Northern Chamber Orchestra Soloists with Benjamin Powell, piano Online, Sunday 25 April 2021 – Sunday 2 May 2021 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791) Clarinet Quintet in A major K. 581 I Allegro II Larghetto III Menuetto IV Allegretto con variazioni Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856) Piano Quintet in E flat major Op. 44 I Allegro brillante II In Modo d'una Marcia. Un poco largamente. III Scherzo. Molto vivace — Trio I — Trio II IV Allegro ma non troppo Mozart first heard the clarinet in London at the age of 8 when both he and the instrument were still musical novelties. As his skill and self-confidence as a composer matured, he used the clarinet increasingly in his orchestral works and operas, but he was reluctant about introducing it into his chamber music. The influence that eventually changed his mind was Anton Stadler, the first notable clarinet virtuoso in Vienna. Stadler helped Mozart realize the still untapped potential of the clarinet and inspired by Stadler, Mozart wrote four great works involving or featuring the instrument. What gives the quintet its unique place in chamber music is Mozart’s skill in balancing the distinctive tone color and technical resources of the clarinet with those of the strings. While the clarinet cannot help but be evident, it never protrudes or overshadows, instead alternating with the first violin in announcing themes and taking rests to give the other instruments their chance. The first movement, in sonata form, establishes a relationship between the clarinet and its partners. Note the harmonious roles played by the strings and the clarinet in the initial theme, the clarinet’s restatement of the elegant second theme against the tender syncopation of the strings, and the subtle elaboration of this passage in the recapitulation. The slow movement is a romance, with the clarinet singing a flowing aria-like melody. The minuet has two trios, the first in a minor key with the clarinet quiet, and the second a dialogue in the style of a ländler (an Austrian country dance) between the clarinet and the first violin. The finale's theme is a modified version of the motif that opened the first movement and features a satisfying variety of moods and textures. Listen for the third variation in which the viola takes the lead, the fourth where the clarinet takes a virtuoso turn, and the lively Allegro that brings the piece to its cheerful end. Schumann’s Piano Quintet – a string quartet plus a piano – was the first work of its kind and was made possible by the developing technical capabilities of that instrument. Mozart had written piano quartets (three strings plus piano), but the piano of his day could not produce the volume necessary to balance four stringed instruments. Schumann’s quintet, in contrast, was clearly intended as a new way to exploit the enriched resources of the piano – specifically the introduction of the sustaining pedal, which increased the sonority of the instrument. Today the quintet is generally regarded as the greatest of Schumann’s chamber-music works, and the peer of any for this instrumental combination. In a sense, it is really a piano concerto with a string quartet rather than an orchestral accompaniment. The piano carries one-half rather than one-fifth of the tonal body, and while it has no cadenza, its part is written out in a more brilliant virtuoso fashion than that of any of the strings. In many passages, the strings simply double one another in unison, octaves or simple chords. This blending of virtuoso piano writing with doubled strings, particularly when contrasted with characteristic Schumann moments of grace and charm, produces a degree of full-blooded excitement with few equals in the chamber- music repertoire. The contrast between robust exuberance and gentle lyricism is evident at the outset in the main theme of the first movement. The second theme, a wistful dialogue between the cello and viola, continues the lyricism. The development is based on the main theme only – the piano playing two long virtuoso passages against a simple string accompaniment. The second movement is a funeral march with two contrasting episodes. The first episode is repeated later in the movement and is in a major key to provide some relief, while the second episode is an agitated minor, with the theme derived from that of the march. Listen for the dramatic passage after the second episode when the agitation continues while the viola recalls the march theme. The third movement, a hearty scherzo, has two contrasting middle sections. The first is an inversion of the main theme of the first movement, while the second, with its flurries of semiquavers, is the work’s most demanding passage for the strings, particularly the cello. The fourth movement is unusual in its structure. At least three themes are stated and interlaced in several ways and keys, leading to an immense climax. This is followed by a breathtaking coda in which the pianist hammers out with the right hand the main theme of the first movement, while the left hand and the other instruments play against it as a fugue the first theme of the finale. