Sarah Recital Programme.pages


Sarah Recital Programme.pages
11 SEP 2014 – 11.30am
Giuseppe Tartini 1692-1770
Sonata for solo violin in D minor (from 26 ‘Sonate Piccole’)
mid 18th century
Kaija Saariaho 1952- Nocturne for solo violin 1994
Igor Stravinsky 1882-1971
Duo Concertant * 1932
(Hannah Ely, piano)
Tom Coult 1988- Sparking and Slipping 2014 (world premiere)
(Tom Coult, cond.; Anne Denholm, harp; Hannah Ely, piano; Henry Fynn, percussion)
Four striking pieces, spanning over 250 years of music, make up this
fascinating and diverse programme, though there are as many similarities
between them as there are differences.
We begin with two unaccompanied pieces – Tartini’s Sonata and
Saariaho’s Nocturne. Both of these composers developed highly novel
approaches to violin writing for their respective periods, informed by the
very latest investigations into the nature of sound itself.
Stravinsky’s similarly idiosyncratic approach to the violin came during a
period of his career where he was looking to 18th-century music for
inspiration. Just as in Tartini’s Sonata, Duo Concertant combines a strange
lyricism with dance forms.
Also taking stimulus from 18th-century music is Tom Coult’s Sparking and
Slipping, an extended and virtuosic dance for violin and a baroque-esque
accompagnato ensemble (albeit on rather more modern instruments!).
Giuseppe Tartini !
Sonata for solo violin in D minor
(from 26 ‘Sonate Piccole’)
Siciliano – Allegro – Adagio affetuoso
Giuseppe Tartini was one of the most
influential violinists, teachers and theorists of
music in eighteenth-century Italy and beyond.
As head of the Basillica di Sant’Antonio in
Padua for four decades, his renowned tuition
in harmony, counterpoint, composition and
performance attracted students from all over
the world – so much so that the his class
became known as the ‘School of Nations’.1
As well as his central commandment ‘per be
suonare, bisgona be cantare’ (‘to play well, you
must sing well), Tartini also became fascinated
by the physics of sound itself, publishing Tratto
di musica secondo la vera scienza dell’armonia in
1754. This treatise explored psychoacoustic phenomena such as ‘difference
tones’, a phenomenon whereby two notes played together produce a third
tone in the listener’s ear. These ‘Tartini’ tones were little explored by
subsequent composers until composers working at Paris’ IRCAM studios
in the 1970s and 1980s, such as Gérard Grisey, Tristan Murail and indeed
Kaija Saariaho.
These explorations, which became something of a quasi-religious
obsession,2 informed Tartini’s extraordinary set of 26 sonatas for solo
violin, written in the last twenty years of his life. Despite being one of the
most thoroughgoing and extended collections of violin music of the
period, the Sonatas are rarely played, partly because they have never been
published in a critical edition (I am today playing from my own
transcription of the manuscript facsimile).
Sheppard-Skaerved, Peter, ‘Giuseppe Tartini and his Sonate Piccole’, liner notes, Toccata
TOCC0146, 2.
2 Aresi, Stefano, liner notes to Chiara Bianchini, ‘Tartini: Sonate a violino solo’, Zig Zag
The D minor sonata’s opening Siciliana makes use of Tartini’s theories
about ‘symmetrical harmony’.3 Fanning symmetrically outwards from the
note A gives the movement its distinctive, chromatically inflected
harmonic language, carrying to modern ears flavours of eastern European
or gypsy music. The symmetry culminates in highly dissonant semitone
crushes from both directions towards A.
The second movement, an Allegro, carries a sense of two voices competing
against one another – the bottom one invoking the repeated strokes of a
drum. Like the first, this movement places great importance on the
interval of an open 5th – sonically pure but also hollow, the acoustic
properties of this interval will have fascinated Tartini. The sonata ends
with the alluring Adagio affetuoso, whose serpentine melody is inflected with
expressive chromaticism.
Kaija Saariaho Nocturne for solo violin Kaija Saariaho, like Tartini, begun as a
violinist, studying at the Sibelius Academy in
her native Finland. Also like Tartini, she has
developed a highly personal and idiosyncratic
style of writing for solo string instruments, as
can be heard in a number of pieces for cellist
Anssi Karttunen including Spins & Spells (1996)
and Sept Papillons (2000), and in 1994’s Nocturne
for solo violin.
