Saturday 31 March 2012

The Seven Last Words of Christ at St. Peter Mancroft

On Sunday 25th March 2012 The Cavick Quartet performed Joseph Haydn's The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross with Meditations by the Revd. Robert Fruehwirth. This piece of music was the result of a commission by Cadiz Cathedral in 1787. The Cavick Quartet are Ben Lowe - Violin, Anne Vallins - Violin, Ben Payne - Viola and Chris Lawrence - Cello. This was an emotional evening to be at St. Peter Mancroft Church in Norwich. This is Haydn's own account of the background to the work.

'Some fifteen years ago I was requested by a canon of Cádiz to compose instrumental music on the Seven Last Words of Our Savior On the Cross. It was customary at the Cathedral of Cádiz to produce an oratorio every year during Lent, the effect of the performance being not a little enhanced by the following circumstances. The walls, windows, and pillars of the church were hung with black cloth, and only one large lamp hanging from the center of the roof broke the solemn darkness. At midday, the doors were closed and the ceremony began. After a short service the bishop ascended the pulpit, pronounced the first of the seven words (or sentences) and delivered a discourse thereon. This ended, he left the pulpit and fell to his knees before the altar. The interval was filled by music. The bishop then in like manner pronounced the second word, then the third, and so on, the orchestra following on the conclusion of each discourse. My composition was subject to these conditions, and it was no easy task to compose seven adagios lasting ten minutes each, and to succeed one another without fatiguing the listeners; indeed, I found it quite impossible to confine myself to the appointed limits.'

The Cavick Quartet and Revd. Robert Fruehwirth made this a night to reflect on Our Saviour on the Cross. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. At the end there is a desolate silence. The miracle and promise of the Resurrection has yet to be revealed.

UEA Symphony Orchestra at Norwich Cathedral

On Saturday 24th March 2012 I attended the UEA Symphony Orchestra and Choir Spring Concert at Norwich Cathedral. This concert was dedicated to Dorothea and Rowan Hare. Conductors on the evening were Sharon Andrea Choa and Tom Primrose.

The programme consisted of Academic Festival Overture Op 80 - Brahms, Piano Concerto in A minor Op 54 - Schumann and Requiem K626 - Mozart. Denise Wijayaratne played piano on the Schumann Piano Concerto while the soloists on the Mozart Requiem were Billie Robson - Soprano, Rosie Middleton - Mezzo-Soprano, Nathan Vale - Tenor and Dhilan Gnanadurai - Bass.

There was a wonderful atmosphere at Norwich Cathedral with a capacity crowd in attendance on the night. The Mozart Requiem is a special piece of music and is always brilliant to experience live and with the UEA Symphony Orchestra and Choir on top form, this was a night to remember.

Brahms Festival Overture Op 80 was written as a thank you to Breslau University after he was given an honorary doctorate in 1879. This piece of music is by the side of Brahms who loved gypsy music and described the work as a merry potpourri of student songs a la Suppe.

In 1841 Schumann composed a fantasy for piano and orchestra that he had trouble getting published. His wife Clara asked him to turn the work into a conventional concerto. It was four years later that Schumann composed two additional movements. Clara performed the solo part at its premiere in Leipzig on New Year's Day 1846.

Count Franz Walsegg visited Mozart in 1791 to commission the Requiem to honour his wife who had died earlier that year. Work on the Requiem was delayed by the completion of Mozart's last two operas, La clemenza di Tito and The Magic Flute, and the concerto for his clarinettist friend Anton Stadler. He got down to serious work in October and was only ill enough to take to his bed towards the end of November. He died in December leaving only the Introit complete.

Mozart's widow Constanze was anxious to have the Requiem completed and turned first to Joseph Eybler who did some work on the orchestration and then turned to Mozart's assistant Franz Xaver Sussmayr. Let eternal light shine on them, Lord, as with Your Saints in eternity, because You are merciful.

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Le Mariage de Figaro at the UEA Drama Studio

I went to the UEA Drama Studio on the evening of Friday 23rd March 2012 to attend the Sacre Theatre production of Le Mariage de Figaro. A play in French by Pierre Beaumarchais on which Mozart based his Opera. The play was written 5 years before the French Revolution. This production was set somewhere between the two World Wars of the 20th Century.

French Theatre at the UEA began in the 1970's and is aimed at developing and underpinning language acquisition skills while exposing key elements of French Theatre to UEA students, Norfolk Schools and the local French speaking audience.

The play begins shortly before the marriage of Figaro and Suzanne in a room in the Count's palace. Suzanne tells Figaro that the Count has made several advances on her. Meanwhile Marceline discusses a lawsuit with Dr. Bartholo. Figaro owes lots of money and cannot afford to pay the sum. He will be forced to marry her which would lead to the Count being free to seduce Suzanne.

