Tuesday, 14 August 2012

A stellar performance by flautist Ruth Molins: Classical Journey, Tuesday 14 August 2012

Perfect for radio
Ruth Molins plays 'Jade'
from Pierre-Octave Ferroud's 'Trois 
Pièces '
Classical Journey, Tuesday 14th August
Punctual and professional, Ruth Molins arrived promptly at 11am this morning to take part in a feature about the third of this year's four 'Summer Lunchtime Concerts' at St Stephen's Church in Exeter's High Street.

Following on from the captivating Rebecca Smith (Mezzo-Soprano) and the remarkable Michael Dawson ('Cello), who performed on 2nd and 9th August respectively, Ruth will be at St Stephen's with pianist James Keefe this Thursday, 16th August.

The church volunteers will lay on a light lunch at 12 o' clock, for the modest sum of £5, all proceeds going to the work of Central Exeter Parish. The lunch is optional, however, and the music is free! Ruth and James will be ready to play by 1pm. Because clearing up always takes longer than one expects the recital is actually scheduled to start at 1.10.

They are going to start with something very modern, the first musical commission written by the newly qualified David Heath in 1978. originally this was a solo piece requested by flautist Richard Blake and first performed at the 1979 Cookham Festival. Cookham is on the Thames, downstream from Henley in Berkshire. The festival is now an annual 'celebration of arts and music' which takes place every May, and is now host to the one day pop festival, 'Let's Rock the Moor' - on 'Cookham Moor' (i.e. Marsh Meadow!) a fitting venue for Heath's debut.

This Classically notated jazz piece has since been arranged for piano and flute - or saxophone (soprano or alto). It will lead perfectly into the music of the greatest jazz improviser of all time - Johann Sebastian Bach (as Chris Caldwell might call him). James and Ruth will play Bach's First Flute Sonata, in B minor. That's what we were listening to at 10.30, played by Stephen Preston and Trevor Pinnock on baroque flute and harpsichord (but not Jordi Savall on viola da gamba - that was a little daydream!)

Finally thay will play Philippe Gaubert's Sonata for flute and piano - but which one? We shall have to wait and see. We variously hazarded the nineteenth and twentieth century for Gaubert. When did he actually live? 1879-1941! No recordings of Gaubert or Heath were available for the programme - their music can be heard exclusively at St Stephen's Church on Thursday.

Ruth told us about her long association with pianist James Keefe (now principal keyboard player with the City or Birmingham Symphony Orchestra). They went to school together. She also told us about her work with Bob Jevon's Exeter Symphony Orchestra - under the direction of Brian Southgate - and John Welton's Exeter Music Group, under Marion Wood.

We heard recordings -
Ruth and Hilary Boxer ('Cello) playing Franz Danzi's Duetto 2 at the Corn Barn in Cullumpton
Ruth and James playing Gabriel Faure's Siciliene at last year's Dawlish Festival
Ruth and the Force Five Wind Quintet playing the Rondo from Beethoven's Piano and Wind Quintet
Ruth and the Exeter Symphony Orchestra (cond. Mark Perry) playing John Rutter's Suite Antique
Ruth and Hilary Boxer playing 'Assobio a Játo' (Jet Whistle) by Heitor Villa-Lobos

Ruth played live! -
'Jade' from Pierre-Octave Ferroud's 'Trois Pièces'
and the more familiar 'Syrinx' by Claude Debussy

Ruth got the gory facts right - Ferroud lived only from 1900 to 1936 before his untimely death in a road traffic collision - which decapitated him. A terrible tragedy. He composed the three pieces in 1921.

Only eight years earlier, Debussy composed 'Syrinx'. Does the tune represent the nymph Syrinx or the god Pan? Both. Originally intended for the entr'acte of Gabriel Mourey's play 'Psyché', the piece was called 'Flûte de Pan', until Debussy remembered he'd used that name already. The music represents Pan's overtures of love to Syrinx and her attempt to evade him by hiding in the marsh as a reed. When Pan cuts the reeds to make his pipes - Syrinx is decapitated too!

Many thanks to Ruth for taking us on such a glorious 'journey'.

Earlier in the show we also heard a Soundart Radio recording of Compagnie Guilia at Bogan House in Totnes last year. Howard Frey and Julia Thomas were heard introducing Rondo de Sanabria, which featured Julia's Northumbrian small pipes and Nick Millington's bouzouki. Howard Frey and Simon Cassell provided percussion on bells, darbuka, and tambourine.

The Bogan House concert was the first after the death of Compagnie's baroque 'cellist Mike Edwards in a road traffic collision a year before. Tragically Simon Cassell died only two months after the Bogan House concert. Incredibly the remaining three players have found the strength to carry on and, with their new violinist Marc Walpot, are planning more performances for the future.

We hope to see the new 'compagnie' in the studio in September - to discuss the life and work of the wonderful Simon Cassell, and to introduce us to their new repertoire. They will be very welcome!

By popular demand, we heard the Winchester Cathedral Choir sing Gregorio Allegri's 'Miserere Mei, Deus' - which we have also heard sung by the choirs of King's College Cambridge, and New College Oxford - all equally delightful!

Another very talented woman featured - but without being heard in the studio or any recording. Naoko  Maeda from Japan will be at the Chruch of St Cyr and Julitta in Newton St Cyres on Thursday evening at 7.30pm (entrance £5). This incredibly talented Japanese organist has prepared a thrilling selection of Organ pieces to perform for us on 138 year old church organ.

We heard the third of Bach's six "Schübler" Chorales - the restful 'Wer nun den Lieben Gott Lässt walten' (He who allows god alone to rule him) Played on the Metzler Organ at Trinity College Cambridge by Simon Preston. (Slight confusion - it was Stephen Preston playing the baroque flute in Bach's sonata.)   Naoko will play the first, fourth and sixth of the chorales. ('Wake for night is passing', 'My soul magnifies the Lord', 'Come, Jusus, from Heaven to Earth'.)

We also managed to fit in the vivace from Mendelssohn's First Organ Sonata (William Whitehead at Buckingham Palace) - which Naoko will also be playing, but sadly not Louis Lefébure-Wely's 'Sortie in B flat', which Naoko will also be playing - that would have been the icing on the cake!

In the closing moments we did 'accidentally' hear the 12 voice San Francisco male voice choir 'Chanticleer' singing the opening bars of 'Sakura Sakura' (Cherry Blossoms). We heard the solo soprano version in October last year - sung by Val Howels at Branscombe. Naoko Maeda will play an arrangement of this traditional Japanese song on the Newton St Cyres organ.

We couldn't hear 'Sakura Sakura' in full, however, because we had one last mission to fulfil - to hear the opening of Karlheinz Stockhausen's 'Helicopter String Quartet' which failed to play on 17 July. With computer assistance we heard 'Turbine Start' - Engines, frenetic string playing, and the players sounding off the numbers in German, each screeching to be heard. It was stunning stuff - some found it frightening, just at Stockhausen intended. The full quartet, indeed the full five hour opera, 'Mittwoch aus Licht', opens in Birmingham next Wednesday.

A wonderful journey. Thank you to everyone who contributed.

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