20TH CENTURY STRING MUSIC
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Bela Bartok (1881 - 1945)
Divertimento, Sz 113
Benjamin Britten (1913 - 1976)
Simple Symphony, Op. 4
William Walton (1902 - 1983)
Two Pieces for Strings from the film music for Henry V
Igor Stravinsky (1882 - 1971)
Concerto in D Major
The Hungarian composer Bela Bartok was born in 1881. His father, director ofan agricultural college, was a keen amateur musician, while it was from hismother that he received his early piano lessons. The death of his father in 1889led to a less settled existence, as his mother resumed work as a teacher,eventually settling in the Slovak capital of Bratislava (the Hungarian Pozsony),where Bartok passed his early adolescence, counting among his school- fellowsthe composer Erno Dohnanyi. Offered the chance of musical training in Vienna,like Dohnanyi he chose instead Budapest, where he won a considerable reputationas a pianist, being appointed to the teaching staff of the Academy of Music in1907. At the same time he developed a deep interest, shared with his compatriotZoltan Kodaly, in the folk-music of his own and adjacent countries, laterextended as far as Anatolia, where he collaborated in research with the Turkishcomposer Adnan Sayg??n. He acquired a considerable reputation abroad,particularly among those with an interest in contemporary music, althoughacceptance at home proved more grudging. Dissatisfaction at the growingassociation between the Hungarian government of Admiral Horthy and NationalSocialist Germany, led him in 1940 to emigrate to the United States of America,where he died in 1945, after a briefly held series of teaching appointments anda small but important number of major compositions.
Bartok's Divertimento for string orchestra was written in 1939 inresponse to a commission from Paul Sacher, founder and conductor of the BasleChamber Orchestra (Basler Kammerorchester). Bartok had first met Sacher in1929, and had already written for him the Music for Strings. Percussion andCelesta and his Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. The Divertimentohas something of classical structure about it, with a sonata-allegro firstmovement, a four section slow movement, with the first section finallyrecurring, and a final movement that is, formally, a rondo. Texturally Bartokmakes use of the Baroque concert grosso. The first movement opens with a firstsubject stated by the first violins over the repeated chords of the rest of theorchestra. A secondary element alternates between solo instruments and the wholeorchestra, before the second subject proper, introduced by loud syncopatedoctaves, and a development that includes canonic writing. Muted lower stringsprovide the accompanying figuration at the start of the Adagio, with asecond violin theme, the opening figure of which assumes importance. The violasprovide a strong opening to the second section, with a third section over anostinato accompaniment in fourths and fifths. The last movement opens with astatement of the principal subject, continuing to contrast the solo stringquartet with the whole orchestra. There is a central fugato section and aquasi-improvisatory violin cadenza, before a reworking of the earlier material,now diverted into other musical channels.
Benjamin Britten's Simple Symphony is testimony to his precociousability as a child. The work itself was written in 1934, when the composer wastwenty, but makes use of thematic material written before he was twelve. Themovement titles hint at an element of satire, in what has proved an attractivework, available to competent amateurs as to professional string orchestras. Bornin Lowestoft in 1913, Britten went through the customary English education ofprivate and public school, before continuing his professional musical raining,already begun privately with Frank Bridge, at the rather less satisfactory RoyalCollege of Music. His marked ability, facility as a composer, and musicallanguage that had an international as much as a national appeal, arousedjealousy, as his career developed, not least with his opera Peter Grimes in1945, a work that soon, unlike anything else by his compatriots, enteredinternational operatic repertoire. The Simple Symphony demonstrates awinning command of melody and a deft handling of material and string textures,making the work one of the most attractive of the string orchestra repertoire.
Each movement has a descriptive title that aptly captures its mood.
The English composer William Walton, born in Oldham in 1902 and a choristerand later student at Christ Church, Oxford, owed much of his earlier success tohis friends and patrons the Sitwells, with whom he collaborated on Fa?ºade. Duringthe course of his life he wrote a considerable quantity of film music, of whichthe music for Laurence Olivier's 1944 film of Shakespeare's Henry V remainsthe best known. The film included a scene not in Shakespeare's play Henry V, althoughgraphically described by Mistress Quickly. The death of the old drunkardFalstaff, once a boon companion of the young prince, provided Walton with theopportunity for a moving Passacaglia, a Short piece that unwinds over arepealed bass figure. Equally moving is the gentle "Touch her soft lips andpart", which was written for the parting of Falstaff's companion Pistol andhis landlady Mistress Quickly.
The Son of a distinguished Russian singer, Igor Stravinsky spent hischildhood and adolescence either in St. Petersburg or, during the summer, at thecountry estates of his relatives. He studied music briefly with Rimsky-Korsakov, but first made a name for himself in Paris with commissions for theRussian ballet impresario Dyagilev. He spent the years after the RussianRevolution of 1917 in Western Europe and in 1939 moved to the United States ofAmerica, settling finally in Hollywood. He wrote his Concerto in D inresponse to a commission from Paul Sacher to celebrate the twentieth anniversaryof the foundation of his Basle Chamber Orchestra in 1946. The work was firstperformed by the orchestra in Basle on 27th January 1947. In three movements,the concerto opens with a bold introduction and a movement broadly in tripartitesonata-form, leading to a slow movement Arioso in a lyrical spirit laterto become familiar in Stravinsky's opera The Rake's Progress. The final Rondofollows without a pause, continuing, as its title proclaims, in that highlycharacteristic form of neo-classicism that Stravinsky had made his own, at onceidentifiable by its melodic contours, harmonies, rhythmic figuration andstructure.
Since its foundation in 1968, the Bournemouth Sinfonietta has establisheditself as one of the most versatile chamber orchestras working in Europe today.
With a busy touring schedule of concerts across the South and West of England,elsewhere in the United Kingdom and abroad, a pioneering education and communityprogramme and a commitment to music by living composers, the range of theorchestra's work is unparalleled. Since 1989, the Principal conductor has beenthe distinguished Hungarian-born pianist and conductor Tamas Vasary, who assumedthe additional position of Artistic Director in 1992.
Richard Studt, Director and Associate Conductor of the BournemouthSinfonietta, a pupil of Manoug Parikian and winner of various prizes as astudent at the London Royal Academy of Music, was for some ten years a violinistand soloist with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. He was subsequentlyconcert-master of the London Symp