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Mr McFall's Chamber 

6.30pm Thursday 13 April 2017

A programme of music from Baltic countries for piano sextet,piano, string quartet & double bass.
 
The programme includes music by Sibelius, Erkki Sven Tuur, Aulis Sallinen, Olli Mustonen, Arvo Pärt & a couple of Finnish tango numbers.
 
The repertoire i CD “Solitudes”, released by Delphian Records October 2015. 
 
 

Solitudes

Baltic Reflections
Music from Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

Introduction and Tango Overture Bangos (for solo piano) Lamento (for two violas) Dedication (for cello and piano) Toccata

interval

Fratres (for string quartet)
Für Alina (for solo piano)
A Little Summer Music (for violin and piano) Le Grand Tango (for violin and piano) Täysikuu
Einsames Lied
(“Solitude”)
Satumaa

Cyril Garac: 1st violin

Robert McFall: 2nd violin/ viola Brian Schiele: viola
Su-a Lee: cello
Rick Standley: double bass Maria Martinova: piano

Introduction

Aulis Sallinen Zita Bružait

Kalevi Aho Erkki-Sven Tüür Olli Mustonen

Arvo Pärt
Arvo Pärt
P
teris Vasks
Astor Piazzolla
Toivo Kärki (arr. Robert McFall) Jean Sibelius (arr. Robert McFall) Unto Mononen (arr. Robert McFall) 

Introduction

Aulis Sallinen Zita Bružait

Kalevi Aho Erkki-Sven Tüür Olli Mustonen

Arvo Pärt
Arvo Pärt
P
teris Vasks
Astor Piazzolla
Toivo Kärki (arr. Robert McFall) Jean Sibelius (arr. Robert McFall) Unto Mononen (arr. Robert McFall)

Mr McFall’s Chamber brings a programme of music from the Eastern seaboard of the Baltic. Expectations of music from this part of the world centre on the icy minimalism of Arvo Pärt but this programme, while including two works by Pärt, also includes traditional Finnish tango classics along with Aulis Sallinen’s tango-inspired Introduction and Tango Overture. Side by side with Finnish pianist Olli Mustonen’s fiery Toccata, this music is red-hot.

Living on the cultural and political fault-line between Russia, Scandinavia and Germany, the four countries which face the Baltic Sea from the East – Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – have all had to struggle for independence from neighbouring superpowers. As a result, their musical culture is colourful and richly cross-fertilised, but often imbued with a dark intensity, traversing deep emotional landscapes. Here we present music ranging from Jean Sibelius, founder of Finnish nationalism in

music, through the sombre minimalism of Arvo Pärt, to the hard-hitting works of Estonian ex-prog- rocker Erkki-Sven Tüür, taking in pianist Olli Mustonen’s Bach-influenced Toccata and the sensuous ebb and flow of Lithuanian Zita Bružait’s Waves.

Programme Notes

Introduction and Tango Overture op 74a, Aulis Sallinen (b. 1935)
Composed in 1997, Introduction and Tango Overture moves from an introduction based on material from Sallinen's seventh symphony to an overture which is, in the composer's words, “a salute to the tango, a musical phenomenon that is very popular in Finland as well as in Argentina.”
Finnish composer Aulis Sallinen was born in 1935 in Salmi on the northern shore of Lake Ladoga, a part of the country which was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1944. After studying with Aarre Merikanto and Joonas Kokkonen at the Sibelius Academy, he joined the teaching staff there. In 1983 he shared the Wihuri International Sibelius prize with Penderecki. The Finnish Government made him Professor of Arts for life in 1981 - the first appointment of its kind, which made it possible for him to devote himself full time to composing.

His extensive catalogue of compositions includes eight symphonies, three major choral works and six operas - The Horseman (1975), The Red Line (1978), The King Goes Forth To France (1983), The Palace (1991-3), Kullervo (1988) and King Lear (1999). Since 2001, Aulis Sallinen has concentrated on writing works for solo instruments, ranging in scale from the Cello Sonata (2005) to the Horn Concerto (2002). His latest compositions have been chamber works for a variety of soloists. Sallinen’s music for string orchestra is widely performed - Some Aspects of Peltoniemi: Hintrik's Funeral March and Chamber Music III: The Nocturnal Dances of Don Juanquixote in particular. The German record label CPO has released a series of seven CDs of his music, featuring all of his major orchestral works.

