Felixstowe Recorded Music Society: Philip Jordan

Philip Jordan                              7th December 2016

CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION

This was actually a selection of pieces by members of the Society, but Philip had put them together into a complete programme and also announced them.

First out of the hat was a composer unfamiliar to just about all of us and this was Rosalie’s choice – the Hungarian Eugene Zador, and A Christmas Overture, which although only eight minutes or so was in four segments: The Joy of Christmas – Sleigh Ride – Nativity –Adoration. It was played by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra. Eugene Zador (also known as Jeno Zador) was an Americanised Hungarian composer, born 1894, died 1977. He studied in Vienna and also with Max Reger in Leipzig. Thanks to Rosalie to introducing him to us.

This was followed by Alan Barnes: A Jazz Christmas Carol. Barnes, Jazz Saxophonist, Clarinettist, Composer, Arranger and Educator, as his web site has it, was born in 1959. He has played with many famous bands, including the Pasadena Roof Orchestra and Humphrey Lyttelton’s Band and also toured with Bryan Ferry. In the piece we heard Bah Humbug, a gruff baritone sax representing Scrooge.

Helen’s selection followed. These were three readings of poems:
Christmas by John Betjeman, read by Hermione Norris,
Mistletoe by Walter de la Mare, read by Joanna Lumley, and
Snowflakes by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, also read by Hermione Norris.
The last was an addition by Philip after listening to the CD, which was entitled Christmas Words for You.

Mistletoe may not be all that familiar, and as it’s quite short here it is:

Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Someone came, and kissed me there.

Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen—and kissed me there.
Next came Sheila’s suggestion, a CD by The Watersons. They were an English folk group from Hull. They performed mainly traditional folk music with little or no accompaniment. The three songs we heard came from an early 1966 album called simply The Watersons. The line-up changed over the years and Lal (Elaine) died in 1998 and Mike in 2011.

We heard: God Bless the Master.
While Shepherds watched their flocks by night.
And an additional one added by Philip – Heavenly Aeroplane.
Philip said that this last made him think of his son who would be flying back from Brazil next week, a flight involving a helicopter transfer, which always made him a little uneasy.

At this point Philip interposed an additional short song submitted by Ann. Earlier he had said that when the CDs were set out on the table a “foreigner” had appeared amongst them. A mystery! So when he called out to Ivan “Mystery!” it would be the cue to play this additional CD. It was Riu, Riu, Chiu – Ann said she had no idea how to pronounce it but husband Paul will be taking part in a concert by the Ipswich Choral Society on 20th December, when it will be performed. It’s a traditional Spanish carol, which now appears in Christmas collections, and was even performed by The Monkees. “And I like it”, said Ann.

Norma’s choice – The Shepherds’ Farewell from L’Enfance du Christ by Berlioz came next. It was performed by the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra of L’Opera conducted by John Elliot Gardiner. An always popular choice with a delightful accompaniment.

Mike Fowle had chosen Tom Lehrer, and his Christmas Carol. No sentiment here – Tom Lehrer providing the ultimate take down of Christmas, Mike had said.

To take us to the interval, Heather gave us a few tunes on the piano. She explained that when Mike had sent her a message asking whether she would be willing to do so she had been rather grumpy (not really) because she didn’t like to be reminded of Christmas too soon – as is well known in her family. She said she didn’t want to play anything Christmassy but she hoped her choices would be relaxing.

She played four pieces, and first came Pamela Wedgewood. Did any of us play the piano or have children who were learning? If so, we would surely have come across Pam Wedgewood, whose instruction books are universal. This was a piece composed by her called Charlie, included in a book called After Hours Jazz.

Heather then played George Gershwin – Love is Here to Stay. Her next piece won the Grammy Award for Best Song for 1966. Anybody recognise it? Yes, indeed, it was The Shadow of Your Smile, also known as the Love Theme from the film The Sandpiper, composed by Johnny Mandel. He also wrote the theme tune to MASH, Heather informed us.

Finally, Cole Porter’s Night and Day.

Interval (With special thanks to Hilary, Rosalie and Norman for the mince pies and other goodies – and apologies to anyone overlooked.)

We resumed with Mike Stephenson’s choice – The Assault on Beautiful Gorky by Shostakovich (“Hooray!” said Ann). This came to mind for Mike through seeing the reports of the appalling tragedy of Aleppo. The music comes from a film called The Unforgettable Year 1919, although the film is – notwithstanding its title – generally forgotten.

Philip noted that the recording was made at St John’s in the heart of Westminster, where he would be in a week’s time.

Two selections from Ivan came next – from a recording made in Stockholm in 1976, called Cantate Domino, which seems to have made quite a stir in Hi Fi circles for its superb quality, Adolphe Adam’s Julsang or Christmas Song (or carol). The Oscar Motet Choir, director Torsten Nilsson, organist Alf Linder, brass ensemble and Marianne Mellnas soprano. Sung in Swedish, this was serenely beautiful.

