On this week’s An English Pastorale we’ll feature music by early English composers. Join us Sunday morning at 9.
Orlando Gibbons belongs to the generation of English composers which followed that of William Byrd, 40 years his senior, who died in 1623. He was a chorister at King’s College, Cambridge, where his elder brother was Master of the Choristers, and later became a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, which he served as an organist and to which he later added the position of organist at Westminster Abbey. He wrote music for the Church of England, madrigals, consort music and keyboard works.
William Boyce’s instrumental music includes a set of Eight Symphonies in eight parts, published in 1760, compositions that reflect the changing tastes of the time. His set of Twelve Trio Sonatas followed a fashion that had started with Corelli in the previous century and was now coming to an end.
In 1762, Johann Christian Bach traveled to London to première three operas at the King’s Theatre. That established his reputation in England, and he became music master to Queen Charlotte. By the late 1770s, his music was no longer popular and his fortunes declined. His steward had embezzled almost all his wealth and Bach died in considerable debt in London on New Year’s Day, 1782.
Carl Frederick Abel (picture) went to London in 1759, where he was appointed chamber musician to Queen Charlotte in 1764. When J.C. Bach arrived in London in 1762, they became friends and in 1765 established the “Bach and Abel” concerts that included the first public performances in England of Joseph Haydn’s symphonies. Abel and Bach also befriended the young Mozart when he visited London. One of Abel’s symphony was mistaken for an early Mozart work for many years.
Orlando Gibbons – Fantasia a 4 No. 1
Anonymous – Concerto Grosso in F minor
William Boyce – Concerto Grosso in B-flat Major
Johann Christian Bach – Piano Concerto in D Major, KOp. 1 No. 6
Carl Frederick Abel – Symphony No. 6 in E-flat Major
The visual arts have always inspired composers to create music. Remember Nat King Cole singing “Mona Lisa”? The classical music world is full of works inspired by paintings and drawings. Perhaps the most famous classical piece of this nature is “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modest Mussorgsky.
German composer Paul Hindemith wrote an opera inspired by a religious altarpiece painted by Matthias Grünewald. Called the “Isenheim Altarpiece,” the Grünewald piece is a series of folding panels that reveal many different scenes. Hindemith took three of the scenes and created a symphony for orchestra from the opera. The title, “Mathis der Maler,” translates as Matthias the Painter.
The first movement is called “Angelic Concert.” The music depicts a concert of angels singing the news of the Christ child’s birth at the nativity. The second movement, “Entombment” is a musical depiction of the bottom panel which remains always visible at the base of the altarpiece below the wings.The third and final movement, “The Temptation of St. Anthony,” shows strange creatures reminiscent of the work of Hieronymus Bosch.
Classical 90.5′s live music program, Lunchtime Classics, is on summer hiatus. In the meantime, we’ll look back at some notable past performers.
Sixteen-year-old cellist Anne Richardson is a veteran performer on WUOL’s Lunchtime Classics and a past winner of the Classical 90.5 Young Artist Competition. Anne made her solo debut at age ten with the Louisville Orchestra and has gone on to perform with the Blue Ash Montgomery Symphony Orchestra, Bryan Symphony Orchestra, and Massapequa Philharmonic.
Anne is currently enrolled in the Juilliard School Pre-College Division as a student of Richard Aaron. She recently won the Juilliard Pre-College Cello Concerto Competition and then she made her solo debut at Juilliard’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater with the Pre-College Symphony.
Enjoy this past performance from Lunchtime Classics:
And here’s a video from Ms. Richardson playing the first concerto by Saint-Saens.
Have you ever created something unique? That’s what Mozart did when he wrote his quintet for piano and woodwinds. It was the first ever quintet that featured those instruments in a group. It became so popular that Ludwig van Beethoven wrote one of his own, with the same instruments, same number of movements and even similar tempos in each movement. (Watch a full performance below)
Mozart himself knew it was something special. In a letter to his father Mozart wrote, ” I have written…a quintet which has been exceptionally well received; – I myself consider it the best thing I have ever written in my life.” Strong words from a master composer!
Tchaikovsky was a Shakespeare fan. If you don’t believe it, just consider the number of his works inspired by the Bard: Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasia, Hamlet Overture-Fantasia, Incidental music to Hamlet, and The TempestFantasia.
Shakespeare has always inspired composers, including Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Britten and Thomas Adès.
Tchaikovsky’s The Tempest was suggested by Vladimir Stassov. He gave Tchaikovsky an outline of the play, that served as the musical narrative. Tchaikovsky’s music evokes a stormy sea, the love between Miranda and Ferdinand, and the magic of Ariel.
Watch Gustavo Dudamel talk about his recording project featuring the Shakespearean works of Tchaikovsky, and don’t miss Kentucky Shakespeare’s performances this summer!