Articles tagged with: Schumann

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.

Masterful Recital from Philip Fowke

Masterful Recital from Philip Fowke

OnPhilip Fowke in the Lehane-Wishart Studio Friday 13 September, pianist Philip Fowke gave a 45 minute recital in the Lehane-Wishart Studio at Jackdaws in Great Elm, which held the audience entranced.

After taking to the Steinway, Philip joked that he had not had a chance to warm up, and would the audience mind if he did so now? Unsure of what to expect – perhaps scales, arpeggios, maybe some Hanon exercises? – there was a pleasant sigh of recognition as Philip began and the audience were treated to an off-programme performance of Grieg’s Melodie, from the op. 47 Lyric Pieces. The studio was instantly filled with the light, repeated-chords and melancholy melody floating above. A delightful introduction to a programme of larger works.

Jackdaws Tutor Philip FowkeThe programme as advertised opened with the third and central movement of Robert Schumann’s Piano Sonata no. 3, a set of variations on a theme by his wife Clara. The day had special significance, being the 200th anniversary of Clara Schumann’s birth, and at a performance to celebrate the opening of a studio whose existence owed great debt to another musical husband and wife pair – mezzo-soprano Maureen Lehane and composer Peter Wishart.

What followed the was another highly-virtuosic compositon, Busoni’s Kammer-Fantasie on Bizet’s Carmen, delivered with effortless panache and style, glittering as the sun shone on the rose garden in the background behind the piano.

Philip Fowke’s impressive programme was brought to a rousing conclusion with the final work, Chopin’s Heroic Polonaise in A flat major. The audience made quite sure Philip was aware of their gratitude with rapturous applause for his masterful programme.


Lehane-Wishart Studio at JackdawsJoin us for our next Open Fridays lunchtime concert at 12:15pm on Friday 20 September, when Artistic Director Saffron van Zwanenberg will be joined by Baritone Owain Browne for a recital of favourite songs and arias accompanied by long-standing Jackdaws accompanist Colin Hunt.

Celebrate Sibelius

Celebrate Sibelius

Watercolour of Sibelius by Finnish painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela

Image from Wikipedia

We are all no doubt familiar with the staples of Schubert and Schumann, but with 109 songs spanning his entire compositional career, the Finnish composer Sibelius spoils us with a huge variety of exceptional vocal music. Presented as individual songs, in collections and as cycles on topics from Christmas through Astronomy to a young lover’s first kiss, Sibelius set texts in a variety of languages; his songs deserve as much recognition across the world as they enjoy in Scandinavia, and what better time to rediscover them than his anniversary year?

The songs became popular from their first performance, with performers, critics and public alike. Music scholars too have regarded the songs as having a central place in Sibelius’s output. The international success of the works has been limited for reasons of language – the majority of the songs are in Swedish – but in Scandinavia and especially in Finland they have gained a permanent place in the solo repertoire.

In 2015, the year of Sibelius’ 150th birthday, take the opportunity to work on some of his beautiful songs, in the original language or translation. We will set them against the songs of two of the biggest hitters in the repertoire, Schubert and Schumann, to see how they compare.

Ian PartridgeIan Partridge is one of Britain’s leading lyric tenors. His wide repertoire has encompassed the music of Monteverdi, Bach and Handel, the Elizabethan lute songs, German, French and English songs and first performances of new works. He appeared regularly as soloist with major choirs and orchestras in Britain and throughout the rest of the world, and in recitals he was frequently accompanied by his sister, Jennifer Partridge.

He is a professor at the Royal Academy of Music, and was awarded the CBE in 1992 for services to music. Ian retired from singing end of 2008, but continues to teach, give masterclasses and adjudicate.

Join Ian at Jackdaws in the beautiful Vallis Vale to explore the songs in a perfect setting; Sibelius loved nature, and the Finnish landscape often served as material for his music. On the subject of Sibelius’ ties to nature, one biographer of the composer, Erik W. Tawaststjerna, wrote the following:

Jackdaws“Even by Nordic standards, Sibelius responded with exceptional intensity to the moods of nature and the changes in the seasons: he scanned the skies with his binoculars for the geese flying over the lake ice, listened to the screech of the cranes, and heard the cries of the curlew echo over the marshy grounds just below Ainola. He savoured the spring blossoms every bit as much as he did autumnal scents and colours”.

Sibelius, Schumann and Schubert
Ian Partridge
Friday 24 – Sunday 26 April 2015
Level: Advanced
Fee: £200
B&B: Available
Visit the course page for more information

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