From the same disc came Stille Nacht (Silent Night) sung in German. Most people will know this and many may well know that it was composed by Franz Gruber but how many know that it was originally written for guitar accompaniment as the organ had broken down? (So Ivan informs us.)

Norman had volunteered a CD which also been played the previous year – On Christmas Night, a collection of beautiful carols sung by the choir of Merton College, Oxford. Norman had not specified any particular track so Philip had chosen two not played the previous year. (Philip had said he was quite surprised to find that this was the fourth year he had put together a Christmas collection.)

From Norman’s disc we heard the eponymous The Sussex Carol – On Christmas Night, arranged by Philip Ledger. The musical director was Benjamin Nicholas and the organist Peter Shepherd.

Then Holst’s In the Bleak Midwinter. The solo tenor part was sung by Oliver Kelham. Beautiful singing, said Philip, and it reminded him of the terrible winters of years ago, not just snow and ice but killer smogs. But very slippery roads were a hazard, when not having a car they cycled to members of their family. On the other hand, he had spent two seasons in New Zealand with quite the opposite weather, when he could think of the poor souls back home in the cold.

As for his own selection, Philip said that a few years ago he travelled from Massachusetts to Toronto in severe weather conditions with three feet of snow. And in Ontario he had heard the Elora Festival Singers. This was a CD he had played last year but this time he chose What Sweeter Music by John Rutter. The musical director was Noel Edison and the organist Michael Bloss.

Then from a two CD set of Welsh Male Voice Choirs – A Welsh Male Voice Christmas – we heard first Joy to the World, by the Cwmbach Male Choir, and then Song of Hope by the Cor Meibion Llanelli. We need a lot of hope these days, said Philip.

Well, he added, he seemed to have concluded with a lot of choral singing, but it was absolutely magnificent. He thanked all who had contributed their suggestions and Heather for her musical interlude – which was great. This would be the last Christmas programme he would put together (because he was moving away).

Norman said that Philip had thanked most people but he added his thanks to Philip for all his efforts. And wished everybody a very happy Christmas

Felixstowe Recorded Music Society

Our next meeting is on 21st October when a new presenter to us, Rosemary Baldwin, presents Memories through Music. We shall be meeting in the smaller hall to see how that works. United Reform Church Hall, corner of Orwell Road, meet at 7.30pm. Guests £2.50 whicih includes tea nd biscuits!

A rare event last week: Norman Sennington was booked again on 30th September 2015

OLD THEMES – NEW TUNES

When Norman agreed to remain as chairman, he had already been pencilled in to present a programme. So having presented his Chairman’s Choice at the previous meeting, this evening could have been what the American baseball player, Yogi Berra, who died the other day, called “Dej-vu all over again”.*

Only it wasn’t. A very different programme from his all-Mozart fest a fortnight earlier. Norman explained that his original conception of playing different artistes had been somewhat modified when he started working his way through his selected CDs. Nonetheless, he hoped we would enjoy his choices.

He began not with an overture as usual but a prelude: the Prelude to Act 1 of La Traviata by Verdi, which gives a wonderful foretaste of what’s to come in the opera.

He followed this with some passages from Act II, with Pavarotti the singer.

Another great Italian opera composer came next – Puccini and Tosca. The duet from Act 1 with Montserrat Caballe and Jose Carreras, “Ah Quegli Occhi. Mia gelosa.” We also heard the finale to Act 1 with the Te Deum.

Then a further offering from Puccini, La Boheme, and a duet from Act 1. This was followed by an extract from a third opera by Puccini – Madama Butterfly. The love duet from the first Act, “Bimba dagli occhi” with Jussi Bjorling and Victoria de Los Angeles. A truly classic recording.

Der Freischutz made Weber famous, impressed Beethoven, and inspired Richard Wagner (who later arranged for Weber’s remains to be disinterred from London and brought back to Dresden). We heard the lovely cavatina from Act 3 sung by the Finnish soprano, Karita Mattila.

And to end Part I an unusual offering, a Korean traditional song, arranged by Young-Ha Yoon and sung by the Korean Sumi Jo: Boribat, the Barley Field.

When I walk along a path through a barley field
A calling voice makes me stand still
Old memories bring me some loneliness
And I whistle
Lovely songs greet my ears in response
But no one is seen when I turn around,
Just the sunset glow and empty sky
Fill my sight.

Interval

The second half was all orchestral. Norman described his choices as self-indulgent but hoped they would also be enjoyed by us as much as he does. First was the Good Friday music from Wagner’s Parsifal. The passage that has been described as a duet for clarinet and oboe. Parsifal was described by Wagner as not an opera but “Ein Bühnenweihfestspiel” (!) (“A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage”). Originally performances were restricted to Bayreuth.

Max Bruch’s violin concerto No. 1 in G minor came next, the melodious adagio (the second movement). The soloist was Anne-Sophie Mutter.

Albinoni’s Adagio arranged for organ and strings followed played by I Solisti Veneti, conducted by Claudio Scimone (the founder of the orchestra).

Norman ended his selection with the finale from Schubert’s symphony No. 9, the Great C Major. Played by the Concerrtgebouworkest Amsterdan conducted by Leonard Bernstein, it provided a rousing finish to an entertaining evening.