Suzanne tells the Countess about the Count's attentions. Figaro plans to spread a rumour that the Countess is having an affair so that the Count will become suspicious and distracted enough to let him marry Suzanne. She agrees to pretend to give in to the Count's advances by accepting to meet him in the garden after dark however the Count hears that this is just a trap.

Figaro's trail with Marceline begins where Figaro discovers that he is in fact Bartholo and Marceline's illegitimate son. Figaro is delighted to meet his parents but Antonio will not let Suzanne marry an illegitimate child. Bazile reveals his former intention to marry Marceline but changes his mind after discovering that Figaro is her son. Figaro tells Suzanne that as their wedding and dowry are now secure she must not meet the Count as planned. The Countess urges her to go ahead, proposing that they swap clothes, so that she can expose her husband's infidelity.Figaro decides to seek revenge against Marceline's advice.

Figaro gathers a group of witnesses to assist him later on, then launches into a lengthy monologue against women, the aristocratic class and his own unhappiness. The Count enters and attempts to seduce his own wife, disguised as Suzanne. Figaro then approaches Suzanne, disguised as the Countess. After the various characters come out of their hiding place, the Countess reveals herself and the Count begs for forgiveness which he is given.

The Oily Rag Band brought together Beaumarchais, Mozart and early jazz on an splendid evening of French Theatre at the UEA Drama Studio. We were all entertained and most of us were laughing out loud as the Sacre Theatre gave us a night to remember. We all said God damn doing the Lambeth Walk as Erwann Limon as Figaro and Yael Chausson as Suzanne took us to the era of films like La Regle du Jeu and The Hunting Party that provided a similar view of the end of seigneurial privilege.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Jonathan Dove and Prokofiev at St. Andrew's Hall

On the evening of Saturday 17th March 2012 I made my way to St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich for the Norwich Philharmonic Society's last concert of the 2011/12 season which featured a programme of There was a Child - Jonathan Dove and Alexander Nevsky - Prokofiev.

The line-up on the night was Nicola-Jane Kemp - Soprano, Jennifer Westwood - Mezzo-Soprano, Martin Hindmarsh - Tenor, Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, Norwich Cathedral Choristers, Norwich Cathedral Girls' Choir and David Dunnett - Conductor.

There was a Child is large scale piece of communal music by Jonathan Dove that was commissioned in 2009 jointly by the Norfolk and Norwich Festival and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. The commission coincided with a request from a friend whose nineteen year old son had drowned while on holiday ten years before for a musical commemoration of his death which would be a celebration of life that could be shared with lots of people.

The Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein asked Prokofiev to write the score for Alexander Nevsky his first sound film in 1938. The following year the composer developed the score into a cantata to a text he devised in collaboration with V. Nugovskoi. It's seven sections tell the story of Russia's struggles against its enemies in the 13th century culminating in victory over the Teutonic Knights. From the oppression brought by the Tartar invasion onto Russia's defeat of the Swedes under the leadership of Alexander Nevsky, Prince of Novgorod.

The third section's harsh brass chords represent the Germans while the fourth is a call to join Alexander Nevsky's army and repel the foe. In the next section we hear the approach of the German knights, the Russian charge, the fury of battle and eventual Russian victory. In the penultimate scene a Russian girl surveys the battlefield and vows to wed the brave soldier rather then the handsome before Alexander Nevsky's triumphant entry into Pskov.

The was a wonderful and emotional concert at St. Andrew's Hall with splendid performances from the Orchestra and Choir. A large audience ensured this was a night to remember at this historic Norwich venue. There was a Child was a challenging piece for the Norwich Philharmonic to play but they proved they were up to the challenge. In the second half of the concert they brought us Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky which was a great way to bring the 2011/12 season to a close.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Great Expectations at the Maddermarket Theatre

On Saturday 10th March 2012 I attended the Baroque Theatre Company's performance of Great Expectations at the Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich which was part of the nationwide celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens. This production was an adaption by Hugh Leonard from the novel by Charles Dickens.

The young Philip Pirrip known as Pip helps the escaped convict Abel Magwitch and sets in motion a train of events that will affect his life. He is taken under the wing of Miss Havisham and falls in love with Estella. He receives money from a mysterious source and renounces his humble past life but when it is revealed that Magwitch is his benefactor a painful process of moral education begins for Pip.

This was a wonderful evening at the Maddermarket Theatre with the Norwich based Baroque Theatre Company putting on a splendid show. The world of Charles Dickens full of the characters from Great Expectations were brought to life giving us all a night to remember. All our Great Expectations were fulfilled as we all celebrated the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens. 