Bangos (Waves), Zita Bružait(b.1966) [note taken from the Lithuanian Music Information Centre and quoted verbatim]
“Zita Bružait
graduated from the Lithuanian Academy of Music in 1994. The structural organisation in Zita Bružait's music is so organic that the rationality of construction is almost imperceptible by ear. Her concert works are often influenced by theatrical imagery; here one can hear echoes of jazz and ethnic music, medieval asceticism as well as processions of modern harmonies, rhythms and timbres. Although the composer used to say that her music never comes as a torrent of sounds and never interferes with listeners’ perceptions and expressive outbursts, now she admits that her compositions are constantly fluctuating between tranquillity and fauvistic rush. The audience of Kaunas Musical Theatre memorised the name of Zita Bružaitwell after the premiere of the opera-parody War and Peace of Mushrooms, which was recognised as the best performance for children in Kaunas in 2001. In 2007 the opera-ballet Spider’s Wedding was presented.

In 2008 Zita Bružaitwas awarded the Fortune Prize for the major deposit into the musical life of Kaunas theatres by the created opera Mermaid, Spider’s Wedding and music for the rhymed tale of Daivaepauskait(from Charles Perrault) and Adventures of Puss in Boots. The composer’s works have been released in the selection Sonnets (2008) as well as in joint selections of music recordings of Lithuanian composers: Mosaic (Kaunas String Quartet 2006) and Reflections of Space and Time (Vilnius Arsenal 2007).” [Lithuanian Music Information Centre – quoted verbatim]

Lamento (for two violas), Kalevi Aho (b.1949)
This duo, dedicated to the memory of violinist Sakari Laukola, is published in two versions – one for

two violins and one, a fifth lower, for two violas. We have chosen to play the viola version.
Kalevi Aho was born in Forssa in southern Finland in 1949. He went to the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, where, besides studying violin, he studied composition with Einojuhani Rautavaara. He continued his studies in Berlin with Boris Blacher. From 1974 until 1988 he was a lecturer in musicology at Helsinki University, and from 1988 until 1993 a professor of composition at the Sibelius Academy.

Since the autumn of 1993 he has worked in Helsinki as a freelance composer, initially made possible by a fifteen-year grant from the Finnish state in 1994. His output includes four operas, thirteen symphonies, three chamber symphonies for string orchestra, twelve concertos and a large number of chamber and solo works. He is also a well-known writer about music.

Dedication (for cello and piano), Erkki-Sven Tüür (b. 1959)
Tüür writes: “It was started in 1990 as a three-movement cello sonata, but working on it I realised that it was complete the way it was. I consider it one of my best chamber pieces from that period although it was never recorded then. I dedicated it to the memory of Kuldar Sink who was one of the most influential figures of the Estonian avant-garde in the sixties.”

In his early career, Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür straddled the line between conservatory-based classical music studies and pop music. He studied flute, composition and percussion at Tallinn Conservatory, while at the same time, from 1979, leading a rock group called In Spe, which incorporated elements of Renaissance and Baroque music. Along the way, Tüür also composed music for theatre productions and went on some electronic music courses in Darmstadt. In Spe disbanded in 1983. Tüür composed music for chamber ensembles throughout the 1980s such as the group of seven pieces which constitute his Architectonics. The chamber music of this period uses the rhythmic drive of minimalism, while incorporating harmonic gestures and effects from the avant-garde.