*“Yogi” Berra was also responsible for “Baseball is 90% mental – the other half is physical” and about a restaurant “Nobody goes there any more – it’s too crowded”.

Our next meeting is on 21st October when a new presenter to us, Rosemary Baldwin, presents Memories through Music. We shall be meeting in the smaller hall to see how that works.

Supplied by Mike Fowle, FRMS Committee Member

Felixstowe Recorded Music Society

http://www.thefrms.co.uk/affprogs/felixstw.htm

The Felixstowe Recorded Music Society (FRMS) meets on selected Wednesdays at 7.30 p.m.in the United Reformed Church Hall Tomline Road, Felixstowe
(near junction with Orwell Road)

The next meeting is on 30th September “Old Themes – New Tunes”. Not as I had thought the use of classical music in popular music (along the lines Bob Meadows is doing on 18th November) but fresh versions of classics. Guests £2.50 including tea and biscuits.

Norman Sennington, the Chairman presented a programme on 16th September 2015

CHAIRMAN’S CHOICE
(An Evening with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)

Norman had kindly agreed to remain as chairman in the absence of any volunteers, and thus presented another Chairman’s Choice programme, (which he had not planned to do). We were rather thin on the ground, or a select few, as Norman preferred to say. Last time his choice had been an all Elgar programme; this time it was the turn of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

As usual with Norman he started with an overture: the RPO playing the overture from The Marriage of Figaro (D major – Presto). He followed that with Susanna’s aria from the same opera, Giunse alfin il momento (The Moment has Finally Arrived), sung by Barbara Bonney with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.

Then the lovely larghetto from the Clarinet Quintet in A, played by Karl Leister and the Berlin Soloists.

That was followed by the allegro from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. This is often translated as a little night music, though apparently a better rendering would be little serenade. Yuri Bashmet conducted the Moscow Soloists.

The short but dramatic Dies Irae from the Requiem followed, sung by the Goldsmiths Choral Union, conducted by Owain Arwel Hughes. (The Goldsmiths Choral Union is actually an amateur group, although a leading one.)

Il Mio Tesoro from Don Giovanni came next. The Tenor, Ian Bostridge, writing in The Guardian in January 2006, the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth, had some interesting thoughts about this aria:

“But it’s Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni who is the most revealing example of my problem with Mozart. Critics and audiences alike complain of his passivity. He stands as the virtuous and ineffective opposition to Giovanni’s demonic life force, and is bound to suffer in comparison. But in fact, Act One makes sense for Ottavio in terms of storytelling and dramatic pace. His duet with Donna Anna after her father’s murder by Giovanni is powerful and affecting; the aria Dalla Sua Pace is a touching and economical moment of stasis, theatrically highly effective.

“It is the second-act aria, Il Mio Tesoro – a piece of exquisite time-wasting – that can do for Don Ottavio. This is an aria that explicitly admits it is holding up the action.

“Meanwhile, go and console my beloved,” Ottavio sings as he prepares to alert the authorities to Giovanni’s miscreancy. It sounds like a beautiful and irrelevant serenade, and it has had, rather revealingly, a healthy life as a concert aria without dramatic context.

“In fact, Mozart only ever intended Ottavio to have one aria. Il Mio Tesoro was written for the original Prague production, Dalla Sua Pace as part of the revision for a subsequent run in Vienna. This is often presented as a matter of horses for courses – different sorts of aria for different singers. But it was also, evidently, a case of second thoughts being better than first. Without Il Mio Tesoro, Ottavio disappears rather in Act Two, but that is in the nature of the plot, which focuses at that stage on Don Giovanni’s supernatural comeuppance.

“It’s no use worrying that Don Ottavio in his delayed vengeance isn’t fleshed out into an operatic Hamlet surrogate. Act One’s drama and tenderness and the extraordinary ensembles in both A cts should be enough for any tenor. The problem is that many contemporary productions, anxious to placate an underused singer or maximise the use of an expensive tenor, encourage the singer to do both arias. Being one of the tenors all too eager to be placated – if I’m offered a lovely aria to sing, who am I to refuse? – I can’t really complain. More beautiful music, less effective drama: it’s a commonplace operatic dilemma.”
Placido Domingo was the singer here, with the Munich Radio Orchestra, conducted by Eugene Kohn.

Nearly two years ago in November 2013, we celebrated our diamond anniversary. On that occasion we had attempted to recreate the first meeting of the society and Norman now played a work that had been played then and again two years ago – the Divertimento for Strings in D. It was played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Nicholas Cleobury.

The first half ended with Ave Verum Corpus (Behold the True Body) sung by the Arnold Schoenberg Choir accompanied by the Concentus Musicus Wien conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
Interval

In the second half Norman realised a wish that he has often expressed – to play complete works rather than extracts (and there’s a subject for discussion) and we heard one work, the Jupiter Symphony, No. 41 in G. This was played by The English Concert on original instruments directed by Trevor Pinnock.