

A Swiss ensemble, the Collegium Musicum, under their conductor, the great Paul Sacher, premièred Metamorphosen in Zürich in 1946. At the end of the score, the composer had written two words: In memoriam – a reference surely to the Germany that he knew was gone forever.

Programme notes provided by William Gould, May 2000, courtesy of Making Music

Choral Workshop and Informal Concert 2017 directed by Gavin Carr

Gavi Carr
Gavin Carr

Choral Workshop
Saturday 24 June 2017

Elgar: Dream of Gerontius
Conductor: Gavin Carr
Piano: Peter Adcock
Mezzo Soprano: Alison Kettlewell
Tenor: Jonathan Stoughton
Bass: Piran Legg
Edward Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38

Elgar’s masterpiece The Dream of Gerontius is a complex and demanding work that tests its performers in many ways. It is to the credit of the Shaldon Festival Choir that their rendition during the 2017 Shaldon Festival was confident and crisp, with some beautiful and remarkable moments.

Conductor Gavin Carr was passionate and forceful in equal measure, driving the music when necessary and letting it flow at other times. His immense experience and humour were expertly channelled, encouraging the singers to give of their best. There were sonorous bass lines and soaring soprano lines. The “demons” were scary and there was tumult when it was demanded – Carr shaking with a passion that clearly found its way from podium to chorus.

Pianist Peter Adcock was outstanding – a delight to listen to. His rendition of the substantial Prelude created a sombre and serene ambience – perfect for the emotions that were to follow.

Tenor Jonathan Stoughton (Gerontius) has the nature of a singer accustomed to Wagnerian roles. Despite a throat infection, he produced a faultless performance – dramatic and emotional throughout. Clearly below par, he dealt with the problem and his composure was impressive.

Alison Kettlewell (Angel) sang with fervour revealing an extraordinarily rich, resonant mezzo soprano voice. The role demands a wide range of emotions which she produced with panache. The balance between tenor and soprano in the conversational sections was engaging and the dialogue effective.

Piran Legg (Priest/Angel of Agony) was excellent. His baritone voice produced powerful tones, especially in the higher passages, and clear expression throughout. Still early in his career, he showed great promise.

Workshop performances such as this will always contain aspects that may be deemed less than fully polished but on this occasion none of these detracted from a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Richard Lamming
27 June

Dream of Gerontius

This work had its first performance at the Birmingham Festival of 1900, but ‘performance’ may be too strong a word, for it was badly rehearsed and hardly comprehended by most of the performers and listeners. Yet Elgar on finishing it could write without boastfulness: “This is the best of me”; and this, despite subsequent masterworks, has remained the opinion of many. Elgar in an interview for the Musical Times of October 1900 said that the poem by John Henry Newman, out of which he had selected the libretto, had been “soaking in my mind for at least eight years.” The subtle and many-faceted interweaving of the large modern symphony orchestra and the voices – themselves sometimes verging on the instrumental – removed at one great step English festival-choral music from its Handelian and Mendelssohnian tradition.

The opening Prelude is a successive experience of leading themes wonderfully scored, especially in the highly elaborate string parts (thanks to Elgar the violinist) and in the writing for low flutes when those strings are muted to begin the uneasy berceuse representing the fitful sleep of Gerontius on his death-bed.

Conspicuous in the opening solo is the very soft multiple division of the strings – once into no less than eighteen parts – for the “emptying out of each constituent and natural force.” The first choral sound is the prayer of Gerontius’s friends: Kyrie Eleison on the unaccompanied semi-chorus, with the main chorus, soberly accompanied by divided violas and ‘cellos, amplifying the prayer with their petitions. The solo ‘set piece’ in this first part is Gerontius’s Sanctus fortis ranging through many moods and serving both as prayer and declaration of faith. Within it are heard not only the multiple-strings ‘disintegration’ chords but also a presentiment of the devilish music of the second part. The graphic silence at Gerontius’s death speaks for itself. It is broken by the trombones and the bass-solo priest wending the soul on its way with the injunction Proficiscere anima Christiana, an idea taken up in stately climax by the full power of chorus and orchestra, then going on in an ascending, consoling march towards the next world, with the opening prayer almost the last thing to be heard.

