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Oxford Chamber Music Society

By on November 4, 2019 in Oxford Chamber Music Society

It is a great honour for me to be appointed as the new President of the Oxford Chamber Music Society. Founded as the Oxford Ladies’ Musical Society in 1898 and changing to its current name in 1968, the Society has enjoyed a long and distinguished history of promoting chamber music of the highest standard. In early years, Sir Donald Tovey and Ernest Walker played for the society, as did the violinist Adolph Busch, the violist Lionel Tertis, the clarinetist Charles Draper, the oboist Léon Goossens, pianists Solomon and Myra Hess, the  Hungarian, Brosa, Griller, Busch and Budapest String Quartets as well as Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten.

The Society was for many years hosted by the renowned Deneke sisters, Marga and Lena, at Gunfield in Norham Gardens. There are many musicians who will still remember playing there. But since 1969, OCMS concerts moved first to the Maison Francaise and then to the Holywell Music Room. Countless great chamber ensembles have performed for the Society and it is heartwarming to see this tradition continuing to this day.

With this in mind, I was delighted to be able to attend the first concert of the season at the Holywell Music Room on Sunday 3 November. The Pavel Haas Quartet gave outstanding performances of Beethoven’s third Razumovsky Quartet, Op 59 No 3 and Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No 3, Op 30. To hear such great playing in the intimate acoustic of Holywell was a real treat. Let’s hope the quartet will return to OCMS soon!

I look forward to the next concert on Sunday 1 December, when my dear friend Nicholas Daniel will be joined by his colleagues in the Britten Oboe Quartet. Don’t miss it!

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Pavel Haas Quartet

 

 

 

 

Incorporated Society of Musicians, Oxford

By on October 5, 2019 in Incorporated Society of Musicians, Mansfield College

I was delighted to be asked to talk to the Oxford Centre of the ISM on 22 September and, thanks to Carolyn King’s brilliant organising, to see so many people there. Carolyn had the idea of holding this event in Mansfield College where in the 60′s and 70′s my father was Senior Tutor and subsequently Principal. After Paul Harris’ kind introduction and having played a favourite Telemann Fantasia (No 1 in A), I was able to tell everyone that the Seminar Room in which we were assembled was once part of my family’s garden, and that nearby my father used to enjoy playing croquet in the Principal’s garden, an area now taken up by the magnificent new Bonavero Institute of Human Rights.

My talk was, therefore, partly a trip down memory lane but this served to make the point that music in Oxford, always remarkable, has grown and grown to making the city a major centre for music and the arts. I also touched on my various ‘lives’ in conservatoires (Royal Academy of Music, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Codarts Rotterdam and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama) in celebrating the huge strides that music and music education have made in the past 50 years. Long may our conservatoires thrive!

50 years! It’s true that since those days of my first oboe lesson with Stella Cook in Taphouse’s Music Shop and subsequent lessons with Eric Ashcroft at Magdalen College School, I have been playing for 58 years! The years don’t make me any better, but I am thrilled that playing the oboe is still something that I so love. So, let me stop this post and see if I can play another Telemann Fantasia at all respectably.

Thank you Carolyn, thank you Paul and the ISM. It was so good to catch up with everyone there.

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Mansfield College, Oxford

Albion Ensemble

By on September 29, 2019 in Albion Ensemble

September has brought some wonderful music making not least two wonderful days with members of the Albion Ensemble. Peter Francomb and Helen Cass had the great idea to get the Albion to join the Riverside Quintet to play decets on 8 September and miraculously we managed to bring Philippa Davies, Andrew Marriner, Peter and myself together with Sarah Burnett (bassoon) to make this happen.

At the same time we were approached to provide a surprise performance for Felix Warnock’s retirement from the role of Chair of The Radcliffe Trust on 9 September thus bringing about a two-day festival of wind ensemble playing.

On the 8th, the quintet met to rehearse briefly for the following day and then, after a drink or two, to play decet music by Francaix and Dvorak before being treated to an absolutely superb dinner provided by the Riverside Quintet. So thanks to Richard Austen, Laura Douglas, Roy Simpson, Miles Chapman, and Helen Cass for some hugely enjoyable playing and also amazing cuisine. Roy, your hospitality was perfection itself and the wine still resonates along with the music!

