artistry beyond the notes…


Leave a comment

Behind the Scenes – 3: Ensemble DeNOTE’s Classics By Arrangement

DeNOTE’s philosophy is one of creative engagement with eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century musical notation, taking the score as a starting-point for an exploration of the sound world of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and their contemporaries. We view scores as scripts, rather than texts: foundations for the creation of meaning in performance, rather than ‘set texts’ to be memorised, then correctly recited. The Music is not the Score. It’s more like conversation (speaking – listening – responding) in real time: the Performance of MEANING, not just the (re)reciting of a text.

 DeNote_CLevy5211-2

Not surprisingly, then, we often look at musical texts afresh in our performances. And that has led us quite often in the direction of late 18th/ early 19th-century arrangements of works by Mozart and Beethoven in particular. And that was the starting point for…

 

 

Classics By Arrangement – the title of Ensemble DeNOTE’s three concerts this spring/ summer at St John’s, Smith Square in London. In these concerts, we explore celebrated chamber music by Mozart and Beethoven in unfamiliar arrangements made by the composers themselves, their pupils and contemporaries. We conclude our series on 10 June with a programme that includes Beethoven’s own Piano Trio arrangement of his Second Symphony, Op.36.

DeNOTE’s founder. John Irving introduces Beethoven’s Trio below.

 

 

IMG_0073

Beethoven’s Deuxième GRANDE SINFONIE arrangée en Trio pour Pianoforte, Violon et Violoncelle par l’auteur meme was published by the Bureau des Arts et d’Industrie in Vienna in 1806. (Above: the opening of the piano part.)

 

https://www.beethoven.de/sixcms/detail.php?id=&template=dokseite_digitales_archiv_en&_dokid=bb:T00014414&_seite=1

 

Beethoven only rarely arranged his own compositions for other media. His Septet (which we performed earlier in this series in its Trio version, Op.38) is one example; another is his Symphony no.2, with which we end our ‘Classics By Arrangement’ journey. Composed in 1801-2 and first performed in April 1803, Beethoven’s second symphony was completed at the village of Heligenstadt where he had spent the spring and summer of 1802 in an attempt to improve his health, and especially his declining powers of hearing. It was at this time that he faced the realisation that his hearing loss would be permanent, and we may be forgiven for wondering if passages such as the first movement Coda express something of Beethoven’s gritty defiance against his fate. Yet much of the work transcends autobiography; stylistically, it can be understood within the framework established by Haydn’s late symphonies, and towards the end of the first movement Beethoven even models a harmonic progression on one found in Haydn’s famous ‘The Heavens are Telling’ chorus from The Creation. His arrangement for piano trio is remarkable for its reimagining of texture, retaining with just three instruments the energy and power of the orchestral original.

 

Of all the works in our ‘Classics By Arrangement’ series this year, this is the one that, for me, most brilliantly expresses a paradox in which the ‘Work’ is simultaneously an idea transcending its capture on the page in any ‘definitive form, and also an expression that inhabits the particular form of its representation. While Beethoven’s Op.36 is, of course, an orchestral work, it is equally a piano trio. The idea of Op.36 is fully present in both representations. What a trio combination might lack in terms of sheer volume, compared to an orchestra of perhaps 40 players, is compensated in the arrangement by the composer’s skillful handling of texture. In terms of sheer energy Beethoven retains so much of the idea of the Second Symphony that it is, I believe, wrong to think of the trio version as a ‘mere arrangement’ – as if it were a ‘lightweight’ salon-substitute for the ‘real thing’. One way in which he captures the orchestral scale of the original is through his handling of the piano, which is regularly bursting at the seams. In 1802 Heethoven had still not taken delivery of his Erard; he had encountered the amazing pianos of the Streicher firm, and was likewise fully conversant with the instruments of Walter – he played both types in his Viennese performances. He was also aware, and perhaps frustrated by the typical 5-octave range of these instruments. He frequently stretches the instrument to the limits of what it can bear in the Op.36 Trio. So if the audience is on the edge of their seats when they hear it, I can guarantee that, when playing it, so am I!

 

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Behind the Scenes – 2: Ensemble DeNOTE’s Classics By Arrangement

DeNOTE’s philosophy is one of creative engagement with eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century musical notation, taking the score as a starting-point for an exploration of the sound world of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and their contemporaries. We view scores as scripts, rather than texts: foundations for the creation of meaning in performance, rather than ‘set texts’ to be memorised, then correctly recited. The Music is not the Score. It’s more like conversation (speaking – listening – responding) in real time: the Performance of MEANING, not just the (re)reciting of a text.