With Tüür's Requiem (1994) his reputation was made, and he soon became one of the most performed contemporary composers in Estonia. Tüür has written a Mass, an oratorio Ante Finum Saeculi, symphonies (including his Symphony no 2, commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra), concerti and much chamber music. Recordings of Tüür's music have been released by ECM, Virgin, Teldec, BIS, Erdenklang, Ondine etc

Toccata, Olli Mustonen (b. 1967)
The fact that he is a pianist of international standing has made it easier for Olli Mustonen, in his own compositions, to forge his own style, independent of prevailing schools and fashions. His predilection

th

for contrapuntally interwoven compositions and works by 20

century composers which take up ideas

th

th

from the 17
preludes and fugues by Hindemith and Shostakovich, is reflected in his own works. His musical language is tonal and rooted in the sonority of the music of his native Finland.
He emerged as a composer at the age of twelve with his neo-classical Divertimento (1979) for piano and orchestra. His most significant early work is Fantasia (1985) for piano and strings, combining minimalist patterns with romantically tinted rich harmonies. His later style appeared in more or less its finished form in Toccata (1989) for piano, string quartet and double bass, which we play tonight, and which combines a romantic idiom with a rhythmic drive harking back to Bach's Brandenburg Concertos. Mustonen’s principal works in his later period are the two Nonets (1995, 2000) for two string quartets and double bass, and the Concerto for Three Violins (1998).

interval

and 18

centuries, such as the arrangements of Bach by Busoni and the cycles of

Fratres, Arvo Pärt (b.1944)
Composed in 1977 using Pärt's recently invented “tintinnabuli” technique, (the word means, literally, the sound of a bell ringing after it has been struck) this luminously simple work has been arranged by

the composer for a host of different instrumentations. In this version for string quartet the 2nd violinist holds a constant drone of G and D open strings, while the rest of the group repeat the six-bar theme, moving each time to new tonal levels, usually a third lower. In order to reach the lowest level of the final section, the first violin has to detune their G string to an Eb, producing a strikingly sombre final statement of the theme.

Für Alina, Arvo Pärt
Für Alina was first performed in Tallin in 1976, along with six other works, after a long preparatory period in Pärt’s life as a composer. This concert was the first to introduce his new signature style of composition, referred to as the tintinnabuli style. Für Alina was dedicated to a family friend's eighteen year-old daughter who had just gone to study in London.

A Little Summer Music (1985)
The apparent simplicity of Little Summer Music by Latvian composer Vasks is, as so often, deceptive. Like so much else in his output, it suggests a landscape, but this is the landscape of Latvia while still a part of the Soviet Union, so while its folk-like transparency evokes summer, there is also a sense of nostalgia for a truly Latvian summer. Indeed, the composer’s ‘symphony for strings’, Voices (1990- 91), was a direct reflection of his country’s final transition from occupation to freedom.
Each of the six brief movements nevertheless has a different character. The three most evocative of folk songs (or dances) are the second, third and fifth, which all nevertheless end ambiguously. The fourth movement opens with clangorous, bell-like chords in the piano, before the violin begins its meditative journey, again finishing on an unresolved dissonance. The sixth movement is a variant of the first, in which the instruments’ melodic lines do not quite coincide: a quasi-heterophonic effect is produced by the interweaving of tiny decorated melodic cells; one might perhaps think of drowsy bees circling round each other, or moths circling a lantern as darkness overtakes the Latvian summer evening. [Ivan Moody, 2015]

Le Grand Tango, Astor Piazzolla (1921 – 1992)
Originally written for cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, but played tonight in a version transcribed for violin, Le Grand Tango was published in Paris. Although structured in a single movement, the work has three broad sections. It opens with the indication “Tempo di tango”, in which strongly accented tango rhythms dominate. In the second section, performers are told to allow more motion, with a “libero e cantabile” spirit. It contains extensive dialogue between the violin and piano. The final “giocoso” section presents a mood of electric energy and humour. The music charges forward to its conclusion, giving the violinist many challenging double-stops and glissandi.

Täysikuu, Toivo Kärki (1915 – 1992)
No sooner had the tango travelled from its native Argentina and settled in Paris in the early 20th century than it continued its journey to Finland. By autumn 1913 the newspapers were publishing little news items about the fashionable new dance along with advertisements for lessons and demonstrations. Once the initial enthusiasm had worn off, tango receded into the background. The Finnish tango of the 1930s was closely related to the "ballroom tango" of Central Europe. It was the grim conditions of wartime Finland which led to the creation of a genre of tango with a Finnish flavour all of its own. It

may even be said that the war gave the northern tango its soul.