The plan to ambush Felix at the end of his farewell dinner at the In-and-Out Club, St. James’ Square went perfectly. We assembled at Al Duce restaurant in Duke of York Street for our main course whilst the Radcliffe Trust had their dinner and made appropriate speeches. Around 9.30, we were ushered into the dining hall at the Club with Felix visibly surprised. We gave him and the Radcliffe Trustees a 20-minute recital including favourites from Felix’ era with the Albion in the 1980′s including the unforgettable tour of the Far East in 1985: Farkas 17th Century Dances, Bizet Jeux d’Enfants, Reicha Op 88 and Debussy Petite Suite. Bizet and Debussy were, of course, the unbeatable arrangements by Gordon Davies and it was only natural therefore that we finished with his Flight of the Bumble Bee. Having had to ask Gordon to re-send us the music shortly beforehand it was good to know that fingers and coordination still functioned and the bee buzzed itself to the end without incident!

We were able to thank the Radcliffe Trustees for their support for our annual workshops in The Midland Arts Centre, Birmingham all those years ago – weekends that we so enjoyed thanks to great ensembles coming along and the incredible hospitality of Harlan and Delia Walker, musical hosts extraordinary.

But this was a remarkable two days that brought together old colleague-friends who had done so much together……….let’s hope for more reunions like that!

 

Kammermusik 2019

By on September 28, 2019 in Kammermusik Workshop

This year’s Kammermusik Workshop took us back to Santa Fe for a great week of playing, coaching and fun. The weather late July and early August was especially good and we were immediately able to enjoy it when we stayed for two perfect days with Daren West and Will Buss. They treated us to delicious meals both at home and out in local restaurants, to visits to Canyon Road (for brunch), Ghost Farm and Tent Rocks. The landscape is breathtaking!

It was so good to work again with our US colleagues, Stephen Redfield, Peter Erb, Jane Salmon, Marjana Rutkowski, Carol Redman, Lori Lovato, Paul Wexler, Crawford Best and Denise Turner. Thank you all for some lovely music making and for the playing you all did with members of the course. We got through some challenging repertoire – Sibelius, Debussy, Lachner and Spohr Nonets, Gounod Petite Symphonie, Hartmann Serenade to name but a few.

Everyone agree that the standard of the music making rises every year – it was such a pleasure to hear friends old and new performing with real authority and flair. Thank you all.

And, of course, thanks to Will Buss, Janet Yaker Murray and all involved for the amazing efficient organisation. Kammermusik is a special course with a unique atmosphere. Long may it continue!

To access the Kammermusik website click here.

 

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Tent Rocks, New Mexico

Daren and Will

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daren West and Will Buss

Victoria International Arts Festival, Gozo

By on July 18, 2019 in George Caird Oboe Quartet

Thanks to Father George Frendo, the Caird Oboe Quartet performed for the Victoria International Arts Festival on 13 July. I was so pleased to play again with Simon Blendis, Douglas Paterson and Jane Salmon in Mozart’s C major quartet (K. 285b) and K. 370. The trio also played Beethoven’s G major trio, Op 9 No 1.  Now in its 22nd year, this is the longest running festival in Malta and combines excellent Maltese musicians with visiting artists from far and wide. We very much enjoyed hearing the final concert given by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Philip Walsh in Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto (with Godfrey Mifsud as eloquent soloist) and Beethoven’s Eroica. With Gozo enjoying beautiful weather (barring one very windy day) it was an inspiring visit for all of us.

