> Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Hugo Wolf [RB]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Samuel COLERIDGE-TAYLOR (1875-1912)
Piano Quintet in G minor Op. 1 (1893) [27.47]
Fantasiestücke for String Quartet Op. 5 (1895) [21.07]
Hugo WOLF (1860-1903)

Italian Serenade (1887) [7.20]
Live-A-Music: Andrew Berridge (violin), Tony Burrage (violin/Director), Joanna Lacey (viola), Michael Parratt (cello), John Pearce (piano)
rec live Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, 7 Nov 2001
Special Limited Edition First Recording
LIVE-A-MUSIC 2001 [56.41]


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These three works are direct recordings of a live concert at Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall, the home (with Manchester's BBC Studio 7) of some of the most enterprising concerts in the UK. There is the occasional click, a cough or two (one explosive one at 5.58 in the first movement of the Quintet) from the audience but very little really - especially considering that the concert dates from November last year.

Live-a-Music (a play on their Liverpool roots and their immersal in live music in the community) are an independent ensemble of players from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. They are active in outreach (in unconventional venues and with children's workshops) in the widespread Merseyside/North-West catchment area. They have attracted substantial grant funding from various public bodies in the region and beyond.

In the buoyant Humoresque of the Fantasiestücke the quartet sound like a full-blown string orchestra such is their gutsy vitality. In fact it is almost as if these pages might have been the result of a meeting between the Elgar of the Introduction and Allegro and the Dvorak of the Serenade for Strings. The shivery autumnal chill of the Dance is gradually dispelled into radiant coruscation. The ensemble have this work securely under their fingers having played it since their inaugural concert at the Cornwallis Centre in the early 1990s.

The Fantasiestücke were premiered on 13 March 1895 while the composer was still a Stanford student at the RCM. Stanford was the dedicatee. It was published in 1921 and dropped out of availability until Tony Burrage tracked down a copy via the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Coleridge-Taylor's Piano Quintet is the work of an eighteen year old. It was premiered at Croydon Public Hall on 9 October 1893. The Liverpool performance of the Quintet was prepared and edited by Tony Burrage from full score. Credit to the players for their choice of this fine work. They could so easily have given us another recording of the Clarinet Quintet. Fine though that work is this Quintet is a real discovery. Compare it if you will with the rather sedate Ireland Sextet or the Stanford Serenade. The Quintet towers in this company.

The Piano Quintet is a work of no holds barred romanticism as befits a piece by a creatively fecund teenage student much taken with the music of Brahms and excited by his own inventive impulse. The music seethes and surges totally confident and glorious in the Allegro con moto. The waters of the Larghetto are by no means impassive either. It is as if the storm of the first movement has not moved on; it rumbles still. The Scherzo finds its echo in the Humoresque of the Fantasiestücke. The Quintet is much influenced by Brahms but Dvorak's bustling vitality also shudders and erupts at every turn.

There are a sprinkling of fallible moments such as the wobbly start to the Fantasiestücke. Also in the lonely debit column is the practice of introducing inter-track silences. The warm concert hall ambience (is this an analogue recording - it certainly sounds like one) is very welcome and the drop out to digitally perfect silence is uncanny. In the case of the Quintet comes far too quickly after the last note of each movement has finished resonating.

The Wolf Italian Serenade is a vivacious interlude between the two Coleridge-Taylor pieces well played though there are a few insecure moments.

The odd typo aside (Croyden for Croydon, Minute for Minuet) this home-produced CD is admirable. The notes have been font-reduced to cram them into a single four-sided English-only insert. For the next issue (and I hope that there will be more - how about the string quartets of Stanford and Dunhill?) it would be good to add the total playing time on the back cover of the jewel case.

These are all-out performances and take no prisoners. The players seem confident and project these works as if they were by Brahms and with no apologies - just exactly as one would expect the composer to have wanted.

Such vigorous music making makes me regret yet again the lack of recordings of the Coleridge-Taylor's Symphony and Violin Concerto. The Royal Liverpool Phil would be an ideal candidate for the honour of such a recording. Surely Douglas Bostock might look at this as part of his ClassicO series?

We owe it to Live-a-Music that the two Coleridge-Taylor works are presented with such eager and driving confidence. This is an example of real music making given the edge that only a live performance can deliver. More please and let's keep to out of the way repertoire as well.

