Friday, May 27, 2016
Sotheby’s are today selling the first contract for the publication of the St Matthew Passion. Not signed by the composer, who had been dead for 80 years by the time Mendelssohn rediscovered the work in 1829. Nor by his family. Our friend Stephen Roe reports: The document is completely unknown and unrecorded in the extensive literature on Bach and his Passion and it reveals how quickly the work was edited and printed after Mendelssohn’s concerts. It is the contract between the musician and journalist Adolf Bernhard Marx and the publisher Adolf Martin Schlesinger . It is dated 8 April 1829, that is to say, between the second and third performances of Mendelssohn’s version. The contract is signed by both Marx and Schlesinger and was retained by the publisher in his archive, where it remained for almost two hundred years, until its recent discovery. Read on here.
Matthew Mehaffey, associate professor of music at the University of Minnesota, has been named music director of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, choral adjunct of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. He succeeds Betsy Burleigh and will shuttle between the two jobs.
The contract for the first ever publication of Bach’s Matthew Passion - the work that Mendelssohn rediscovered and which introduced Bach to a modern audience - is to be auctioned today at Sotheby’s. When JS Bach died in 1750, his music was virtually forgotten. Only a few of his compositions were published in his lifetime. His music survived in handwritten copies prepared by himself and his pupils, and as a result many works were lost, or survive incomplete. In the circumstances, we should be fortunate that so much has survived. It was early in the 19th century, thanks to the young Felix Mendelssohn and others, that Bach’s works began to be noticed. On 11 March 1829, one of his towering masterpieces, the St Matthew Passion, was thrust on an unsuspecting world. Mendelssohn, barely out of his teens, conducted a performance, heavily cut and in part re-orchestrated by him, at the Berlin Singakademie, a building and institution that survive still today. Two further performances followed there on 21 March and 18 April, the latter conducted by Mendelssohn’s teacher CF Zelter. Continue reading...
Liam Scarlett in rehearsal for The Age of Anxiety ©ROH. Bill Cooper 2014. Frankenstein is Liam Scarlett ’s first full-length piece for The Royal Ballet on the Covent Garden main stage, but in recent years his one-act works have made him a familiar presence at the Royal Opera House – and indeed further afield. Here are a few highlights from his prolific career to date: Viscera Inspired by the raw energy of Lowell Liebermann ’s First Piano Concerto, Scarlett created Viscera for Miami City Ballet in 2012. It has since been performed by The Royal Ballet twice, in 2012 and 2015. ‘There’s no taking it easy in this ballet’, Scarlett says: the outer movements are a whirlwind of energy, and the searing pas de deux which comprises the central movement simmers with intensity. Sweet Violets Scarlett’s first narrative ballet, created for The Royal Ballet in 2012, explores the artist Walter Sickert’s sordid fascination with Jack the Ripper . Sweet Violets is a dark, brooding ballet incorporating John Macfarlane ’s atmospheric sets of murky London brothels and backstreets, and Rachmaninoff ’s haunting Trio élégiaque as its score. A Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespeare’s plays have long provided brilliant fodder for choreographers, from Christopher Wheeldon ’s The Winter’s Tale to Frederick Ashton ’s The Dream – and Scarlett turned to the same play that had enchanted Ashton half a century earlier for his 2015 work for Royal New Zealand Ballet and Queensland Ballet . To Mendelssohn ’s famous music, Scarlett conjured a funny, touching ballet which, the New Zealand Herald wrote, ‘may well become a classic telling’. The Age of Anxiety W.H. Auden ’s poem The Age of Anxiety is set in New York in 1944, following four figures trying to make sense of the modern world. Leonard Bernstein ’s Second Symphony, also a response to Auden’s poem, is the score to which Scarlett sets this 2014 Royal Ballet commission. Inflected with jazz and a sombre, bittersweet edge, the music and dance combine with Auden’s poem to form a fascinating trio. No Man’s Land Like Sweet Violets, Scarlett’s 2014 creation for English National Ballet draws on early 20th century British history – but here we are drawn into the Britain of World War I, and the women left behind by the newly drafted soldiers. The ballet combines a re-creation of a munitions factory staffed by these women with the men’s fate in the trenches, as well as a series of emotional pas de deux of love and loss. Watch more films like these on the Royal Opera House YouTube channel: Frankenstein runs 4-27 May 2016. Tickets are still available . The ballet is a co-production with San Francisco Ballet and is generously supported by the Taylor Family Foundation, Sarah and Lloyd Dorfman, Simon and Virginia Robertson, Will and Beth Gardiner, Karl and Holly Peterson, The Shauna Gosling Trust, The Constance Travis Charitable Trust, The American Friends of Covent Garden, the Frankenstein Production Syndicate, Bently Foundation, The Hellman Family and E. L. Wiegand Foundation.