While working on her violin concerto, Graal
Theatre, Saariaho heard of the death of the
great Polish composer Witold Lutosławski. She
wrote Nocturne very quickly, dedicating it to his
memory, and subsequently using its material as the basis for the violin
Sheppard-Skaerved,‘Giuseppe Tartini', 5.
Korhonen, Kimmo, ’The many world of Kaija Saariaho’s music for strings’, liner notes to
Ondine, ODE 1222-2, 5.
The piece is striking for its fragility and vulnerability – there is a haptic
quality here, with musical gestures chosen as much for the grain of their
sound as for their harmonic or melodic implications. The range of sound
qualities coaxed out of the violin is large – the crunched ‘scratch’ tones
and brittle half-fingered pitches are contrasted with the more resonant
qualities of open strings and resonant harmonics. These latter sounds tend
to glisten like beams of light against the nocturnal atmosphere.
The harmony is generally static – there is throughout a sense of a musical
landscape unfolding or unspooling, rather than coming from any direct
statement. This lends the whole piece an air of stillness, even in the central
section where the music starts to move with greater purpose. This stillness,
challenging to maintain given the awkwardness of many of the physical
actions the violinist is required to perform, makes the piece a fitting and
quietly moving tribute to Lutosławski.
Igor Stravinsky Duo Concertant
Cantilène – Eglogue I – Eglogue II – Gigue – Dithyramb
(Hannah Ely, piano)
Stravinsky’s Duo Concertant is an example of
something that I value a lot – the close
collaboration between a performer and a
composer. Previously, Stravinsky had not been
creatively excited by the violins, finding strings
‘much too evocative and representative of the
human voice’, unlike the winds which were
‘ d r i e r, c l e a n e r, l e s s p ro n e t o f a c i l e
expressiveness’.5 This was because of his neoclassical, anti-Romantic sentiments – he
disliked anything that was over-emotional, and
strings with their vibrato seemed not precise
enough for him.
Walsh, Stephen, Stravinsky: A Creative Spring, London, 2000, 208.
This changed, however, when he begun working with violinist Samuel
Dushkin on 1931’s Violin Concerto. Stravinsky said that ‘a deeper
knowledge of the violin and close collaboration with a technician like
Dushkin had revealed possibilities I longed to explore’,6 and the early
thirties are almost a ‘violin period’ in his output – as well as the concerto
and the Duo Concertant, he arranged lots of his previous music for violin
and piano, so that he and Dushkin could tour playing recitals.
What’s very striking about the piece is how lyrical it is – there is real
sweetness and melody – but also how these melodies never quite work the
way one expects. Stravinsky approvingly quoted a recent book by Cingria
on the Greek poet Petrarch (coincidentally, also a great influence on
Tartini’s Sonatas):
Lyricism cannot exist without rules, and it is essential that they should be
strict. Otherwise there is only a faculty for lyricism, and that exists
everywhere. What does not exist everywhere is lyrical expression and
Despite these rules, Paul Griffiths says that the Duo ‘sublimely makes up its
rules as it goes along’.8 There are plenty of strange choices in the piece,
not least in the movement titles.
The first movement, is on the whole hardly lyrical in the way that its title,
Cantilène might subject, while most mischievous is the final movement,
entitled Dithyramb, a Greek term meaning a wild and ecstatic dance.
Stravinsky’s Dithyramb, by contrast, is an initially cool and reserved slow
movement – ‘far more Bachian than Bacchanalian’.9
However unreliable his titles, the music is charming, inventive and
sometimes intensely moving. There is real wit and vivacity in the bouncing
romp of the Gigue or the quickly forgotten bagpipe tune of Eglogue I, and
Stravinsky often uses harmonics, open strings and left hand pizzicato to
achieve striking sonorities (they also serve to eradicate some of the vibrato
that might seem to him too romantic). Stravinsky’s piece is sometimes
strange, sometimes joyful, sometimes sweet but always totally personal.
Stravinsky, Igor, An Autobiography, New York, 1936, 170.
8 Griffiths, Paul, Stravinsky: The Master Musicians, London, 1992, 108.
9 ibid.
Tom Coult !