Friday 9 March 2012

Adrian Adlam at the Eaton Concert Series

On Sunday 4th March 2012 it was the lateat concert in the Eaton Concert Series at St. Andrew's Church, Eaton, Norwich this time featuring Adrian Adlam in a solo violin recital. I made my way through the rain to join a large audience who had gathered in great anticipation for this event.

The programme for the afternoon was Partita in D minor - Bach, Ballade Sonata No.3 - Ysaye, Solo Sonata - Bartok and Ferdinand the Bull - Ridout. This was a wonderful in which Adrian Adlam could show all his technical abilities on the violin.

Adrian Adlam put on an amazing show for everyone in attendance which was greatly appreciated by us all. before the interval he played the pieces by Bach and Ysaye without the music while after the interval the music for Bartok's Solo Sonata was beamed onto a big screen therefore it was only fair that if we had the music he should have it as well.

For an encore Adrain Adlam played Alan Ridout's Ferdinand the Bull doing the speaking part in a Spanish accent which raised plenty of laughter in the audience. This was a fun way to bring this brilliant solo violin recital to an end. Afterwards he gave a masterclass to the children in attendance.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Academy of St. Thomas concert at St. Andrew's Hall

On the evening of Saturday 3rd March 2012 I attended the Academy of St. Thomas concert at St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich which featured soprano Catherine May and conductor Christopher Adey. This was the Orchestra's Russian concert on another night of wonderful music.

The programme consisted of Ruslan and Ludnila Overture - Glinka, The Enchanted Lake - Liadov, Concerto for Coloratura Soprano and Orchestra - Gliere, Vocalise - Rachmaninov and Nutcracker Suite - Tchaikovsky.

Mikhail Glinka wrote two operas the second being Ruslan and Ludmila based on a fairy tale by Pushkin which was worked on between 1837 and 1842. The overture opens with the wedding music at the end of the opera which was an exciting way to begin the concert.

Liadov composed The Enchanted Lake in 1909 which is a depiction of an imaginary landscape inspired by a lake in a forest. With the effect of orchestral textures and harmonic changes the music suggests rippling water and the sparkle of the sun on the lake. A great piece to listen too close to the banks of the River Wensum.

Concerto for Coloratura Soprano was the first Russian vocal concerto composed by Gliere in 1943. This lyrical work was dedicated to singer Pantofel-Nechetskaya. British Canadian soprano Catherine May performed brilliantly along with the orchestra on this piece which was greatly appreciated by the St. Andrew's Hall audience.

Rachmaninov wrote over eighty songs including the wordless Vocalise in 1915 which was dedicated to the singer Antonia Nezhdanova. Yet again Catherine May and the orchestra conducted by Christopher Adey put in another splendid performance.

The concert concluded with Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite which is always popular with concert audiences. Tchaikovsky completed the score in 1892 and the Nutcracker ballet was first performed at the Mariinsky Theatre on 18th December 1892. The music from the Nutcracker always sounds magical and on Saturday night St. Andrew's Hall was turned into the Land of Sweets. This was the perfect way to finish the Academy of St. Thomas' Russian concert.

Concentric Paths at Norwich Theatre Royal

On the evening of Saturday 25th February 2012 I attended the Britten Sinfonia Concentric Paths concert at Norwich Theatre Royal which featured Thomas Ades and Pekka Kuusisto. Thomas Ades appeared as Composer, Conductor and at the piano while Pekka Kuusisto was soloist on the Concentric Paths Violin Concerto.

The programme consisted of Les baricades misterieuses - Couperin, Les baricades misterieuses - Couperin arr. Thomas Ades, Three Studies from Couperin - Thomas Ades, Le tombeau de Couperin - Ravel, Airs du rossignol and Marche chinoise - Stravinsky, Suites Nos 1 and 2 for Small Orchestra - Stravinsky and Concerto for Violin (Concentric Paths) - Thomas Ades.

The programme began with two renderings of the same work from Francois Couperin. Thomas Ades makes Les baricades misterieuses sound familiar but somehow fresh and unknown. Three Studies from Couperin is an arrangement of three of Couperin's keyboard works for orchestra commissioned by the Basel Chamber Orchestra. Ravel's Le tombeau de Couperin was written in 1917 originally conceived as a monument to the music of the eighteenth century Baroque but after the composer served in the First World War it became a memorial to friends who had died in service.

Airs du rossignol and Marche chinoise are two pieces extracted from Igor Stravinsky's early opera The Nightingale which was composed between 1909 and 1914. Other arrangements that Stravinsky made around the same time are the Suites Nos 1 and 2 for Orchestra. Both suites include a number of dance movements.

