‘ Love’s Philosophy’
Opening Song Recital at this year’s Three Choirs Festival, Worcester
22nd July given by David Hurley and Roger Owens
“Ian Venables wrote ‘At the Court of the Poisoned Rose’ in 1994 for the English countertenor James Huw-Jeffries, but in this re-telling of the story of Mary Queen of Scots he quotes a melody from Dowland’s colleague and contemporary Philip Rosseter, as well as the poetry of Marion Angus (1866 -1946). It’s a striking musical depiction of the struggle between love and power, and the emotional price paid by a queen who ‘loved little things and re-headed partridges, and the golden fishes of the Duc de Guise’.” Richard Bratby
London English Song Festival performance of ‘Over There!’
18th -20th July
This year’s LESF was a dramatic, staged performance of song and poetry that commemorates the American entry into World War One. It depicted the colliding worlds of England and the US through an exploration of song and the spoken word. The performers were, Katie Bray (mezzo-soprano), Nick Pritchard (tenor), Craig Colclough (bass-baritone), Louise Williams (viola), pianist/director William Vann.
The production included a performance of two songs, ‘Suicide in the Trenches’ and ‘If You Forget’ from the composer’s recent commemorative 1st WW song cycle, ‘Through These Pale Cold Days’. The songs were sung by Nick Pritchard, accompanied by Lousie Williams and William Vann.
“Ian Venables Suicide in the Trenches setting Siegfried Sassoon, and If you forget setting Geoffrey S Kennedy (both with viola from Louise Williams) provided a powerful modern take on the futility of war…” Robert Hugill
Elaine Hugh Jones’ 90th Birthday Concert
To celebrate the 90th birthday of the Welsh born song composer, Elaine Hugh Jones a special concert of her music was organised by William Coleman. The concert featured a selection of Elaine’s songs together with music by Elgar, Warlock and Ian Venables.
Elaine’s songs were sung by Ellie Waterhouse, Andrew Randell, Emma Burrows, Stella Seaton-Sims, Richard James, and Andrew Irwin and accompanied by Susie Allan and Michael Jones.
Ian Venables’ Three Short Violin Pieces were performed by Julia Liang and Alex Kirk.
Soundscapes: England In Song
The North American Premiere of ‘The Song of the Severn’ Op.43
At ‘The Cincinnati Song Initiative’ – Sunday 11th June
Performed by Tyler Alessi (baritone), the CSI String Quartet and Samuel Martin (piano)
In its first-ever summer festival concert, the CSI brings the majestic landscape of England to life through song. Featuring two cycles for voice, piano, and string quartet, including a North American premiere by Ian Venables, this program shined a spotlight on the rich tradition of vocal chamber music emanating from the British Isles over the years. The composer gave a short video introduction about the work ahead of its premiere.
To watch this Youtube video please click the following link:
Streamed Live – The US Premiere of ‘Through These Pale Cold Days’
at Virginia Tech – 17th April.
‘The Land of Lost Content: The Great War in Song’
Performed by Brian Thorsett, tenor, Richard Masters, piano and Kim Fredenburgh, viola
An enthusiastic and appreciative audience greeted the US premiere of Ian Venables WW1 commemorative song cycle. This twenty three minute song cycle of settings by Owen, St Vincent Morris, Rosenberg, Sassoon and Studdert-Kennedy was the centerpiece of a 1st WW programme to commemorate the centenary of the United States entry into the Great War.
The composer was present at this performance and gave a short address before the cycle was performed. The concert was streamed live and can be heard again by following the link below. For one week only the concert can be downloaded.
Second UK Performance of ‘Through These Pale Cold Days’
Saturday 25th March at 3 pm
Chapter House, Gloucester Cathedral
The Gloucester Music Society is the venue for the second performance of the composer’s recent 1st WW song cycle.
The acclaimed tenor, James Gilchrist has teamed up with Louise Williams and Benjamin Frith to give this special performance. Their song recital will also include music by Vaughan Williams, Howells, Dennis Browne, Schubert Britten, Schumann, Finzi and Dring.
