Tuesday 5 May 2020

Welcome to the fifth and final day of the Leamington Music Virtual Festival!

Each day for the duration of the Festival, we have given you an e-flavour of what you could have enjoyed in person over five days in the Royal Pump Rooms, Leamington – sometimes movements and sometimes whole works; some modern performances and some classics.

While we don’t have the technology to beam each of the programmed artists playing live into your living room, we hope you will enjoy these videos of live performances of some the music you were to hear in our Festival.

Today was to be Ensemble 360 day!

The Programme for the lunchtime concert was to be:

Weber   Grand Duo Concertant Op 48
Beethoven   Variations on “Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen”
Rossini   Introduction, Theme & Variations
Beethoven   Trio Op 11 ‘Gassenhauer’

Beethoven’s ‘Gassenhauer’ Trio dates from 1797 and the Variations on a theme from The Magic Flute from 1801. Weber and Rossini are both best known in the opera world. Weber was inspired by the clarinettist Heinrich Baermann to write concertos and this duo in 1815 and Rossini wrote his Theme and Variations aged 17 in 1809.

Four remarkable works written in a less than twenty years period were to make for an awesome lunchtime feast!

This video features Spanish clarinettist and pianist Luis Fernández-Castelló and Carlos Apellániz playing the Rossini…

Beethoven   Trio Op 11 ‘Gassenhauer’

It is generally believed that Rossini composed Introduction, Theme & Variations as a student project at the Bologna Conservatory of Music when he was very young.  Indeed, ‘theme and variations’ is an excellent form to practise for composers because it helps them think creatively about a melody and how it can morph to take on different shapes, characters and emotions.

Rossini’s offering for the clarinet has a broad, sweet-sounding introduction, a playful theme, five variations on the original theme that become more and more exciting, showing off the full range and velocity of the clarinet, including a slow, semi-serious variation in a minor key, and a dramatic cadenza.

The final evening concert of the Festival was to feature tenor James Gilchrist and Ensemble 360 with the following programme:

Howard Skempton   The Moon is Flashing
An die ferne Geliebte Op 98
Howard Skempton   
Piano Concerto
Vaughan Williams   
On Wenlock Edge

The music of Howard Skempton makes a recognizable feature in our Festival programmes, and what a delight it was to have been to have two works that are new to Leamington audiences this year. Both are works originally scored for soloist and full orchestra, which have been re-scored by the composer for chamber ensemble, giving us a wonderful sense of symmetry to have chamber versions of piano concertos bookending the Festival.

We were pleased to be welcoming James Gilchrist back after his last visit in 2013, and when a tenor of this eminence is to perform at a Largely Ludwig Festival, having Beethoven’s only song cycle, An die ferne Geliebte, in the programme was an absolute must.

Howard Skempton’s Piano Concerto is rather too new for there to be live video of performances; luckily Ensemble 360 have recorded and released it recently! Here is the first movement:

Click here to visit the Presto Classical page on Ensemble 360 which features details of recordings including the new release above,

and Click here to visit the Presto Classical page on James Gilchrist which features interviews and details of his recordings.

It seems fitting to close our Virtual Festival with Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte (‘To the Distant Beloved’).
This is Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau with Gerald Moore…

Beethoven   An die ferne Geliebte                     
i. Auf dem Hügel sitz ich spähend (I sit on the hill, gazing)
ii. Wo die Berge so blau (Where the blue mountains)
iii. Leichte Segler in den Höhen (Light clouds sailing on high)
iv. Diese Wolken in den Höhen (These clouds on high)
v. Es kehret der Maien, es blühet die Au (May returns, the meadow blooms)
vi. Nimm sie hin denn, diese Lieder (Accept, then, these songs)

Widely considered to be the first ever song cycle, An die ferne Geliebte represents the first time a major composer organised a group of songs with piano accompaniment into a coherent whole.

In July 1812, Beethoven wrote an anguished letter to his “Immortal Beloved,” a woman whose identity remains unknown and is still a subject for speculation. Although An die ferne Geliebte was composed four years after the anguished letter, there is enough evidence to suggest that he was still obsessed by the unknown woman, and that the cycle was an attempt to banish her from his mind.

A month after its composition, Beethoven confided to Ferdinand Ries, the composer and pianist who was his intimate friend, that he had found “only one woman whom I shall doubtless never possess.”

The six songs of An die ferne Geliebte are set to poems by Alois Jeitteles (1794-1858). Jeitteles was a doctor by profession, not a poet. Though Jeitteles’s verse appeared in several almanacs, the poems were never published in book form.

The six songs are sung by a solitary lover seated on a hillside, gazing into the distance and longing for the object of his affection. The lover’s thoughts are then filtered through images of pure, unspoiled nature. The final song brings the listener full cycle, as passages of both text and music from the opening stanza return.

“Then, at these songs,
The distance that parted us shall recede”


Can you help…?

We are raising money to help see our artists and our organisation through the Covid-19 crisis. Every pound that is donated will make a difference to the way we can support these musicians now and with our plans for the future, and we are extraordinarily grateful to everyone for their understanding and support in such challenging times.

Leamington Music is a not-for-profit charity which relies on your much-valued support to keep bringing international music-making to the area. When this crisis subsides, we are all going to want music more than ever to lift the spirits, and so we at Leamington Music would be very grateful for your help to keep the charity, along with our artists, buoyant in the meantime.