Articles tagged with: Mendelssohn

Seclusion discs – Stephen Marquiss

Seclusion discs – Stephen Marquiss

We have asked our tutors, while they are marooned in isolation, which 8 tracks mean the most to them, so we can share some new listening ideas with you and find out a bit more about them. This week, pianist Stephen Marquiss, introduces his picks.

Stephen was born in Bath, England and was educated at Wells Cathedral School, a specialist music school, and then at Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he gained an MA in Music. During his time at Cambridge, Stephen travelled to New York to study with Sophia Rosoff, a pioneering teacher and former student of Abby Whiteside. This sowed seeds that led eventually to the creation of Piano Portals, over a decade later.

“I love lists and questionnaires that offer a glimpse into someone’s personality, history and influences. I could easily have included only piano and 19th-century orchestral music. But I feel compelled to shoehorn in a couple of other influential genres. I honestly don’t listen to a lot of music these days – I’d much rather spend all my time playing it – but tracks like these have been sometime obsessions.”

Track 1: Mendelssohn – Hebrides Overture (Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert Von Karajan)
As child, I loved to conduct an orchestra formed of my cuddly toys. Their repertoire was limited – and supplied by my trusty Toshiba – chiefly to The Christmas Tape, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, and this overture. It features the world’s greatest antecedent and consequent phrases (between strings and brass), delivered with appropriate gusto on this recording.

Track 2: Schumann – Piano Concerto, First Movement (Played by Murray Perahia, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Sir Colin Davis)
My favourite recording (paired with the Grieg concerto), growing up. Perahia was my pianistic hero. It was a toss-up between this and his recording of Brahms’s Third Piano Sonata. He’s the only pianist I’ve heard to play the repeated phrases in the animato section as delicious echoes, which still takes my breath away every time.

Track 3: Handel – ‘But who may abide’ from The Messiah (Played by Charles Brett, Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists, Sir John Eliot Gardiner)
This album was the soundtrack to most of my third year at uni. I had to include one conducted by Gardiner. For me, he’s unrivalled as an interpreter. I’m no longer religious, but I find the pathos and then fury of the singing and playing on this track utterly ravishing.

Track 4: Bruckner – Symphony No. 7, First Movement (Played by Berlin Philharmonic, Daniel Barenboim)
Barenboim had long been another of my piano heroes. Then I discovered Barenboim the conductor, through this Bruckner Symphony, and the sheer majesty of the epic first phrase in the cellos and violas (surely one of the longest in the repertoire) stopped me in my tracks. I bought as many of his Bruckner CDs as I could afford (at £5 each) in the old-skool record shop behind my college halls of residence.

Track 5: Schumann – Symphony No. 2, First Movement (Played by Vienna Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein)
The way this movement emerges from slow introduction to vigorous allegro is rivalled only by Schubert’s 9th Symphony and Beethoven’s 4th, in my book. This track showcases Bernstein – force of nature, conductor, presenter and composer. It also brings to mind Schumann’s struggles with expressing himself in the symphonic genre in the shadow of Beethoven.

Track 6: Prokofiev – Piano Sonata No. 3 (Played by Gary Graffman)
As well as being a barnstormer of a piece – by turns bubbly, dark and achingly tender – it reminds me of one of the few childhood masterclasses I remember fondly, given by Tamás Ungár, in which he drew attention to how everything is a melody in Prokofiev. It also brings to mind Gary Graffman’s well-documented struggles with injury, which resonates with my own journey – though quite different in its details – of studying with Sophia Rosoff and developing Piano Portals.

Track 7: Jim Moray – Horkstow Grange
I simply had to include some folk – it’s close to my new religion. It helped me to discover my ‘voice’ as (so far, an amateur) singer and songwriter. Playing my own folk song arrangements helped to kickstart my journey towards fluent, expressive piano technique and Piano Portals. This a cappella version of a poignant story invokes a tear every time.

Track 8: House Avengers – Something Special
It’s impossible to choose just one EDM track (Electronic Dance Music), as I love so many aspects of the genre. This reminds me of driving around central London one evening, many years ago, cocooned in my old yellow car, the outside world blurring like a time-lapse. My love of EDM has massively influenced my own piano compositions.

Frome Voices sing Elijah

Frome Voices sing Elijah

Frome Voices LogoFrome Voices, a choir of over one hundred singers from various musical backgrounds, have chosen Felix Mendelssohn’s great oratorio Elijah for their annual concert. Taking place on Sunday 22nd March at the Cheese and Grain, Frome, at 7.30pm, the soloists will be Jackdaws Artistic Director Saffron van Zwanenberg, Jackdaws tutor Penelope Davies, 2012 Vocal Awards Finalist baritone Thomas Humphreys and tenor David Webb.

The Music

Elijah was first performed in the Birmingham Town Hall on the morning of 26th August 1846 with an orchestra of 125 and a choir of 79 sopranos, 69 altos (all male), 60 tenors and 72 basses. The performance was an immense success with The Times reporting “Never was there a more complete triumph, never a more thorough and speedy recognition of a great work of art”.

Structurally, the work is clearly influenced by the choral masterpieces of Bach and Handel, but its highly dramatic style, at times bordering on the operatic, constitutes a significant step forward from its baroque predecessors. Unlike many of these oratorios, Elijah does not follow a continuous story, but is a succession of tableaux depicting scenes from the prophet’s life, interspersed with prayer-like meditations.

Part One

Frome Voices ReheasalAhab, the King of Israel, has married Jezabel, the daughter of the Phoenician King of Sidon. Jezabel persuades Ahab that the worship of the Phoenician god Baal should become the official state religion, and that those who remained faithful to Jehovah should be punished. Elijah now appears and prophesies a drought in the land of Israel in punishment for their worship of this false new god. Ahab’s followers now search in vain for Elijah who has taken refuge with a widow in Zarephath, but she has only enough food for one meal. She is told by Elijah to trust in the Lord who will provide, and her stock of food is miraculously replenished during each night that Elijah spends in her house. During this time her son becomes ill and dies, but he is restored to life after Elijah prays three times over his body.

After three years Elijah returns to confront Ahab and challenges his priests to invoke the power of their god Baal by lighting a fire under a sacrificial offering on Mount Carmel. The priests pray in vain during which time they are mocked by Elijah who then prays to Jehovah who answers by sending down a column of fire which consumes the sacrifice. The people of Israel now repent, and the priests of Baal are executed. Elijah now prays to God for an end to the drought, and rain falls on the parched land.

“Never was there a more complete triumph” The Times, after Elijah’s first performance

Part Two

Elijah’s victory is short lived and Jezabel provokes the crowd against him, forcing him to retreat once more to the desert. He despairs over his inability to restore the Israelites back to the true faith, but an angel appears to him and instructs him to go the summit of Mount Horeb where the Lord will appear to him. There now comes a mighty wind followed by an earthquake, and finally a raging fire; Jehovah is not to be found in any of these, but he comes in a still, small voice which tells Elijah to return to Israel where he has a final confrontation with Ahab together with his son Ahaziah who both repent and return to the true faith. Elijah has been instructing his own successor, Elisha, who watches in awe and wonder as a fiery chariot with fiery horses appears, and the prophet is taken up into heaven in a whirlwind.

Mendelssohn’s Elijah
Frome Voices and Frome Symphony Orchestra
Sunday 22nd March 2015
Cheese & Grain, Frome
Tickets £10
Click here for Tickets

Frome Symphony Orchestra

“this local group is fast becoming a well honed and superbly musical entity” – Alastair Johnston on Frome Symphony

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