Aequales Ensemble

AUGUST CONCERT
Aequales Ensemble

Edwina Kayser&KirstyGreig, violins
Danny Neumann, viola
Sarah Cuming, cello
Robin Baker, piano

2.00pm Sunday, 7 August 2011
WYSELASKIE AUDITORIUM
29 College Crescent, Parkville

Meet the Artists

Aequales Ensemble was formed in 1996. We have played duo, trio, quartet and quintet concerts, devoting ourselves to the major chamber music repertoire.We chose the name “Aequales” to portray an essential ingredient of chamber music: we all play an equal part, both on stage and off.

KirstyGreig grew up in Adelaide, where she began playing the violin at an early age.  She graduated from the Elder Conservatorium with honours, having studied with William Hennessy and Dr.SemyonKobets.  While in Adelaide Kirsty played with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and the Adelaide Chamber Orchestra, in several new music and chamber music groups, and led the orchestra for “Co-Opera”, a travelling chamber opera company, performing in regional SA, Tasmania and Victoria.

Since moving to Melbourne in 2000, Kirsty has participated in the Masterclass programme at the Australian National Academy of Music.  She plays regularly with Orchestra Victoria and has also played with the TSO and the Academy of Melbourne Orchestra.  She enjoys combining freelance orchestral work with chamber music projects and teaching.

Robin Baker – Robin had piano lessons in Melbourne with Meryl Ross, Ada Corder, William Whitfield and Stephen McIntrye. She then studied solo piano and piano accompaniment at the Royal Northern College of Music in England and gained postgraduate Professional Performing Diplomas from both the RNCM and the Royal Academy of Music in London. Robin spent many years overseas performing in concerts in Britain and Europe as piano accompanist and chamber musician and has recorded for the ABC and BBC. Since returning to Australia, she has continued a busy freelance career, including being accompanist at the universities and guest accompanist at Australian National Academy of Music.   Robin has also tutored chamber music at the University of Melbourne. She now continues teaching chamber music and piano accompaniment in her own private practice. For Robin “the key to expressing music is to hold a sense of destination. This allows the music to just naturally unfold”.   

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975, Russian): Piano Quintet

  1. Prelude: Lento
  2. Fugue: Adagio
  • Scherzo: Allegretto
  1. Intermezzo: Lento
  2. Finale: Allegretto

The shadow of Stalin‟s rule hangs over much of Shostakovich‟s mature creation. In 1936, the composer withdrew his successful opera „Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk‟ after a damning political attack on it. He was one of the luckier ones: to be denounced for creating works which did not fit the Stalinist view of Soviet art was to risk not just professional ostracism but possible imprisonment, exile or death.

Like much of his chamber music, Shostakovich‟s piano quintet can be heard on different levels; it was undoubtedly written with an eye for government approval (and indeed won the Stalin prize in March, 1941), but it expresses private emotions, often despairing or sarcastic, which discerning contemporaries could not fail to understand. It was first performed in 1940 by the composer and the Beethoven Quartet.

The language often borrows from baroque music; the prelude, like a baroque overture, frames a faster episode between the slow declamatory opening and its reprise. It is followed by a fugue, introduced by a desolate theme on solo violin, which builds to an intense climax before unwinding again to a quiet, bare finish.

The scherzo is a robust dance based on flamenco-like rhythms. The following intermezzo starts like a passacaglia, with a ground bass heard first in the cello pizzicati. Out of its pensive ending the finale starts, in a wistful G major. By turns whimsical, martial, and mysterious, it finishes with an almost Mahlerian simplicity.

Program

Theodore Dubois (1837-1924, French): Piano Quartet in A minor

  1. Allegro agitato
  2. Andante molto espressivo
  • Allegro leggiero
  1. Allegro con fuoco

Frank Bridge (1879-1941, English): Phantasy in F# minor for Piano Quartet

  1. Andante con moto
  2. Allegro vivace
  • Listesso Tempo
  1. Andante con moto

INTERVAL

Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924, Italian): “Crisantemi” String Quartet

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975, Russian): Piano Quintet

  1. Prelude: Lento
  2. Fugue: Adagio
  • Scherzo: Allegretto
  1. Intermezzo: Lento
  2. Finale: Allegretto

**You are invited to meet the artists after the concert over light refreshments**

Program Notes

Theodore Dubois(1837-1924, French): Piano Quartet in A minor

  1. Allegro agitato
  2. Andante molto espressivo
  • Allegro leggiero
  1. Allegro con fuoco

A brilliant student of Ambroise Thomas at the Paris Conservatoire, and winner of the Prix de Rome in 1861, Theodore Dubois became choir director of two major Paris churches in succession, succeeding his friend Saint-Saëns as organist at the Madeleine in 1877. He became a professor of harmony and composition at the Conservatoire and was its director from 1896 to 1905, being succeeded in that post by Fauré. He composed successfully in many genres – sacred music, opera, orchestral and chamber works – but perhaps his reluctance to be influenced by the newer musical ideas of his time led to his undeserved later obscurity. The Piano Quartet in A Minor (1907) is a fine example of his musical inspiration and compositional skill.