Our latest diary instalment from Anthea Kreston, wide-eyed American violinist in the Berlin-based Artemis Quartet. This week the teaching part of my job with the Artemis began. In addition to playing concerts, the position came with two teaching positions – one at the Universität der Künste Berlin (University of the Arts), and the other is the Queen Elizabeth Music Chapel in Brussels. The UdK is the largest art school in Europe and is known to be one of the most diverse arts schools world-wide. Past teachers include Feuermann, Joachim, Clara Schumann, and Schoenberg. The Artemis is on faculty – we each have responsibility for 6 chamber groups, and in addition we share 8 “master groups” amongst us, helping to prepare them for international competitions and the day-to-day details of beginning a career as a professional quartet. There are also open master classes and concerts to attend. This week we got the names of our groups and have begin to set up the schedule. Chapel is located in a beautiful little town just south of the main Brussels airport. The Artemis Quartet is the Master Quartet in Residence, and is in charge of all chamber music that happens in this highly usual place. There are a handful of teachers – Gary Hoffman for cello, Augustin Dumay violin, Miguel da Silva viola, Maria João Pires piano, Alfred Brendel piano, and the Artemis. The Artemis each visit Chapel individually several times per year for a handful of days for intense work with the chamber groups which we have selected from live auditions. The facilities are incredible – a historic building houses the staff and many Curtis-style practice/teaching/performing rooms. The new wing is state-of-the-art with three concert venues, 10 studios for the 10 selected solo artists/students, and a fully-staffed kitchen and rec area. The groups which I coached were all in the midst of healthy careers – having won international competitions, with management, and recording contracts. It felt a little like being back at Curtis – when I landed there at age 18 it seemed like everyone was already completely established with full careers. The groups themselves mainly travel to Chapel for our coachings – several are based in Paris. I met for three-hour sessions with each group, in the wooden concert hall with a backdrop of a full glass wall looking out to a forest with passing deer. If it sounds unbelievable, it felt unbelievable. Outside the main entrance was a reflecting pool with the requisite mold-covered Greek goddess sculpture. Just paradise. And there were lots of cappuccino machines sprinkled throughout the buildings. On more than one occasion I was steered away from one machine by a student, with the advice of finding a better one in the next room. I liked that. The groups I worked with were Trio Busch (preparing for a possible manager), Trio Zadig (now at the Fischoff Competition), Quartuor Hermès (winners of Young Concert Artists and preparing for a recording of the Ravel Quartet), Quartour Arod (getting ready for ARD) and Trio Medici (competition the following day). All of the groups were focused, exquisite, and open to my suggestions. The repertoire was – for trio – Beethoven Op. 1/1, Op. 1/3, Mendelssohn 1 and 2, Shostakovich, Ravel – for quartet Beethoven 132, Ravel, Bartok 3, and Haydn 76/1. Lots to have on hand, especially since I have had to get 12 quartets up and running for the Artemis. But – luckily I had played all the trios and all but one quartet. On the final day I was miked and readied for a video 2 hour masterclass. It might already be up on the Chapel website, not sure. The groups were Arod and Zadig and I think we had a great time. We were loose but serious – I pushed but was supportive. In the end, we had an audience singalong to the Beethoven 132. See – late Beethoven isn’t scary! Speaking of rep – guess what is on the docket for me coming up? Am I the luckiest girl alive – pinch me I must be dreaming! Schubert Quintet in Istanbul with Gautier Capuçon, then Beethoven 135, 130, 133, Mozart Dissonance, Schubert G Major, Bartok 2, Shostakovich 7 and the quintet, Mendelssohn 44/1, and Schumann 1 and 3. Recording for Warner – probably Shostakovich and beginning of Bartok box. Aaaaaaaand we have water in the kitchen now. For the love of all things Good and Mighty I have clean socks and don’t have to do the dishes in the bathtub anymore. Last piece of advice – don’t try to dump the leftover oatmeal down the tub drain. It doesn’t really work.
From the archive, 24 April 1847: A ‘fatigued’ Mendelssohn gives an intimate organ recital to a large audience in ManchesterSee also: Tom Service on MendelssohnConsiderable curiosity and interest were excited on Wednesday last, in some of our music-loving circles, by the circulation of a report that Mendelssohn would perform upon St Luke’s organ, Cheetham Hill. He had given a promise to this effect some time since, and had also written a second letter, which did not reach the party addressed until Wednesday, owing to some post-office delay. An interview was obtained, and in the kindest and most courteous manner Mendelssohn expressed his willingness to play, but at the same time said, “I am very fatigued; I hope it will be private, as I would rather hear the organ. In London the church was quite filled.” Continue reading...
Felix Mendelssohn (3 February 1809 - 4 November 1847) was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic period. Felix Mendelssohn was recognised early as a musical prodigy, but his parents were cautious and did not seek to capitalise on his abilities. Early success in Germany, where he also revived interest in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, was followed by travel throughout Europe. Mendelssohn was particularly well-received in Britain as a composer, conductor and soloist. His essentially conservative musical tastes however set him apart from many of his more adventurous musical contemporaries such as Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner and Hector Berlioz. The Leipzig Conservatoire which he founded, became a bastion of this anti-radical outlook. Mendelssohn's work includes symphonies, concerti, oratorios, piano music and chamber music. His most-performed works include his Overture and incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Italian Symphony, the Scottish Symphony, the Hebrides Overture, his Violin Concerto, and his String Octet. After a long period of relative denigration due to changing musical tastes and anti-Semitism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, his creative originality has now been recognised and re-evaluated. He is now among the most popular composers of the Romantic era.
Great composers of classical music