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Conducted by Peter van Drimmelen, featuring Emma Minchin as flute soloist and Jamie Oemcke as viola soloist
Venue: Speirs Centre, Palmerston North Boys' High School
This concert commemorates Clace Schwabe, our long-term and much-loved colleague, who passed away last year. Her piece 'Tutaki' ('Meeting') was one of a few compositions from her pen other than the exercises and studies to be expected from a dedicated teacher. It shows both her gift for composition and her insight into the diverse culture of Aotearoa.
With this concert we also commemorate the New Zealand premiere of Mendelssohn's Symphony no. 1 in 1988. Our conductor, Peter van Drimmelen, was responsible for instigating this performance, in his role as one of the conductors of the Wellington Chamber Orchestra. In those days it was much more difficult than now to compile a full set of playing parts, particularly of a work as neglected as this one was back then, and Peter recalls many hours spent with scissors and paste. The performance took place under the baton of Alan Foster at Waiopehu College, Levin, and was later repeated at St Peters, Willis Street, Wellington. Under the headline 'First Symphony Coup' Wellington music critic Lindis Taylor gave both the work and the performance an enthusiastic reception, describing Peter's revival of the fifteen-year-old Mendelssohn's first composition for full orchestra as a 'coup'. It was reprised in the WCO's 25th anniversary concert in 1997, with Peter conducting.
Felix Mendelssohn, Symphony No 1 in C Minor 1. Allegro di Molto, 2. Andante. 3. Menuetto, Allegro molto, 4. Allegro con fuoco
Emil von Reznicek (1860-1945), Overture to Donna Diana (1894)
Donna Diana, a comic opera in three acts, was first performed on 16 December 1894 at the Neues Deutsches Theater in Prague. Donna Diana, daughter of the governor of Barcelona, spurns all suitors until one of them turns the tables by feigning his dislike of her; he is the one who finally wins her heart. The opera is seldom performed nowadays but the overture remains popular. It gets off to a false start but then an effervescent first theme takes over, counterpointed by a serenely lyrical second theme. If this piece sounds familiar that may be because it served as the signature theme for 'Sergeant Preston of the Yukon', an adventure series set in the far North which chronicled the exploits of a Royal Canadian Mountie and his loyal husky, Yukon King.
This piece is about meeting (tutaki). All encounters produce change in those that meet, from natural phenomena and wildlife to human cultures. There are at least thirty allusions in this depiction of meeting. The orchestral sounds are not intended to replicate reality but merely to suggest it to the listener. The exception is the viola solo which reflects and comments on the meetings. Tutaki is dedicated to Damien Ricketson, who made it happen. (From the programme notes for the premiere performance of Tutaki in 2006)
Suggested in the piece are the formal beginning and ending of a hui (formal meeting), announced by a pounamu gong; the arrival of important manuhiri, announced by putatara (conch); waiata sung when paddling a waka; bugle calls for Last Post and Reveille. The final bars of the solo suggest a waiata take (song with a message).
George Butterworth (1885-1916), The Banks of Green Willow (1913)
Composed in 1913 for a small orchestra, "The Banks of Green Willow" is a companion to Butterworth's "Two English Idylls" of 1910-1911. The piece is founded on two folk melodies Butterworth collected in Sussex on a trip with Ralph Vaughan Williams: "The Banks of Green Willow" and "Green Bushes". A solo clarinet and strings create a pastoral scene with the title theme, followed by a short development and restatement of the tune. The mood becomes more sombre and agitated as a new theme (Butterworth's own) is introduced. An animated motif leads to the main climax before the music subsides to introduce "Green Bushes". The piece ends tranquilly with snatches of the variant title theme. The premiere took place in 1914 under the baton of Adrian Boult, this being the 24-year-old conductor’s first concert with a professional orchestra. Butterworth was killed in 1916 at the Battle of the Somme. A much-loved young officer, who had begun the war as a private, he was posthumously awarded the Military Cross. Fittingly, "The Banks of Green Willow" has become an anthem for the "Unknown Soldiers".
Cécile Louise Stéphanie Chaminade (1857 – 1944), Flute Concertino in D major, Op. 107 (1902)
Cécile Chaminade was a noted pianist as well as a composer. Most of her compositions were published during her lifetime and sold extremely well. In 1913, she was awarded the Légion d'Honneur, a first for a female composer. Ambroise Thomas said, "This is not a woman who composes, but a composer who is a woman." In 1901 she made gramophone recordings of seven of her compositions for the Gramophone and Typewriter Company; these remain among the most sought-after piano recordings. She also recorded many pianola rolls.
Chaminade's Flute Concertino in D major, Op. 107, was composed in 1902 for flute and piano on a commission from the Paris Conservatoire for their famous end-of-year competition. It is dedicated to Paul Taffanel, who before he became a professor at the Conservatoire, enjoyed a long career in the Paris Opera Orchestra. Soon afterwards, Chaminade orchestrated it for a performance in London by her friend, Marguerite de Forest Anderson. The work has one movement. Expansive opening melodies, coloured by inflexions of tonality, set the turbulent scene. A decorative solo part follows, embellished by virtuosic passages full of chromatic runs and passionate articulated arpeggios. The cadenza eases the mood into a sense of resigned acceptance. The piece concludes with a reprise of the opening melody and an animated fiery coda. Legend has it that Chaminade wrote and performed this work for a former lover on his wedding day. Whatever the truth of that, the immediate appeal of the piece’s melodicism, exuberance and conventional tonality have made it such a staple in the repertoire that flautists call it simply “the Chaminade”.