Rob Barnett

ORDERING DETAILS

The CD can be obtained as below, or direct from Hilary Burrage me (cheque for £10 made payable to 'Live-A-Music') NEW ---- Special Limited Edition SAMUEL COLERIDGE-TAYLOR CD by Live-A-Music ~ includes Piano Quintet Op.1, probably never before recorded and the Fantasiestucke for String Quartet Op.5 , plus Wolf 'Italian Serenade' Price £10 Sterling (inc. contribution to Concert for Peace Appeal) from the Phil Shop at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, open concert nights, or c/o Rob Evans, Phil Shop, RLPS, Philharmonic Hall, Hope Street, Liverpool L1 9BP. (Cheques to 'RLPS' please; includes post &c.) www.icliveamusic.co.uk email to Hilary.Burrage@btopenworld.com

AVAILABLE: direct from Hilary Burrage at 0151-281 0010 (cheque for £10 made payable to 'Live-A-Music')

BACKGROUND BY TONY BURRAGE

We decided that, despite the well-known perils of live recordings of public performances, the first known concert in over one hundred years of this work should be made, unedited, into a CD, so that some small part of the excitement of the occasion - probably for the audience and certainly for the performers! - would be felt. This is a strictly limited edition of the recording of the work, which Live-A-Music hopes in due course will be followed by a more formal studio-based CD performance, perhaps with some very slight adjustments to the score as we become better acquainted with the work and what we believe the composer would have intended.

I am grateful to Tim Eggington of the RCM for his assistance in locating and copying this score for me, after a long search by ourselves to discover where it might be. (We eventually found a reference to its location in Geoffrey Self's book, The Hiawatha Man.) Editing the photocopy of the full, original score for performance was not easy. The score had obviously been written out rather quickly (probably on trains to and from the RCM, where SC-T was then studying!) and it is sometimes difficult to discern the intended harmonies.

Whilst in some ways this is evidently an early work, it indicates a more-than-considerable talent in one not yet out of his teens, and already speaks of the mature style to come. Occasionally the scoring is a little lacking in sophistication (eg: doubling of upper string parts), though this does not distract from the enthusiasm and drive of the Piano Quintet overall. One can feel the influence of Dvorak, Brahms and Schumann, but the work still has its own voice, as an optimistic and sometimes beautifully lyrical composition.

SC-T was himself an accomplished pianist (and violinist) who actually took the piano part himself in the first public performance, in Croydon in 1893. The work falls relatively easily under the fingers of all the players, but makes it own demands in terms of interpretation. Performing this work provides a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile experience - as I hope does hearing it!

Tony Burrage

FURTHER INFORMATION FROM THE CONCERT PROGRAMME

 

Lunchtime Concert: Liverpool Philharmonic Hall Wednesday 7 November 2001, 1-2 pm

A Tribute to

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

1875 - 1912

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor ~ Fantasiestucke for String Quartet Op.5

Hugo Wolf ~ Italian Serenade

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor ~ Quintet for Piano and Strings Op.1

Live-A-Music

Andrew Berridge (violin)

Tony Burrage (violin / Director)

Joanna Lacey (viola)

Michael Parrott (cello)

John Peace (piano)

 

Fantasiestucke for String Quartet op.5 Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)

Prelude; Serenade; Humoresque; Minuet & Trio; Dance

The Fantasiestucke op.5 was first performed on 13 March 1895, when Coleridge-Taylor was still a student, aged 20, at the Royal College of Music in London. The work, in five movements, is for string quartet and is dedicated to (Sir) Charles Villiers Stanford, his distinguished teacher at that College. One tangible result for Coleridge-Taylor of this early performance was the Lesley Alexander prize for composition - £10, then a very useful sum to an impecunious student – and another was ‘quite a brilliant’ spring term report. Whilst the piece draws strongly on the influence of Brahms (1833-97) and Dvorak (1841-1904), both of whom had close connections with the RCM, it is nonetheless the composer’s own, showing a individualistic approach at various points, such as the 5/4 measure throughout the Serenade and the fugato (contrapuntal) treatment of the principal motif in the final Dance. The Fantasiestucke was not published until 1921, and was subsequently completely unavailable until it was obtained by Tony Burrage in 1993 as a special reprint for the chamber group which has become Live-A-Music. HB

 

Italian Serenade Hugo Wolf (1860-1903)

Molto vivo

Although the comparison cannot be stretched too far, there are a number of similarities between the situation of Wolf when he wrote this Serenade, and of Coleridge-Taylor whilst composing the chamber works we hear today. Both composers were at this point young and came to professional music from modest backgrounds. Both were inwardly compelled to compose from a very early age; and both were deeply influenced by the great Germanic masters of the period. And in the longer term both found their day-to-day existence a struggle which ultimately compromised their health and brought them to an early death. Yet what they made of their music was different; the general tone of Wolf’s music has less of the light about it than does Coleridge-Taylor’s. In the Italian Serenade however we find an exception to this rule. Although now often performed in as a piece for small orchestra, it was first composed in May 1887, during a brief positive and creative phase in Wolf’s life, and only later (1892) re-scored for a larger ensemble, again as a diversion from more difficult challenges. The work is in one movement. HB

