Home
|
Current Issue
|
Diary
|
Subscribe
|
Book Orders
Rising Stars
|
Selected Reviews
|
Stop Press
|
Contact & Advertising
|
Links

July - Sept
2016

The Symphonies of Andrew Downes

Paul Conway

Andrew Downes

On April 17 a box set featuring the first four symphonies and two overtures by Birmingham-born-and-based composer Andrew Downes was launched at an impressive multimedia event at the National Film Theatre in London’s South Bank Centre.

Hosted by Laurence Lewis, Managing Director of Czech Music Direct, the launch included the playing of movements from the new release on the Artesmon label, the video documentary ‘Music, Pleasure, Hope’ and a welcome reminder of the range and breadth of Downes’ extensive catalogue with an excerpt from his five-act opera Far From the Madding Crowd (2005) and sections from a film made by soprano Paula Downes performing her father’s song cycle Songs from Spoon River (1986), accompanied by pianist David Trippett.

Having received compensation for appalling medical negligence resulting in his being paralysed from the waist, the composer was in a position to commission this important new recording project, choosing the venue and performers. He opted for the Czech Philharmonic conducted by Ondrej Vrabec, the orchestra’s first horn player who was soloist in the premiere of Downes’ Concerto for four horns and orchestra (2000). The sessions took place between March and May 2015 in the Dvorák Hall of the Rudolfinum, Prague, with the composer, who is now unable to travel, overseeing the sessions via internet streaming from his home in West Hagley.

To see the whole article subscribe to Musical Opinion.

Return to top of page


Boris Tischenko – the true disciple of Shostakovich

Gregor Tassie

Boris Tischenko

When the music of Tischenko appeared on the scene in the early sixties, his emergence was so astonishing that he was compared with the young Prokofiev, both as an artist and as a composer in his bright innovative originality and by his performance of the most difficult works by Prokofiev. McBurney in his obituary for the Guardian understated his importance when he wrote, ‘he was probably the last pupil of Dmitri Shostakovich extremely close to that elusive master, trusted and guided by him, and treated with fatherly affection and concern.’

Tischenko was a member of that group of brilliant young musical talent including Schnittke, Denisov, Kancheli, Gubaydullina and others, yet Tischenko’s music has proved the least performed in the West, part of the reason being that his background was wholly based in Leningrad while the others were mostly based in Moscow, another cause is that he was the least able to compromise with authority and for which his music was rarely performed at the best concert halls in his home city, and for a period he was part of the underground music scene in the USSR.

Many of his compositions embrace many of the experimental devices and innovations that were sanctioned by the Composers Union. Tischenko’s career embraced almost every genre and his output was huge, and there are several pieces which can be considered masterpieces worthy to be compared with those of his mentor Shostakovich and other greats of Russian music. In his music, there are sometimes allusions with music of the renaissance, in his Fifth Symphony, and with jazz rhythms in his Seventh Symphony, he marvelled at western modernism but did not falter in his own searching for new means of expression.

 

To see the whole article subscribe to Musical Opinion

Return to top of page


Max Reger: Thoughts on a Musical Legacy

Christopher Anderson

Max Reger

One hundred years have passed since the German composer Max Reger (1873–1916) died unexpectedly in his sleep during the night between May 10 and 11, 1916, aged only 43. He had staked out his claim as an artist in an era of disorienting change on virtually every front.

For some it has been tempting to judge his music as a reflection of that disorientation, in essence as a musical portrait of the worst the times had to offer. Indeed, the images that have crystallized from this composer’s biography — that of a foul-mouthed, unrefined Bavarian given to the excesses of food and drink, burdened by a surplus of talent and a deficit of judgment — have contributed to the dismissal of Reger as a serious figure in the western canon. The last hundred years have presented him as the musical poster child for Teutonic anxiety and overreach. The notable exceptions to that attitude, in the advocacy of interpreters like Rudolf Serkin and Hermann Scherchen, have tended merely to prove the rule.

 

 

To see the whole article subscribe to Musical Opinion

 

Return to top of page


Peter Seabourne – a composer of our time

Richard Whitehouse

Peter Seabourne

Born in 1960 near Devizes, Peter Seabourne studied at Clare College Cambridge with Robin Holloway and York University with David Blake. In 1984 he was joint winner of the Overseas League Composition Competition then came second in the Benjamin Britten Prize for 1986, with works performed at various festivals and at London's South Bank Centre.

