Romantic Dvořák at St Mark’s, Broomhill

This year’s Broomhill Festival in Sheffield begins on 15th June and I am delighted to be taking part in it. Jonny Ingall (cello), Roy Phillips (piano) and I will perform a lunchtime concert in the lovely setting of St Mark’s Church on Friday 22nd June at 1pm. The festival is titled By the community, for the community, and proceeds from our concert will be donated to St Luke’s Hospice in Sheffield. Tickets are available on the door and the suggested donation is £7-£10.

Our programme is very varied, with music by Haydn, Clarke, Popper, Summer and Kreisler, as well as two pieces by Antonín Dvořák: the Romance for violin and piano and Andante moderato from the Dumky Trio. Romance dates from 1877, but the piece started life as the slow movement of his String Quartet in F minor, op. 9. When the quartet failed to be as popular as Dvořák had hoped, he reworked and extended the movement in two versions: for violin and piano, and violin and orchestra. After a long introduction on the piano, the violin plays a beautiful, song-like melody, in which the influence of Slavonic folk music can be heard. The middle section of the piece is very dramatic, with virtuosic figurations in the solo part, before the main theme returns.

Dvořák’s Trio in E minor, subtitled Dumky, was completed in 1891 and premiered in Prague the same year, with the composer on piano. The work is unusual in structure, as it is in six main sections. Dvořák used the Duma as his basis – this is a Slavic term referring to epic ballads and songs of lament, and composers in the 19th century began using it as a classical form to indicate a despondent and introspective composition, interspersed with brighter sections. The main theme of the fourth movement of the Dumky Trio is a soaring, passionate melody played by the cello. Lighter, scherzo-like sections are provided by the violin and piano.

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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.

Musical treats during a cold November

As the temperatures drop there are a number of musical events to look forward to. This evening I will be performing in the beautiful setting of Worksop College Chapel in a candlelit Solemn Eucharist for St Cecilia. The service will be led by Rev’d Paul Finlinson (Chaplain of Worksop College) and the music directed by Timothy Uglow. The main work will be Haydn’s Little Organ Mass and it will be performed by a small ensemble of musicians (strings and organ), as originally intended. The mass dates from around 1775 and is a concise work, which was necessary for practical reasons at the time. Haydn manages to compress the Gloria and Credo by allowing different vocal parts to carry different lines of the text simultaneously. In the original version the Gloria is only 31 bars, which is quite an extreme example of the practice, so Michael Haydn (his younger brother) later composed a longer version of the movement. The service will also include Purcell’s Rejoice in the Lord Alway and Puccini’s Requiem. The service begins at 8.45pm and entry is free.

st-cecilia

On Tuesday 15th November I’m delighted to have been asked to give a short solo performance as part of the Sheffield Year of Making Showcase at the Crucible Theatre, coordinated by Sheffield Culture Consortium. It will be an afternoon celebrating local creativity and talent and there will be presentations from all sectors. Tickets are free and can be reserved through the Sheffield City of Makers website. I look forward to presenting some joyous Bach and Monti’s fiery Czardas.

Autumn music in Sheffield

There are two opportunities to see me perform in Sheffield on Saturday 15th October: at 4pm in the Winter Gardens and at 8pm in St Andrew’s Church, Psalter Lane.

Following on from the highly successful Classical Sheffield Festival last autumn, the organisation is hosting a weekend of pop-up performances in Sheffield’s Winter Gardens. The line-up features an extremely wide range of music, and there will be appearances by The Abbeydale Singers, Platform 4 and The Beekeepers Chamber Folk Group to name but a few. I will give a short solo performance at 4pm including excerpts from Bach’s E major Partita and Biber’s haunting Passagalia, considered by many to be the most important work for unaccompanied violin before Bach. Entrance to the gardens is free.

