U3A Music Appreciation Group 20 June 2022


We began by listening to Elgar’s Cockaigne Overture.  With all the attention devoted to the Platinum Jubilee we heard some typically British music, Elgar’s Cockaigne Overture.  The overture gives a lively and colourful musical portrait of Edwardian London.  After the initial failure of the Dream of Gerontius, Elgar received a commission from the Royal Philharmonic Society and he began work on what is now the Cockaigne Overture which he described as “cheerful and Londony, stout and steaky, honest, healthy, humorous and strong, but not vulgar”.  The first performance was at a Royal Philharmonic Society concert on the 20th June 1901, exactly 121 years ago.  It was an immediate success and became one of his most popular pieces although it is performed less frequently in recent times.  We heard the recording by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.

Moving away from the patriotic, we heard the Piano Quintet opus 114 by Schubert known as Die  Forellenquintett, played by pianist Rolf Reinhardt with the Erdres Quartet.  The quartet unusually consists of a single violin, viola, cello and double base.  The fourth movement is a set of variations on Schubert’s earlier lied, Die Forelle, The Trout, which accounts for the alternative name.

Following on from that we listened to Schumann’s Piano Concerto No 1 played by Artur Rubenstein with the RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra.  The concerto received its first performance in Dresden in 1845 and it is the composer’s only completed piano concerto although he had earlier worked on several piano concertos none of which were completed. It is now one of the most widely performed and recorded piano concertos from the Romantic period.  It was Clara who encouraged her husband to complete the concerto.

The next piece we listened to was the Sinfonietta by Janáček played by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Simon Rattle.  It was written in 1926 and dedicated to the Czechoslovak armed forces.  It celebrated the emergence of Czechoslovakia as an independent country after the break up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of the first world war.  Janáček said that it was intended to express ‘contemporary free man, his spiritual beauty and joy, his strength, courage and determination to fight for victory’.country

We concluded with the second and third movements of Beethoven’s first piano concerto No 1 in C major Opus 15 played by Alfred Brendel with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Levine.  It was first performed in 1795 at his first public concert in Vienna in 1795 but not published until 1801 in Vienna and was dedicated to his pupil, Princess Anna Louise Barbara Odescalchi, not surprisingly known to her friends simply as Babette.   Although this was the first piano concerto to be published it was actually his third attempt at the genre following an unpublished piano concerto of 1784 and his Piano Concerto No 2 which was also published in1801in Leipzig.

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