Delighted that the Thursday lunchtime concerts at St John’s Smith Square London SW1P 3HA have started again after the August break.
And what a fabulous concert to open with: the Fidelio Trio playing Fauré‘s (1845-1924) Piano Trio in D Minor op 120 – which I feel rather lukewarm about – and Schoenberg’s (1874-1951) Verklärte Nachte Op 4 which was fantastic.
Composed in 1899, the Schoenberg was written as a sextet and arranged beautifully as a trio by Eduard Steuermann in 1932.
This was the first time I’d heard Verklärte Nachte in full. I’d previously only heard excerpts in lectures on Schoenberg and the 2nd Viennese School. I hadn’t realised how many lyrical passages he had written as well as his signature discords.
All three musicians – Darragh Morgan (violin), Adi Tal (cello) and Mary Dulles (piano) were great but i especially liked the cello. Adi Tal’s playing made me almost wish i hadn’t given up playing the cello when i left school.
Listen to my account of learning to play the cello from my memoir Woman in a White Coat Chapter 7 Music Studies Pages 96-98
You can buy a copy of my memoir Woman in a White Coat on Kindle at £2.99 or as a Paperback on Amazon at £9.99
The first modern piece was Maya by the British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage with the brilliant American cellist Maya Beiser – an interesting virtuoso piece, moving and exciting.
After the Brandenburg Concerto No 3 the orchestra played Bach Materia – by Swedish Anders Hillborg with the Finnish violinist Pekka Kuussisto . A fantastic piece – especially the duet between the violin and double bass.
Last modern piece was Hamsa by the American composer Uri Caine playing the piano part himself – for me a sorry parody of the great 5th Brandenburg Concerto which preceded it. Much of the piano part was a cacophony sounding like a cat walking over the keys – banging out tight discords.
I was nine years old when I started to learn to play the piano with the organist of the local church. At the time, 1940-1942, I was evacuated to a hostel for Jewish Children in Dawlish, South Devon.
Listen to my account of that experience from my memoir Woman in a White Coat. You can buy my book on Kindle at £2.99 or search on ISBN 9781979834391 for the paperback version on Amazon at £9.99
Memoir extract from Chapter 5 Pages 68-71 To Dawlish
I’m not really into jazz, Classical music is more my style, but I love going to 2 Temple Place, a fine house in a crescent off the Victoria Embankment. And the café is good too!!
The exhibition has been curated by Catherine Tackley, Professor and Head of Music at the University of Liverpool. It sets out to tell the story of the jazz age in new ways, focussing on British depictions of jazz. It helps us to understand what the music meant to artists, to assess the image of jazz in the public sphere and to see how jazz was encountered in everyday, domestic environments.
Rather to our surprise, we both loved the exhibition which was more about the bands and soloists and about the 1920s. And there wasn’t excessively loud jazz playing in the several exhibition rooms. There were displays and information about the 1920s ubiquitous banjos and a display of drums with contemporary film clips running behind them. Amazing to see musicians playing jazz while performing aerial stunts
As it’s half-term week this week, there was an event for children event upstairs. A large throw spread on the floor and delightful toddlers dancing on it to jazz music. Made me feel quite broody!!
They played a varied programme of Baroque, Classical and Modern music.
For me, the adaptation of Handel’s Water Music didn’t work – you really need the full force of an orchestra. In spite of there being 12 players it sounded thin. However, The two concertos – one by Nicola Conforto (1718-1793) and the other by Johann Adolf Hasse (1699-1783) were very pleasing as was the modern mood piece Tänkeplatsen by Olof Näslund (1952- ).
The most enjoyable pieces were the last three modern pieces with a Brazilian twist that worked really well for the ensemble – Sleepwalk by Santo and Johnny Farina, Stone Flower by Antönio Carlos Jobim (1927-1994) and best of all You only live twice by John Barry (1933-2011).
Very much look forward to the next concert at the Victoria Music Library – always a pleasant surprise.