In the evening I will be at St Andrew’s Church, Psalter Lane for a concert with Black Velvet Clarinet Quartet and on this occasion I will be accompanied by my dad, Roy Phillips. My contribution to the programme includes Mozart’s Sonata for piano and violin in G major, K.301 and Schumann’s Romance in A, Op. 94 no. 2. I am also particularly looking forward to performing the Romance by Karol Szymanowski; written in the autumn of 1910, after the completion of his second symphony, the work is extremely passionate and full of rich chromatic harmony. At this time Szymanowksi was influenced by the music of late-Romantic composers such as Richard Strauss and Wagner, as well as Scriabin and Chopin.

Black Velvet Clarinet Quartet, which was formed in 2012 and essentially comprises the clarinet sections of the Sheffield Chamber Orchestra and the Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra, will perform works dating from the Renaissance to the present day. Some are transcriptions of well-known pieces, such as Brahms’ Hungarian Dance no.5 and Oblivion by Astor Piazzolla, whereas some were written especially for clarinet quartet. Caprice, by american composer Clare Grundman (1913-1996), is one of a number of pieces he wrote for clarinets. He is best known for his works for symphonic wind band, such as the American Folk Rhapsodies.

The concert begins at 8pm and door open from 7.30pm. Tickets will be available on the door priced £12/£8 concessions. There will be a short interval during which refreshments will be served.

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.

Concert in aid of Friends of the Rowan School Music Therapy

Tomorrow evening I will be performing in Millhouses Methodist Church in Sheffield to raise funds for Friends of the Rowan School Music Therapy.

I will be joined in the concert by Caccia Wind Quintet, violinist Hannah Thompson-Smith and pianist Roy Phillips and we have prepared an extremely varied programme. My contribution includes the Theme from Ladies in Lavender (Nigel Hess), some excerpts from Bizet’s Carmen and a sonata by Telemann.

I must admit that prior to rehearsing for this concert I knew very little about Telemann. Born in 1681 in Magdeburg, his mother tried to prevent him studying music, so he was largely self-taught. He was able to play a large number of instruments including violin, recorder, keyboard, flute, double bass and trombone. By the age of twelve he had written an opera and he went on to become one of the most prolific composers of his time, despite being somewhat overshadowed by the popularity of J.S.Bach.

The sonata I will perform is part of his Essercizii musici, an anthology of chamber music for various instruments published around 1739. The collection comprises 10 sonatas, 12 trios and two suites for harpsichord.

The concert begins at 7.30pm a tickets are £8, £7 concessions and £2 under-16s. All proceeds will be donated to Rowan School Music Therapy. For more information on the charity visit http://www.fotrs.org.uk.

Music for spring

Following a fairly quiet winter season I have a number of orchestral performances coming up in the next few weeks. After helping out in Worksop College’s orchestral concert on Thursday I will be heading back to Lincolnshire to play in the Boston Orchestra’s Spring Concert in St Mary’s Church, Frampton. The programme includes Spring from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, with soloist Mauro Maglioni, Ernest Tomlinson’s Suite of English Folk Songs and Haydn’s Symphony no. 104 ‘London’.  The orchestra will be conducted by my dad, Roy Phillips, in what will be his last concert with the orchestra after many years of involvement with the group both as musical director and player. Tickets are available on the door (£8 or free for under-16s) and proceeds will be donated to the church.

Spring flowers

On Saturday 16th May Sheffield Chamber Orchestra presents its final concert of the season at High Storrs School, Sheffield. Local student Lily Frascina will be the soloist in Franz Strauss’ Horn Concerto and the evening will end with Schubert’s 3rd Symphony. Tickets are available in advance from the orchestra’s website.

The concert comes at the end of an eventful week of music in Sheffield, as Music in the Round’s May Festival will be taking place in the Crucible. I always enjoy attending events there and this year I am particularly looking forward to seeing the Marmen Quartet team up with Ensemble 360 in Mendelssohn’s wonderful Octet on Friday 8th.

I have a number of exciting projects coming up later this year, so keep checking back to see what I’m up to!