Part II begins with a tender evocation by muted strings of the new world in which Gerontius finds himself (not an accidental in sight for eighteen bars!) The “heart-subduing melody” that he hears is a presage of the Angel’s alleluia refrain, which in its turn has its own beautiful refrain on the horns. The opening ‘question and answer’ dialogue of Gerontius and his guardian angel leads to a number of ever-bigger musical paragraphs: first a euphonious duet (“a presage falls upon me”), then the extended and bitter snarls of the demons in chorus, and to cap all, the tremendous apotheosis of Newman’s great hymn Praise to the Holiest. Shortly after its close comes the intercession of the Angel of the Agony, with soft Wagnerian brass in its accompaniment. Thereafter there is the searing exposure to God’s glance where at Elgar’s direction every instrument must for one moment exert its fullest force. The work reaches its serene end with the Angel’s farewell to the soul of Gerontius as it is consigned to purgatory (“Softly and gently”). The Angel’s solo is combined with prayers on earth and the angelic voices singing Praise to the Holiest in the distant height.

Programme notes provided by Ivor Keys, November 2010, courtesy of Making Music.

Gavin Carr
Biography 2016

With his trademark humour allied to deep vocal expertise and enormous experience in the choral world, Gavin Carr is now recognised as one of the UK’s leading choral conductors. Currently Chorus Master of the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus (BSC), and Music Director of Bath Minerva Choir, he is a guest conductor with the BBC Symphony Chorus and the Philharmonia Chorus. Founder-director of Chorus Angelorum, his recordings of his brother Paul Carr’s Requiem for an Angel and other major choral works have reached a world-wide audience. A choral scholar at King’s College, Cambridge before commencing an international career as a baritone, he has appeared at festivals across the globe, premiered numerous works, and performed with leading opera companies including English National Opera. Taking up conducting in 2001 and after a period as assistant conductor at the Wexford Festival and at the Cantiere d’arte di Montepulciano, he made his operatic conducting debut with an acclaimed production of La Tragédie de Carmen at the 2007 Wexford Festival. In 2011 he was invited to found the elite new Wexford Festival Opera Chorus to nurture the best young global talent, and led the chorus to enormous critical acclaim. He made his debut with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in 2011 for the Cheltenham Festival in the major new oratorio, Not in our Time by Richard Blackford, the recording of which reached the top of the classical charts. With Bath Minerva Choir he premiered his brother Paul Carr’s Seven Last Words from the Cross to great acclaim; other conducting projects include Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess with Sir Willard White and South West Festival Chorus, gala performances of the St Matthew Passion with The Parley of Instruments and the English Chamber Orchestra, the annual Good Friday Passions in the Lighthouse with the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, and a highly successful conducting debut on the continent in 2013 with the Bremen Philharmoniker in concert with the BSC in the German premiere of Not in our Time.