Tully Potter and An English Renaissance

By on June 21, 2019 in George Caird Oboe Quartet, Uncategorized

Having spent time with Tully Potter during the Tertis International Competition this year, I was touched to find that he had re-listened to my CD, An English Renaissance. He has posted this piece about the amazing riches of English chamber music for oboe and strings which has triggered discussion since. Thanks to Jeremy Polmear for positing this on the Oboe Classics site and to Jane Walker, Nick Daniel, Chris Marshall et al for joining in. Tully Potter “THE ENGLISH OBOE RENAISSANCE” Thanks to Léon Goossens and his influence, we have a wealth of English chamber music for oboe and strings. I am prompted to mention it, because I have been enjoying George Caird’s 2004 CD (Oboe Classics CC2009) entitled ‘An English Renaissance’. With five very fine string players including his wife Jane Salmon, violinist Simon Blendis, violist Louise Williams and two different second violinists, Caird plays the Quintets by Elizabeth Maconchy, Dorothy Gow and Arthur Bliss and the Fantasy Quartets by Britten and E.J. Moeran. Although I find the one-movement Gow piece a little austere, it does loosen up towards the end. The rest of the disc is all familiar to me musically and, if you will pardon the pun, absolutely Blissful. There is only one overlap with the lovely 1984 CD by Sarah Francis and the English String Quartet (Chandos CHAN 8392), and that is the Moeran, which I can happily have twice in my collection – the two performances are quite distinct, what with different recording characteristics and the individual personalities of the two oboists. Francis’s other pieces are the great Quintet by Arnold Bax, four pieces for quintet by Gustav Holst and Gordon Jacob’s typically enjoyable Quartet. A very individual oboist was Janet Craxton, whom I often heard in concert or in orchestras. An interesting and rewarding disc of her London Oboe Quartet (Oboe Classics CC2011) features works for oboe and strings by Francis Routh, Elizabeth Maconchy (a late Quartet, as opposed to the very early Quintet), Richard Stoker, Nicola LeFanu, Lennox Berkeley and Elizabeth Lutyens (‘Driving out the Death’, Op. 81). For another Lutyens piece by Craxton with the London Oboe Quartet (‘O Absalom…’, Op. 122) you need to seek out a BBC disc (BBC CD 635). Craxton’s playing in all these varied pieces is full of character – she had a very individual speaking voice and somehow it was echoed in her oboe tone! I should mention a few historic performances by Goossens and his pupils. He recorded the Bax Quintet in 1927 with André Mangeot’s International Quartet for the NGS (now on Oboe Classics CC2005). Helen Gaskell and the Griller Quartet, the original performers of the Maconchy Quintet, recorded it in 1933 for HMV (now on Dutton CDBP 9762 with the two other prizewinning works in the 1932 Daily Telegraph competition, string quartets by Edric Cundell and Cecil Armstrong Gibbs, as well as a later Griller recording of Bax’s First Quartet). Evelyn Rothwell (Lady Barbirolli) recorded William Wordsworth’s Oboe Quartet in 1958 with the Robert Masters String Trio for the BBC (now on Barbirolli Society SJB 1045-46). I think that’s enough oboe music for now…”

Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition

By on April 28, 2019 in Tertis International Viola Festival and Competition

The XIII Lionel Tertis Viola Competition (6 – 14 April) proved to be a most exciting and enjoyable one. All 36 violists who competed in Port Erin demonstrated their musicianship to great effect and proved why they had been selected from the 120 applicants. Congratulations go to the eight wonderful semifinalists: Paul Adrien Zientara (France), Emma Wernig (Germany/USA), Natalie Loughton (USA), Jordan Bak (USA), Saki Ishida (Japan), Toby Cook (UK), Paul Vincent Laraia (USA) and Yuchen Lu (China). And special congratulations go to Paul Vincent Laraia  (First Prize) , Yuchen Lu (Second Prize) and Paul Adrien Zientara (Third Prize) in a very close competition. With the generous support of The Tertis Foundation, the Isle of Man Arts Council and many other supporters these deserving contestants were all recipients of awards.

