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2 weeks ago

Haslemere Musical Society

Looking forward hugely to tomorrow night's sold out concert at Haslemere Hall - always worth checking for returns with the box office and we'd love to see you. Discover more about Elgar's exqusite Chanson de nuit and Chanson de matin, being performed in our concert:The second half of Haslemere Symphony Orchestra and Chorus' concert tomorrow includes Elgar's Chanson de nuit and Chanson de matin. Elgar wrote these two delightful miniatures originally for violin and piano in around 1889-90; the orchestral versions were published in 1901 and first performed the same year at a London Queen’s Hall Promenade Concert, conducted by Sir Henry Wood. Originally Elgar named Chanson de Nuit as ‘Evensong’: It was August Jaeger, his long-term editor at Novello’s and musical confidante immortalised as ‘Nimrod’ in the Enigma Variations – a man with equal talent for musical quality and commercial sense – who suggested the final titles.

Elgar, like Sibelius, was equally talented at writing short ‘salon pieces’ as at major symphonies. In both these ‘Chansons’, he is able instantly to capture a unique mood, and move rapidly into more serious emotional territory, while maintaining a combination of mercurial charm, capriciousness and intimate wistfulness that no other composer captures in the same way. His affection for these early works persisted: in 1918, he quotes the main melody of ‘Chanson de Matin’ in the slow movement of String Quartet in E minor.

Here is the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Adrian Boult: www.youtube.com/watch?v=sH6AJ_WxqZU
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2 weeks ago

Haslemere Musical Society

Haslemere Symphony Orchestra and Chorus' music director, James Ross, introduces Fauré's Masques and Bergamasques, in the second half of Saturday's concert at Haslemere Hall, 7.30pm:Haslemere Symphony Orchestra and Chorus' concert on Saturday night at Haslemere Hall includes Gabriel Fauré's beautiful Masques et Bergamasques, his last orchestral work, finished near the end of World War One, and first performed in 1919. Fauré had the rare talent, like his younger French compatriot Francis Poulenc, for music whose deceptively charming surface belies the depth of feeling beneath: contemporaries Maurice Ravel and Nadia Boulanger described music whose ‘power is free of affectation or roughness … inwardly moving; without pose, vain exclamations’. In 1918 Saint-Saëns recommended Fauré to Prince Albert of Monaco to compose incidental music for a one-act divertissement with its title taken from Verlaine’s 1869 poem Claire de Lune, set earlier by Fauré as a song in 1887, and the inspiration for Debussy’s eponymous famous piano piece from his Suite Bergamesque:

Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.

Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur
L'amour vainqueur et la vie opportune
Ils n'ont pas l’air de croire à leur bonheur
Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune,

Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d’extase les jets d’eau,
Les grands jets d'eau sveltes parmi les marbres.

Your soul is a select landscape
bewitched by masques and bergamasques playing the lute as they go and dancing, almost sad beneath their almost fanciful disguises.

Singing as they go in the minor key of conquering love and the favours of life, they don’t seem quite to believe in their happiness, and their song mingles with the moonlight.

With the clear moonlight, sad and beautiful, that sets the birds dreaming in the trees
and the fountains sobbing in ecstasy,
the tall slender fountains sob amid the marble statues.

‘Masques et bergamasques’ evoked eighteenth century commedia dell’arte ‘fêtes galantes’ paintings of Antoine Watteau and the old rustic Italian dances named after the northern Italian city of Bergamo. In the Monte Carlo divertissement, the commedia dell’arte characters spy and comment on their aristocratic audience, the programme describing:

'Harlequin, Gilles, and Colombine, whose task is usually to amuse the aristocratic audience, take their turn at being spectators at a ‘fête galante’ on the island of Cythera. The lords and ladies who as a rule applaud their efforts now unwittingly provide them with entertainment to their coquettish behaviour.'

Fauré was an experienced theatre collaborator, writing for Dumas’s Caligula, Haraucourt’s Shylock (after Shakespeare), Molière’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, and Maeterlinck’s Pelléas et Mélisande. For Monte Carlo he used existing music including his setting of the Verlaine poem and Pavane, two choruses, earlier music including three movements adapted from his abandoned 1869 symphony, and a new concluding Pastorale, which ends the concert suite. After the three movements of exquisite charm, the masks are torn off, and Fauré transforms his musical ideas into a far more emotionally complicated and musically reflective world, including a painfully poignant reminiscence from the Ouverture.

