Ensemble DeNote PIANO TRIO
Saturday, September 21, 2019 @ 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Marcus Barcham-Stevens, violin;
Ruth Alford, ‘cello;
John Irving, fortepiano.
Haydn Piano Trio No 39 in G major (‘The Gypsy Rondo’), Hob XV 25;
Mozart Piano Trio No 5 in C major, K548;
Beethoven Symphony No 2 in D major, Op 36, arranged for Piano Trio by Beethoven.
Haydn Piano Trio in G Hob.XV:25 ‘Gypsy Rondo’ (1795)
Poco Adagio e cantabile
Rondo a l’Ongarese
This is perhaps the most well-known of Haydn’s many piano trios, nicknamed after the ‘Rondo a l’Ongarese’ finale which features several episodic incursions in imitation of a Gypsy folk band, humorously disturbing the polite conversation of the main rondo theme. The work (published by Longman & Broderip in London as part of a set of trios) was dedicated to Rebecca Schroeter, one of Haydn’s pupils in London. Widower of the composer Johann Samuel Schroeter, Rebecca clearly had her eye on Haydn, despite a more than 20-year age gap.
According to Dies, Haydn’s largely unreliable biographer (1810), Haydn was smitten, though he resisted Schroeter’s afffections ‘not being free’. Might we nevertheless permit ourselves to think of the unusually charming Poco Adagio (in E major – an unusually expressive choice of key for a work in G major) be a distillation of Haydn’s memory of Mrs Schroeter?
Mozart Piano Trio in C, K.548 (1788)
Mozart ‘s piano trios remain a relatively unexplored strand of his output (those of Haydn are generally much better known). His first attempts were, in effect, the violin and piano sonatas, K.10-15 (written at the age of just eight), because these also contained the customary basso continuo cello part too – the cello simply doubling the piano’s left hand. He returned to the trio medium at various stages in his career, each one marked by a developing understanding of the subtlety of textures available, beginning with equalization of the violin and piano.
By the time of the C major Trio, K.548 (July 1788), Mozart had thoroughly liberated the cello from its previous ‘doubling’ role, so that it becomes a florid and soloistic partner in the evolving discourse (seen to remarkable effect in the central slow movement). This Andante is preceded by an extended fully worked-out sonata form on a symphonic scale, and the work concludes with a playful Rondo culminating in a striking unison final flourish.
Beethoven Symphony No.2, Op.36 – The composer’s arrangement for violin, ‘cello and piano (1806)
Adagio – Allegro con brio
Larghetto, quasi andante
Scherzo and Trio
Finale – Allegro molto
Beethoven only rarely arranged his own compositions for other media. His Septet (which he redesigned as a Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, Op.38) is one example; another is his Symphony no.2, reimagined as a Piano Trio, with which we end our concert tonight. Composed in 1801-2 and first performed in April 1803, Beethoven’s second symphony was completed at the village of Heligenstadt where he had spent the spring and summer of 1802 in an attempt to improve his health, and especially his declining powers of hearing.
It was at this time that he faced the realisation that his hearing loss would be permanent, and we may be forgiven for wondering if passages such as the first movement Coda express something of Beethoven’s gritty defiance against his fate. Yet much of the work transcends autobiography; stylistically, it can be understood within the framework established by Haydn’s late symphonies, and towards the end of the first movement Beethoven even models a harmonic progression on one found in Haydn’s famous ‘The Heavens are Telling’ chorus from The Creation. His arrangement for piano trio is remarkable for its reimagining of texture, retaining with just three instruments the energy and power of the orchestral original.
John Irving, 2019
Since its foundation in 2009, period-instrument chamber group, Ensemble DeNOTE has attracted gained widespread critical acclaim, with 5* and 4* reviews for its concerts and CD recordings in The Observer, The Guardian, The Birmingham Post and Early Music Review. Its concert and education work has been supported by Arts Council England. We were honoured to hold a short residency within the Hull UK Capital of Culture in 2017; and in 2018 we delivered a three-concert series, ‘Classics by Arrangement’ at St John’s, Smith Square. In November 2019, DeNOTE will be performing an all-Mozart programme at the historic Manoel Theaetre in Valletta, Malta.
Marcus Barcham-Stevens is co-leader of the Britten Sinfonia, Principal 2nd Violin of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and a member of the Fitzwilliam String Quartet. He has broadcast as a soloist on BBC Radio 3, played with the Nash Ensemble at the Wigmore Hall, and performed chamber music with Freddy Kempf, Peter Donohoe, Paul Lewis, Alina Ibragimova, Leon McCawley, Paul Watkins, and with Thomas Adès as pianist in music by Adès. Period performance includes playing with Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s orchestras ORR/EBS, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Jonathan Cohen’s ensemble Arcangelo, as well as Ensemble DeNOTE. Marcus is also a composer: “Dhyana” for soprano and ensemble was described by George Hall (the Guardian, 2011) as “hugely impressive”.
Marcus plays a Florentine violin by Gaspero Piatellini, circa 1774. His bow is a modern copy of a classic pre-Tourte model, made by Tim Richards (2016).
Ruth Alford thrives on a broad musical diet from Baroque to Contemporary, and from solo and chamber music, through to full-scale operatic and symphonic repertoire. Educated in Middlesbrough, Manchester University and the Royal Academy of Music, where she was awarded various prizes for solo and chamber music, she became a principal player in English Baroque Soloists, Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment as well as working with BBC Symphony Orchestra.
She is a member of Ensemble DeNOTE and also The Revolutionary Drawing Room, currently in their second season of a complete Beethoven String Quartet Cycle at St John’s, Smith Square (Sundays at St Johns).
She also shares her passion for music through a variety of educational outlets including the OAE’s vibrant education team.
Ruth plays a ‘cello of around 1800, attributed to VincenTrusiano Panormo,who was born in Sicily, but later based in Paris, then Dublin and London after the Revolution. Ruth’s bow is a copy of a late classical model, made by Matthew Cotman (1990).
Recently described as ‘One of the foremost exponents of the period piano in the UK’, John Irving specialises in music of the later 18th century. John is Professor at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and previously taught at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. His academic career embraced Bristol University (where he was Professor of Music) and London University (Director of The Institute of Musical Research. An internationally recognized Mozart scholar, John has published six books on Mozart, including an international best-selling biography, The Treasures of Mozart (André Deutsch, 2010) and contributions to the internationally-acclaimed The Mozart Project (a digital book for iPad).
John’s most recent solo CD is Josef Haydn Piano Sonatas (Devine Music DMCD005). His Mozart and Beethoven chamber music CDs with Ensemble DeNOTE have garnered 5* and 4* reviews in The Observer, Guardian Classical and Early Music Review – the Mozart playing praised for its lyricism, inventive ornamentation and ‘gorgeously subtle colouring.’
John plays tonight’s concert on his fortepiano – a copy by Paul McNulty (1987) of a 5-octave Viennese instrument by Gabriel Anton Walter (17950. Both Haydn and Mozart owned pianos by Walter very similar to tonight’s instrument. Beethoven too wanted to own one, but did not have the considerable money needed. The instrument’s light action and clear, transparent sound differs profoundly from the modern piano and reveal the music in ways that bring us close to the sound world of tonight’s three composers.