Music for Springtime

I am delighted to have been invited to perform in this year’s Belper Music Festival, part of Belper Arts Festival 2017. Beate Toyka, the festival director, and I will entertain you with light classical music, perfect for a spring evening. The concert will take place in St Peter’s Church in Belper, and before it begins a traditional, fruity ‘May Punch’ will be available on the terrace. The start of the concert will be announced by a trumpet voluntary, inviting you into the church.

Following on from our recent performance of Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata at the Classical Weekend in Sheffield, Beate and I will be including movements from his Sonata in F major, ‘Spring’ Sonata. The programme will also include Mendelssohn’s Spring Song, Elgar’s Chanson de Matin and Chanson de Nuit, Liszt’s ‘Un Sospiro’ and the theme from Ladies in Lavender, by Nigel Hess.

Tickets are £10 for adults, £8 for over 60s and £1 for under 16s. Tickets and more information can be found on the Belper Arts Festival website.

Concerts in the Belper Music Festival 2017 run from 29th April to 2nd June and include a varied and exciting line-up. Highlights include a performance by ‘The Younger Kanneh-Masons’, the very talented siblings of Sheku Kanneh-Mason, winner of BBC Young Musician of the Year 2016, and the Belper ‘Last Night of the Proms’ starring Opera Babe Karen England.

 

Advertisements

Beethoven Violin Sonatas: The Grand Finale

After spending a year and a half working my way through this fabulous collection of sonatas, I have reached the final performance. In planning the series, the decision of which sonata to end with was an obvious one: the Kreutzer.

Beethoven composed the ninth of his ten violin sonatas in 1803, persuaded by the young violinist George Polgreen Bridgetower, who was keen to premiere a piece with him. Bridgetower had recently arrived in Vienna, and is said to have been an exciting violinist with an impulsive and brash personality. Beethoven was given very little time to compose the sonata, and on the day of the concert some of the movements were only just finished, the ink barely dry on the page.

The finale of the ninth sonata, an energetic tarantella, is the original last movement of the sixth (Op. 30 no.1), which Beethoven had set aside, considering it to be too long for that piece. It became the basis for the creation of the first two movements of the new work. The style of the sonata has shifted even further from the model of Mozart’s, and it is written in a style ‘like that of a concerto’. Both piano and violin parts are extremely virtuosic.

Following the premiere, Beethoven and Bridgetower had a quarrel, and so when the sonata was later published the dedicatee was changed to Rodolphe Kreutzer. Beethoven wrote that ‘As the sonata is written for a competent violinist, the dedication to Kreutzer is all the more appropriate.’ In spite of this Kreutzer never performed the work, saying to Hector Berlioz that it was ‘outrageously unintelligible’!

I am delighted to have the opportunity to perform the Kreutzer as part of the Classical Weekend in Sheffield. I will be joined by pianist Beate Toyka and the concert is at 1.30pm on Saturday 18th March, in the Upper Chapel, Surrey Street, Sheffield. Tickets cost £5 and will be available on the door, although advance booking is recommended. Visit the Classical Weekend website for more information.

Beethoven Violin Sonatas – Concert 4

On Saurday 17th September I will perform the penultimate concert in my series of the complete Beethoven violin sonatas. I will be joined by award-winning Croatian pianist Inja Stanovic and once again the venue is St Andrew’s Church, Psalter Lane, Sheffield.

In this programme I will perform both the G major sonatas (Op.30 no. 3 and Op. 96). Although there is a decade between their compositions the two sonatas have a number of similarities. G major tended to be a pastoral key for Beethoven, who was inspired  and influenced by nature throughout his life, and both works have a feeling of the countryside and make use of folk-like melodies. Opus 96, which was his final violin sonata, opens with a figure like a bird call, followed by gentle arpeggios in both instruments which evoke summer breezes. The finale of the earlier G major sonata is an energetic folk dance often over a drone bass.

Vienna woods

Another notable feature of the sonatas is Beethoven’s use of E flat major. In Op.30/3 he uses it as the key of the second movement, an elegant minuet, and in Op.96 he gives it almost as much importance as the tonic, including it in all four movements.

Alongside these works Inja will perform his twelfth piano sonata, in A flat major Op. 26. It was composed in 1801, the first of four piano sonatas that year, all of which are experimental in some way. It is unusual in that none of the movements uses the traditional sonata form structure. The third movement, described in Beethoven’s initial sketches as a ‘character piece’ is a funeral march; this was a popular genre during the era of the Napoleonic Wars.

Tickets can be reserved in advance through the contact page. £12 full price, £8 concessions.

Beethoven Violin Sonatas (2)

The second concert in my series which includes the complete Beethoven violin sonatas is coming up on Saturday 13th February, 7.30pm, in St Andrew’s Church, Psalter Lane, Sheffield. This concert will include Beethoven’s 4th and 5th sonatas, Opp. 23 and 24.

