Bach, Bolton Abbey, Cantores Salicium, Christ Church Hampstead, Gerald Finzi, Haydn. Creation, Howells, Jan Dismas Zelenka, Kodaly, Mendelssohn, Missa Sancti Nicolai, Nicolai Medtner, Parliament Choir, Rachmaninov, Suite for two clarinets
It has been a solid weekend of clearing the decks and then cracking on with some detail work this morning on two pieces close to completion. With the Parliament Choir I spent Saturday rehearsing Haydn’s Creation, a truly magnificent piece of work, brimming over with delight and good humour. I like to think that Haydn’s personality shines through in the kaleidoscopic and almost perpetually sunny writing. That sunrise in Part I is one of the greatest in all music, and his choice of key relationships is something which is fascinating me more and more as I get to know this work in more depth. Sunday was a mixture of other pleasures – Kodaly, Howells, Mendelssohn, Bach – as I wove my way around London, applying hands and feet to various instruments, the organist’s weekend.
The recording of the Suite For Two Clarinets seems to be coming along very nicely, and it appears that we are on the final straight as far as this is concerned, also that there might be some interest from people prepared to part with cold, hard cash for a copy. I’m hesitant about naming people in this blog, especially as there is way too much information already on the internet, but I’m also aware that that particular strategy can look ungrateful, so I am keen to say a public thank you to those involved in bringing this particular project to fruition – performers, sponsors, recorders, engineers, movers and shakers, organisers and cheerleaders. It is all very much appreciated.
I also managed to find a few quiet minutes on Saturday to discuss the Missa Sancti Nicolai, bits of which are being performed in Bolton Abbey in April as part of a concert by Cantores Salicium. The piece will also be heard at Christ Church, Hampstead on the morning of the 16th, so if you fancy hearing the work which ruffled a few feathers on a forum or two when it was broadcast on BBC1 a few years back then please do come along.
I have spent this morning doing beginning-of-the-month tidying, editing my latest choral piece (first performance in April) and mulling over the form of the piano piece. There is more to slot into here, I am sure, but I have yet to convince myself what that material needs to be, so I have taken the approach of throwing ideas down on paper, letting them sit for a while, and then refining later on, rather than dismissing thoughts before they have even been committed to parchment.
I am also listening to piano music by Nicolai Medtner at the moment, in preparation for a class next week. Given how popular Rachmaninov is I am a little confused as to how Medtner has slipped through most people’s nets. In the same high-Romantic virtuoso pianist cum composer mould as the great Sergei, Medtner turned out a large body of significant works for his instrument, including concerti, sonatas and many, many character pieces. He is also one of those fellows who recorded piano rolls, so hunt around on the internet and you can find decent sound files of the man himself, providing what are presumably close to definitive versions of his own works.
We ran through some music on Saturday which, I think it is fair to say, belongs in the ‘justly neglected’ file, and it is probably correct to assume that most of the music written through the ages belongs there, and that time has filtered out most of the mediocre. It is worth reminding ourselves, however, that there are still significant voices who have fallen through the historical gaps. I think particularly of Jan Dismas Zelenka, somebody I see as one of the greatest overlooked talents out there, but Medtner is well worth salvaging, also many others. I doubt very much, if my music is remembered at all after I am no longer here, that I shall be considered anywhere close to being a great, but, like Finzi, I cling to the notion that to shake hands across the centuries is a pleasant thing and that maybe a piece or two might find some resonance many years hence, perhaps even one of the works I am putting together this very morning. I wonder if Jan or Nicolai thought a similar thing once or twice. Even if they did not, I like the idea that they, like the great Haydn, live on through their music and that I live in an age which is making that music more readily available.