A fresh look at Debussy’s La Mer

One of the more exciting pieces in the programme by the Linos Piano Trio on 18 June will be a rather exceptional performance of Debussy’s ‘La Mer’. Those of you who know Debussy’s impressionistic masterpiece will be only too aware that this is a piece for huge orchestral forces. So what is this all about? Nicholas Keyworth has been investigating…

British composer Sally Beamish has written much successful chamber, vocal, choral and orchestral music. She has also worked in the field of music theatre, film and television, as well as composing for children and for her local community.

In 2012, Trio Apaches were performing Sally’s The Seafarer at the Lincoln International Chamber Music Festival. They asked her to consider creating an arrangement of Debussy’s La Mer for piano trio, as a companion piece to The Seafarer.

Sally Beamish

Sally Beamish

Her initial reaction was an unequivocal NO. Sally had already arranged some early Debussy pieces for cello and orchestra, for Steven Isserlis a few years earlier describing it as:

‘one of the hardest things I’ve ever done – and it took me twice as long as it would have done to write an original concerto!’

However, after a good deal of pursuasion, she agreed despite being a daunting prospect. Watch this fascinating discussion about creating this arrangement with Sally Beamish and Trio Apaches pianist, Ashley Wass:

And it wasn’t a simple case of giving all the tunes to the violin, the base line to the cello and the accompaniment to the piano. Very often, Beamish had to give Debussy’s string lines to the piano, so that the violin and cello could sustain the wind melodies. At other times she used the cello to sustain a bass resonance, and gave a cello solo to the violin.

It reminded me of a particularly tricky game of Sudoku – you changed one instrumentation, and another no longer worked.

It turned out to be an illuminating and stimulating journey, and made her think about instrumentation in a new and more creative way.

I’m profoundly glad I said ‘yes’ in the end!’

“a magical rethink that unashamedly shrinks Debussy’s grand evocations down to a more intimate scale, but loses nothing of La Mer’s power and detail” – The Scotsman

Linos Piano Trio

Linos Piano Trio

“Sally Beamish has produced a colossal, creative masterpiece” – The Herald

Sally Beamish’s arrangement of La Mer was first performed in 2013 and recorded in 2014. You can hear it alongside Schubert’s mighty Piano trio in Eb and  the Sorceror’s Apprentice by Dukas on Sunday 18 June at the glorious Pump Room.

500 years of music for Queen Elizabeth

The next concert from Bath Recitals features beautiful music spanning 500 years from the time of Queen Elizabeth the First to our present Queen Elizabeth the Second.

Some of the most wonderful music from the time of Queen Elizabeth I starts the concert with music by John Sheppard, Thomas Tallis, William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons. But then we are transported forward in time to our own period and to some of the music written during the long reign our very own Queen Elizabeth II.

Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II

Director Tom Hammond-Davies tell us:

‘One on the connecting threads here are the words of William Shakespeare who lived under the patronage of Queen Elizabeth I. Yet it was his words which inspired so many composers during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II from Benjamin Britten to Vaughan Williams and John Rutter.’

One of the more unusual highlights will be from the great British jazz pianist George Searing with Spring. The composer of over 300 titles, including the jazz standard Lullaby of Birdland, many people will be surprised to hear that Shearing also wrote a series of settings of Shakespeare Sonnets including this exquisite piece in this captivating choral arrangement.

Gloriana! is the title for his fascinating programme which was included in the Blenheim Singers’ 2016 tour to Frankfurt, Bavaria and the Alsace under their Director, Tom Hammond-Davies – and with a hugely positive reception wherever they went.

Each item is introduced by a different member of the choir giving a more personal insight into the music and to the poetry to which it is set.

The Blenheim Singers perform Gloriana! at the Bath’s Old Theatre Royal on 6 May at 7.30pm.

Blenheim Singers: Gloriana!

Music and poetry from the reign of Queen Elizabeth I

Saturday 6 May, 7.30pm
Old Theatre Royal, Bath

Blenheim Singers

The next concert in the 2017 Bath Recitals series is a glorious programme celebrating the composers and writers who flourished under the patronage of Queen Elizabeth I. The arts were central to her long and peaceful reign when composers such as William Byrd and writer William Shakespeare both benefited from her support.

“Choral music at the highest level. An impressive experience.”
Augsburger Allgemeine

This concert features some of the finest a cappella singing in a celebration of the music and poetry of the period together with some more contemporary works inspired by the spirit of the age. A truly magical evening of top quality music.


