About the Repertoire - 2020 Concert Season
Now in its sixth year, Soirées Musicales Quintette is once again presenting a series of uniquely interesting concerts of vocal chamber music during 2020. We return to our favourite venues of St Mary’s Church Kangaroo Point and Old Government House to perform elegant music for voices and instruments. The ambience and acoustics of these fine heritage buildings from Queensland’s colonial period provide the perfect setting for music that was also created during the nineteenth century.
Sunday 29 March 2020 - ‘Soirées Musicales and more’ at St Mary’s Kangaroo Point
Our ensemble’s name is inspired by the title chosen by various composers for music intended for performance in nineteenth-century salon concerts. The most notable ‘Soirées musicales’ collection is that by Rossini, composed in Paris during the 1830s after his retirement from the world of opera. Imbued with the vitality and lyricism of his Italian musical background, these ariettas and duets are gems of vocal chamber music. While some individual items are well known, this is quite possibly the first local performance of the complete set within a single program.
We open the program with two vocal quartets by Danzi, the German composer of Italian heritage whose circle of acquaintances included Mozart and Weber. Composed towards the end of a busy career that included several court opera orchestras, these charming works were published in Bonn in 1821. Around that time the emerging poet Heinrich Heine was attending university there. Various Rhineland images figure strongly in the poems that Schumann would set in 1840 as his Dichterliebe song cycle, which forms the centre of this program of gems of early romanticism.
Two quartets for voices and piano (1821) – Franz Ignaz Danzi (1763-1826)
Del sen gl’adori (I do not boast of love)
Se un core annodi (If a heart binds)
Dichterliebe (Poet’s love) Op.48 (1840) – Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Song cycle for baritone and piano on text by Heinrich Heine
Soirées Musicales (1835) –Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)
The complete collection of eight ariettas and four duets for voices and piano
Sunday 02 August 2020 - ‘With strings attached’ at St Mary’s Kangaroo Point
This program continues our ensemble’s exploration of vocal chamber music, by focussing on repertoire that includes both strings and piano. These rarely heard works are full of ravishing textures and atmospheric touches that bring poignancy to some examples of great poetry from England and France. Vaughan Williams’ embodiment of the English rural culture and landscape is nowhere more evident than in his ‘On Wenlock Edge’ which was composed after his studies with Ravel in 1908. The newly honed clarity that emerged in this work was already evident in composers such as Chausson from around the turn of the century, and the French school of the fin de siècle also inspired composers across the Atlantic.
Amy Beach was the first major American composer whose training did not include a European sojourn, but her works show that she was fully conversant with contemporary idioms. Her songs show deep insights and imagination in her combination of strings with piano and voice, including several settings of French poetry. Similarly, Samuel Barber was fully a product of his homeland, but likewise he was cosmopolitan in outlook. When Vaughan Williams heard ‘Dover Beach’ in 1932 before its public première the following year, he generously pronounced that the younger composer had ‘really got it’ in his youthful but mature setting of the early Victorian poem. This program is framed by two vocal ensemble works by Georges Hüe, a contemporary of Chausson and Ravel, and ‘Under the willow tree’ from Barber’s opera ‘Vanessa’.
On Wenlock Edge (1909) – Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
Song cycle for tenor, string quartet and piano on texts from Housman’s ‘A Shropshire lad’
Chanson perpétuelle (1898) Op.37 - Ernest Chausson (1855-1899)
Mélodie for soprano, string quartet and piano on a text by Charles Cros
Chanson ecossaise (1909) – Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Setting of a Scottish folksong for voice and piano
Dover Beach (1931) Op.3 – Samuel Barber (1910-1981)
Setting of Matthew Arnold’s poem for baritone and string quartet
Under the willow tree from the opera Vanessa – Barber
Arranged by the composer for vocal ensemble and piano
Bracket of songs including Chanson d’amour (1899) Op.21 No.1 – Amy Beach (1867-1944)
L’Éternelle serenade (1906) – Georges Hüe (1858-1948)
For vocal quartet and piano
With string quartet including Margaret Connolly, violin and Daniel Curro, cello
Friday 11 December 2020 – ‘A Christmas Songbook’ at Old Government House
Several years ago our ‘A Christmas Songbook’ was enthusiastically received by audiences who appreciated the fact this was not another typical concert of familiar carols. Based on the unanimously favourable feedback at the time, we will present this program once again, as our final performance for 2020. The intimate yet grand atmosphere of Old Government House is a perfect setting for this anthology of seasonal music, much of which was inspired by the warmth created by a household celebrating Christmas around the hearth. The verbal introductions which link the various songs, duets, choruses and piano pieces provide a narrative that highlights how the festival was celebrated in diverse cultures of Germany, Scandinavia, France, England and America.
Countless composers have delighted in the music of Christmas, sometimes producing larger works, and just as often, simpler settings for domestic performance. One particularly interesting example is Liszt’s Christmas Tree Suite for solo piano, movements from which feature as an interlude between the various vocal brackets. Well-known classics by Cornelius, Reger, Fauré and Adam’s ‘O holy night’, as well as artsongs by several of the German romantics, feature alongside less familiar works by Rossini, Gounod and Debussy. A musical journey through the Christmas season, but with a difference!
Christmas artsongs and folksong settings by Schumann, Brahms, Strauss, Gade, Grieg, Sibelius, Fauré, Debussy, Gounod, Stainer and Britten
Reger – ‘Mary’s lullaby’
Adam – ‘O holy night’
Cornelius – ‘The three kings’
Rossini – ‘Christmas eve’ pastorale
Ives – ‘Little star of Bethlehem’
Liszt – excerpts from ‘The Christmas Tree Suite’ for solo piano