Throughout the week, there were some outstanding performances including many of the beautifully written set work, Canto, by Roxanna Panufnik. Paul Vincent Laraia, Yuchen Lu, Paul Adrien Zientara and Toby Cook deserve especial mention in this respect. There were most impressive performances of Bach’s Suite No 6 Prelude and Paganini’s Caprice Op 1 No 20 from Saki Ishida, and Jordan Bak gave a really exciting account of the Bach Fantasia Chromatica and the Sonata of Arthur Bliss. Hindemith’s Der Schwanendreher was played superbly by Shuo Xu whilst Aoi Murase played the Ligeti Sonata most impressively. Jordan Bak’s Schnittke Concerto should also be commended as should a beautiful and lyrical performance of the York Bowen Sonata by Keigo Suzuki. There were many more memorable performances…….the list could go on and on.

Thanks to John Bethell and the whole team at the Erin Arts Centre for all that was done to make the week a happy and enjoyable one. Thanks too to Louise Lansdowne and Lucy Nolan for all they did to make the Viola Festival a success. Also to my fellow jurors, William Coleman, Carol Rodland, Danusha Waskiewicz and Mikhail Zemtsov for playing brilliant recitals and giving a masterclass each during their busy week. Accompanists Caroline Dowdle, Robert Markham, Antony Hewitt and HunJu Sohnn also deserve medals for tireless and top quality pianism thoughout the week. An finally thanks to Simon Blendis and Jane Salmon for their perfromances of Beethoven and Dohnanyi, not to mention the Ghost and the Mendelssohn D minor with Robert Markham.

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Paul Vincent Laraia

The weather was on our side so the Isle of Man was seen in its very best light!

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Sunset at Port Erin during the competition.

Lionel Tertis International Viola Compitition

By on April 2, 2019 in Tertis International Viola Festival and Competition

I am looking forward to my return to the Erin Arts Centre, Isle of Man this week (6 – 13 April) for the XIII Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition. I will be chairing the jury with distinguished violists William Coleman, Carol Rodland, Danusha Waskiewicz and  Mikhail Zemtsov. I look forward to seeing the Tertis Foundation’s Advisory Committee, Sarah-Jane Bradley, Louise Lansdown, Martin Outram and Tully Potter. As ever, the week will be action packed thanks to the organisation skills of John Bethell and the Erin Arts Centre – masterclasses, recitals, seminars and interviews. And for me it will be an added bonus that my wife, Jane Salmon (cello) and colleague Simon Blendis (violin), will perform string trios with the leading contestants as part of the competition. They will be joined by pianist Robert Markham for a concert of piano trios on Thursday 11 April.

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Lionel Tertis (1876 – 1975)

Oxford Sinfonia

By on April 2, 2019 in Oxford Sinfonia

Congratulations to Jan Schmolck and the Oxford Sinfonia for their performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto on Saturday in St Mary’s Church, Oxford. It was a treat for me to conduct this along with Judith Weir’s Heroic Strokes of the Bow and Brahms’ St Anthony Variations. Thanks to all involved in this and especially to Neil Halliday, Simon Payne, Chris Britten and all those involved in the organsation. Thanks too to Judith Weir for coming to the concert and speaking to the audience – we were honoured to have you with us, Judith!

Oxford Sinfonia, 30 March 2019 at 7.30pm

By on March 21, 2019 in Oxford, Oxford Sinfonia, Uncategorized

I am looking forward to my concert with The Oxford Sinfonia which will take place at 7.30pm on Saturday 30 March in the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford. Jan Schmolck will be the soloist in Brahms’ Violin Concerto and to balance this great work we will start the concert with Brahms’ St Anthony Variations, a work that I have long wished to conduct.

In addition, the orchestra and I will be proud to present Judith Weir’s Heroic Strokes of the Bow, written for the Westdeutsche Sinfonie in 1991-2 and now widely performed by orchestras the world over. This work was inspired by the Paul Klee painting which is now in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Paul Klee was himself an excellent violin player and played professionally in Berne’ Municipal Orchestra. Weir writes: “My personal obesrvation is that perhaps Klee himself was influenced in some of his work by the visual imagery of musical notation with which he was so familiar. To a musican’s eye, Klee’s geometrical shapes and regularly repeated simple patterns seem to release information directly into the mind; looking at a Klee painting feels like reading music”.

 

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Judith Weir

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Jan Schmolck

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