A notable debut for him in 2013 was conducting the BSC with celebrated jazz ensemble Panacea in the world-premiere of Robert Mitchells’ jazz-fusion masterpiece Invocation, for the London Jazz Festival at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The 2014-15 season saw him conduct his first Mahler 8 Symphony of a Thousand with his Bournemouth and Bath forces; in 2015 he stepped in at the last minute to conduct Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera for Dorset Opera, the success of which led to a re-engagement for 2016 to conduct Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, which garnered excellent reviews from the national press. That season also saw his first War Requiem with the Bournemouth forces, James Gilchrist, Stephan Loges and Svetlana Kasyan in a memorable WWI Centenary Remembrance Day performance. He has sung its baritone solos all over the world, in the UK, in Santiago de Chile, with the Novaya Opera in Moscow, and most recently with the celebrated Estonian Philharmonic Orchestra in Talinn. Other recent singing engagements include Berlioz and Schoenberg with the Flanders Symphony Orchestra in Belgium and London, and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with Bath Philharmonia. He has conducted the Indian Symphony Orchestra in Mumbai and Goa in Messiah, and returned there in 2014 with the BSC in Verdi’s Requiem. Future concerts are planned in India for 2018. In 2016 he became a guest conductor with the BBC Symphony Chorus, and will work with them on several projects in the 2016-17 season. He leads choral workshops throughout the UK, notably at Hawkwood College in the Cotswolds, and leads choir tours abroad (China, Cyprus, France, India, Italy, and the USA in recent years) on a regular basis. As well as conducting and singing, he has begun composing again after a long hiatus, and in 2014 premiered his WWI commemorative choral-orchestral cantata Pour out your light, O stars with William Dazeley, Bath Minerva Choir and Southern Sinfonia to considerable acclaim in Bath Abbey.

Amatis Piano Trio

Amatis Piano Trio
Amatis Piano Trio

Friday 23 June 2017
Amatis Piano Trio
Violin Lea Hausmann
Cello Samuel Shepherd
Piano Mengjie Han

Beethoven: ‘Gassenhauer’ Piano Trio, Op.11
Shostakovich: Piano Trio No.1, Op.8
Suk: Elegie Op.23
Mendelssohn: Piano Trio No.1

Concert Review
The second concert of this year’s Shaldon Festival was given by the Amatis Piano Trio. The trio was founded in 2013 and has won many awards and prizes, in particular, the 2015 Parkhouse Award. To see and hear them perform is to understand why.

The concert opened with Beethoven’s “Gassenhauer-Trio”, a work originally conceived for a trio with a clarinet instead of the violin but which the composer later arranged for piano trio. This delightful, three-movement piece allowed the trio to demonstrate their individual musicality as well as the rapport they achieve in their ensemble playing.

This was followed by the short, early Shostakovich Piano Trio No. 1 in C Minor, Op.8 which was notable for the insight it gave into the composer’s later work. There were calm, lyrical sections as well as hints of the angry and troubled man he was to become. This is exactly the kind of music at which the Amatis trio excels. The lyrical sections were warm and delicate and the whole piece was played with great panache.

The second half began with Suk’s Elegie. The delicate melodies and impassioned episodes demonstrated that the trio was perfectly integrated, communicating intuitively.

The final piece on the programme was the Trio in D minor, Op. 49 No. 1 by Mendelssohn. This is a substantial work and is highly typical of the composer. The opening molto allegro agitato allowed the trio to display their expert virtuosity whilst the gentle, pensive andante con moto tranquillo allowed the violin and the ’cello to display a range of emotions and the piano to draw the movement to a gentle close. The enormously demanding scherzo allowed all three members to demonstrate their individual technical brilliance as well as their coordination as an ensemble. The Finale was spell-binding and left us all exhilarated.

At the end of the concert, the persistence of the audience was rewarded with an encore. The Amatis Trio played a movement from Ástor Piazzolla’s Estaciones Porteñas (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires). It was quite clear that the members of the trio derived just as much enjoyment from playing this as we did from listening to it!

The Amatis Trio clearly have a great future ahead. They play with such poise and brilliance and are perfectly balanced and coordinated. It is no surprise to learn that they are members of the BBC’s New Generation Artists scheme. We look forward to seeing more of them in the future.

Christopher Morris

Amatis Piano Trio

The Amatis Piano Trio was founded in Amsterdam in 2013 by German violinist Lea Hausmann, British cellist Samuel Shepherd and Dutch/Chinese pianist Mengjie Han, winning the Parkhouse Award in 2015.

In April 2016 the Amatis Piano Trio won second prize and audience prize at the International Joseph Joachim Chamber Music Competition in Weimar which was followed immediately by a tour of Hong Kong and Indonesia. The trio has performed extensively throughout Europe and has appeared at many festivals including Salzburg Chamber Music Festival, Grachtenfestival Amsterdam, Beethoven Festival Bonn, Utrecht Chamber Music Festival and Festival Pablo Casals in France.

