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Continuing our celebrations of the Beethoven 250 anniversary, I thought we might take a little look at one of the, perhaps, dustier corners of his output – that of his arrangements of some of his own works (not to be confused with his arrangements of folk songs, etc). Happily, the text is already largely written for me by Hans Keller, whose programme notes I am currently going through. Here he is, on this very topic in an extract from his note, written as a single essay, for a South Bank Summer Music concert of 6 August 1970 which presented works by Beethoven and Webern…a fascinating juxtaposition! Included were Beethoven’s arrangements of his Piano Sonata, Op. 14 no. 1 in E major for string quartet [M320.d.95.15] and the Grosse Fuge, Op. 133 arranged for two pianos [M200.a.15.47, item 13] (only on this occasion it was given on one piano, four hands). The performers were the Guarneri String Quartet and pianists Daniel Barenboim and Alfred Brendel. We pick up Keller’s note a little way in:
Here at MusiCB3, we were sorry to hear last week of the death of Dame Vera Lynn, at the grand old age of 103. Lockdown seems to have been a time for old folk doing extraordinary things – the achievements of Captain (now Sir) Tom Moore spring to mind. During his wartime service, Tom Moore spent time in Burma, and was a big fan of UK Forces’ sweetheart, Vera Lynn.
Many big name entertainers travelled to remote outposts to provide entertainment during the Second World War, but few ventured as near the front line as Dame Vera. Post-war she was deeply involved with Forces welfare and fund-raising for childrens’ and military charities, and it was for her charity work that she was awarded her “Damehood” in 1975.
Vera’s poignant song, We’ll meet again, has gained a place in the heart of 21st century Britain too, during this most peculiar of times.
Dame Vera was one of the best known musical names who joined ENSA (Entertainments National Service Association), but she was by no means the only one. And with the passing of one of the last of the wartime entertainers, and following so shortly upon the anniversary of VE Day, it seemed an appropriate time to celebrate the work of wartime musicians.
A couple of weeks ago, Margaret was talking about how people seem to fall into two categories when it comes to background music – some who find it helpful to work to and some who need silence. Like Margaret, I normally fall into the former category. Especially over the last few months, I have found that having music on in the background helps to stop my mind wandering off whatever it is I’m trying to concentrate on. Unlike Margaret, however, I have been finding it difficult to concentrate on reading for pleasure during lockdown, and my to-be-read pile is not shrinking as much as I thought it might over this time.
A change of gear this time, I thought, and what better than to explore some of Gerald Finzi’s ‘slow moments’. How does one begin to describe their essence? Imbued in places with a searing introspection, in others with sheer spiritual radiance, his slow movements are also often melancholy, elegiac, heartbreaking. Impossible, of course, to sum up his richly creative life in a few sentences, but let me begin with this little extract from the 5th (1954) edition of Grove’s Dictionary in which Kenneth Avery writes: “…his musical career has been of a quiet freelance nature, composing at leisure in the country, conducting amateur orchestras and so on…all his published music represents him fully, for he adopted the principle of withholding and perfecting his compositions until he is fully satisfied with them.” Only two years later, this seemingly idyllic life was cut short – Finzi died on 27 September 1956 aged only 55.
Regular readers of MusiCB3 may remember a post a while back about music for revision. Some people love having music in the background while they work, to some it’s important that it should (or should not) have words. Others find it distinctly irritating, and either need spoken word in the background, or a stony silence.
Ironically silence for some can be as difficult as sound to others. There’s no right or wrong to this, it’s all down to individual preference; but it can make maintaining harmony in a house that’s divided between sound and silence types tricky.
I was reminded of this when chatting to my lockdown housemate. She is definitely a silence type, I generally prefer music. The only time that I don’t have music is usually when I am reading for pleasure. Though even here, I have a soft spot for music that fits the story line. What better than the music of last week’s Black Bear concert, for example, to accompany reading Pride and Prejudice?
The other thing I find interesting is the use of music within books. Quite a few of the books I have read over lockdown have used music to evoke a time or place, or even given an insight into a character. With non-fiction it’s just as interesting to know what was being played at a particular time.
So here are a few of my very personal lockdown reads, and the music that is concealed within them.
Welcome to all our MusiCB3 followers to this reconstruction of a concert which took place here in Cambridge on Tuesday 18 February 1806, given by members of the Black Bear Music Club, based at the inn of that name off Shoemaker’s Row (today’s Market Hill) which thrived for almost twenty years from 1789. We hope you have paid your four shillings for a ticket and are all sitting comfortably with a glass of something refreshing to hand preparing to enjoy the music-making.
The instrumentalists are tuning up, the singers are doing their vocal exercises, and the bell has just rung. The concert is about to begin…
Handel: Overture Occasional
The Occasional Oratorio (HWV 62) was written to raise spirits during the crisis of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion, and was first performed in London in February the following year. There are four movements, ending with a morale-boosting military march.
Callcott Glee : Peace to the Souls of the Heroes
Next, a vocal number – John Wall Callcott’s glee Peace to the Souls of the Heroes, one of the hundred or so he composed. The words are taken from James MacPherson’s The Works of Ossian (but therein lies a long and tangled tale of who actually wrote what…
Corelli’s Concerti Grossi are justly popular and none more so than Op. 6 no. 8 the so-called Christmas Concerto. Sadly, we do not know which was performed by our Black Bear friends in 1806, but here is another concerto from the Op. 6 set for your enjoyment.
Boyce Song: Softly Rise, oh southern breeze
And to complete the first half of our concert – the most glorious aria by William Boyce from Solomon. Composed in 1742, it has been compared to Handel’s Acis and Galatea in its celebration of love (the words are based on the Song of Solomon). Softly rise, oh southern breeze, is the best-known of its arias – and one can immediately see why. On this occasion, it seems that John Scarborough forsook his violin to provide the bassoon obbligato.
