3rd May 2017
Norman Sennington (Chairman) had kindly volunteered to present this programme of our choices. As he said, he enjoyed seeing other people’s choices. There was something of a shortfall, which he made up with some selections of his own. He started with an organ work that Heather had had to omit from her programme for reasons of time. As she would have said then:
“Early last year we visited both of Liverpool’s Cathedrals. Both really interesting buildings, great contrast. Didn’t hear either organ playing but when I got back I looked out a CD I had of organ music. The point of a cathedral organ (for me) is loud music, and the tracks from the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral were all a bit….muted: so I put the CD away again. However in October we went to Canterbury Cathedral for the first time (where it really went against the grain that there was an entry charge of £12.00 plus per person!) and I remembered the CD had some grand music played on that organ.
“Here is Scherzo in G minor by Mario Enrico Bossi (1861-1925). His father and his son were also composers and organists.”
It was played on the organ at Canterbury Cathedral by Alan Wicks.
It was followed by Ivan’s choice, and as so often he had come up with something unfamiliar. An opera by Francois-Joseph Gossec, 1734 to 1829: The Triumph of the Republic, first performed in 1793. We heard three short extracts, which Norman had chosen being given a free hand by Ivan, from Scene 2. (Ivan himself was at a special celebration with his wife.) The role of Thomas was sung by Makato Sakurada, tenor, (and Norman noted it is unusual to hear a Japanese opera singer), with Salome Haller, soprano, and Coro della Radio Svizzera Lugano, Coro Calicantus, I Barochisti and Diego Fasolis.
Norma’s choice came next, the much loved Trout Quintet by Schubert, the first movement. The Trout Quintet is the popular nickname for the Piano Quintet in A, D667, as the fourth movement is a theme and variations on Schubert’s song Die Forelle. It was composed in 1819, when he was 22 years old, but it was not published until 1829, a year after his death.
Rather than the usual line up of piano and string quartet, it is written for piano, violin, viola, cello and double bass. The composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel had arranged his own septet for the same instrumentation and the Trout was actually written for a group of musicians coming together to play Hummel’s work.
It was played here by members of the Kodaly Quartet, with Istvan Toth on double bass and Jeno Jando on piano.
Like Ivan, Rosalie often finds something new for us to hear, as she often does at Christmas. Unfortunately, she was unable to be present this evening, but she had nominated an interesting piece: the Canzone by Bruch. Literally “song” it was written for cello and orchestra but was played here to lovely effect by Sergei Nakariakov on the trumpet. As Rosalie had written “It’s a beautiful melody, even more plaintive when played by brass”. The Philharmonia was conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy.
Mike had elected Gottschalk his Misere du Trovatore, a operatic paraphrase for piano of Verdi’s opera. It was played by the Gottschalk specialist Philip Martin. Gottschalk uses a device perfected by his contemporary, Sigismond Thalberg, of playing the melody with the thumbs freeing up the fingers for ornate decoration.
On 30th March, our local cinema had shown by direct relay from the Royal Opera House, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, in a memorable performance directed by Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier, with Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho as Butterfly and Argentinian tenor Marcelo Puente as Pinkerton, conductor Antonio Pappano. Norman had seen it and said it had been a treat. He had chosen a recording of the Act I Love Duet, with Angela Gheorghiu and Jonas Kaufman. The Orchestra and Coro Dell’ Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia also conducted by Antonio Pappano. (A recording from 2009.)
Ann had nominated Gerald Finzi’s Clarinet Concerto, Op 31. We heard the First Movement, played by Robert Plane, with the Northern Sinfonia conducted by Howard Griffiths.
Alan Lott, who is due to give us a presentation next year, was unable to be present but he had also made a selection. Unfortunately, his preferred choice – the famous minuet by Boccherini – was not available that evening but we heard a movement from the same composer’s Cello Concerto, No. 2 in D, G479, played by Tim Hugh, cello, and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Anthony Halstead. [A cynic might have noted that all four concerti on this disc have movements of almost identical length!]
Having run out of suggestions received, Norman chose the next few pieces. From Rosalie’s CD, No Limit, Nakariakov playing the Meditation from Thais by Massenet, also arranged for trumpet.
He also reverted to Mike’s CD of Gottschalk with a rather more energetic piece, Souvenir d’Andalousie. It is a piece that uses traditional dance patterns, including that used by Ernesto Lecuona in his Malaguena.
Norman recalled that earlier in the year there had been some discussion about Florence Foster Jenkins, about whom a film had appeared last year. She was, it may be recalled, the wealthy socialite who thought she was an opera singer. Stephen Frears, who directed the film, researched by watching films of her performing and had said: “You’re laughing and she touches you. It’s inherently ridiculous and courageous at the same time.” This was a recording originally made for Melotone Studios, (and financed by Jenkins) between 1941 and 1944, of Adele’s Laughing Song from Strauss’s Die Fledermaus. It was not easy to listen to!
Another Strauss closed our evening – Richard Strauss and At Gloaming, from his Four Last Songs, sung by Gundula Janowitz, with the Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by Herbert von Karajan.