Note: Now that I’m getting into my stride finishing my memoir Woman in a White Coat, if you email me at email@example.com I will send you the first chapter and if you comment I will send you another. Hope to hear from you.
Just started to feel able to go to the lunchtime concerts at St John’s, Smith Square. I was worried that it might be too cold for me – I had a nasty shivering attack when I went to a residents’ meeting in a cold church – but it was fine.
Amazing to think that John Field, an eighteenth century Irish composer, travelled all the way to Russia, braving all the hardships associated with long distance travel at that time, settled there, married and had an illegitimate son (Leon Leonov) later a famous tenor as well as a pianist son, Adrian, by his wife, Adelaide percheron, a French pianist and former pupil.
He had moved to London by 1793, where he became a pupil of Muzio Clementi (1752-1832) and travelled with him to Paris, Vienna and St Petersburg, where Clementi left, and Field settled in Moscow.
We tend to associate nocturnes with Chopin (1810-1849) and Liszt (1811-1886) but they had been very much influenced by Field’s work – his 18 nocturnes in particular.
As well as going back to Bach’s Prelude and Fugue No II, I have started to play Field’s delightful Nocturne No 5. Not difficult to play, but hard to play well.
My son Bernard first introduced me to the lunchtime concerts at St John’s Church some years ago. At that time you could buy a membership for only £30 which covered the lunchtime concerts for the whole year for you and a companion. I went regularly, hurrying from or to one of my classes at one of the Further Education colleges. Bernard came when he could. Bronze Membership is now £35 for vouchers for any 10 lunchtime concert during that year – still very good value.
Built during the years 1713-1728, St John’s was reconstructed in 1742 after a fire, gutted in 1940 by enemy bombs during WW2 and restored to its present glory during the years 1964-1969.
Sometimes the musicians playing at the Thursday lunchtime concerts are established, like the brilliant organist of Westminster Abbey. Often, like the Attard-Zerafa Duo, who played on Thursday April 14th, they are young musicians starting out on their careers. The virtuosity of these two was amazing. They chose modern pieces by Milhaud, Denisov, Schmitt and Albright – mostly the sort of complex modern classical pieces that you need to hear several times before you can get a handle on it. Two – Brazileira by Milhaud and La Folia Nuovo: a lament for George Cacioppo by Albright – were more lyrical and easier to appreciate at first hearing.
I have a number of modern classical pieces as well as jazz and blues in my repertoire but my favourites are the Baroque and Classical composers – Bach, Clementi, Scarlatti, Haydn and Beethoven, but above all Bach (1685-1750). There is something both pure and passionate about his music.
This term I shall be playing his 2-part inventions. Written as teaching aids he labelled them as the ‘ method by which amateurs of the keyboard – especially, however, those desirous of learning – are shown a clear way not only (1) to learn to play cleanly in two parts, but also, after further progress, (2) to handle three obligate parts…’ I particularly love Invention #13 BWV 784.
To the cognoscenti the dull mid-blue cover with black printing and no images immediately says that I shall be working from a G. Henle Verlag Urtext edition – editions which have the least added dynamics etc. This version was printed in 1978 and edited by Rudolf Steglich and with fingering by Hans-Martin Theopold – most of which I use.
I like playing scales as well as Czerny studies. I find them soothing. You can play them while thinking about something else.
The scales on the white notes are much easier -the fingering is the same for the major and minor scales and for all the scales except for the scales on F in the right hand. For ages I played the 21 scales on the seven white notes – major, melodic minor and harmonic minor and the major and minor arpeggios – and only attempted the scales on the black notes occasionally.
I am now making a determined attack on scales starting on the black notes, where not only does the fingering vary between them but sometimes in the melodic minors the fingering is different going up from coming down. I suppose I should regard it also as a brain exercise – very important when you are 84.
I don’t play my acoustic piano before 8am or after 9.30pm – though the neighbours say they don’t hear me. The advantage or disadvantage of practising the scales on my Yamaha electronic keyboard is that it is so easy to record and playback. No chance of saying to my tutor – ‘Sorry, but I played them perfectly before you arrived!!’