Churchill Music

Promoting musical excellence in Somerset since 2007

Music for Lockdown 13

This week’s quotation is from conductor Aleksandar Marković published 18th May 2020 in Classical Music Magazine. “….music is food for the soul.  If you look through history, human beings resist war and situations like this through the arts.  When we’re cornered, we tend to come back to our intellectual and cultural heritage. It nourishes our hearts and injects hope and positivity.”   The full article is well worth a read https://www.rhinegold.co.uk/classical_music/life-in-lockdown-conductor-aleksandar-markovic/

Start the day tingling (the first movement opens with a single whip-crack) with this lively performance of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major performed by Martha Argerich from Argentina, arguably one of the world’s finest pianists, with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Yuri Temirkanov.  The opening movement calls up all those jazz themes which were popular at the time (Ravel took from 1929 -1931 to write the work) and which Ravel found to be a vital source of inspiration!  The second movement, Adagio is that food for the soul that really does nourish our hearts.  It is beautifully reflective and calming.  Not for long.  The final movement, ‘Presto’ is just that – as one comment states, if Martha played it any faster she would get a speeding ticket!!  Ravel is quoted as saying, “The opening theme came to me on a train between Oxford and London”.  You can almost hear the train!  

Continuing on in G major, Mozart has been featured quite a few times in these emails – not for any other reason than the London Mozart Players have produced such a wealth of fascinating aspects of Mozart’s life and works that they are too good to miss.  This week Ruth Rogers gives us a wonderful insight into Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 3 in G major.  Food for the soul laced with wonderful dollops of positivity!  The recording doesn’t go straight through from start to finish, instead we get interesting excerpts performed by Isabelle Faust, with Il Giardino Armonico, conducted by Giovanni Antonini.  For those who are so inspired by Ruth’s chat to us as indeed am I, here is the full version performed by Anne-Sophie Mutter performing with Camerata Salzburg.  This recording highlights the use of the wind section to which Ruth refers in her chat.  Well worth sitting back and indulging yourself.

Time for that coffee concertissimo with Peter Hewitt.  This week he features the great slow movement from Beethoven’s Seventh sonata Op.10 no.3   Peter tells us, “The Largo is one of the most profound of all the early slow movements. It’s a terrific piece which you have to listen to lots of times and each time it will grow and reward you with more and more calm, peace and satisfaction“. ….food for the soul.

Time for more soul-nourishing with the ‘cello.  Many of you will remember when Sheku and his sister, Isata Kanneh-Mason came to perform for Churchill Music.   Jacques Offenbach’s Les Larmes du Jacqueline was on the programme.  Definitely in the top ten most beautiful, short, reflective works.  Sadly the programme changed and another glorious work by Brahms was performed instead. Sheku and Isata performing this would have been the ‘icing on the cake’ that night but….   Not a lot is known about this perfectly beautiful yet supposedly ’simple’ work!  Why did Offenbach give it such a name? Were the tears of sadness or joy?  Not hard to tell, but it is thought that one of his daughters was named Jacqueline.  It has been later dedicated to Jacqueline Du Pre. A word of warning – listen with your tissue box ready! 

Before we leave the ‘cello, time for 3.5 mins of fun with the Wiener Cello Ensemble 5+1 performing Maruice Ravel’s Balero on just one cello with 4 cellists!  Well worth a click.

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain”. Well, what could be more appropriate for this week with its plethora of rain and storms both real and metaphorical.  I just cannot resist recommending a quick dip into this wonderful ‘oldie’  Singing in the rain with Gene Kelly– the film made in 1952 that is a lighthearted depiction of Hollywood in the late 1920s, with the performers caught up in the transition from silent films to ‘talkies’!

The Royal Opera’s series, ‘Our House to Your House‘ is steaming Mozart’s Magic Flute opera this week.  Oliver Mears, Director of Opera at the ROH describes it as one of their best and most loved productions, “It’s is fun; it’s funny; it’s accessible and has a sensational cast“.  This really is a must and brilliant opportunity to inspire younger viewers.   For those who are new to The Magic Flute the following synopsis might be helpful.  
The scene is set in ancient Egypt. Tamino, a young prince has to  enter a quest to win the hand of the princess, Pamina.  Tamino must undergo a series of initiation rites (symbolic of  those found in Freemasonry) which test his dedication to ‘Reason’.  However, throughout the story, Tamino is caught between two powerful, symbolic figures.  Sarastro, the high priest of Isis and Osiris (in ancient Egyptian religion Osiris is the God of fertility, afterlife, resurrection, life, vegetation (and just about anything else in between!).  Sirastro leads Tamino through his search for wisdom and symbolises the power of Reason.  The Queen of the Night, on the other hand tries to destroy Sarastro and lure Tamino and Pamina into her power.  She represents ‘Irrationality’.    For a little comic relief throughout, there is the hapless birdcatcher, Papageno, Tamino’s nutty sidekick.  Papageno is less interested in ‘Reason’ than he is in finding a wife for himself.  One of the most charming moments comes when he is finally united with his equally flighty soul mate Papagena.  Whisk yourself away to ancient Egypt for a one-night stay in the comfort of your own home!  

For young children and grand children we bring you the Royal Ballet’s  Mad Hatter’s Tea Party from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  This is a truly delightful 4 mins where the madhatter’s tap dance is just crazy surrounded by cleverly lit tea cups and sponge cakes that can be danced upon – let the children watch out for Alice’s portrayal of smelly feet!  What’s not to like?! 

The night draws in time for bed.  How about drifting off with Palestrina’s Sicut cervus sung by Cambridge Chorale directed by Owain Park who many of you will remember came to Churchill Music with Gesualdo Six in 2018.  Sicut cervus is a motet for four voices. It sets the beginning of Psalm XLI (42) in the Latin version of the Roman Psalter rather than the Vulgate Bible – the late 4th Century latin translation (largely the work of Jerome in 382) which became the Catholic Church’s official version in the 16th Century and is still used in the Latin Church today . The chanted liturgical text is “Sicut cervus desiderat ad fontes” (As the deer desires the fountains) followed by a second part,  “Sitivit anima mea” (My soul thirsts). It was published in 1604 and has become one of Palestrina’s most popular motets, regarded as a model of Renaissance polyphony, expressing spiritual yearning.  Cambridge Chorale is renowned for its inspirational performances.  A recent review states, “Under the expert baton of Owain Park, the choir’s meticulous concern for clear, precise focus on the sheer beauty of sound created a concert of the purest quality. There are very few choral groups that can reach such perfection”.  Guaranteed to ‘feed the soul’ for the night.