In 2015 the trio became the youngest finalists of the International Chamber Music Competition ‘Schubert und die Musik der Moderne’ in Graz and shortly after were named ‘Dutch Classical Talent 2015/16. The trio has been part of the European Chamber Music Academy since 2015.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Trio in B flat, Op.11
Allegro con brio
Tema: ‘Pria ch’io l’impegno

Although Beethoven wrote this B flat Trio for the virtuoso Bohemian clarinettist Joseph Beer, it was also published in an alternative version with the violin replacing the clarinet. It dates from 1796 or 1797. Despite the composer having arrived at an early stage of maturity, the piece has the fresh spontaneity of an earlier work and has no illusions of profundity. A bold, arresting statement opens the piece, announcing a number of themes which make up the first group. Two powerful chords bring this section to a close, allowing the clarinet/violin to introduce the second theme. The listener may be fooled by a couple of false endings before the movement finally comes to a conclusion. An expressive cantabile melody opens the Adagio in which the ‘cello is highlighted. The same instrument also announces the second theme with an ascending scale, to which the clarinet/violin replies.

The final movement is a set of variations on the aria Pria ch’io l’impegno from Joseph Weigl’s opera L’amor Marinaro (The Corsair). This was a well known and popular tune, or Gassenhauer, from which the trio obtained its nickname. Why this theme should have been chosen is a mystery. Some accounts credit its suggestion to the publisher, and others to Joseph Beer. Whatever the truth, it seems that Beethoven was not happy with it, either because he had not been informed of its source, or because he disputed its suitability as a subject for variations. Despite his doubts the listener cannot fail to be amused and delighted by these witty essays on a gay, attractive melody.

Programme notes provided by John Dalton, June 2010, courtesy of Making Music

Dmitri Shostakovich: Piano Trio No. 1 in C minor, Op.8

Shostakovich was born in St. Petersburg/Petrograd/Leningrad. The changing names reflect the turbulent background to his early life, with war, revolutions and deprivation: but not the relatively happy family circle, both bourgeois and radical, in which he was brought up. His musical propensities were recognised in his early years, and by the age of 13 he was admitted to the St. Petersburg Conservatoire to study piano and composition. In 1921, he had already suffered from malnutrition, and Glazunov, the Principal of the Conservatoire, had requested extra rations for him. By the spring of 1923, when he graduated with honours in piano, he was again suffering from malnutrition and from tuberculosis and was sent to spend the summer in a sanatorium in the Crimea. He was not yet 17: but while recuperating there, he sketched his First Symphony which was to bring him instant fame three years later and he composed the Piano Trio No. 1.

Ian Macdonald, in his splendid book The New Shostakovich, says that this work preserved “a vein of escapist romance”, subsequently lost, which he attributes to St. Petersburg itself, a “city to inspire fantasy”, especially in a boy with “an acute sensitivity to atmosphere”. There was more to it than that: romance itself, in the shape of a girl he had met while convalescing that summer, Tanya Glivenko who became his fiancée. This Trio is dedicated to her.

Felix Mendelssohn: Piano Trio No.1 in D minor, Op.49

Molto allegro ed agitato
Andante con moto tranquillo
Scherzo (leggiero e vivace)
Finale (allegro assai appassionato)

The rich melodies in which the D minor Trio abounds owe much to Mendelssohn’s travels in Italy during his youth. They are surprisingly lyrical for a work in a minor key. But then this piece spends little time in that mode, and though parts of it are stormy in character, none of it is really sombre. The part-writing is generally finely balanced, with no instrument being particularly favoured. It is worth noting, however, that Hiller, who wanted to play the work himself, prevailed upon Mendelssohn to make the piano part virtuosic, exploiting the techniques recently pioneered by Liszt and Chopin. It is to Mendelssohn’s credit that he did not make the piano part too showy and allowed it to blend into the trio’s texture.