 DeNote_CLevy5211-2

Not surprisingly, then, we often look at musical texts afresh in our performances. And that has led us quite often in the direction of late 18th/ early 19th-century arrangements of works by Mozart and Beethoven in particular. And that was the starting point for…

 

 

Classics By Arrangement – the title of Ensemble DeNOTE’s three concerts this spring/ summer at St John’s, Smith Square in London. In these concerts, we explore celebrated chamber music by Mozart and Beethoven in unfamiliar arrangements made by the composers themselves, their pupils and contemporaries. DeNOTE’s founder. John Irving introduces some of these arrangements below.

 

Following our exploration of Mozart arrangements in April, We continue our journey with two Beethoven ‘selfies’: his arrangements of the Quintet for Piano and Winds as a Piano Quartet, and the ever-popular Septet, Op.20 recast as a Trio, Op.38 for clarinet, cello and piano. Our concert is completed with a little-heard arrangement of the Horn Sonata for Basset Horn by Beethoven’s favourite clarinettist, Josef Friedlowsky (1802).

 

 

Piano Quartet in E flat, Op.16.

Beethoven’s autograph manuscript of his Quintet for Piano, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn and Piano, Op.16 (1796) is lost, so there is no conclusive proof that the quintet, rather than the Piano Quartet version with which we close our concert tonight was the original. Much of the evidence points to the quartet as the arrangement, however: on the title-page of the first edition (Mollo, Vienna, 1801) the work is prominently entitled Grand Quintetto, with the quartet version being signalled in smaller type towards the foot of the page; and early commentators such as Beethoven’s pupil, Ferdinand Ries indicated that the quintet came first. Closer inspection of the score tends to support this: the wonderfully ornate viola solo in the slow movement is an object lesson in embellishment, expanding melodically on the already ravishing horn solo from the quintet version; and there are several places in the outer movements at which the strings contribute light chordal support to the piano solos that are completely lacking in the quintet version. These introspective moments – the recapitulation in the first movement, for example – would have been less convincing on winds because of the diversity of their colours and attacks and it far more likely that Beethoven added extra nuances into the piano and strings arrangement. On 6 April 1797 (in the wind version), Beethoven himself improvised long cadenzas at various points in the finale, much to the consternation of the wind players who had no idea where to place their next entries!

 

Sonata for Basset Horn and Piano (arranged by Josef Friedlowsky c.1802) from the Horn Sonata, Op.17

Beethoven’s Horn Sonata (1800) was written for the natural horn in F. It was clearly tailored to showcase the talents of Giovanni Punto (Johann Wenzel Stich), with whom the composer premiered the work – written at great speed – in April 1800. As horn players know, the range of notes produced by a natural horn is not just restricted to the harmonic series, but can be extended by hand stopping, a technique that developed considerably in sophistication during the second half of the eighteenth century.

 

The version for basset horn was arranged by Joseph Friedlowsky (1777-1859), the first clarinet professor of the Vienna Conservatoire. Friedlowsky’s arrangement probably dates from not long after the first edition of Beethoven’s sonata (published by Mollo in Vienna in 1801 with a dedication to Baroness Josefine von Braun). The text of that first edition includes, in addition to the piano and horn parts, a part for cello which Beethoven had himself arranged. Friedlowsky’s arrangement for basset horn is quite closely based on the cello version.

 

The origins of the basset horn remain unclear, though they may have developed as something of an experiment by the instrument makers Anton and Michael Mayrhofer in Passau during the 1760s. Like its emergent contemporary the clarinet, it is a single-reed instrument with a relatively narrow bore and early examples were pitched in several different keys (F, G, B flat and D); generally speaking, after about 1800 the basset horn was pitched in F. The basset horn is larger and has a deeper sound (its bottom note, low F is heard at the end of the opening phrase of Beethoven’s sonata); it is either angled or curved in the middle; at the far end from the player is a box or ‘book’ (enclosing tubing bent back on itself several times and giving the necessary downwards extension to the range), and finally a metal flared bell. Its dark tones were favoured by Mozart in his Masonic music, in the Gran’ Partita, K.361, in La Clemenza di Tito, and most famously in the Requiem, K.626. Carl Stamitz, J.G.H Backofen, Franz Danzi and Felix Mendelssohn all composed for the instrument, but not, it seems, Beethoven apart from one single movement in his ballet Prometheus. Friedlowsky’s arrangement of the Horn Sonata is thus all the more welcome as an addition to the player’s repertoire.