The first movement opens with a passionate melody presented first by the cello, then the violin and the viola. A more serene second subject, stated by the piano, offers contrast, but it is the spirit of the first subject that informs much of the movement. The second movement, after a brief introduction, opens with a long, singing melody heard first on the violin; this is balanced by a more rhythmic second subject, and the movement builds to a climax before ending with peaceful echoes of the first theme.

The third movement is a playful, witty scherzo. The last movement is based on the material of all the preceding movements, with the main theme a rhythmical variant of the opening theme of the first movement.  The scherzo‟s motifs and the slow movement‟s main theme are woven into the fabric. The work ends with a triumphant coda in the major key.

Frank Bridge (1879-1941, English): Phantasy in F# minor for Piano Quartet

  1. Andante con moto
  2. Allegro vivace
  • Listesso Tempo
  1. Andante con moto

English composer Frank Bridge studied violin and composition at the Royal College of music where he was a pupil of Stanford.   He became well known as a violinist and then violist in string quartets (notably the English String Quartet).  Bridge was also a conductor, deputising for Sir Henry Wood on occasions and he taught composition, his most famous pupil being Benjamin Britten.

In 1905 Walter Cobett, a wealthy businessman and amateur musician initiated a competition to encourage the composition of new chamber music works. He stipulated that the works were to be “of short duration and performed without a break, but, if the composer desired to consist of different sections varying in tempo and metre”. Cobett called this form a phantasy.  Bridge wrote three phantasies for Cobett: one string quartet (second prize in 1905), one piano trio (first prize in 1907) and one piano quartet (commissioned by Cobett in 1910). His Phantasy in F# minor for piano quartet is considered the most effective. Herbert Howells, a colleague of Bridge, writes of his piano quartet: “it has an unusually controlled emotion.  Eloquence never lacks discipline. The  work  grows  and finds  its  issue  in  a  final  section  of  a  beauty..”

This melancholy single-movement piece for string quartet is one of only a handful of pieces Puccini wrote for the medium. He composed it in a single night, at the age of 32, in memory of Prince Amadeo of Savoy. In Italy, crisantemi (chrysanthemums) are the flowers of funerals and graves. Considered the most accomplished of Puccini‟s contribution to instrumental repertoire, the work has been perhaps most popular in an arrangement for string orchestra, and is sometimes performed with the addition of double bass. Three years after the composition of „Crisantemi‟, Puccini re-used the two main melodies of this quartet in the fourth act of his opera „ManonLescaut‟. According to wikipedia, Prince Amadeo in whose memory this piece is written lived a life which contained many suitable occasions for Chrysanthemums.  It is reported that at his wedding, the best man shot himself, the Palace Gatekeeper slit his own throat, the King‟s aide died after falling from his horse, the bride‟s wardrobe mistress hung herself and the stationmaster was crushed to death under the wheels of the honeymoon train!

Edwina Kayser – After studying with Christopher Martin and Carl Pini at the University of Melbourne, Edwina continued her education at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London with John Glickman.  As a freelance violinist she worked with orchestras in the U.K. and Portugal, and as a student she received chamber music coaching from the Takacs, Chilingirian, Melba and Australian String Quartets.  In 1999 Edwina completed a Masters degree from the University of Melbourne, studying with Nathan Gutman and William Hennessy.  She has an active musical life playing regularly with Orchestra Victoria and teaching at Trinity and Westbourne Grammar School.

Danny Neumann began learning the violin in Canberra with JosetteEsquedin, a graduate of the Brussels Conservatoire.  On changing to the viola he studied in Sydney with John Gould (formerly principal viola with the LSO, and violist of the Carl Pini Quartet), and later in Melbourne with Marco van Pagee and Christopher Martin. He recently retired after 30 years as a full-time member of Orchestra Victoria and stll works with OV on a casual basis. He also plays baroque viola with the Australian Baroque Ensemble, and has been a regular viola tutor for Melbourne Youth Music.  He now combines his musical activities with work as a psychologist.

Sarah Cuming- After studying ‘cello with Marianne Maxwell and Henry Wenig, Sarah completed her Diploma of Arts at the Victorian College of the Arts in 1981.  Since then she has been extensively involved in teaching, chamber-music and orchestral work, playing with the MSO and the Australian Pops Orchestra.  She joined Orchestra Victoria in 1992, and in 1993 was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study Russian ‘cello technique.

As a result she spent three months studying with Walter Despalj in Zagreb, Croatia.  In 1998-9 Sarah furthered her studies with Tania Prohazka in Edmonton, Canada, while working with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra on a 6-month exchange programme.