Around 1989 he abandoned composition, citing a growing dissatisfaction with the new music milieu and the wish to re-evaluate his musical aesthetic. Only in 2001 did he resume composition, since when he has received awards from several international competitions.

Seabourne's work has been commissioned by numerous European organizations, and his music has been broadcast in Norway, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany and the United States. His now extensive catalogue comprises symphonic and chamber works, song cycles and an ongoing large-scale piano cycle entitled Steps. The Italian label Sheva Collection has so far issued five discs of his music, and it is the three most recent releases from this label which are considered here.

To see the whole article subscribe to Musical Opinion

Return to top of page


On Performing Busoni’s Violin Concerto

Ferrucio Busoni

Efi Christodoulou

The distinguished violinist outlines the background and circumstances which led to her discovery and series of public performances of Busoni’s Violin Concerto.

Ferruccio Busoni! The name calls to a high-ranking yet ambiguous Berlin socialite and a piano wonder from his youth. According to music critic Harold Schonberg, Busoni developed into being "the first of the great modern pianists". It is sad to notice nowadays that Busoni’s vast status as such, is not really administered in the concert programmes and even his Violin Concerto has never really hit it off with the public. It has alas not established itself as a standard work alongside such works as the Bruch or the Mendelssohn, which it does remind, although in a minor scope, but having an equally translucent scoring as these popular concertos.

In his quote, Antony Beaumont, distinguished author of the book ‘Busoni The Composer’ writes on page 48 about the Violin Concerto: "Here we are, still in a world dominated by Beethoven and Brahms, with some passages close in spirit to the music of the young Sibelius". He ends his analysis "The score is, in its own way, cohesive and convincing".

 

 

To see the whole article, please subscribe to Musical Opinion.

Return to top of page


The Verdehr Trio – an astonishing legacy

Peter Dickinson

Verdehr Trio

In 1972, when violinist Walter Verdehr and clarinettist Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr were on the faculty at Michigan State University, East Lansing, they decided to form an ensemble for violin, clarinet and piano. There was very little repertoire before the twentieth century apart from Stravinsky’s arrangement of L’Histoire du soldat; Bartok’s Contrasts; the Adagio from the second movement of Berg’s Chamber Concerto; the Ives trio; works by Khachaturian and Krenek; but little else. So the Verdehrs boldly decided to commission and finally reached the astounding count of over two hundred and twenty works from a hundred and fifty-six different composers for the Trio – some writing more than one piece - as well as nineteen concertos.

Not satisfied with their international concert tours to promote these works, they built up a set of DVDs, which I’ll discuss first, and twenty-seven CDs, mostly on Cristal, with more still to come. This is now a landmark moment in the career of the Verdehr Trio since they have retired, when Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr had been in harness as clarinet almost to her eightieth birthday. The Trio’s final concert was given in Leon, Mexico, on 28 March 2015, the fifty-eighth country in which they had performed in forty-three years. Thanks to their remarkable dedication there is now an extensive repertoire in many different styles for violin, clarinet and piano available to ensembles everywhere.

To see the whole article, please subscribe to Musical Opinion.

Return to top of page


Notes on my First Symphony ‘The Middlesbrough’

The Middlesbrough

David F Golightly

The Teeside composer, also an ardent supporter of his local Middlesbrough Football Club, recently promoted to the English Premier League, traces the background to the composition and the structure of his First Symphony, dedicated to the Club. The 45-minute Symphony has been recorded commercially by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.

My Symphony no 1, ‘The Middlesbrough’, was composed because of a desire to reward one man’s vision for his football club and community. To put right what I considered to be a great injustice of fate and bureaucracy by the relegation of what would have become a great Middlesbrough football team.

The work, a standard four movement symphony, of 45 minutes duration, signifies a landmark in my compositional output. The first movement, in sonata form, has an extended development section, portraying the industrial landscape of Middlesbrough, the strength and resilience of its people, and their manufacturing heritage. There are two main emotive musical ideas. (a) The pulse of the music destabilised by brutal fz chords that constantly mix duple and compound beats. The fate image, defined by a constant knocking, a shaking of the fist at the world and life.

 

To see the whole article, please subscribe to Musical Opinion.

Return to top of page


Home
|
Current Issue
|
Diary
|
Subscribe
|
Book Orders
Rising Stars
|
Selected Reviews
|
Stop Press
|
Contact & Advertising
|
Links