Friday 4 September 1pm
Horn Trio: Brahms and Beyond
Strauss Andante for horn and piano
Korngold Much Ado About Nothing Suite for violin and piano
Brahms Horn Trio
Nazrin Rashidova violin
Alec Frank-Gemmill horn
Daniel Grimwood piano
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Recorded for future broadcast by BBC Radio 3.
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About 'Brahms and Beyond'
Traditionalist or innovator? Classicist or Romantic? Brahms stood with one foot in the past and one in the future, a figure whose music would influence generations of composers, and echo in the work that would follow.
In this series, we explore Brahms’ most extraordinary works for chamber ensemble, compositions by his friends and contemporaries, and music by Mahler, Berg and other later composers which bear the trace of his influence.
The French horn was one of the favourite instruments of late Romantic composers, particularly Brahms and Richard Strauss, whose music we will hear in today's concert. The French horn's mellow tones, evoking dreamy landscapes or energetic hunting expeditions, would have resounded throughout their childhoods, since both their fathers played the horn.
Andante for horn and piano
Richard Strauss had three great musical passions – the horn, the violin, and the soprano voice. Like Brahms, he grew up to the sound of his father practising. The talented but irascible Franz Strauss played principal horn in the Bavarian Court Orchestra under the famous conductor Franz von Bülow, who said of him: 'The fellow is intolerable, but when he blows his horn, you can’t be angry with him'.
Richard, who composed the first of his two horn concertos when he was only 19, wrote this short, exquisite Andante – designed, like Brahms’s Trio, to be played on the Waldhorn – in honour of his parents’ silver wedding anniversary in 1888.
Note by Wendy Thompson
Richard Strauss had his first piano lessons when he was four, and he produced his first composition two years later, but surprisingly did not attend a music academy. Rather, his formal education ended at Munich University where he studied philosophy and aesthetics, continuing with his musical training at the same time.
Following the first public performances of his work, he received a commission from Hans von Bülow in 1882 and two years later was appointed Bülow’s Assistant Musical Director at the Meiningen Court Orchestra, the beginning of a career in which Strauss was to conduct many of the world’s great orchestras, in addition to holding positions at opera houses in Munich, Weimar, Berlin and Vienna.
Strauss’s legacy is to be found in his operas and his magnificent symphonic poems. Scores such as Till Eulenspiegel, Also Sprach Zarathustra, Don Juan and Ein Heldenleben demonstrate his supreme mastery of orchestration; the thoroughly modern operas Salome and Elektra, with their Freudian themes and atonal scoring, are landmarks in the development of 20th-century music, and the neo-Classical Der Rosenkavalier has become one of the most popular operas of the century.
Strauss spent his last years in self-imposed exile in Switzerland, waiting to be officially cleared of complicity in the Nazi regime. He died at Garmisch Partenkirchen in 1949, shortly after his widely celebrated 85th birthday.
Profile by Andrew Stewart
Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Much Ado About Nothing Suite for violin and piano
1. The Maiden in the Bridal Chamber
2. March of the Watch (Dogberry and Verges)
3. Garden Scene
4. Masquerade: Hornpipe
A product of late 19th-century Viennese Romanticism in the tradition of Brahms and Strauss, Erich Korngold later achieved international fame with his scores for golden-age Hollywood movies in the 1930s and 40s, as well as for classical works such as the much-loved Violin Concerto. He was still only 20 when, in 1918, he was invited to compose incidental music for a production of Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing at Vienna’s Burgtheater. He produced 14 numbers scored for a small pit band, which he then condensed first into a chamber music suite, and then into a four-movement suite for violin and piano.
The opening movement, The Maiden in the Bridal Chamber, depicts Hero preparing for her fateful wedding ceremony with a mixture of eagerness and trepidation. Then comes a grotesque, quasi-Mahlerian parody of a funeral march, introducing the inept wardens Dogberry and Verges. The luscious Garden Scene is a slow, romantic waltz, while the Suite ends with the lively Hornpipe.