Programme

Sheppard: Libera nos
Tallis: If ye love me & O nata lux
Byrd: Haec Dies & Ave verum corpus
Gibbons: Magnificat and Nunc dimittis ‘Short’
Britten: Choral Dances from ‘Gloriana’
Vaughan Williams: Three Shakespeare Songs
Shearing: Spring
Rutter: It was a lover and his lass & When daisies pied


Blenheim Singers
With their unique link to Blenheim Palace, the seat of the Duke of Marlborough and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, the Blenheim Singers shares the vision of the Palace’s UNESCO status by building “peace into the minds of men and women” through musical performances of the highest level. Following their highly successful 2016 tours to Germany and France, audiences continue to be enthralled by the passionate and authentic musical experience presented by this group.

2017 concert season underway

The 2017 Bath Recitals concert series is underway after a fabulous opening concert by the Ruisi String Quartet. 

And that’s just the start of a wonderful programme of events to look forward to throughout the year ahead.

VISIT OUR BOX OFFICE NOW

Coming up we have choirs from Oxford and Blenheim, a dynamic new piano trio, a fabulous guitar & flute duo, a Quartet bringing music from the USA and Japan, and Baroque music with a Twist at our summer spectacular.

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‘The most perfect expression of human behaviour is a string quartet’

With the forthcoming season’s opening concert by the Ruisi Quartet, Nicholas Keyworth explores the background to this wonderful musical genre.

As British conductor, Jeffrey Tate so aptly put it: The most perfect expression of human behaviour is a string quartet.’ With its musical and spiritual equality between the four string players – two violin players, a viola player and a cellist – the string quartet became the most prominent chamber ensemble from the mid 18th century onwards and possibly the most perfectly satisfying musical form both for performers and audiences alike.

The origins of the String Quartet are rather murky and connected to a large extent to the emergence of the instruments, violin, viola and cello as we would recognise them today. Baroque music relied on the security of the bass line – the ‘continuo’ of harpsichord and cello, above which the higher solo instruments would play the main melodic lines.

Chamber musicians perform trio sonata.
C18 Anon from L’Iconographie de l’Orgue et du Clavecin

There are some example for what might be termed a ‘prototype’ string quartet such as with Scarlatti’s “Sonata à Quattro per due Violini, Violetta [viola], e Violoncello senza Cembalo” (Sonata for four instruments: two violins, viola, and cello without harpsichord).

But it was down to a purely chance circumstance involving none other than the teenage Joseph Haydn in the middle of the 18th century which was to create the first ‘real’ string quartets. Haydn’s early biographer, Griesinger takes up the story:

‘The following purely chance circumstance had led him to try his luck at the composition of quartets. A Baron Fürnberg had a place in Weinzierl, several stages from Vienna, and he invited from time to time his pastor, his manager, Haydn, and Albrechtsberger in order to have a little music. Fürnberg requested Haydn to compose something that could be performed by these four amateurs. Haydn, then eighteen years old, took up this proposal, and so originated his first quartet which, immediately it appeared, received such general approval that Haydn took courage to work further in this form.’

Joseph Haydn playing quartets. 
StaatsMuseum, Vienna, unknown artist

Haydn was to go on to write 68 quarters during his lifetime and firmly establish the genre as we know it. The teenage Mozart quickly saw the opportunities presented by this new genre and was to write a further 23 string quartets. However, as the great musicologist Donald Tovey put it:

”as the development of Haydn’s quartets reaches its goal, …further progress is not progress in any historical sense, but simply the difference between one masterpiece and the next.”

Nevertheless, string quartet composition flourished from this moment forward and continues right up to the present day with significant contributions from many of the major composers including Beethoven, Schubert, Dvořák, Bartók, Shostakovich and Peter Maxwell Davies.

With kind support from the Richard Carne Trust

A terrific season opener for 2017

Royal Philharmonic Society award winners, the Ruisi Quartet are bringing four masterworks from the String Quartet repertoire to launch our Bath Recitals 2017 season

Two of the great classical quartet masters, Josef Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are represented in this concert. Perhaps the most famous of Mozart’s quartets, the so-called ‘Dissonance’ is named after the slow and slightly discordant introduction. Mozart dedicated the work to Haydn whose D minor quartet is just one of the 69 quartets from his vast output – this one dating from 1769.

