Tag Archives: Music

The London Mandolin Ensemble at the Victoria Music Library, London

12 mandolin players, I double bass and the Musical Director, James Young
Nicely varied programme

Pleased that Victoria Music library invited the London Mandolin Ensemble back. There were 12 mandolinists and a double bass player – needed to give a bass ground. – under Musical Director James Young.

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 abby(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)abbyjw.com I will send you the first chapter and if you comment I will send you another. Hope to hear from you.

Lunchtime Concerts at St John’s Smith Square

Programme for Lunchtime Concerts

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.

A fascinating concert by Oliver Wass, Harpist, and Chloe Treharne, Mezzo Soprano, part of the Young Artists’ Series.

Harp and Mezzo Soprano Concert January 12th

I hadn’t heard a male harpist before and he was an excellent – as befits the winner of multiple prizes.

Chloe Treharne has a gorgeous pure voice that filled the church to overflowing. She sang Schumann, Schubert and Mendelsohn Lieder.

Oliver Wass

Besides accompanying Chloe, Oliver Wass played a fascinating new piece by Julian Philips (b. 1969) Winter Music as well as a Prelude by Ravel and a Hindemith Sonata.

It seemed strange watching his graceful hands when I am so used to seeing female harpists.

What a wonderful re-introduction for me to the Lunchtime Concert series.

JOHN FIELD COMPOSER (1782-1837)

His 18 Nocturnes
His 18 Nocturnes

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.

ST JOHN’S SMITH SQUARE, WESTMINSTER

The entrance to St John's in Smith Squarae Sw1P 3HA
The entrance to St John’s in Smith Square SW1P 3HA

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.

Advertising the Concert on Thursday April 14th
Advertising the Concert on Thursday April 14th

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.

Bach’s Inventions and Sinfonias

Bach's 'Honest method'
Bach’s ‘Honest method’

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.

Scales and arpeggios on the piano

The scales on the white notes are much easier
The scales on the white notes are much easier

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!!’