Ivan Ross 16th March 2016
For once Ivan emerged from behind the amplifier where he so reliably produces the music chosen by the presenters to give us his own selection. Ivan told us that the first programme he had presented to the Society about 20 years ago was called Musical Schizophrenia. He had hoped to repeat it but had been unable to find the original details.
What did he mean by Musical Schizophrenia? Musicians and performers who live on both sides of a musical divide: Jazz/Swing/Popular (not Pop – which Ivan can’t stand) and what is commonly known as classical music.
So for this evening he had chosen a selection of composers and performers who have produced both classical and popular CDs.
Ivan started with an overture by Mozart but that was all he told us about it until we had heard it. “Notice anything odd about that?” he asked. It was the Overture to The Marriage of Figaro but played by a rock band called Sky accompanied by the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields conducted by Sir Neville Mariner. (It sounded like a conventional performance to start with but differences seemed to become more noticeable when there were percussion passages.)
Next came a Sonata for Trumpet and Piano, by Halsey Stevens. Ivan said that he had not been familiar with this composer but when he looked him up there were a couple of pages of compositions. Born in New York on 3rd December 1908 and died at Long Beach, California on 20th January 1989 after a long battle with Parkinson’s. The three movement sonata is quite a demanding piece for the performer and is used as a test piece for trumpet students. Here we heard it played by Wynton Marsalis (trumpet) and Judith Lynn Stillman (piano).
Ivan then played for us something he had recorded from a broadcast of the Proms a few years earlier. It was a piece called Big Train and it was played by the Wynton Marsalis Big Band. Ivan usually plays us something different and this was certainly that. The musicians produced the sound of the train by shuffling their feet and at the end the brass opened all their valves to reproduce the sound of steam escaping.
Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony followed. This was the classical piece (an expression which Ivan dislikes – for him all music can be classical or better still classic) to be followed by the popular piece the Jazz Suite. Specifically, the fourth and last movement of the Shostakovich symphony played by the West German Radio Orchestra conducted by Rudolf Barshai (Ivan has a complete set of the Shostakovich symphonies performed by that orchestra and conductor), and the Jazz Suite No. 1 played by the Russian State Symphony Orchestra under Dimitri Yablonsky.
The last pairing in this first half were two songs sung by Kiri Te Kanawa: first Vissi D’Arte from Puccini’s Tosca; then a song to remind all us sports people (!) of the Rugby World Cup: The World in Union. Kiri first sang this in 1991.
Ivan started the second half of his programme with a piece of guitar music played by John Williams: Asturias by Albeniz. A piece he likes and also admires the virtuosity – does John Williams really only have two hands?
Then something by the Rock Band set up by Williams: Sky and a piece called Moonroof, written by Kevin Peek, (an Australian guitarist, 1946 to 2013, who played with Sky). (Moonroof seems to be similar to a car sunroof but with a transparent cover such as Perspex. Ivan said that in the Toyota Corolla he once owned the instructions said not to have the moonroof open with the air conditioning on.)
Ivan now moved on to one of his favourite musicians: Benny Goodman. His selection came from a famous concert given by Goodman at the Carnegie Hall on the night of 16th January 1938. The concert was relayed from a single microphone over the stage by a pair of copper telephone wires to the CBS Studios. One take and no repeats. There are even breaks in the recording when the master disc on the recording lathe had to be changed.
This was an historic concert. The first non-classical concert at the Carnegie Hall and the band were concerned that the regular concertgoers might not approve. However it was a rousing success, and by the time the number that Ivan played for us came along close to the end, Sing, Sing, Sing, the performers are clearly having the time of their lives. There are solos by Harry James (trumpet), Jess Stacey (piano) and Gene Krupa (drums – Ivan pointed out that Krupa had been playing for nearly two hours by then but still maintaining an almost metronomic accuracy.) And by Goodman himself who includes a top A followed by a barely audible high C – a feat which Ivan has been assured by a friend who plays the B flat clarinet is almost impossible.
To finish, Ivan played Goodman in a classical role, playing the last movement of the Mozart Clarinet Quintet in A, K581, with the Budapest String Quartet. It is an Allegretto with Variations. Goodman displays his mastery in the classical genre as in jazz.
Ivan hoped that he had not offended too many ears with his choices this evening! In thanking Ivan, Norman noted the wide range of music enjoyed. Schizophrenia he had read is characterised by inconsistent and contradictory behaviour, but the music played had shown an immense capacity for the composers and musicians to display their great talents.
(Incidentally, it should be added that Ivan had thoughtfully pre-recorded his selections onto two CDs so that his replacement at the equipment simply had to play and pause each track rather than load individual CDs. Thanks, Ivan.)