The other two works in the programme take us to the ravishing sound world of Maurice Ravel and his first string quartet which he completed in 1903 aged 28. It is modelled on the string quartet by Debussy who much admired the work.

By contrast, Leoš Janáček’s first string quartet dates from 1924 and was inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s novella ‘The Kreutzer Sonata, which was in turn inspired by Beethoven’s violin sonata No 9  known as the “Kreutzer Sonata” after it’s dedicatee.

With kind support from the Richard Carne Trust

 

Meet the Ruisi Quartet

In just six weeks time Bath Recitals 2017 launches its 2017 season with a concert by this astounding young String Quartet who have quickly established a reputation as one of the leading British quartets of its generation…

A terrific 2017 season opener from these Royal Philharmonic Society award winners for Young British String Players along with a host of other top international prizes.

Founded in 2012 by brothers Alessandro (violin) and Max (cello), the Ruisi Quartet perform throughout the UK and Europe on a specially made set of matching instruments by Harris & Sheldon of London.

Meet the four players of the Ruisi Quartet in this film which follows them to the English countryside during the recording of quartets by Mendelssohn and Haydn.

Alessandro Ruisi
Violin I

Alessandro is quickly gaining an outstanding reputation as a soloist and chamber musician. He has appeared at many major festivals and concert venues across the UK, Europe and the USA, and has recorded several live BBC Radio 3 broadcasts.

Alessandro is also co-leader of the European Union Chamber Orchestra and the 12 Ensemble and regularly performs with the Philharmonia Orchestra. He appeared at the 2014 BBC Proms with the Endymion ensemble. 

Guy Button - Violin II

Guy Button
Violin II

Following studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and Robinson College, Cambridge, Guy has appeared as chamber musician and soloist at the Wigmore Hall,  St. Johns’ Smith Square and many other high profile venues internationally.

Alongside performing in the quartet, Guy appears regularly with the London Chamber Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, European Union Chamber Orchestra, The 12.

Asher Zaccardelli - Viola

Asher Zaccardelli – Viola

Asher Zaccardelli
Viola

Asher studied at St Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh before going on to the Royal Academy of Music, where he studied with Garfield Jackson.  Since graduating from the Royal Academy of Music, Asher has worked with various orchestras around the UK as a freelance violist.

Recent engagements have been with the English Chamber Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Aurora Chamber Orchestra, the 12ensemble (Principal Viola) and the Scottish Ballet Orchestra (Principal Viola). 

Max Ruisi - cello

Max Ruisi
Cello

Max has performed in leading concert halls throughout Europe. Recent engagements have included performances at The Wigmore Hall, Paris Philharmonie, King’s Place, Royal Albert Hall (BBC Proms) and La Mortella (Italy), and BBC Radio 3 broadcasts.

Max is also Artistic Director & principal cellist of The 12 ensemble, London’s un-conducted string orchestra and has performed with the Aurora Orchestra, European Union Chamber Orchestra (Principal), the London Contemporary Orchestra and the LCO Soloists.

About the concert

Old Theatre Royal
Old Orchard Street, Bath BA1 1JU
March 25 @ 7:30 pm

This performance in Bath presents music from two of the great classical quartet masters, Haydn and Mozart, through the ravishing sound world of Ravel to the fascinating Tolstoy and Beethoven inspired ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ by Janáček.

Mozart String Quartet No.19 in C major, K.465
Janáček String Quartet No.1, ‘Kreutzer Sonata’
Haydn String Quartet in D minor, Op 9 No 4
Ravel String Quartet in F major

With kind support from the Richard Carne Trust

SPECIAL OFFER: Quote BR2017 when you book online for all 7 concerts for the price of 6 by 25 March for just £90. That’s a saving of £15!

Linos Piano Trio

2017 Bath Recitals season launches with special early bird ticket offer

We are delighted to announce our exciting 2017 line up. String Quartets, Piano Trios, Choirs and Baroque Orchestras await you – and a special online offer for early birds too!

Tickets for all events are now on sale directly through this website. No booking charges either!

SPECIAL OFFER: Add tickets for every 2017 concert to your basket and use the coupon code BR2017 when you pay to get all 7 concerts for the price of 6. That’s a saving of around 15%!

Joglaresa

A yuletude musical feast is coming to Bath

This Sunday the five female vocalists and instrumentalists of Joglaresa will be appearing in the glorious Pump Room for a rather special seasonal festive offering.