We hope you are now suitably refreshed and ready for the second half of our concert!
Vanhall: Overture, flute and celloobbligato
We begin with an “overture” by Vanhall. Johan Baptist Vanhall (also spelled Vanhal, Wanhal or Wanhall) was born in Bohemia and the composer of many, many symphonies (often referred to as ‘overtures’ in Black Bear days). We cannot know for sure which our Black Bear friends chose, but after glancing at Paul Bryan’s immensely helpful book Johan Wanhal, Viennese Symphonist: his life and his musical environment (MRR.28.WAN.1), it seems most likely that the work in question was Vanhal’s Symphony in F major (Bryan’s F6), the only work which appears to call for obbligato flute and ‘cello. It appears that despite having a flautist brother, Vanhal generally preferred the sound of the oboe!
John Davy : Song Just like love is yonder rose
A song once again now, but one which we will have to ask you to sing to yourselves. Feel free to sing along to our piano version. Its composer, Devon born John Davy’s story is a sad one of rags to riches, providing popular songs for West End musical theatre to rags again through alcoholism. Just like love was one of his most popular. This was Master Gray’s opportunity to shine. You can find the original song online in the Levy Collection at Johns Hopkins.
Click on the photo to hear the piano version…
Pleyel: Flute Quartet with the German Hymn.
Now to Pleyel, another prolific composer with a canny eye to the market, arranging his music quite happily for any combination or purpose which he felt would bring more sales. We think this particular item, featuring one of the Black Bear’s talented flautists (but whether it was G. or J. Nicholls, the programme remains silent) is an arrangement of his String Quartet B349 composed in 1788, as its slow movement is a set of variations on what is called the German Hymn in early editions.
The music doesn’t appear to have been recorded, but you can see the score on IMSLP. There is also an arrangement, which would not have been out of keeping with the spirit of the Black Bear, for cello and double bass, performed by Jorg Baumann and Klaus Stoll, of Pleyel’s hymn with variations.
Glee : To our musical Club
And now dear readers to our grand finale: a specially-crafted lockdown performance of the round To our Musical Club, a catch published in John Arnold’s Essex Harmony of 1786 (MRB.260.75.2, p. 157) – a collection of glees, songs and catches collected by Thomas Warren, Secretary of the Noblemen’s and Gentlemen’s Catch Club from its foundation in 1761 until his death. (For more on Thomas Warren for those with Raven access, see here). Here, the performance is given by members of our very own MusiCB3 team, with their extended Special Collections friends and family. A round of applause, please, to welcome them…
Back in 1806, the musicians were led by violinist Charles Hague (Professor of Music in the University at the time), with regular players John Scarborough (violin), J. and G. Nicholls (flutes), Mr. Wagstaff (‘cello) and singers Master Gray and Messrs Adcock, Peppercorn and Taylor.
In 2020, the Black Bear glee, and Just like love were brought to you courtesy of MusiCB3 regulars – Misses Sarah Chapman (descant and tenor recorder), Kate Crane (voice), and Margaret Jones (audio mixing, piano). Special guests included Mr. Will Hale (voice), and Miss Sophie (voice and violin), and Mr. Tim Eggington (voice).
Notes on the pieces were prepared by Mistress Susi Woodhouse.
This week has been Mental Health Awareness Week across the University. As many of you are aware, Cambridge University runs a week every year promoting well-being. There is usually a stunning range of short courses, leisure activities, and tours available; it’s a very well thought out programme.
Over the last few years the Music team has taken part in art tours at Addenbrookes, a fascinating tour of Madingley Hall and gardens, ballet workouts, art appreciation through dance at the Fitzwilliam Museum, nature tours, yoga and mindfulness sessions, and more.
The team behind the Festival of Wellbeing work really hard, and it’s much appreciated by the staff. It gives us an opportunity to try different activities that promote well-being, and to see if they could be of use to us, both in our personal and professional lives. This year, of course, has been rather different, with everything taking place remotely.
Mental Health Awareness Week has made me think about the part that music plays in our mental health, not least because my own music making has been rather remote since the start of lockdown.
“As a matter of fact, genius grows younger, not older: as a mind of Haydn’s calibre reaches stages of maturity denied to mortal mortals, it sheds inherited prejudice after prejudice, the so-called heritage of the past; it sheds whatever is aged in its civilization, in order to allow its own genius, increasingly confident that it will make itself clear in spite of renouncing time-honoured means of communication, to express itself as freely as the new substance urging for expression may demand.”
The Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection (1944-46) consists mainly of books, but also contains a number of French and English songs and music scores, some with striking illustrations. They appear either as individual leaflets or as part of larger compilations, including the lyrics and in some cases notated music. On the anniversary of VE Day (Victory in Europe), the end of the Second World War on 8 May 1945, we would like to shed light on two illustrated covers for songs of the Liberation that we displayed on the occasion of the 2019 Liberation lecture (Normandy ’44 by James Holland).
No-one can possibly have missed the extraordinary, humbling, achievement of Captain (now Colonel) Tom Moore, the centenarian who has set us all an example by raising a truly magnificent £30M for the NHS by walking up and down his garden 100 times. He is the embodiment of the spirit of hope (and indeed trust) in the future we all so badly need at the moment, so Captain Tom, here in our little corner of the world, we salute you and wish you a very Happy Birthday. There’s an excellent account of him on the BBC News website – do read it.
And to help keep your spirits up, dear readers, MJ and I have selected a few pieces of music and songs for you to enjoy. Stay well, and keep on keeping on as we are doing here in our virtual Music Department and Pendlebury Library Team stitched together by Zoom/Teams/FaceTime/other social platforms as appropriate.