Note by Wendy Thompson
Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Erich Wolfgang Korngold, like so many European composers, found refuge from the Nazis by settling in Hollywood during the 1930s and 40s.
As a child he was one of the most gifted prodigy composers there has ever been. Mahler acclaimed him a genius when he was just nine years old; hailed as ‘the new Mozart’ by Ernest Newman and admired by Richard Strauss, who expressed feelings of awe at his youthful genius. Korngold was a pupil of Alexander Zemlinsky, and by his 17th birthday he had produced a string of amazingly mature chamber and symphonic works as well as two operas.
His music was widely performed by the greatest artists of the time including Bruno Walter, Arthur Nikisch, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Fritz Kreisler and Sir Henry Wood. In the 1920s his success peaked with his two operas Die tote Stadt and Das Wunder der Heliane, as well as his Piano Concerto for the Left Hand and some exquisite orchestral lieder.
In the 1930s, political events interrupted Korngold’s brilliant career and, exiled in Hollywood, he supported himself by writing some of the finest film music ever written. Indeed, his pioneering work in that medium was so influential and successful it overshadowed his mainstream achievements, and contributed to his subsequent post-war neglect. Korngold died in 1957, believing himself forgotten. In recent years, however, he has undergone a considerable reappraisal.
Profile by Brendan G Carroll
2. Scherzo (Allegro)
3. Adagio mesto
4. Allegro con brio
Brahms composed his Trio for horn, violin and piano in the idyllic surroundings of the Bavarian Black Forest in the summer of 1865. The enchantment of the landscape seems to have inspired him to write for the natural Waldhorn or 'forest horn' – a valveless instrument traditionally associated with hunting – and also to draw much of the Trio’s melodic material from a popular rustic folksong, There in the willows stands a house.
The opening movement alternates two contrasting ideas: the first a long-breathed melody, which Brahms said came to him during a woodland walk; the second more animated. Then follows a lively hunting-style scherzo, punctuated by a slower, more lyrical trio. The third movement, prompted by Brahms’ grief over the recent death of his mother, is a melancholic elegy in which a plaintive lullaby-like melody slowly unscrolls over spread piano chords. A second, more consolatory theme in the major eventually mutates into the main theme of the energetic finale, an uninhibited gallop through forest glades to the sound of the huntsman’s horn.
Note by Wendy Thompson
Showing early musical promise, the young Johannes Brahms supplemented his parents’ meagre income by playing in the bars and brothels of Hamburg’s infamous red-light district. In 1853 he presented himself to Robert Schumann in Düsseldorf, winning unqualified approval from the older composer. Brahms fell in love with Schumann’s wife, Clara, supporting her after her husband’s illness and death. The relationship did not develop as Brahms wished, and he returned to Hamburg; their close friendship, however, survived.
In 1862 Brahms moved to Vienna where he found fame as a conductor, pianist and composer. The Leipzig premiere of his German Requiem in 1869 proved a triumph, with subsequent performances establishing Brahms as one of the emerging German nation’s foremost composers. Following the long-delayed completion of his First Symphony in 1876, he composed in quick succession the majestic Violin Concerto, the two piano Rhapsodies (Op 79), the First Violin Sonata in G major and the Second Symphony. His subsequent association with the much-admired court orchestra in Meinigen allowed him freedom to experiment and develop new ideas, the relationship crowned by the Fourth Symphony of 1884.
Profile by Andrew Stewart
The Azerbaijani-born British violin virtuoso, soloist, recitalist, chamber musician and orchestral director, Nazrin Rashidova made her solo debut at the age of three in Baku and was awarded a gold medal by the Cairo Opera House for an exceptional violin recital three years later. Establishing FeMusa in 2008, Britain’s first female chamber orchestra in 60 years, is merely the latest in a series of achievements.