Here is the English Sinfonia, full of panache, conducted by Sir Charles Groves: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoXpyZ-uTjA
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3 weeks ago

Haslemere Musical Society

Haslemere Symphony Orchestra and Chorus' concert on Saturday night, 7.30pm at Haslemere Hall opens with Beethoven's marvellous Mass in C. Discover more about it below, from our music director, James Ross:Looking forward to conducting Beethoven's Mass in C at Haslemere Hall on Saturday 1 December, 7.30pm, with Haslemere Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, and soloists Rebecca Moon, Kate Fun, Peter Mitchell and Leandros Taliotis.

This is the first of Beethoven’s two Mass settings, and is unlucky to stand in the shadow of the Missa Solemnis, beside which it seems more conventional in scale and conception – but only slightly, and the comparison is unreasonable. The Mass in C’s commission came from Prince Nicholas Esterházy II, for whom Haydn had recently composed six exemplars including the Mass in Time of War and Nelson Mass; it was first performed at Eisenstadt on 13 September 1807 with Beethoven conducting. The Gloria and the Sanctus also featured in Beethoven’s marathon Vienna concert on 22 December 1808, in which Symphony No.5 and No.6, Piano Concerto No.4 and Choral Fantasy all received their first public performance.

Like Haydn’s masses, Beethoven’s work stands in a great Viennese tradition of liturgical music: it is grounded in a lineage dating back to the Renaissance polyphony of Palestrina, with plenty of hat-tipping to what Beethoven called Haydn’s ‘inimitable masterpieces’, with marvellously vivid word painting. The most distinctive feature of Beethoven’s Mass in C, however, is its predominantly anti-rhetorical, quietly spoken tone, with blazing outbursts of energy and drama, which perplexed Prince Esterházy on first hearing. The Prince was used to the extrovert rationalism of Haydn’s masses, and asked ‘my dear Beethoven, what have you written?’ In a private letter, the Prince was ruder, calling the Mass in C ‘unbearably ridiculous and detestable; I am not convinced it can every be performed property.’ Although baptised a Roman Catholic, Beethoven was not a regular church attender and sceptical about religious ritual; this Mass, which he described being ‘especially dear to my heart’, seem more a personal statement than the public profession of religious observance that Prince Esterházy probably wanted.

Gentle understatement defines the Kyrie’s outset, that prefigures the gentle world of Fauré’s Requiem rather than Haydn’s open-hearted calls to prayer: according to Beethoven, ‘The general character ... in the Kyrie is heartfelt resignation, from where the depth of religious feelings without, however, being sad, gentleness is the basis of the whole work.’ The music is structured in the sonata form that a symphony’s first movement would use, with the E-major ‘Christe eleison’ acting as the development section.

The Gloria starts in a blaze that would have pleased Haydn; for ‘Qui tollis peccata mundi’ (‘Who takes away the sins of the world’), Beethoven moves a hypnotic, syncopated F minor, his key for despair in the opera Fidelio – the ‘miserere nobis’ (‘have mercy on us’) is a passionate outcry. At the end, the grand chords opening the ‘Quoniam tu solus sanctus’ lead to joyful majestic fugue that would satisfy the strictest professor. Dramatic intensity and word painting course even more vividly through the Credo: spectacularly treatment of lines like ‘Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine’ needs little Latin to understand. Beethoven, like Bach, treats the mystery of the Incarnation as a step on the path to the Crucifixion, using a similar intense instrumental motif: the ‘passus’ leaves us in no doubt about the humanity of Jesus’ suffering, before ‘Ex resurexit’ offers another resplendent vision, before the contrapuntal glories of the final ‘Et vitam venturi seculi’ (‘And the life of the world to come’).

The Sanctus starts in quiet prayer, all the more to heighten the explosive ‘Pleni sunt coeli’ and fugal ‘Hosanna’. The ‘Benedictus’ lyric quality feels like it anticipates Bruckner’s music decades later, although one moment also sounds remarkably, and almost certainly by coincidence, like a phrase from Mozart’s Figaro aria ‘Non più andrai’. The gentle Agnus Dei returns us to mystical contemplation, from which the clarinet emerges as a distinct voice, before the final ‘Dona nobis pacem’. There is no triumphant ending: instead, the opening Kyrie melody returns to offer a closing evocation of heavenly peace.

Carlo Maria Giulini is an outstanding conductor in great nineteenth century sacred music as well as much else, performing with deep understanding, utter conviction and sincerity, including this recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus in 1971: www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LXA8MlNsmI
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2 months ago

Haslemere Musical Society
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