While the war was still raging, or not long afterwards, Toivo Kärki composed a number of sensitive, melancholy tangos some of which, like Liljankukka and Siks oon mä suruinen, later became classics. The lyrics, telling of parting and longing, held special meaning for many who had lost their loved-ones for ever. Kärki was by far the most prolific of all the Finnish tango composers, and in his hands it gradually developed into a genre of its own distinct from its Argentinian model. Finnish tangos are, unlike their Argentinian relatives, almost always in a minor key. For their tunes they draw on Finnish folk songs and waltzes. These elements, along with the tempo, which is slower than in the Argentinian tango, tend to create the impression of a somewhat dragging music. The most common rhythmic motif in the Finnish tango is that of a march pure and simple, a clear reflection of the German influence during its formative years. The most Argentinian aspect is often the instrumental interlude, as is the case in Täysikuu, written in 1953. Harmonically the Finnish tango is usually fairly simple, though Toivo Kärki introduces some more complex jazz harmonies.

Einsames Lied (arranged for piano sextet), Jean Sibelius (1865– 1957)
Jean Sibelius was born Johan Sibbe, of an ethnic Swedish family in Finland. At the age of 20 he started to use a more Finnish-sounding version of his name – the name familiar to us now. As a young man he became interested in Finnish folk poetry and started to study the language – though he was never fluent. Finland had, by that time, passed from Swedish rule and had become a grand duchy within the Russian empire. The country didn’t achieve independence until 1917, and Sibelius’ music was instrumental in defining his nation and its aspirations. Like Grieg in Norway, Verdi in Italy and Dvorak in Czechoslovakia, Sibelius’ music came to be seen as embodying the spirit of his native Finland.
After studying at the Institute of Music in Helsinki under Busoni, Sibelius went on to further study in Berlin and, eventually, Vienna, where he studied with, amongst others, Karl Goldmark. Finnish literature, however, was always a prime influence and he repeatedly drew inspiration from works such as the Finnish national epic poem, Kalevala.

Amongst his other output – his symphonies and chamber music – Sibelius also composed music for theatre. Tonight we are playing a short movement from his incidental music to a production of Belshazzar’s Feast by Hjalmar Fredrik Eugen Procopé. This fragment, originally called The Jewish Girl’s Song is entitled Einsames Lied, or Song of Solitude.

Satumaa, Unto Mononen (1930 – 1968)
Although Toivo Kärki has possibly been the greatest Finnish tango composer to date, the icon for the genre as a whole is nevertheless Unto Mononen. By far the best known of his songs is Satumaa, for which he wrote both the music and the lyrics. It was first recorded by Henry Theel in 1955, and subsequently became a hit as recorded by Reijo Taipale in 1962. Since then it has been recorded dozens, if not hundreds of times and is one of the most frequently performed Finnish pieces of music (even Frank Zappa did an ad hoc version of it once while on tour in Finland).
[material drawn largely from the Finnish Music Information Centre]

Mr McFall's Chamber

Mr McFall’s Chamber was formed in Scotland in 1996 with the ambition of creating new music and surprising programming combinations to draw together new audiences. By and large, the group has tried to make its programmes accessible and, at the same time, full of experimentation.
Concerts are intimate and fun, delivered with a lightness of touch and quiet sense of humour. ‘Why can’t all concerts be like this – engaging, relaxed, sophisticated, exquisitely played and just plain fun?’ The Times

The group has worked with many creative musicians and composers from classical, traditional, jazz and popular backgrounds, including the late Scots music icon Michael Marra with whom the group collaborated on the album “Michael Marra and Mr McFall’s Chamber”; with Chilean singer songwriter Valentina Montoya Martínez for the album “La Pasionaria” and with bandoneonist Victor Villena, who directed their performance and forthcoming recording of Piazzolla's operita, “María de Buenos Aires”. 

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