Five Composers: The Lowdown
In a first for Royal Northern Sinfonia, our concert on 14 May has been put together by the musicians themselves, which has led not only to us playing an unusually eclectic programme, but also one that contains a few names which might be new to you (and indeed, us), alongside some more famous faces.
So, here’s a few potted facts about some the composers and music featured:
Composer: Daniel Kidane
Piece: Towards Resolution
Dates Born 1986
Serious Low-down: Daniel is Russian/Eritrean/British. He grew up in the UK, playing the recorder at school (see – it can lead to great things!), singing in the children’s chorus at English National Opera and later going on to study both at the St. Petersburg Conservatoire in Russia and, closer to home, the Royal Northern College of Music. His music has gone on to be performed at the BBC proms and by orchestras including Chineke! and the London Symphony Orchestra.
Sounds like: We’re finding words like ‘Taut’, ‘vibrant’ and ‘beguiling.
Fun Fact: He has written pieces influenced by both Jungle and Garage music.
About this piece: It’s inspired by the music of Henry Purcell, and Daniel says of it ‘I set out to generate a stasis in my piece – creating a feeling of timelessness and gradually building towards a resolution that clarifies all that came before.’
Composer: Germaine Tailleferre
Piece: Sonata for Solo Clarinet, Mvts 1 & 2
Dates Born 1892, Died 1983
Serious Low-down: Having learnt the piano at home, Germaine went on to study at the Paris Conservatoire where she met such luminaries as Poulenc and Honneger. With these new friends she became part of Paris’ artistic crowd at the time and became a member of ‘Le Six’; a famed group of composers of which she was the only female member. Germaine escaped to the USA during WWII, having fled France via Spain and Portugal, but returned afterwards. She composed extensively for radio, film and TV and remained actively composing right up until her death aged 91.
Sounds like: Her music is widely described as ‘neo-classical’ – i.e., it took inspiration from music of the classical period (Mozart, Haydn etc). Hallmarks of that period were order, balance, clarity, economy, and emotional restraint, so neo-classicism was very much a reaction against the unrestrained emotionalism of the romantic era which preceded it.
Fun Fact: Her surname was originally ‘Taillefesse’ but she changed it Tailleferre to spite her father who had refused to support her musical studies.
About this piece: In all honesty we can’t find out much about this piece! It’s fair to characterise it as a somewhat enigmatic work musically though – questioning, yearning, and lyrical.
Our clarinetist, Jess, said this:
Although not a style that came naturally to the composer, the Sonata is written using the 12-tone technique. Where this can often create music that is pretty challenging to the ear, Tailleferre has written a piece full of melody and shape. What a change it is for me to play an unaccompanied piece as opposed to sitting amongst my colleagues in RNS! While it is freeing to play completely on your own it is also challenging to be the sole musician responsible for the tone, shape, dynamics, and overall delivery of the piece.
Composer: Dobrinka Tabakova
Piece: Organum Light
Dates Born 1980
Serious Low-down: Dobrinka is British-Hungarian and studied at the Royal Academy of Music and Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. Her music has been commissioned by Britten Sinfonia, BBC Radio 3, and the Royal Philharmonic Society. Her music has been released by ECM records with one album reaching No.2 in the classical charts.
Sounds like: ‘glowing tonal harmonies and grand, sweeping gestures [which] convey a huge emotional depth’ (The Strad)
Fun Fact: Her music was performed at St. Paul’s Cathedral to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
About this piece: a piece based on medieval chant, recently described as being ‘transcendentally beautiful’.
Composer: Franz Joseph Haydn
Piece: Sinfonia Concertante
Dates Born 1732, Died 1809
Serious Low-down: A friend of Mozart and a tutor of Beethoven, Joseph Haydn in his day was one of Europe’s most celebrated composers. Born in rural Austria, music played a big part in his childhood, with his father being a folk musician. His parents recognised his gift and aged just six he was sent away to study in the town of Hainburg, never to return home again. The rest, as they say, is history, with his roll call of 106 symphonies leading to him being nicknamed ‘The Father of the Symphony’.
Sounds like: The extreme familiarity of his music makes it hard to listen to objectively now – but key characteristics would be lightness, energy, zest, freshness and often humour – Haydn definitely liked to keep his audience on their toes.
Fun Fact: Haydn twice travelled to London, a huge undertaking in the 1700’s, where he was received as a huge celebrity.
About this piece: Speaking of London, this piece was composed there! A sinfonia concertante is basically a concerto but with several instruments in the solo role, in this case violin, cello, oboe and bassoon. All the solo parts are pretty demanding, but no one instrument hogs the limelight – the spirit is of sharing, not of showing off. A hit from the off, after the premiere one critic described it as ‘profound, airy, affecting, and original’.
Extra Fun Fact: The piece was written in a hurry and Haydn complained of eyestrain while writing it, so Zoom fatigue is perhaps nothing new.
So, if you’ve been paying attention you’ll have noticed that we’ve only talked about four of the five composers on the programme. If you want to learn more about Astor Piazzolla, the fifth composer whose Four Seasons of Buenos Aires will be split across the programme, take a read of our article here.
Join Royal Northern Sinfonia for Spotlight on RNS: Five Composers, Four Seasons on Friday 14 May, 7.30pm. Find out more here.