In this concert I will be accompanied by pianist Emmanuel Vass. Emmanuel studied at the Royal Northern College of Music and he now has a busy performing schedule around the country and also lectures at Leeds College of Music. Last year he released his second solo album, Sonic Waves, which was funded entirely through a Kickstarter campaign and reached number one in the specialist classical charts. His music has been played on Classic FM and Radio 3.

Emmanuel Vass

Our concert will also feature romantic works by Brahms, Dvorak and Elgar, making it an ideal outing to celebrate Valentine’s Day! Tickets are £12/£8 concessions and seating is unreserved.

Clara Schumann and friends

A few months ago I performed Clara Schumann’s beautiful Three Romances for Violin and Piano Op.22 and, on Saturday 30th January, Catherine Strachan, David Hammond and I will include her Piano Trio Op. 17 in our lunchtime concert in Chesterfield Library.

Born in Leipzig in 1819, Clara began learning piano at the age of five with her father and she went on to become one of the most famous pianists of her time, making her solo debut in the Leipzig Gewandhaus when she was just 11. She married the composer Robert Schumann in 1840 (at the time she was the better known of the two) and she premiered all of his works for piano. Following his death she concentrated on promoting his music in her concerts.

Of all her compositions the Piano Trio (1846) is thought by many to be her masterpiece. Felix Mendelssohn, who had been appointed conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in 1835, was greatly impressed by the work, praising in particular the fugato section in the fourth movement. Clara and Mendelssohn knew each other for many years and he dedicated a number of his pieces to her, including the fifth book of Songs without Words Op.62, from which I will be playing the Spring Song on 30th January.

Another great friend of Clara was Johannes Brahms. He first made the acquaintance of the Schumanns in Dusseldorf in 1853 when he came to them for advice on his compositions. He and Clara remained firm friends until her death and he was a great support during the difficult periods in her life, such as Robert’s illness and death and later the deaths of a number of her children. Brahms greatly appreciated her opinion and sent many of his scores to her. David Hammond will perform his Intermezzo Op. 118 No. 2, which Brahms dedicated to Clara.

The concert begins at 11.45am in Chesterfield Library on Saturday 30th January and the performance will last around 45 minutes. Doors open at 11.30am and admission is free.

Charity concerts in Sheffield 2014

This year I am putting on two concerts in Sheffield, on 14th June and 20th September, to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care. Both events will take place in St Andrew’s Church, Psalter Lane, and tickets for the June concert are now on sale.

 

Marie Curie Cancer Care, originally known as Marie Curie Memorial Foundation, has been an official charity in the UK since 1952 and is dedicated to alleviating the suffering of terminally ill patients and supporting their families. It provides hospices and nursing for patients in their own homes and is committed to research into the best possible care and how to provide it. It is named after the scientist Marie Curie (1867-1934) who carried out pioneering research into radioactivity and was the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize.

 

The concert on June 14th will be a violin and piano recital and I will be joined by York-based pianist David Hammond. The programme for the evening is as follows:

 

Brahms – Sonata movement in C minor

Saint-Saëns – Havanaise

Debussy – Violin Sonata

Mozart – Sonata in G, K301

Mendelssohn – Sonata in F

 

Please use the contact page to purchase tickets (£10/£5 concessions) and support this worthy cause.

 

Saturday 14th June 2014, 7.30pm

St Andrew’s Church, Psalter Lane, Sheffield S11 8YL

daffodil

Piano trio in Chesterfield Library

This week I braved Snake Pass for the first time and travelled to Rochdale, where, fuelled by some delicious cheese and onion pie provided by the church, David and I performed sonatas by Franck and Mendelssohn to an appreciative audience in St Mary in the Baum.

As the saying goes, there’s no rest for the wicked, and I am straight on to preparing for my next performance in a couple of weeks. The programme will be Haydn’s Trio in G major ‘Gypsy Rondo’, Giordani’s Duetto I, Grieg Andante con moto and Revolucionario by Astor Piazzolla. I will be joined by Catherine Strachan (cello) and David Hammond (piano) both of whom studied at the University of York at the same time as me.

img0032

The Grieg is a particularly interesting piece. Composed in 1878, the same year as the G minor string quartet, it is a single-movement work, probably the beginnings of a complete piano trio. It was discovered after his death by his friend and colleague Julius Rontgen, but, like the Mendelssohn sonata I performed this week, it was not published until more recently, in the complete Grieg edition of 1978. The whole movement is constructed from a single theme which uses just 6 notes, but at the same time includes a huge amount of variety in its tonality, texture, use of instruments and tempo. Rontgen wrote: “What a solemnity it conveys! How he can’t get enough of that single theme, that even in the major mode retains its mourning character, and then develops so beautifully its full power”.

Grieg is one of my favourite composers and in the past I have performed two of his violin sonatas (G major and C minor), so I am very much looking forward to presenting this trio in Chesterfield Library. The concert begins at 11.45am and entry is free.