 

 

Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, Op.38 (the composer’s arrangement of the Septet, Op.20)

 

IMG_0077

(Variation 2 from the 4th movement of Beethoven’s Trio arrangement of his Septet – from the First Edition, piano part)

Published by the Viennese firm, Bureau des Arts et d’Industrie in 1805, Beethoven’s Trio for Clarinet, Cello and PIano, Op.38 is the composer’s own arrangement of his extremely popular Septet, Op. 20, made in 1802. Presumably Beethoven made the arrangement because he feared (in an age before copyright protection) that others would reap the financial rewards of arrangements. In that sense he was astute, for the Septet went on to be one of his most-frequently arranged chamber works, with some twenty arrangements for various forces appearing within the nineteenth century alone.

 

The clarinet part holds to its original line in the Septet for much of Beethoven’s Trio (although it takes over the violin part in the opening Introduction); the cello memorably becomes a horn in the scherzo; the piano takes over much of the rest of the texture and the resulting torrent of notes, pushing the contemporary fortepiano to its limits, perhaps gives us a flavour of Beethoven’s virtuosity as a pianist. All in all, the Trio is an object lesson in the art of arrangement. The balance and interaction between the clarinet, cello and piano never fails in its inventiveness and in no sense is this ‘arrangement’ inferior to the Septet original. It is, rather, a colourful and creative reinterpretation of it, presenting the material in new textural combinations as if differently illuminated.

 


Leave a comment

Behind the Scenes of ‘Classics By Arrangement’

Writing in 1829, Goethe compared chamber music of the late 18th / early 19th centuries to an erudite conversation among intelligent people. The ‘language’ of classical chamber music by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven is ideally suited to the expression of his idea. Meanings are created through conversational engagement in intimate settings. Conversations are not lectures. The scale of a conversation is quite intimate, with subtle inflections of the voice. It involves active listening. The listening is as important as the speaking in the creating of a narrative. Meaning arises as a relationship among the speakers in real time.

 

This is this inspiration for DeNOTE’s work. DeNOTE’s performances of classical chamber music explore this environment through education workshops and concert performances. For us, the musical scores are scripts through which musical meaning is created conversationally (speaking – listening – responding) in real time: the Performance of MEANING, not just the (re)reciting of a text.

 DeNote_CLevy5211-2

Not surprisingly, then, we often look at musical texts afresh in our performances. And that has led us quite often in the direction of late 18th/ early 19th-century arrangements of works by Mozart and Beethoven in particular. And that was the starting point for…

 

 

Classics By Arrangement – the title of Ensemble DeNOTE’s three concerts this spring/ summer at St John’s, Smith Square in London. In these concerts, we explore celebrated chamber music by Mozart and Beethoven in unfamiliar arrangements made by the composers themselves, their pupils and contemporaries. DeNOTE’s founder. John Irving introduces some of these arrangements below.

 

We began our exploration of historic chamber music arrangements in early April with two familiar Mozart works in unfamiliar guises: his Quintet for Piano and Winds, K.452 arranged as a Piano Quartet – just possibly by his one-time composition pupil, Josef Freyatädtler. This version was actually the first published edition of the work to appear, some 6 years before the original scoring. We partnered this with Mozart’s extraordinary ‘Gran’ Partita’, K.361 arranged as a ‘Grand Quintetto’ for clarinet, violin, viola, cello and piano by C.F.G. Schwencke (1805).

 

 

Piano Quartet in E flat (an arrangement the Quintet for Piano & Winds, K.452).

 

Mozart’s Piano and Winds Quintet, K.452, completed at the end of March 1784, has long been famed as the work Mozart himself regarded as ‘the best I have ever composed.’ There were at least two performances in spring and early summer that year, though the work is never mentioned again in Mozart’s surviving correspondence, and it did not appear in print until after his death. The autograph manuscript had been lost at least as early as 1800 (according to Constanze Mozart, it was appropriated by a Polish nobleman), though happily, it was later rediscovered and eventually reunited with its dismembered final leaf containing the delightfully nonchalant conclusion (the final leaf was perhaps separately given away as a keepsake by Mozart’s widow – a not-infrequent habit of hers). Today, it is to be found in the Bibliothèque du Conservatoire, Paris.