Sparking and Slipping
(Tom Coult, cond.; Anne Denholm, harp;
Hannah Ely, piano; Henry Fynn, percussion)
I wanted to commission a piece from Tom
Coult as I have previously played his Études 1
& 2 for solo violin, and he, like Saariaho and
Tartini, originally started as a violinist. I also
knew that we could do some of the same close
collaboration as Stravinsky did with Samuel
Dushkin. I asked him for a piece that would
feel theatrical in some way, and with an
unusual accompanying ensemble. This is what
Tom says about the piece:
‘It was great to be asked to write a piece for
Sarah to go alongside these fascinating pieces.
Because of Sarah’s choice of Tartini, I wanted
to capture some of the spirit (though not the
sound) of baroque music. I like the white-knuckle virtuosity of a lot of
Vivaldi for instance, and the idea of an accompagnato ensemble that
supports and provides a backdrop to the pyrotechnics of the soloist like in
baroque opera, rather than contributing much material of its own.’
The piece opens with a fast dance, obsessively circling around the same
notes, before variations of the same material. At the centre of the work is a
long, slow passage of genuine lyricism, with the ensemble acting like a
resonating chamber for the violin. The fast dance then returns, more
dramatic this time, and the piece ends with a quiet coda.
Sarah Hill is a violinist for whom creating
and performing with a diverse range of
composers, musicians and artists is at the
centre of her musical life.
Sarah recently formed the Viscera Ensemble,
a collective of musicians dedicated to
performing contemporary music and making
it more accessible for new audiences, who had
their first concert earlier this year performing
Crumb’s Eleven Echoes of Autumn and
leading music-making workshops with young
people. As Opera Viscera’s lead violinist,
Sarah has brought new opera to audiences at
OPEN Art Gallery, Secret Garden Party, Arcola Theatre and Cockpit
Sarah is currently completing her Masters as a TCL Scholar studying
violin with Clare Thompson at Trinity Laban Conservatoire, and
previously studied at the University of Manchester where she was awarded
the McMyn Prize for Instrumental Excellence. At Trinity, Sarah has
explored her interest in early music; studying with baroque specialist
Walter Reiter and playing in projects led by Ian Wilson, Bill Barclay,
Nicholas Kraemer and Belinda Sykes. She is a dedicated chamber
musician, performing regularly with pianist Hannah Ely and as a member
of the Sautinne Quartet was awarded first prize in Trinity Laban’s John
Barbirolli String Quartet Competition.
Sarah is also passionate about music education, and when she is not
performing she is a violin tutor for the Bridge Project and Pembroke
Academy of Music as well as leading her own creative music workshops.
Sarah is extremely grateful to the Felicity Belfield Trust, Peter Parmigiani,
The Ruby and Will George Trust and the Yorkshire Ladies Council of
Education for their support with her musical studies.
Tom Coult is a London-born composer whose work has earned
commissions and performances by ensembles including BBC Symphony
Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Manchester
Camerata, Orchestra of the Swan and Psappha. He is currently studying
with George Benjamin, and upcoming commissions include a new work
for Britten Sinfonia.
Originally from Wales, Anne Denholm is one of Britain’s leading young
harpists and is earning a reputation for her powerful performances. She
underwent a British musical upbringing, studying at the Purcell School,
Cambridge University and the Royal Academy of Music. Twice winner of
the Skaila Kanga Harp Prize, she has won awards as a solo, chamber and
orchestral musician. She is particularly respected for her work in
contemporary music and has been recording and performing new works
for harp since 2006. She is a founding member of contemporary
experimental quartet, ‘The Hermes Experiment’, who commission,
arrange and improvise engaging new music.
Hannah Ely studied music at Manchester University then took a
Postgraduate Diploma in piano at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music
and Dance, graduating with a Distinction. Hannah focuses mainly on
contemporary repertoire and has been working with Sarah for two years.
Hannah also sings professionally in consorts and choirs, and teaches parttime.
Henry Fynn has been playing percussion ever since being chucked at the
back of his local youth orchestra to play triangle. Since then he has played
with many ensembles in and around London including the London
Firebird Orchestra and Kantanti Ensemble. He was also fortunate enough
to play at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Since starting studies at Trinity Laban he has developed a keen interest in
playing on period instruments and playing in chamber ensembles. Once
he has finished undergraduate degree he hopes to carry on studying for a
Masters and then to hopefully play professionally.