She was accepted to the Royal Academy of Music at the age of fifteen, where she had the privilege to play on a rare collection of violins by Antonio Stradivari. A prizewinner in several international competitions, she has appeared on international TV and radio, played for royalty and other dignitaries, and also performed in the US, Japan, Europe and the Middle East.
Rashidova’s two recordings for Naxos – works for violin and piano by Godowsky and Moszkowski – were acclaimed by The Strad and Gramophone magazines. Her fourth album, Carnival was released in 2016 on First Hand Records. Comprising popular classical works newly arranged for the violin and guitar, it was acclaimed by The Strad, Fanfare and Classical Guitar magazines.
Rashidova is pursuing a PhD at the Royal Academy of Music, where her research explores Émile Sauret and the making of a world premiere recording series of his 24 Études-Caprices, comprising four volumes. Released on Naxos in 2017, the first volume was featured on BBC Radio 3 and was also selected as ‘Critic’s Choice’ in the American Record Guide.
Alec Frank-Gemmill divides his time between orchestral playing, chamber music, concertos and conducting. He is widely recognised for pushing the boundaries of the French horn, whether by commissioning new music, making transcriptions of chamber music or through historically-informed performance practice.
Alec was a member of the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist scheme from 2014–16, often appearing as a soloist with the BBC orchestras, including in performances of rarely-heard repertoire by Ethel Smyth, Malcolm Arnold and Charles Koechlin. He was Principal horn of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra for ten years and took up the same position with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in October 2019.
With the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Alec performed concertos by Mozart (on the natural horn), Ligeti, Strauss and Schumann. His recording of Strauss’s First Concerto was recently named Disc of the Week on the BBC's Record Review programme. He has also recorded three albums for the BIS label, thanks to the support of the Borletti–Buitoni Trust.
Often invited as a guest principal horn, Alec has frequently appeared with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra of Europe. He also performs as part of period-instrument groups, most notably with Ensemble Marsyas. Their latest album Edinburgh 1742: Barsanti & Handel was critically acclaimed and singled out for its solo horn playing. For the last few years Alec has been shifting focus to conducting. He has conducted concerts with orchestras throughout the UK, often appearing as both soloist and director.
Alec’s latest disc for BIS, of chamber music by Brahms, is released in October.
Pianist Daniel Grimwood is a performer of international renown, combining an exceptional talent, rare versatility and refinement, with an inquisitive personality. Although primarily a pianist, he is frequently to be found performing on harpsichord, organ, viola or composing at his desk. Grimwood is a passionate exponent of the early piano, and has given a recital of Chopin’s Etudes on the composer’s own Pleyel piano.
With a repertoire ranging from Elizabethan Virginal music to the works of living composers, he enjoys a solo and chamber career, which has taken him across the globe, performing on the most prestigious concert platforms, including Wigmore Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Rachmaninoff and Gnessin Halls in Moscow, the Carnegie Hall in New York, as well as venues in Germany, Austria, Italy, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Estonia, Taiwan, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Lebanon and Oman.
As a solo recording artist his growing discography ranges from Scriabin on Somm Recordings to Algernon Ashton, a world premiere recording on Toccata Classics. His discs of Liszt and Chopin, performed on an 1851 Erard piano, received a unanimous chorus of praise from the press; the Liszt album was Daily Telegraph CD of the week and Editor’s Choice in Gramophone Magazine. He was the first artist to record on the Edition Peters Sounds label, the complete Fauré Nocturnes album was released to excellent reception in The Sunday Times, which was followed by a disc of solo piano works by Adolph von Henselt, described as 'a blizzard of dazzling pianism' by the Observer.
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Keep scrolling for details of our next BBC Radio 3 concert...
Friday 25 September 1pm
Brahms and Beyond
Berg String Quartet
Brahms String Quartet No 2
Oliver Heath violin
Sara Wolstenholme violin
Gary Pomeroy viola
Christopher Murray cello