Thomas Ades composed Concerto for Violin (Concentric Paths) in 2005 for British violinist Anthony Marwood. Concentric Paths has three movements but Thomas Ades conceives the work as really more of a triptych as the middle movement is the largest. It is a slow movement built from two large and very many small independent cycles that overlap.

This was a wonderful evening to be at Norwich Theatre Royal as Britten Sinfonia along with Thomas Ades and Pekka Kuusisto brought us a challanging and varied programme played to the highest quality. I loved the way Thomas Ades has taken works by Couperin and added to them. I had a very enjoyable evening and look forward to Britten Sinfonia's next visit to Norwich.

Saturday 3 March 2012

Swan Lake Magic at Ipswich Regent

The Ipswich Regent Theatre was full of the magic of Swan Lake on the evening of Friday 24th February 2012 as The Russian State Ballet Siberia brought this great Romantic Ballet to the stage in the heart of Suffolk. I made the journey to Ipswich greatly looking forward to this wonderful event.

Tchaikovsky composed the music for Swan Lake in 1876 with choreography by Julius Reisinger in 1877. In 1895 a portion of the ballet was remounted as a memorial to Tchaikovsky by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. Sergei Bobrov has been Artistic Director of The Russian State Ballet of Siberia since 2002 and his production is in the style and mood of nineteenth century classicism.

In the castle grounds Benno von Somerstein and other friends of Prince Siegfried are waiting for his arrival to celebrate his coming of age. A feast begins when the Prince and his tutor Wolfgang appear. The Queen reminds the Prince that tomorrow he must formally choose his bride at the ball. When the party finishes the Prince tells Benno and Wolfgang that he wants to remain for a little longer on his own.

Prince Siegfried is magically drawn to the banks of the lake where a flock of white swans are swimming. One of the Swans tells the Prince that she is Princess Odette and that she and her companions have been bewitched by the Evil Genius who in the form of a huge black bird is constantly guarding them. By day the girls are fated to take the form of swans and only at night are they restored to their human form. The spell will be broken when a man falls in love with the Princess.

They dance for the Prince who is captivated by Odette and swears to save her from the magic of the Evil Genius. Odette warns him that the Evil Genius can only be overthrown when a man is prepared to sacrifice his life for love. The Prince invites Odette to the ball.

The Master of Ceremonies gives his final orders as people arrive for the ball. The Queen and Prince Siegfried greet their guests and the brides appear and dance for the Prince. He finds them all charming and beautiful but none to whom he can swear eternal love.

Fanfares announce the arrival of Von Rothbart and his daughter Odile who resembles Odette. The Prince becomes captivated by her. Odette tries to remind him of the Evil Genius and his dangerous magic but the Prince does not see her.

Convinced that Odile and Odette are the same girl Prince Siegfried chooses Odile as his bride. He suddenly sees Odette and realises that he has been deceived. Von Rothbart and Odile disappear leaving Odette destined to remain forever in the powers of the Evil Genius.

The Prince begs Odette to forgive him for his unwitting betrayal swearing his love. He is ready to sacrifice his life to defeat the Evil Genius and rushes into the waves carrying the tyrant bird with him. Both die in the cold waters of the mysterious lake leaving Odette grieving for her beloved Prince.

With brilliant performances from Maria Kuimova as Odette and Odile along with Kirill Litvinenko as Prince Siegfried we were all truly captivated and taken into the world of Swan Lake. The Russian State Ballet of Siberia are a ballet company of the highest quality. Alexander Yudasin conducted the Orchestra who played the familiar music by Tchaikovsky that is always very moving to hear. This was a night that everyone in attendance will remember for a long time.

Thursday 1 March 2012

Giants in the Sky at Norwich Assembly House

On Friday 24th February 2012 I attended the latest concert in the UEA School of Music concerts in the Music at One Series at Norwich Assembly House. The concert featured Ellen-May Shipp - Soprano, Alison Lincoln - piano and Meredydd Cheeseman - Bass/Baritone.

The programme consisted of Vergebliches Standchen - Brahms, La Zingara - Donizetti, Du Bist wie eine Blume - Schumann, Standchen - Schumann, Lost Is My Quiet - Purcell, All I Ask Of You - Lloyd-Webber, Stars - Schonberg, Giants In The Sky - Sondheim, Something's Coming - Bernstein, It Was A Lover And His Lass - Finzi and The Vagabond - Williams.

This was a wonderful way to spend a Friday lunchtime at this historic Norwich building full of splendid singing that lifted the spirits of everyone in attendance. There are giants in the sky from the musical Into The Woods composed by Stephen Sondheim was one of the highlights.  Dreams full of fairy tales are made from music that inspires to brighten all our lives.