For tickets please go to the Gloucester Music Society website: http://www.gloucestermusicsociety.org.uk/booktickets/
Writing in the Birmingham Post a few days after the premiere of ‘Through These Pale Cold Days’, Christopher Morley said, “communication has always been one of the strong points of Venables’ music, direct, unfussy, and somehow cutting directly to the heart. Here an abundance of telling melodic devices combines with harmonic anger and subtle commentary, all conveyed over a merciless tread, now martial, now the beating of a fragile heart, which underpins the unstoppable and unspeakable horror of what our soldiers faced a century ago”
‘Song of the Somme’ – WR Magazine Feature Article
by Gerald Heys
“We should never forget. But how best to remember? Only a few yards from Ian Venable’s home, Gheluvelt Park stands as a proud memorial to the Worcestershire regiment’s actions in October 1914 (vividly recalled in WR’s winter edition by Alan Cowpe). In his programme notes for Through These Pale Cold Days, Ian writes: ‘It was this regiment’s self-sacrifice that prevented the German army from breaking through the allied lines in the early months of the war … So, first and foremost, I wanted to dedicate this new work to their memory.’ Commissioned by the Limoges Trust for the City of Worcester, the song-cycle was premiered at the Worcester Royal Grammar School’s Perrins Hall on 30 June, the centenary of the eve of the Battle of the Somme.
In its review, the Birmingham Post said, ‘Ian Venables has long enjoyed a deserved reputation as a renowned composer of English song, but in his latest offering he has surpassed even his own amazingly high benchmark.’
To read the full article please click here
Latest Publication From Novello’s
‘The Song of the Severn’ Op.43
for Baritone, String Quartet and Piano
Hot off the press is the latest publication from Novello’s of the music score of the composer’s chamber song cycle for baritone, string quartet and piano. This cycle was commissioned by the Malvern Concert Club and the Kay Trust and was premiered in Malvern in 2013.
It was subsequently recorded on the Signum label (See Recordings) by Roderick Williams, the Carducci String Quartet and pianist Graham Lloyd.
CD of The Song of the Severn: Signum Records
Here are two reviews:
“The Song of the Severn…clothes poems by Masefield, Housman, John Drinkwater and Philip Worner in sharply memorable music of bewitching lyricism, idiomatic grace and rapt instinct…No lover of the early-20th-century English art song or pastoral tradition should fail to investigate this notable issue.” – Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone
“These five songs, for voice with piano and string quartet accompaniment, take the Severn River and its historical and natural associations as a common theme. They are absolutely stunning in their poignant beauty, their profoundly noble and moving sense of tragedy and desolation that never turns sentimental or lachrymose, and their perfect union of text and music to a level that rivals Schubert and Mahler.” – James A. Altena, Fanfare Magazine
To purchase the score please follow this link: Musicroom.com
Hertford College,Oxford – Lunchtime ‘Cello and Piano Recital
Wednesday 8th March at 1.10
with Razvan Summa and Rebeca Ormodia
“Award winning artists, the acclaimed Romanian cellist, Razvan Suma and the charismatic Romanian-Nigerian pianist, Rebeca Omordia join forces for a musical journey of British music for ‘cello and piano that will include Ian Venables’ Elegy Op.2”
Please visit www.hertfordmusic.org
For further details of their UK concert tour please visit the ‘Performances’ page on this website or visit http://www.rebecaomordia.com
The Birmingham Post – ‘Christopher Morley looks back on a spectacular year for classical music in the Midlands’
“Also out of town, Ian Venables’ Through These Pale Cold Days, quietly insistent powerful responses to poetry connected with the First World War, made a strong impression at its premiere at Worcester Royal Grammar School on the eve of the centenary of the outbreak of the Battle of the Somme”. (22nd Dec 2016)
The 2017, 1st WW centenary events culminates this year with the commemorations in July of The Battle of Passchendaele. Before this, there are two landmark events. Firstly, the allied victory at The Battle of Vimy Ridge fought between 9th -12th April. At Vimy, for the first time all four Canadian divisions attacked together: men from all regions of Canada were present at the battle. Brigadier-General A.E. Ross declared after the war, “in those few minutes I witnessed the birth of a nation.” The British and French forces supported the Canadian offensive and during the battle a young officer in the Royal Flying Corp named Francis St Vincent Morris was shot down over Vimy Ridge on 10th April and died later from his injuries on the 29thApril.
A sweet wind passed in the forest
And moaned in the shadows above,
And he heard it sigh through the branches,
And it seemed as the voice of Love.
And he went his way for a season,
And came when he deemed it good:
But the trees were felled-and the voices/ Had passed from the whispering Wood.
Audio extract – Procrastination Op.46 no 2
US Premiere of ‘Through These Pale Cold Days’
Monday 17th April at 7.30 pm
Virginia Tech Performing Arts Centre
The second commemorative event of 2017 is the entrance of the United States into the Great War on April 17th. To mark this important date, the Virginia School of Performing Arts and Music are hosting a special recital of song that will include the US premiere of ‘Through These Pale Cold Days’. The acclaimed young tenor Brian Thorsett, together with the distinguished violist, Kimberly Fredenburg and pianist Richard Masters will give the work its premiere. The composer has been invited to attend the performance and give a lecture to the students.