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ The NCO soloists’ concert has been supported for many years by two of our patrons, Geoff and Jennie Holman. Last year they lost a good friend in Martin Losse, who was also a long-term supporter of the NCO, as his wife Angela continues to be. The NCO would like to join with Geoff and Jennie in dedicating this concert to Martin’s memory. Nicholas Ward, violin Nicholas Ward was born in Manchester in 1952, the son of parents who met when they became members of the Hallé Orchestra. In consequence, music was an important part of his life from a very early age. Nicholas started having violin lessons at the age of eight and when he was twelve he formed his own string quartet, which remained together for five years until he entered the Royal Northern College of Music. Having studied with Yossi Zivoni in Manchester and André Gertler in Brussels, he moved to London in 1977, where he joined the Melos Ensemble and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Between 1984 and 2010, Nicholas was a member and then latterly leader of the City of London Sinfonia. Nicholas has been Artistic Director of the NCO for over 30 years Simon Gilks, violin Simon Gilks started playing the violin at the age of three and quickly progressed through the Suzuki discipline of violin playing. At the age of eighteen Simon was awarded a place at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester studying under Professor Maciej Rakowski, and graduated in 2005 with a first class honours degree. During his studies Simon participated in masterclasses with Yair Kless, Shmuel Ashkenasi, Marat Bisengaliev and Jacqueline Ross and was a regular leader of the college orchestras. Since then, Simon has freelanced with a variety of orchestras including the Hallé, Royal Northern Sinfonia and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, as well as becoming principal second violin of the Northern Chamber Orchestra. Richard Muncey, viola As well as being the principal viola of the NCO, Richard holds the same position with Sinfonia Viva and The London Festival Orchestra. He has appeared as guest principal with many orchestras including The RLPO, The Halle, Manchester Camerata, The Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Bologna Opera. He was the violist with the Music Group of Manchester, which presented five seasons of concerts at the RNCM, toured abroad and made a well-received recording. Cara Berridge, cello Cara is a founder member of the Sacconi Quartet who have won prizes at many International competitions and have performed at all the major London venues and throughout the rest of the UK and Europe. In addition to playing with the Sacconi Quartet, Cara enjoys playing with various chamber orchestras, Ensemble Perpetuo and recording music for films and TV programmes. Cara graduated from the Royal College of Music in 2002 with First Class Honours and continued her studies as the Amaryllis Fleming Scholar, receiving her Postgraduate Diploma and Advanced Diploma with Distinction in 2003 and 2004. Cara plays a Nicolaus Gagliano cello from 1781, generously on loan to her from the Royal Society of Musicians, a charity which helps musicians in need. Elizabeth Jordan, clarinet Elizabeth Jordan studied as a Junior at the Royal College of Music and then at the Royal Northern College of Music, assisted by a Countess of Munster scholarship. Alongside playing principal clarinet with the NCO she has pursued a busy freelance career involving solo performances, chamber music and orchestral playing including guest principal with the Hallé, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and BBC Philharmonic orchestras as well as opera and ballet work. Away from music, she has travelled extensively in the Himalayas and enjoys exploring our coastal regions by sea kayak. Benjamin Powell, piano Since winning the British Contemporary Piano Competition in 2010 Benjamin Powell has gained a reputation for intelligent and expressive performances with a strong commitment to contemporary music. He has performed across the UK and Europe as a soloist, chamber musician, and song accompanist and in 2014 he was appointed pianist for Manchester’s leading contemporary music group, Psappha. Since 2007 Benjamin has been a staff pianist at the RNCM where he now also teaches piano. His students have gone on to win prizes in major competitions, including BBC Young Musician of the Year, James Mottram International Competiton, Manchester International Piano Concerto Competition and the British Contemporary Piano Competition. Benjamin was born and raised in West Sussex and currently lives in Glossop with his wife and three children.