Possibly because of the circumstances surrounding the location of the autograph, the work’s early publication history is somewhat confused. A print of the piano and winds version appeared in Augsburg in 1799, though it had been preceded six years earlier by the piano quartet arrangement with strings (just possibly by Mozart’s pupil Josef Freystädtler), published in Vienna by Artaria. Various prints of the quartet (and sometimes original quintet) appeared – all copied from the Artaria version. What they all share is a curtailed ending of the finale; clearly the arrangement was made before the lost final leaf of Mozart’s autograph – the piano and winds version, of course – was rediscovered.

 

Gran’ Quintetto (arranged by C.F.G Schwencke, c.1805 from the Gran’ Partita, K.361 aka the Serenade for 13 Winds)

 IMG_0048

No-one really knows for sure what prompted Mozart to compose his extraordinary serenade for 13 instruments, K361 – the so-called ‘Gran’ Partita’. It may have been written for fellow-Freemason, Anton Stadler, the clarinetist for whom Mozart also wrote the ‘Kegelstatt’ Trio, along with the Clarinet Quintet and the Clarinet Concerto. Part of the Gran’ Partita was premiered at a concert in Vienna’s Hoftheater in March 1784; further performances of the work from Mozart’s lifetime are undocumented, perhaps because of its unusual scoring for pairs of oboes, clarinets, basset horns, bassoons, four horns and double bass. Nevertheless, it must have gained considerable popularity, for it was arranged for numerous different combinations. One of these, completed in about 1805 was as a ‘Grand Quintetto’ by the Hamburg Stadtkantor, Christian Friedrich Gottlieb Schwencke for clarinet (or oboe), violin, viola, cello and piano – exactly the core combination of Ensemble DeNOTE!

Does it work as a Quintet? According to The Birmingham Post, reviewing a recent concert performance:

 

Disbelief had to be suspended, initially unwillingly, when faced with the prospect of Mozart’s sublime Gran Partita for 13 wind instruments, one of the greatest works in the entire canon, being given in a version for a motley quintet of keyboard, strings and clarinet.

But in this performance for Bromsgrove Concerts of Schwencke’s transcription, Ensemble DeNOTE delivered it with a grateful awareness of its radiance.

The keyboard, John Irving’s beautiful fortepiano, sustains many of the textures (repeated woodwind chords are convincingly transferred to the instrument’s tactilely responsive articulation), violin, viola and cello stand in for horns, bassoons and whatever else with great success, with only the rare halting phrasing making us regret the absence of suave winds, and the clarinettist (here the heroic Jane Booth) sweetly reminds us of the work’s provenance.

 

You can judge for yourself soon: the Grand Quintetto is included in Vol.2 of our Mozart Chamber Music series, which will be released on Devine Music (DMCD008) in early May.

 


Leave a comment

Hull – the UK’s Capital of Culture

It was a pleasure to be a part of the magnificent year-long festival celebrating Hull as the UK’s Capital of Culture 2017.

Our events – all in the splendid newly-refitted Middleton Hall at the University of Hull – included a public open rehearsal, a performance workshop for students, and, of course, our concert: ‘Bach, Beethoven and Virtuosity’, exploring performances of chamber works by Bach and Beethoven in the Viennese salon of Baron Gottfried van Swieten at the end of the 18th century.

Middleton Hall has been completely transformed, and is an excellent venue for chamber music performance. Our warmly appreciative audience included a good number who were attending their first ever classical music concert. Let’s hope that they’ve been inspired to return for more – that would be a valuable legacy from Hull2017!

c57karzwmaempxbphoto


Leave a comment

Education matters

We’re very proud of our educational work at DeNOTE. We’ve been doing quite a few education projects of late, at different levels. Here’s a brief digest.

Just before Christmas, we held a one-day workshop on Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto for A-level students at Egglescliffe School in Teesside, which the Headmaster, Mr White (who is very proud of his school’s musical culture and its talented music students) described as ‘an incredible experience for them and one that starts many more’.

The previous day, we worked with B.Mus students in the Martin Harris Centre, University of Manchester (following a lunchtime concert). Their Head of Music, Prof David Fanning thought it was ‘fantastic’ (which is very nice of him).

Last week, we returned to Benslow Music, the prime provider of music courses for adult amateur players. Feedback from participants on our Mixed Chamber Music Course at Benslow Music, February 2017 was very gratifying:

 

‘5/5 Very sympathetic tutors, who conveyed their enormous knowledge with a light touch’

‘5/5 Top class experience’

‘5/5 An aspect of this course which differentiates it from others [at Benslow Music] is the attention to interpretation. There is time to focus on performance.’