The first movement carries the marking molto allegro ed agitato – very lively and agitated. It is as accurate a way as any of describing the mood of this free-ranging yet emotionally tense three-in-a-measure music. The first subject is presented immediately by the ‘cello, accompanied by the piano whose part is full of off-the-beat chords, which seems to inhibit the fluidity of a theme that wants to flow gracefully but cannot. The violin joins the other two instruments to elaborate on this opening material, and the passion increases. Tensions relax as we go into the much more lyrical second subject in a major key. The three instruments sing romantically for a brief time before the storm of turbulent emotions returns. The development consists largely of the re-presentation of these two ideas with little transformation but with a subtle attention to the variations afforded by different combinations of instruments. The ‘cello and violin pursue the first subject through a pattern of related keys – A minor, D minor and G minor – and in a moment of magic they stop to allow the piano alone to present the second. It is an oasis of calm. As the development progresses, a dialogue is established between the strings singing the second subject in unison and the piano, which continues the contrasting, disturbed mood. The recapitulation, predictably prepared by Mendelssohn, contains some deviations from the exposition, one of the most interesting being a brief cadenza for the piano. In the extended coda, the piano part flashes with tricky runs in music that remains stormy in character right to the end of the movement.

The piano opens the lovely lullaby-like Andante in B flat with a lilting theme. The strings are initially confined to echoing the piano’s material. But passion is never far away. The central section in B flat minor features all three instruments in agitated mood again. But the mood of tranquillity specified in the movement marking returns, as with variations in instrumentation the movement repeats the opening material and draws to a quiet close. The triple-time Scherzo is thoroughly imbued with the same spirit as that which permeates Mendelssohn’s incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The music of this blithe movement in D major skips along with cheerful abandon. The trio section of this scherzo is hardly discernible – indeed, it’s a moot point whether it is there at all, since all we detect is a slightly disturbed developmental episode in the middle of the movement, which in no way slackens pace and is soon back in its carefree mood once more to end with the lightest of treads.

The fervent first subject of the finale shows in its rhythm a passing resemblance to a theme from Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet, but its urgent character is distinctive. The second subject, in the relative major key of F, more closely accords with classical sonata form than did the first movement. This second subject is again a lyrical and romantic theme, but one that is more ecstatic than the second theme of the opening allegro. The music builds to a climax as it moves into the development section. A magic moment here comes with a new idea in B flat, a yearning theme heard first in the ‘cello alone, then in both strings. The music’s passion once more grows with a return to the home key and the opening motif of the first subject. The movement becomes ever more ecstatic. The second subject is foreshadowed in B flat and then presented in the glorious key of D major. The ending of the work is a marvellously triumphant apotheosis of the material upon which this wonderful finale is based.

Programme notes provided by William Gould, January 2000, courtesy of Making Music

Julian Bliss Septet

Julian Bliss Septet
Julian Bliss Septet

Thursday 22 June 2017

Julian Bliss clarinet
Martin Shaw trumpet
Neal Thornton piano
Colin Oxley guitar
Tim Thornton bass
Chris Draper drums
Will Fry percussion

Programme: Latin Programme
Um a zero: Alfredo da Rocha Viana, Jr.
At the Mambo Inn : Mario Bauzá
La Paloma: Sebastián Iradier
Oblivion: Astor Piazzolla
Paquito’s Samba: Paquito D’Rivera
Brasileirinho: Waldir Azevedo
Seresta: Hank Levy
Samba for Carmen: Paquito D’Rivera
A Night in Tunisia: Dizzy Gillespie
Tico tico: Zequinha de Abreu
Besame mucho: Consuelo Velázquez
Happy Mambo:
Tin tin deo: Luciano Pozo González and Dizzy Gillespie
Manhã de Carnaval: Luiz Bonfá
Libertango: Astor Piazzolla
Y la negra bailaba: Ernesto Lecuona
Stella va a estallar: Victor Young adapted by Chucho Valdes and Irakere
Samba d’Oerfeu: Luiz Bonfá
Caprichosas de la Habana: Arturo Sandoval

Julian Bliss Septet Review

LATIN JAZZ came to St Peter’s in Shaldon, to a packed church. The Julian Bliss Septet took us to every aspect and area of Latin music, explaining the different influences, e.g. Brazil, Mexico, Spain, and of course the sounds of Afro-Cubans and Puerto Ricans who came to the United States after the war.