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), Symphony No 1 in C Minor (1824)
Between the ages of 12 and 14, Mendelssohn composed twelve symphonies, almost entirely scored for strings only. In the C-minor Symphony, the thirteenth in the series and composed at age 15, he used woodwinds and brass for the first time. The work is built on a classical plan, largely following Mozart but with some of the 'storm and stress' of Beethoven thrown in, most obviously at the beginning and end. The two outer movements are fast and dramatic, while the two contrasting inner movements are a lyrical andante and a minuet and trio. The first movement contrasts a stormy opening idea with a calmer more lyrical second theme but the impetus of the music is never lost. The slow movement is a simple and lyrical andante based on a flowing legato melody accompanied by a syncopated figure, which is elaborated as it is passed round the orchestra. The third movement, a minuet and trio, breaks with the past by being written in a compound time signature (6/4), which has two beats in the bar rather than the traditional three. The minuet (a minuet in name rather than in reality) has drive and energy, while the simpler trio section gives a chant-like melody to the clarinets and bassoons with discreet accompaniment from the strings. The final movement bases itself on two contrasting ideas, rapid semi-quaver runs and a simple legato melody. The development section builds into a long and complex fugue.
The Philharmonic Society performed a version of this Symphony on Mendelssohn’s first visit to London in 1829. This occasion marked the beginning of the immense reputation he enjoyed in London throughout his life. In gratitude he presented the Society with the original manuscript of his 'first' symphony.
Peter van Drimmelen, conductor
Born in Holland, Peter studied violin at the Rotterdam Conservatory and viola at the Utrecht Conservatory. He was Sub-Principal viola in a choir-accompanying orchestra in Delft and then a member of the Auckland Philharmonia from 1983 to 1987, with two years as violist in the Auckland String Quartet. He conducted three ASQ Summer School orchestra projects during that time. While in the NZSO, which he joined in 1987, he conducted the Wellington Chamber Orchestra numerous times and also the St Matthews Chamber Orchestra (Auckland), the Nelson Symphony Orchestra, and the Manawatu Sinfonia on a near-annual basis since 2003. He also adjudicated for local ensembles in 2014-15 organised by the KBB Festival in Auckland. In 1996 Peter set up the Michael Monaghan Young Musicians Foundation, to encourage young musicians to audition for an opportunity to play a concerto movement with a professional orchestra made up of volunteers from the NZSO and Wellington Orchestra. Over 100 teenagers availed themselves of this opportunity in the 14 years that Peter ran the Foundation. Peter has made numerous recordings for Radio NZ. He retired from the NZSO in 2014 and since then has written his memoirs ‘Driving for Music’, where he recounts his life in a professional orchestra and behind the wheel of a bus. If you are interested, the book is still available at firstname.lastname@example.org. It will also be offered for sale at the desk during the interval and after the concert for $25.00. In 2018 Peter was made a life member of the Manawatu Youth Orchestra Inc.
Emma Minchin, flute soloist
Emma writes: Emma Minchin (nee Griffiths) grew up in Cheshire, England. As a fifteen year old, she performed film classics in the Royal Albert Hall with the National Youth Wind Orchestra of Great Britain in 1997. Whilst studying with Laura Jellicoe. Emma became Cheshire Young Musician of 2000. In the same year she performed the Reinecke concerto (with its luscious slow movement) on tour in America and commenced her studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. By 2002, she had established Scarlet Winds, won the North London Music Festival Chamber Prize, and in taken first place in the Sutton Music Festival Concerto Prize. 2003 brought about an entertainment performance highlight - accompanying Rolf Harris in his Golden Jubilee celebrations with the BBC, in an amped Royal Albert Hall! Emma graduated with a Bachelor of Music with honours in 2004 and a Master in Music in 2005. Her professors included Ian Clarke, Sarah Newbold and Samuel Coles. Emma performed in masterclasses with Michael Cox, Dave Heath, Robert Dick and Sir James Galway and participated in sit-in rehearsals with the LSO, and in educational workshops with professional leaders Sean Gregory and Paul Griffith. A cherished moment was participating in the European Academies Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the late Sir Colin Davis, a kind and warm hearted man and a phenomenal conductor. The concerts were a phenomenal experience at the Barbican Hall, the magnificent MusikVerein Vienna and beautiful Sibelius Hall Helsinki. Having fallen for a kiwi teacher, Emma moved to New Zealand with Dan in 2008, setting up home in Christchurch. Passionate about music education, Emma set up Musiclass. In 2011 she performed with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra before a change of circumstances led them to relocate to Dubai. There Emma also enjoyed many teaching roles, including flute tutor for the Arabian Youth Orchestra. Ever exciting, bold and over the top venues hosting exuberant events requiring musical entertainment became the scene for Emma's performance, none more so than the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, with its high mural ceilings and decorative floors, the home of the United Arab Emirates National Orchestra, where Emma played 2nd flute and principal piccolo. Dubai also blessed Emma and Dan with two wonderful children. In 2018 Emma and her family settled in Palmerston North where they enjoy the fabulous community spirit here. With a new music studio at their home in Awapuni, Emma is looking forward to sharing her love of music and education with preschoolers to performers. Find out more at Musiclass.net!
The Sinfonia has rescheduled the 2020 May concert with Peter van Drimmelen (conductor) and Emma Minchin (flautist) to 9 May this year.
In a variation on the original programme, "Tutaki", a piece for orchestra and solo viola written by our late colleague Clace Schwabe, will be performed. Soloist will be Jamie Oemcke.
Evelyn Rawlins Arts Trust