 

Quintet for Piano & Strings in G min op.1 Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)

Allegro con moto; Larghetto; Scherzo; Allegro molto

It is not often that a professional musical ensemble is able to offer a piece by an established composer which may not have been heard for over a century, but that is what we have in our concert today. The only known previous performance of the Coleridge-Taylor Piano Quintet was on 9 October 1893, in Croydon Public Hall, when the young composer himself played the piano part (other performers included a string quartet actually led by a woman, Jessie Grimson) during a concert arising from his newly-acquired status as an RCM composition scholar. This experience must have been an a huge ordeal for Coleridge-Taylor, a shy eighteen-year-old barely as yet acquainted with the ways of the London conservatoires; but it was, in the words of the Croydon Advertiser, an ‘astonishing’ event which left no doubt about either the performing capability or, even more strikingly, the compositional talent, of the retiring young man who was even so early able to produce an entire concert of his own work. The Piano Quintet, now edited by Tony Burrage from an original full-score, is in four substantial movements. It shows the affection and familiarity in which Coleridge-Taylor held Schubert, but also begins to develop the influence of Dvorak, whom the young composer studied carefully and who had close connections with his RCM teachers. All in all, this is a piece reflecting both an outstanding fresh talent and an extraordinary time in European musical history. Coleridge-Taylor’s opus 1, his first ‘mature’ work, lies in a time-zone alongside Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet (1891), Elgar’s Serenade for Strings (1892/3) and Dvorak’s ‘American’ Quartet (1893), as well as with the early efforts of Vaughan Williams (b.1872), Holst (b. 1874), Ireland (b.1879), Bax (b.1883) and many other much-loved English composers. We hope today’s performance will help to place Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s first professional work, his Piano Quintet, somewhere in amongst this repertoire, where it should surely be. HB

 

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912): The Man

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s father was a medical doctor who came to Britain from Sierra Leone, returning there when his son was born. Samuel’s mother Alice, a young white woman, continued to live in Croydon, bringing up Samuel (known as Coleridge) with his later half-siblings. The family was poor, but Samuel was fortunate that influential local benefactors assisted him in his first studies of the violin and piano. Talent alone however won him an early place at the Royal College of Music, to study performance and then composition. Later he was to travel extensively, conducting, writing music and adjudicating.

Coleridge-Taylor eventually produced well over one hundred mature works, but it was his early extended choral trilogy, Scenes from the Song of Hiawatha (1898-1900), which has for many years been almost his only acknowledged composition. Given Coleridge-Taylor’s concern throughout maturity for issues of slavery and inequality, it is telling that this work relates the story of an Amerindian child, Hiawatha, raised by his grandmother, who on adulthood seeks out his father before leading his people courageously, making prophesies about the future of his race and the arrival of the white man. Indeed, by 1900, at the age of just 25, Coleridge-Taylor was reflecting art in life, as an elected representative to the great Pan-African Conference in London which publicised the plight of African peoples throughout the British Empire. Coleridge-Taylor visited the United States (departing from Liverpool; he knew John Archer of Liverpool, later Mayor of Croydon) three times in his short life, conducting his own works, often performed by black musicians whose recent family histories included slavery and oppression. In America he was received as a great celebrity, also eventually conducting the New York Philharmonic as the only black person present. He remains a role model in the USA, with music societies and schools named after him.

In 1912, after twelve years of happy married life and fatherhood, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor died of pneumonia, a condition which with previous good health - or antibiotics, had they been invented then - would simply have seen him indisposed for a week or two. And so was lost in his prime a thoroughly decent man, much loved and respected across the nation, and an inspirational musician. HB

Live-A-Music is an independent ensemble of RLPO players who perform chamber concerts in local and community venues, often with an accompanying free children’s music workshop. The group began informally with a performance in the early 1990s at the opening of the Cornwallis Arts Centre of the Coleridge-Taylor Fantasiestucke, since developing a regular programme of events. Venues for concerts have included Blackburne House, The Blackie, St Bride’s Church, The Everyman Bistro, St James’ Church Walton, Liverpool Art School, Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, Liverpool Town Hall, Toxteth Town Hall, Ullet Road Unitarian Church and, of course, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.

Music by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor which Live-A-Music has performed, sometimes in collaboration with the HOPES Festival Orchestra, includes the Fantasiestucke, the Piano Quintet, excerpts from Hiawatha and the African Suite, plus the Romance for Violin and Orchestra, the Petite Suite de Concert and the Ballet Suite. In the year 2000 Live-A-Music was a partner in the Hope Street Millennium Festival, which received £25,000 as a Large Millennium Award, and which was selected by the Millennium Commission to be featured in its national presentations as one of the most successful events of that year.

