First World War Song Recital, Wadham College, Oxford
5th September 2014
Performed by Roderick Williams (baritone) and Gary Matthewman (piano)
The renowned baritone Roderick Williams was accompanied by the gifted young pianist, Gary Matthewman in an imaginatively devised sequence of first world war settings by Butterworth, Gurney, Ireland, Finzi, Vaughan Williams, Hugh-Jones, Paine and Ian Venables. The concert formed part of the English Association’s conference – ‘British Poetry of the Great War’. The recital included two of Ian Venables’ songs – ‘Flying Crooked’ Op.28 no 1 and his setting of Ivor Gurney’s war sonnet ‘Pain’ Op.10. This memorable recital received a standing ovation.
USA Premiere of Canzonetta Op.44
One of the highlights of the summer was the US Premiere of the composer’s recently written Canzonetta Op.44 for clarinet and string quartet. This première formed part of the inaugural season of the ‘Sunset Music and Arts’ Summer Programme. This special concert of British and American music was organised by the distinguished mezzo-soprano, Sally Porter Monro, Bryan Baker, Artistic Director and Conductor of Masterworks Chorale and Matthew Chacko. The concert featured a number of works by Ian Venables, including two early violin and piano pieces from his opus 11, performed by Sarah Wood (violin) and Bryan Baker (piano). Graham Lloyd’s arrangements of four of the composer’s songs with string quartet were sung by Sally Porter Monro and accompanied by the brilliant Cicardian String Quartet. The first song in the group ‘The Night has a Thousand Eyes’ Op.41 no 3 received its first performance in this medium. The final work on the programme was Venables’ Canzonetta performed by Natalie Parker, principal clarinettist of the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra together with the Cicardian String Quartet. This work was given an outstanding performance for which both composer and performers, received a standing ovation.
A New Publication from Novello and Co
‘Elegy’ Op.2 for ‘Cello and Piano
“This short work is an excellent example of British chamber music. In spite of the fact that it was an ‘early’ work from the composer, and was written in the heat of passion, it is a well-made piece that deserves to be in the repertoire”. (John France – Musicweb)
“Written in 1980 for the ‘cellist Anthony Gammage, the Elegy for Cello and Piano Op. 2 was the first piece written by Ian Venables for solo instrument and Piano. It is as an elegy for an unreturned love, and has all the melodic and harmonic fingerprints of Venables’s mature style: combining tender lyricism with passionate intensity”.
The score is available from Musicroom. To buy please click HERE for the Musicroom or visit ‘Music Scores’ section.
‘Celebrating English Song’ at Tardebigge, Sunday 20th July
The beautiful parish church at Tardebigge in Worcestershire was the ideal setting for a recital of English Song given by Elizabeth Atherton (soprano), Robert Plane (clarinet) and Michael Pollock (piano). Their recital included songs by Purcell and Warlock together with a performance of Gerald Finzi’s Bagatelles for clarinet and piano and Ian Venables’ song cycle, ‘On the Wings of Love’ Op.38 sung here for the first time by a soprano. John Gough reviewing the concert for the Birmingham Post wrote:
“Elizabeth Atherton’s interpretive gifts gave us the full range of this ambitious and successful work. Clarinet and piano worked well together in the texture of the music, whether setting the scene, or commenting on the array of emotions displayed in songs that treated disappointment, affirmation, passion and, in the Emperor Hadrian’s Epitaph, the sort of still simplicity that only a master can produce”.
Premiere of ‘Canzonetta’ Op.44
“Venables’ music never fails to engage the spirit” (Christopher Morley)
“Deeply Gratifying” (Roderic Dunnett)
“Expressive without doubt describes Ian Venables’ writing, both in his many songs and in this alluring new work …” (Roderic Dunnett)
The composer’s recently commissioned ‘Canzonetta’ for Clarinet and String Quartet was given its premiere by Timothy Orpen and the Cavaleri String Quartet at Bromsgrove Concerts on Friday 21st March with a second performance the following evening at the Droitwich Concert Club. Writing for the Birmingham Post, Christopher Morley wrote: “Venables’ music never fails to engage the spirit, and thanks to the Kay Trust contributing towards a joint commission celebrating the 40th anniversary of Droitwich Concert Club and the Golden Anniversary of Bromsgrove Concerts, his latest work, premiered at both societies over last weekend, spoke with an urgency, an assurance of structure, and a generosity of melody which made a huge impression.His Canzonetta for clarinet and string quartet was perfectly attuned to the medium and clarinettist Timothy Orpen and the splendid
Cavaleri Quartet responded gratefully both to the individual characterisation of their instruments but also to the personality — call and response, melting lyrical harmonisations — the composer drew from the ensemble as a whole”.“This is a short work, but in its eight minutes it moves from a gentle, pastoral lament for Huw Ceredig, the Droitwich chairman who was prime mover in the commission but who succumbed to cancer as the commission was gestating, to a life-affirming, joyous conclusion, the sigh ending with a smile”.
This was a tip-top performance of a work whose compactness, cogency and demeanour all suggest it deserves a place in the repertoire. After a vivid cantilena by Timothy Orpen on the clarinet, the top three strings engage in a shy, sad weeping, before an appealing melody in the lead violin emerges supported by rocking lower strings. There is some beautifully worked counterpoint, cello offset by second violin, and so on: Venables constantly looks for different textures, by means of subtle variations in the instrumentation. There are echoes of his song cycles, perhaps most obviously the Addington Symonds cycle Love’s Voice, which also uses a clarinet. But the feeling, to me, compact and intense, recalls (though coincidentally) the superb Reger Clarinet Quintet, or possibly even the Brahms, heard in Droitwich the next day.
Notable was the feel of long, sustained flow in all the instruments — as opposed to the skedaddling ostinati, mostly descending, which the clarinet fixatedly generates: these fast-moving passages are passed to the middle strings, while the clarinet and matching cello play slower supporting lines. What is particularly striking is that this range and variety, changes of mood and different balancings of members of the quintet is all achieved within a relatively short time. Nine minutes in, a second climax has the players locking horns — or perhaps more benign than that: the effect is almost like carolling together — before the short but rewarding work reaches its end.