Divertimento to perform the composer’s String Quartet on
28th January, Lustleigh Town Hall at 3 pm.
The acclaimed chamber ensemble ‘Divertimento’ are presenting a series of concerts featuring Ian Venables’ String Quartet Op.32. Their first concert is on the 28th January at Lustleigh Town Hall and their programme will include, Haydn String Quartet Op 54 No 1 in G and Schubert String Quartet in D minor ‘Death & The Maiden’. Divertimento will repeat this programme on Sunday 29th January at 4pm in The Matthews Hall, Topsham. The composer’s quartet will also be included in their concerts on Friday 3rd February at 7.30 in Kingsbridge Methodist Church and on Sunday 5th February at 3pm in St John’s Church, Totnes.
For advanced tickets please tel: 01647 277270.
For Further information please go to the ‘Performances’ web page or visit Divertimento’s website at: www.divertimento.uk.com
You can also follow Divertimento on Facebook at www.facebook.com
An online discussion with Ian Venables
Ahead of Divertimento’s forthcoming concert featuring Ian Venables’ string quartet the ‘cellist, Vicky Evans interviews the composer.
Question: I see that your quartet was composed in 1998, does it reflect what was happening in your life at that time?
Answer: My string quartet has no specific programme and it simply came about because of a creative urge to write one. In fact, this desire had been ruminating for some time. In 1989, I made my first tentative foray into writing a quartet and sketched out the first two minutes of an opening movement. However, when I tried to develop the music further I began to feel that the material was too weighty and I needed a much larger musical canvass. So I introduced the piano and the whole work metamorphosed into a piano quintet. Clearly the time was not the right but during the 1990’s I built upon this experience by writing a chamber song cycle for voice and string quartet called, ‘Invite to Eternity’ (composed1996). Following this work, I returned to the idea of writing a quartet and began work on it in early 1997. Although, the quartet is an essay in ‘pure’ music I was acutely aware of the ‘serious’ nature of the genre and the fact that it is seen by many as the pinnacle of composition. Indeed, apart from a few student works most composers of note come to quartet writing later in life when they have the requisite experience and maturity. Perhaps, that’s why I my earlier attempt never materialised.
Question: Is there a story attached to the work?
Answer: I am very sorry to disappoint you but there is no story or underlying meaning behind the quartet. The reasons for the contrasting moods found in each movement are entirely due to musical considerations rather than any personal revelations on my part. As I said earlier, the work was the outcome of an inner creative desire and perhaps something of a musical challenge to myself. I did think, considering my first abortive attempt whether I actually write such a work. I remember at the time having a conversation with the composer Michael Hurd. I told him that I was writing a quartet. He turned to me and said, “That is very courageous of you – I would never attempt one! With just four exposed lines – I would be found out!!” As you can imagine that off hand comment didn’t inspire me with confidence!!
Question: Please can you tell me something about each movt?
Answer: As I find it very difficult to step backwards and analyse my own work, perhaps, the best way of answering this question is by quoting what others have said about it. Here is an extract from an article written by the writer and musicologist Roderic Dunnett. It was based on an interview we had in 2014. “To hear the influence of Bartók, forceful and acerbic, on Venables, one should turn to his String Quartet, Op. 32 composed in 1997 (and recorded with considerable verve by the Dante Quartet). ‘I wanted to flex my muscles to see technically what I was capable of. I’d written quite a bit of string music, including a Piano Quintet, and I wondered if I could attempt something that stretched me musically. The Piano Quintet (here he admits a Brahmsian influence) began life as a string quartet; but at that time, I felt I didn’t have the technical means to compose a quartet. Afterwards, when I got back to thinking of writing a quartet, it just happened.’ It certainly worked, for the String Quartet is one of the most bracing, menacing and cogent works not just amongst his instrumental output, but of all Venables’s oeuvre. ‘It’s probably one of the reasons I’ve used a string quartet in several vocal works (his Clare cycle Invite, to Eternity, for instance). I enjoy the intimacy of the quartet, the sound and expressiveness and tension of those four instruments working together.”
Question: What is the Michael Tippett connection? Were you inspired by his quartets?
Answer: I was very fortunate to have known Michael Tippett whose music I admire greatly. The last time I saw him was at his home in September 1997. I mentioned to him that I was composing a quartet and that it would give me such pleasure if I could dedicate it to him. He was delighted by this and later I received a letter from him in which he formally accepted the dedication. Although, I do know his five quartets they were not a conscious influence on my own work. If there are any such influences then we will need to go across the channel to find them. I was much more interested in the symphonic approach to quartet writing to be found in, for example the Korngold string quartets.
Ian Venables’ Discography
‘Archery Promotions’ latest publicity brochure showcases Ian Venables’s CD recordings.