THE EDGE OF FANTASY
Fantasia Upon One Note
This Fantasia is a really interesting one - it features a phantom fifth part. You will notice there are only four of us on stage today, which means that the fifth part will hopefully be played (or for better words hummed) by the audience (a chance to show off your lovely dulcet tones!).
The title of this work is "Fantasia Upon One Note", and it is this one note that you’ll be humming, or wailing, or whatever takes your fancy. The one note is C, and the music basically revolves around 2 tonal centres; F and C, which will complement your one note very well. Well done Mr Purcell.
The work is loosely divided up into 4 sections; moderate - bit less moderate - slow - fast.
There is a moment in the slow section where Purcell introduces a very exotic harmony of A flat. In between the "less moderate" and the "slow" sections, we all stop playing... This is the audience's big solo moment where your C will be reverberating around the room, and we’re pretty excited to hear how it sounds!
“II. Molto Adagio” from Op. 59, No. 2
When I first came across this movement many years ago (let's not reveal my age at this point...!) there was a particular feeling that kept coming back to me every time I got to the end of the piece. It's a difficult thing to put into words, but it felt universal to me, in the sense that it seemed to contain everything about humanity, space and time. Fifteen years later, this feeling is still with me.
It was therefore of no surprise to learn that in Ludwig's own words - "this movement came to me as I stared at the starry sky and contemplated the spheres".
This is in a world before electricity was commonplace - no TV, iPhones, microwaves....they barely knew what the solar system was at this point! The lines between science, religion, and spirituality were much closer together, and many things were explained and understood through human imagination, instinct and fantasy. Maybe Beethoven was referring to Dante's 9 Spheres of Heaven in Paradiso from the Divine Comedy.
It's such a special experience for us playing this movement, and we invite you to be part of it with us. It is just as much, if not more, about listening to each other as it is speaking through our instruments, and when we get the balance of this in our playing, the feeling (and hopefully the result!) is incredible.
It's the power of imagination the drives the force of creativity and discovery - in science, technology, art, cooking, you name it! In a world that is increasingly prescribed, I feel it's becoming more and more important to give our minds and thought space and time to be delved into.
I hope the music we have chosen for you tonight feeds your imagination and your ears in the way it has ours.
String Quartet No. 1, "Kreutzer Sonata"
Janacek's 'Kreutzer Sonata' - what a piece!
Playing music as good as this is so much fun. We don't hear a literal musical retelling of the Tolstoy novel, more like a sonic representation of what happens emotionally and psychologically when jealousy and ardent love collide.
I find my own personal love of Janacek's music quite confusing. At 63 he met Kamila Stosslova, aged 25 and married, and over the following decade wrote her more than 1,000 letters expressing his (unrequited) love for her and fantasising about her being his wife and the mother of his child.
I'm not sure I'd get on with Janacek if we met today, (particularly in a post-Weinstein world!), but you cannot escape the fact that the unattainability of the relationship became a huge driving force behind his work. He writes in April 1927 that she will make his compositions "more passionate, more ravishing: you'll sit on every little note in them. I'll caress them; every little note will be your dark eye." "Oh Kamila," he continues, "it is hard to calm myself. But the fire that you've set alight in me is necessary. Let it burn, let it flame, the desire of having you, of having you".
I think musicians often make the mistake of revering the great composers to the point where we forget their humanity and their fallibility - this piece is not a romantic love story.
It is both written by and written about a man with an unhealthy fantasy. Tonight, we explore that damage that such a fantasy can cause.
String Quartet No. 2, “Quasi Una Fantasia”, Op. 16
I wasn't familiar with Gorecki’s second quartet until MC asked me to play it.
It's a very different experience preparing a piece such as this for performance compared to the other works in the programme. You glance at the score and it looks like nothing. No element in it is particularly difficult or complicated. Instead this piece relies on the intensity of the playing and the large arc of the composition. It's incredibly demanding to play—I'm quite worried about surviving! But I'm also excited to experience the music live with my colleagues and the audience.
The extremes of the piece may speak to our deep inner emotions and lead us to connect with the essence of our experience of life. Or you might find it boring!