The Septet was beautifully balanced with a wonderful Latin rhythm section from Chris Draper on drums and Will Fry on bongos, Julian Bliss on clarinet sounding very much like Benny Goodman, who was also classically trained, Neal Thornton’s Latin style piano which would be at home in any Brazilian bar, Martin Shaw on trumpet giving a lovely modern sound to La Paloma, and backing all this was the guitar and bass playing of Tim Thornton and laid back guitar of Colin Oxley, a perfect Latin sound.

Although many audience members were newcomers to a live jazz event it was clear they were all enjoying the evening, partly because the Band took the trouble to explain the music and the historical relevance of the play list.

Latin jazz has always been popular because of its rhythms and relaxed feel; in the Sixties Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd made Bossa Nova popular all over the world, but this Shaldon Festival gave it a further boost. Well done!

Jim Stevens
Teignmouth Jazz

“Bliss is capable of swinging mightily and adapting his formidable technique to the task at hand.” The Jazz Times

The Julian Bliss Septet have performed across Europe at leading venues and festivals including London’s Wigmore Hall, the legendary Ronnie Scott’s and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

Live and on record, the Julian Bliss Septet recreate the exciting sound of swing from the 30’s and 40’s in A Tribute to Benny Goodman. Julian Bliss leads his sextet through some of the great tunes of the swing era, staying true to the authentic feel but with a modern twist.

Julian became enamoured with the performances of Benny Goodman at the age of seven, and in 2010 decided to form a group to perform Goodman’s music.

The album “A Tribute to Benny Goodman” was recorded in 2011 and released on Signum Records in June 2012 to critical acclaim from both jazz and classical reviewers. For live performances, Julian Bliss and pianist Neal Thornton offer an unbiased point of view about the work of Benny Goodman, talking the audience through the music and sharing anecdotes and stories about Goodman’s life, all delivered with humour.

Following the success of “Julian Bliss and the King of Swing”, Julian turns his attention to the rich world of Latin American music. Dominated by the influences of Cuba and Brazil, this musical heritage stretches back over 200 years with popular styles ranging from the elegant Rumba to the wildly exciting Samba.

The Julian Bliss Septet made their US tour debut in 2015 to sold-out audiences and received rave reviews throughout.

Julian Bliss biography
Julian Bliss is one of the world’s finest clarinettists excelling as a concerto soloist, chamber musician, jazz artist, masterclass leader and tireless musical explorer. He has inspired a generation of young players as guest lecturer and creator of his Leblanc Bliss range of affordable clarinets, and introduced a substantial new audience to his instrument.

Born in the U.K., Julian started playing the clarinet age 4, going on to study in the U.S. at the University of Indiana and in Germany under Sabine Meyer. The breadth and depth of his artistry are reflected in the diversity and distinction of his work. In recital and chamber music he has played at most of the world’s leading festivals and venues including Gstaad, Mecklenburg Vorpommern, Verbier, Wigmore Hall (London) and Lincoln Centre (New York). As soloist, current performances include concerts with the Sao Paolo Symphony, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of Paris, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Auckland Philharmonia and London Philharmonic.

Recent album releases receiving rave reviews from critics, album of the week spots and media attention, include his recording of Mozart and Nielsen’s Concertos with the Royal Northern Sinfonia. Recent chamber discs include a new piece for clarinet & string quartet by David Bruce – Gumboots – inspired by the gumboot dancing of miners in South Africa, and a recital album of Russian and French composers with American pianist, Bradley Moore.