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Pavlova Wind Quintet programme notes
Pavlova Wind Quintet

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Wolfgang Mozart (1756-91)

Marriage of Figaro Overture arr JW Brown

This overture is standard repertoire for symphony orchestras and has been transcribed for numerous instrumental ensembles. This arrangement demands a light and nimble approach from the ensemble. Lots of notes for all! The Marriage of Figaro was the first of three successful collaborations between librettist Lorenzo da Ponte and Mozart. Based on the second part of the Beaumarchais Figaro Trilogy, Mozart's brilliant opera buffa continues the story begun with The Barber of Seville. We find ourselves among the familiar characters on the day of Figaro's wedding to Susanna but the ceremony is delayed by various intrigues, plots and other flights of aristocratic spoofery. That the opera would become the beloved repertory standard it is today was not immediately apparent. The play was banned at first and it took some effort by da Ponte to get permission for his libretto treatment. Once complete, the opera enjoyed a successful premiere but only eight more performances in Vienna, where paid hecklers attempted to bring Mozart down. Mozart soon took the production on the road to Prague and it was there that the history begins to match our own affection.

Ivor Gurney (1890-1937)

Five Preludes arr Chris Britton No 1 in F# major No 2 in A minor No 3 in Db major No 4 in F# major No 5 in D major

Gloucester-born Ivor Gurney displayed exceptional talents as a musician in his youth, going on to study at the Royal College of Music under Charles Villiers Stanford, the teacher of Vaughan-Williams, Frank Bridge and Arthur Bliss amongst others. He was declared the 'biggest of them all' by Stanford, but also 'unteachable' because of his volatile personality and deep mood swings, which plagued him all his life and led to him spending the last 15 years of his life in a mental hospital. He is now remembered however as one of the great WW1 poets, with much of his poetry written while he was a soldier at the front. He was wounded and gassed in 1917 and invalided out of the war. While his poetry is celebrated, his musical compositions (songs, orchestral pieces, chamber music) have received less attention, with nearly two-thirds of them being unpublished and unrecorded. His piano preludes, here specially arranged for wind quintet for this concert, were written in 1919 and 1920, in a rich, late-Romantic style, quite untouched by either the current vogue for folk music or the acerbic style of the modern neo-Classical composers. They are delicate miniatures, full of tenderness and redolent of Schumann, yet somehow still as English as Elgar.

Jean-Michel Damase (1928-2013)

Dix-sept variations for wind quintet op 22

Damase was a French composer and pianist (born at Bordeaux, died at Paris). He began instrumental studies at the age of five, and at nine, after meeting the famous author Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, set some of her poems. In 1943 he was awarded a first prize in piano at the Paris Conservatory, and in 1947 he won the Prix de Rome. He wrote seven operas, seven ballets, orchestral works including a symphony and ten concertos, chamber and instrumental works, and vocal works for soloists and choirs. The Dix-Sept Variations, composed in 1951, comprises a delightful set of pieces for the standard wind quintet of flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon. The main theme is a bit like a march, but the clever variations put it into many different guises, even a slightly sarcastic piece for solo bassoon. Damase fully exploits the numerous possibilities and strengths of these five flexible instruments; the final variation provides a splendidly triumphant declaration, accompanied by elaborate and rapid gestures.

Lionel Sainsbury (1958-)

Two Cuban Dances arr Sainsbury I Allegretto II Comodo An arrangement of the Two Cuban Dances originally composed for piano solo (1991).

The British composer Lionel Sainsbury's music has been described by the press as "striking", "passionate", "ethereal", "beautifully crafted" and full of "beautiful musical ideas". Born in Wiltshire, England, he started to play the piano at an early age, and soon began to compose his own music. He studied privately and at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, where he won the major prizes for composition, and while still a student was also awarded the UK's prestigious Mendelssohn Scholarship at the age of 21.

Mozart (1756-91)

Three operatic arias arr John Newhill

1 'Voi, che sapete' from The Marriage of Figaro is sung by Cherubino, a young boy at that age of awakening when love is all-important but a mystery. Ye ladies who know what love is, behold the turmoil of my heart, possessed with a desire that is now a delight, now a torment. I freeze and burn by turns. I am in quest of something but I know not quite what it is. There is no peace for me night or day, yet even my torment is delight. At one point in the story the young boy is caught alone with the gardener's daughter and the Count dismisses the boy from service.

2 In Die Zauberflote an Egyptian prince and his companion set off into the woods in search of a princess whose mother, the Queen of the Night, has armed them with a magic flute and magic chimes, respectively. The prince, of course, finds the imprisoned princess, falls in love with her, and must pass several tests in order to wed her. But his companion, Papagano, a birdcatcher and comical character, despairs, becoming suicidal in the last scene of the opera, because he still is without a wife. In 'Ein Madchen' he describes his plight rings the magic chimes, and his very own sweetheart suddenly appears.

3 Don Giovanni was premièred in 1787 in Prague, where it had a great success, and one of its most charming moments comes in Act I with 'Là ci darem la mano'. This is sung as Don Giovanni attempts to seduce the peasant girl Zerlina. Their joint aria is very brief - Mozart called it a "Duettino" - but it has been an audience favourite from the start. It is sung as Don Giovanni leads Zerlina off to his house with the (patently false) promise of marriage. She goes along with this, putting up only token resistance, and all of this happens to some of the most beguiling and seductive music ever written.

Carl Nielsen (1865-1931)

Quintet in A major Allegro ben Moderato Menuet Praeludium (adagio) - Tema con Variazioni

Carl Nielsen's Wind Quintet was written in 1921 as he was finishing the monumental 5th Symphony. He was inspired by hearing a rehearsal of the Copenhagen Wind Quintet; the players became his friends. and he painted their portraits, in a sense, in this Quintet. The first movement is pastoral, serene; many have heard forest sounds in it. The second movement, a Mahler-type minuet features much two-part writing (clarinet and bassoon) and adheres to a strictly classical form. The last movement is a tour de force of resourceful instrumentation, by any standard a masterpiece of the variation form. The Praeludium displays the English horn in a dark, bog-like atmosphere reminiscent of the Fifth Symphony. Then a serenely optimistic chorale (which Nielsen had composed some ten years earlier to the hymn text "My Jesus, make my heart love thee") serves as the admirable theme for eleven striking variations. In the fifth, the funniest, Nielsen portrays another side of his clarinetist's, Aage Oxenvad's character: irascibility in contrast with the tenderness of the Minuet. The chorale theme, in an even statelier guise, closes the work.

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