Live-A-Music was in 2000 granted £4,500 Millennium funding via the Awards for All scheme as well as on-going support from the Merseyside Health Action Zone, and currently receives £3,000 annual funding from Liverpool City Council to help towards its community involvement. HB

Andrew Berridge, born in Wallasey in 1976, grew up in Leeds, studying violin with Eta Cohen and Peter Mountain. In 1996 he returned to Merseyside to study Law at Liverpool University where, after a year, he switched to Music, to study with Tony Shorrocks. Andrew has since won the Liverpool Young Musician Award and the Echo Arts Award for best new talent in classical music, also becoming a member of Live-A-Music and leading and performing as soloist with the HOPES Festival Orchestra. In 2000 Andrew went to the RNCM, switching to principal study viola with Scott Dickinson. Amongst other distinctions, Andrew has won the Rachel Godlee Prize for Viola and his Manchester quartet reached the finals of the Royal Overseas League Competition, also winning the Barbirolli Prize for Chamber Music. Andrew currently freelances with the RLPO and other orchestras and continues to perform regularly with Live-A-Music.

Tony (Martin Anthony) Burrage, Director and founder of Live-A-Music, was innocently convinced from an early age that he should set his sights on the Royal Academy of Music, although his school in Redditch had at that time never even sent anyone to university. And the RAM as a result is where he eventually undertook joint first studies in violin with Molly Mack, Frederick Grinke and (quartets) Sidney Griller, and piano with Joan Last, then in 1969 moving on to the BBC Training Orchestra where his teachers were ex-RLPO Leader Peter Mountain (for violin / orchestral studies) and the Amadeus String Quartet (for his quartet). On Decimal Day 1971 Tony joined the RLPO himself, appointed directly by Sir Charles Groves, of which Orchestra he continues to be a proud member. Consistently involved in trying to link education, community and classical music in his adopted city, in addition to directing Live-A-Music Tony is also Hon. Music Director of the Hope Street Midsummer Festival, resurrected by HOPES in 1996. At the RAM Tony studied Elgar’s Violin Concerto, leading to an awareness of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor whose rewarding music he continues to explore. Tony was recently thrilled to be honoured by the RAM with appointment as an Associate, in recognition of his community music involvement.

Joanna Lacey studied at the RNCM and on leaving joined the RLPO almost immediately, in May 1998. Born in Sutton Coldfield, she started to play the violin at the age of five, but upon hearing her first viola in a local youth orchestra (someone brought one in for novelty value; there were no violas there at the time!) she decided this was the instrument she wanted to play. Lucky enough to be accepted into the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, Joanna found her love of music firmly cemented in the thrill of the large symphonic works and the intimate chamber music sessions which members of the NYO organised amongst themselves. At the RNCM Joanna studied viola with Roger Bigley and Vicci Wardman, leading the violas in the symphony orchestra and baroque and modern ensembles. She is now an active member of the RLPO, involved in many aspects of the Orchestra’s life.

Michael Parrott was born in 1942 in Colwyn Bay and brought up in Aberystwyth, where his father was Professor of Music at the University of Wales. His mother was born in Russia, but his grandfather was born in Liverpool. On leaving school Michael studied Physics at Imperial College London, before turning to the study of cello with William Pleeth at Guildhall School of Music. Michael has now been a member of the RLPO for 36 years. He has also been a member of Live-A-Music since its early days and enjoys exploring the chamber repertoire with his colleagues. Michael’s hobbies are modern railways and driving main line diesel trains – as well as travel when the opportunity arises to many exotic parts of the world.

John Peace won a scholarship to read music at Durham University and also gained LRAM performance and ARCO diplomas. John was formerly a Senior Lecturer at Mabel Fletcher / Sandown College, now the Arts Centre nearby the Philharmonic Hall. He has extensive experience both as soloist and accompanist, having performed with principals of the RLPO, Halle, LPO, Ulster Orchestras and ENO and at the Philharmonic Hall, for BBC recorded concerts, in Chester Town Hall and St George’s Hall, etc. Organiser of the Merseyside group of the European Piano Teachers’ Association, John has lectured and performed at several international conference and in 1993 wrote a pianists’ workbook. One of his earlier pupils, Ian Hobson, was a first prize-winner at the Leeds International Piano Competition in the 1980s.

John will be performing in Chester Town Hall and in the St Helens Chamber Concert Series in 2002.

Tony Burrage wishes to thank the following for support in locating and editing the SC-T Piano Quintet: Andrew Berridge, Hilary Burrage, Tim Eggington (RCM), Richard Gordon-Smith, Sid Grolnic (Free Library of Philadelphia), Daniel Labonne (Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Society), Joanna Lacey, Brendan McCormack, Michael Parrott, John Peace and Ian Williamson. MAB Nov.2001


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