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<<  -- 2 --  Bill Newman    A SPECIAL NIGHT


In the absence of Oliver Davies' copious and highly-informed programme notes, one would have needed an Artists' Encyclopaedia alongside. Such is the profusion of clarinet virtuosi inspired by or working under the direct supervision of the various composers, that the importance of a guideline to the music itself and the links to schools, styles and changing fashions becomes apparent.

A Mosaic in Ten Pieces (with Dedication) by Richard Henry Walthew (1872-1951), a pupil of Parry and Stanford at the RCM, was written for his father-in-law Roderick Mackenzie Moore, an amateur clarinettist. The 'dedication', by the way, comes from Walthew's own setting of Keats' Ode to a Nightingale. The measured strands take on a more complex character as this short piece progresses, providing a good starting point to the recital.

The five songs by Pauline Viardot (1821-1910), instead of breaking the spell of golden-spun instrumental lines, provided their own rich sheen of emotions linked with the forces of nature. Viardot, a fine singer and composer, was married to the French Director of Théatre Italien, so was possessed of a finely-attuned appreciation towards poetic texts, in these instances written by Maistre, Turgenev and Pushkin sometime between 1850 and 1880. As salient points one could detect the piano rhythms, motives and textures of Schubert (Gretchen am Spinnrade) and other romantics, but this is to be expected. Otherwise, the voice settings are couched with a true, unmawkish attitude to the poetic meanings within the texts, and beautifully balanced mostly to the simple but effective piano accompaniment. The song titles were Hai luli!, Sinitsa (The Tit), Tsvetok (The Little Flower), Potessi Diventar (Would I could become a little bird!) and Cana Española.

Max Reger's Sonata in F sharp minor Op 49 No 2 (1900) is fortunately not bound up with the fugal-counterpoint development meanderings that stultify both listeners and performers into a state of immobility. It compares instead with late-Brahms (the Op 120 Sonatas and Quintet) and had the blessings of Johann Kürmeyer and Adalbert Lindner bestowed on it at its première. I like the latter's comment : '... [it] shows even greater richness in the invention, a more meaningful strength of form and greater thematic compactness. The work ... ever breaks new ground.' Wow! The sublime passions shown by parties to this performance caught no fresh displays of amazement from the devoted audience.

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Copyright © 15 April 2004 Bill Newman, Edgware UK


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