 

Next week, we move up to Hull University for two days of open rehearsals, an evening concert and student workshops as part of the Hull2017 UK City of Culture. We’ve worked at Hull several times before, and are very much looking forward to renewing our acquaintances there.


Leave a comment

Listening and Resilience in a Whitby school

As part of DeNOTE’s ongoing education outreach, we are are always keen to make a contribution to enhancing school music provision. In early May, Jane Booth and John Irving were performing a Mozart concert at St Hilda’s Priory chapel, Sneaton Castle, and fitted in a lecture-recital visit to Caedmon College in nearby Whitby. About 60 pupils, age 12-16 (including a cohort from Eskdale School) attended, listening to performances from an 1809 arrangement for clarinet and piano of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, K.581, interspersed with observations on the music, on Mozart’s compositional craft, and on the early clarinet and piano (and how these inspired Mozart’s language). It was followed by a lively Q & A session in which some of the broader benefits of a music education were raised. Here’s a report that appeared on the school’s website shortly afterwards.

Professor John Irving and Jane Booth

On Friday 6 May, music students in Years 7, 8, 9 and 10 were joined by a group of Year 7 and 9 students from Eskdale School in the Normanby hall to attend a workshop on the music of Mozart by two very special visitors: Professor John Irving, who is Professor of Performance Practice at Trinity Laban Conservatoire, London, and Jane Booth, who is Head of Historical Performance at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London. They both specialise in ‘period instruments’ – copies of instruments from the 18th century, on which they explore and perform music from the time of Bach, Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven.

They delivered some captivating performances of the different movements of an arrangement of Mozart’s clarinet Quintet. They also spoke to the students about Mozart’s life and how he was influenced by his surroundings. What they emphasised most though, was that whilst Mozart was clearly talented, this only got him so far, with John saying that, “Talent is not enough for anyone to go far – talent may help in the first instance but what matters most is hard work”.

Both John and Jane also spoke about performance practice and how it is not necessarily the length of practice sessions that is most important but how you practice: “You need to identify what you are doing wrong or what precisely needs work and focus on just that. Your practice should be really focused”.

The two musicians were impressed with how well the students listened and said that this is just one of the many important and transferable life skills that we can learn from music, adding that, “Listening is just as important as doing”. Practice towards a performance also develops one’s resilience and determination and they encouraged students to always think about how they could push themselves further, in any situation, and to consider what effort they are going to have to put in to do that – as Professor Irving said, “There are no shortcuts to becoming expert at anything”.

photo


Leave a comment

Hull UK City of Culture 2017

Hull is the UK’s City of Culture 2017 – and DeNOTE is a part of it!images-3

We’re thrilled to be working in partnership with Hull University next March to deliver two days of public rehearsals, workshops for students, and an evening concert celebrating Virtuosity (one of the Festival’s themes): all as part of Hull UK City of Culture 2017!

Our programme is “Enduring Virtuosos: Bach and Beethoven” and it will take place in the newly-refurbished Middleton Hall at Hull University on 2 March. The previous day, we’ll be resident on campus, offering a varied diet of open ensemble rehearsals and coaching workshops for performance and composition students.

We’re absolutely delighted to be going back to this vibrant city, further extending our relationship with the University. This will be our fifth visit since 2012! Recently, we spent three hugely enjoyable days there working on Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and the Piano Concerto, K.413 with student ensembles, leading to two concerts. It’s a thriving environment for music and we’re proud to be associated with it – most especially in Hull City of Culture 2017!

images-5

Our new Bach and Beethoven programme will, unusually, approach Bach’s music from the standpoint of late 18th-century-Viennese musical tastes, and on instruments of that time. Bach was a particular favourite of the Imperial Librarian, Baron Gottfried van Swieten, whose protégé, Beethoven frequently attended his salons and performed the works of Bach alongside his own virtuosic piano compositions. Under van Swieten’s encouragement, Beethoven diligently explored Bach’s music, and it is this connection that has inspired our choice to construct a salon-like programme dovetailing works by both composers, as may have happened at the Baron’s Viennese palace. Hull, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, has always been a vibrant and outward-looking city, connecting people across times and places. Its mercantile, intellectual and cultural heritage encourages us to look afresh at what we thought was familiar. That too has inspired our Bach/Beethoven programme, in which we offer a chance to explore these two familiar composers from a less familiar vantage-point.

170px-Hull_City_Hall

DeNOTE’s “Enduring Virtuosos: Bach and Beethoven” takes place at Middleton Hall, University of Hull on 1-2 March 2017. Find out more about Hull UK City of Culture 2017.