Ian Venables: Looking Ahead through 2010...
It is good to see that a time of recession has not materially
affected the output from Ian Venables. If anything he appears
to be busier than ever. Last year I reported that he was working
on a large-scale song-cycle called Remember This
a poem by Andrew Motion commemorating the death of Queen Elizabeth,
the Queen Mother. Venables reports that he had to delay this work
in order to complete a major new piece for the 80th
Anniversary of the Gloucester Music Society. This is a song cycle
for Roderic Williams entitled, 'The Pine Boughs Past Music' Op.39.
It will receive its premiere there on April 15th. It will then
get a second performance at The Three Choirs Festival in August
(also with Roderic Williams)
However, now that he has completed this commission, he has once
again turned to Remember This
and is giving it his full
attention, although no date has been set for the premiere. Venables
told me that there is a great deal to do as not all the music
was composed when he set it aside. Additionally, he has to expand
the draft into a score for singer, string quartet and piano. This
is a format that particularly appeals to him, and, in view of
his long interest in Ivor Gurney it is perhaps unsurprising.
And that brings me to another major facet of his musical life
– as the chairman of the Gurney Society. This year’s call on his
services includes a major lecture at the Three Choirs Festival
prior to a performance of Gurney’s Gloucestershire Rhapsody
in Cheltenham Town Hall under the baton of Martyn Brabbins.
This will be a major event for all students of Gurney’s music.
I understand that there are diverse views as to the Rhapsody’s
musical value, but whatever the merits, it is essential that it
is given at least one well-performed outing. However, I believe
that English music enthusiasts are in for a rare treat. This work
has been edited by Ian Venables and Philip Lancaster.
After the sad death of Lady Trudy Bliss in November 2008, the
presidency of the Sir Arthur Bliss Society passed to George Dannatt.
Alas, he died in November last year at the good age of 94. Ian
Venables was elected to succeed him. It will be a challenging
job to be the figurehead of this important musical society. Venables
was a personal friend of Lady Bliss and has always had a great
admiration for, and understanding of, Sir Arthur’s music.
One other major work in the composer’s job-book is a commission
for the 65th birthday celebrations of the cellist Bernard Gregor-Smith.
It will be written for ‘cello, piano and narrator and called When
the Moon Sails Out
. This will be premiered in December of
this year. More details to follow.
Ian Venable website
good and the list of forthcoming
where his music will be played is usually regularly
updated. In spite of the fact that the header still refers to
2008-2009, there are a number of future concerts listed.
Of great interest are the three CDs that are due to be released
this year. The first onto the streets will be from Signum Classics
and will feature the composer’s Invite, to Eternity
for tenor and string quartet. This is a setting of words by the
great Northamptonshire poet John Clare. The last poem has the
desperately thought provoking lines "Even the dearest that
I love the best/ Are strange..." Included on this disc is
the long-awaited String Quartet Op.32. This is a work that seems
to belong to slippery time – being at once contemporary and also
beholden to the tradition of English music over the past hundred
years although there is a dissonance and angst in this work that
is comparatively rare in Venables output.
In September, Naxos are due to release a collection of vocal music
including his setting of six songs for tenor, clarinet and piano,
On Wings of Love
. Another important cycle on this CD will
be the four Venetian Songs
by John Addington Symonds. Venables
has done much to introduce this forward-looking Victorian poet
to our generation. Perhaps the greatest treat is the short setting
of words by Robert Graves – ‘Flying Crooked’.
And lastly, in October, Somm Recordings are publishing a CD of
‘Music for Strings and Piano’. Mark Bebbington, Graham Lloyd and
the Coull String Quartet will play the Piano Quintet Op.27, the
Three Pieces for violin and piano Op.11, the Elegy for cello and
piano Op.2, the Soliloquy for viola and piano Op.26 and finally
the Poem for cello and piano, Op.29. These three CDs will be important
additions to Venables recorded music catalogue.