‘Joglaresa are at the forefront…’ 
The Times

Joglaresa will be performing Christmas lullabies, nowells, medieval chants and wassails all accompanied by fidel, harp, dulcimer and percussion. Returning by popular demand for a Yuletide feast with a difference as Belinda Sykes brings her immensely successful  national tour of Caroles of Nunnes and Roses to Bath.

Joglaresa

Meet Joglaresa

Belinda Sykes – voice, bagpipes, director
Sianed Jones – voice, fidel
Angela Hicks – voice, harp
May Robertson – voice, fidel
Louise Anna Duggan – dulcimer, percussion, voice

[Pic: Joglaresa tall red]

This show is named after one of the medieval caroles they will be performing called Nuns Sing of a Rose – a ballad of illicit love and villainous seducers!

But it’s not medieval – Joglaresa use their combined experiences and upbringings drenched in traditional Celtic, English, Maghrebi, Balkan and Middle Eastern music to connect ancient and traditional music and communicate it in a fun, authentic and interesting way.

This Sunday, enjoy Joglaresa’s inimitable energy, irrepressible cheeriness, rebellion and seasonal yuletide fun.
Tickets £5-£15

“…spirited medieval ensemble”
The Independent

Extraordinary music by exceptional musicians

At this Saturday’s concert the award-winning Piatti String Quartet present four wonderful pieces – each beautiful and fascinating examples of chamber music in their own right.

We find out a bit more about each of these works…

In 1794, one of Europe’s leading composers visited Bath. He was the famous Austrian composer Josef Haydn – known as the ‘Father of the String Quartet’ .Haydn wrote 68 string quartets and refined it into the most prominent genre in classical chamber music.

Joseph Haydn by Thomas Hardy 1791

Joseph Haydn by Thomas Hardy 1791

The Piatti will be performing his 1772 Quartet in C Major Op.20 No.2 – one of a set of six quartets considered a milestone in the history of composition. At the time Hadyn was working as Kapellmeister to the Prince Nikolaus Esterházy ‘The Magnificent’ who was a great lover of music and patron of the arts. So the conditions were perfect for Haydn to embrace the new philosophical and political ideas sweeping across Europe which many experts see in the emotional and structural content of these quartets.

1782 edition of the Opus 20 Quartets published by Preston in London

1782 edition of the Opus 20 Quartets published by Preston in London

The four movements represent balance, variety, humour and logic and culminate in a fugue for the four instruments in which they are all treated equally – a clear move forward from the hierarchical distinction between instruments in the past.

Brighton born Frank Bridge wrote his 3 Idylls for String Quartet in 1906 and they could not be more different from Haydn’s work. These three highly appealing pieces embody the sprit of the English Pastoral. The theme from the second Idyll was to inspire his pupil, Benjamin Britten, to write his famous homage to his teacher in 1937 with his Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge.

Frank Bridge in 1921

Frank Bridge in 1921

When Bridge’s chamber music first appeared, it was a revelation to amateurs as well as professional players. His aim in writing The Three Idylls was to create a tonal canvas of many different textures and expressive characters from the dark and melancholy mood at the opening through a more upbeat Latin beat to a syncopated bluesy central piece, and ending with an energetic fast moving finale – perhaps anticipating what composers like Gershwin and others would later do.

John Hawkins

John Hawkins

Another work in the Piatti’s programme is bang up to date with ‘Fuzon’ by British composer, John Hawkins. Lasting just 7 minutes, this two movement quartet is inspired by the work of William Blake.  Blake’s extraordinary and prophetic early romantic works include The Book of Ahania in which Fuzon battles with his father Urizen for control of the world!

‘Hawkins writes in a sound-language which can be enjoyable and even compelling, ensuring communication at a first hearing.’

Music and musicians

For the final work in the programme the Piatti are joined by guest cellist Ella Rundle for a real treat with Schubert’s String Quintet in C major. This extraordinary work, written during the final 18 months of Schubert’s short life, with its unusual combination of two violins, viola and two cellos takes us to a new sound world: Familiar, yet with immense depth and passion and with an amazing kaleidoscope of colours.

perhaps the most beautiful piece of chamber music ever composed” The Telegraph

Franz Schubert

Franz Schubert

 

Hear the prizewinning Piatti Quartet perform all four of these wonderful pieces in the magical and atmospheric setting of Bath’s Old Theatre Royal on Saturday 10 December at 7.30pm.

“Musically compelling …”  The Strad