Bandstand Chamber Festival and St John's Waterloo present:
CAVATINA Chamber Music Trust (sponsors of Community Tickets scheme)
The Neville Abraham Foundation
The Carne Trust (sponsors of the Solem Quartet’s performance on 11 December)
Dasha Shenkman OBE
Peter Bull (sponsor of Mozart Clarinet Quintet, performed by the Maxwell Quartet & Anthony Friend)
With thanks to
Maggini Quartet Charitable Fund
Thomas and Megan Tress
St John’s Waterloo
Please follow social distancing protocol and wear a mask at all times.
There are no public toilets available at St John’s Waterloo. The nearest toilets are in Waterloo Station. Please do not film the concerts.
Spotlight Chamber Concerts
From 7 - 19 December, Spotlight Chamber Concerts brings some of the world’s finest classical musicians to the safely socially-distanced interior of one of London’s landmark churches, St John’s Waterloo. With dramatic lighting centred only on the performers, the audience is invited to focus solely on the immersive experience of live music in this series of concerts and recitals set to lighten up the winter months ahead. Tickets are strictly limited, so subscribe below to be the first in line.
This series was founded by Anthony Friend in 2020, and is an initiative of the Maggini Quartet Charitable Fund.
7 December 2020
Roderick Williams & Susie Allan
with Momentum artists Kathryn Rudge, mezzo soprano and Edward Hawkins, bass
11 December 2020
13 December 2020
Maxwell Quartet & Anthony Friend
18 December 2020
19 December 2020
Saturday 19 December 2020
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Sonata in B-flat, Op. 106, 'Hammerklavier'
2. Scherzo: Assai vivace
3. Adagio sostenuto
4. Introduzione: Largo... Allegro – Fuga: Allegro risoluto
Sonata in C minor, Op. 111
1. Maestoso – Allegro con brio ed appassionato
2. Arietta: Adagio molto semplice e cantabile
Beethoven was one of music's great musical outsiders. Thrown into isolation at the height of his career by his deafness, his late works (including the two piano sonatas presented this evening) were composed in a silent world.
During Beethoven’s ‘middle period’ (1802-1812) the inner turmoil resulting from his worsening deafness was borne out in pieces evoking heroic struggles. But his hearing declined still further; his general health deteriorated; his brother died of tuberculosis in 1815; a destructive legal battle to gain custody of his nephew would last until 1820. His productivity dwindled, his appearance became increasingly disheveled, and he was cut off from the world around him. In 1815 he composed two cello sonatas (Op. 102), and in 1820 his Piano Sonata in E, Op. 109; in the intervening years he managed only a song cycle, An die ferne Geliebte (1816), his Piano Sonata in A, Op. 101 (1816) and Piano Sonata in B-flat, Op. 106, ‘Hammerklavier’ (1818).
Reduced productivity corresponded with a shift towards music both more concentrated in its detail and more grandiose in its scale. His musical architecture, structured by progressions from key to key, began to confound listeners’ expectations. His musical phrases became less regular, and less reliant on Classical rhetoric. He also became obsessively interested in the counterpoint of Baroque composers Handel and Bach, infusing his music with their intellectual rigour as well as the urgency of their perpetually running musical motor.
The Sonata in B-flat, Op. 106 was composed between 1816 and 1818, when nationalist sentiment led Beethoven to use the German word for ‘piano’, Hammerklavier, rather than the Italian pianoforte. All his piano sonatas from Op. 101 to the last, Op. 111, were supposed to be published as such, but only Op. 106 was, and the nickname has stuck. It is widely regarded as the most technically challenging piano work he composed, and is the longest of his piano sonatas: a monumental first movement, a brief scherzo, a hugely expansive Adagio, and a fugue of epic proportions for the finale. When published in London, the fugue was omitted and published separately, seen as too technically and musically challenging for a British public. The remaining three movements were reordered to finish with the scherzo.
A more emphatic start to a sonata would be hard to imagine: the pianist leaps from the gravelly bass of the piano to huge chords in the brilliant top register, as though scaling a mountain in an instant. This ‘leaping’ figure permeates the whole movement, its upwards momentum driving the music forward. Pianistic techniques familiar from Haydn, Mozart and early Beethoven are taken to otherworldly extremes. Broken octaves are thunderous and forceful beyond anything previously heard. Trills that were usually stylish and decorative in Classical music now have a surreal, suspended quality, and at the end of the movement descend into a low rumble that shakes the foundations of the home key of B-flat major.
The scherzo’s light and humorous main theme is built upon the first movement’s leaping figure, but soon gives way to a sparse melody built on fifths and octaves; it paints a bleak picture over a wash of triplets, before a moment of explosive violence.
The Adagio sostenuto that follows is a profound outpouring of personal feeling. Unusually for a composer who specialised in building grand structures from the smallest musical units, this music sounds spontaneous and fantastical, the uninterrupted melodic line spun out for some twenty minutes. It is somehow both improvisatory and yet bound by an overriding coherence.
The spell cast by the Adagio is shaken off slowly in the finale’s introduction. Tentative recollections of the first movement’s ‘leaping’ motif are punctuated by occasional outbursts of Bachian counterpoint, or a stampede of ferocious chords. The fugue then emerges from a build up of trills. In a fugue, a melodic idea – a ‘subject’ – is passed between a succession of other musical lines; the composer then keeps these lines going in counterpoint, as though they were spinning plates. Doing so requires that the lines remain independent, but amount to a pleasing whole when sounding simultaneously, and is a fiendish test of musical logic. Beethoven combines this intellectual exercise with a wild, extreme energy in a thrilling conclusion to the sonata.
The key of C minor had a particularly turbulent character in Beethoven’s music: the Fifth Symphony, Third Piano Concerto and Seventh Violin Sonata, for example, all have a heroic, passionate quality. In the opening of Op. 111 (1821-22), there are clear echoes of his ‘Pathétique’ Sonata in C minor, Op. 13. Thick middle-register chords in the right hand, powerful octave writing in the left hand, diminished-seventh harmonies and a double-dotted rhythm give the opening theme a dark sense of gravity and intent. But there is a questioning and a lack of self-assuredness in the harsh sonorities’ whispered resolutions; the dotted rhythms meander into quiet uncertainty. After some hesitation, we move into the faster second section of the first movement, the Allegro con brio ed appassionato (‘Fast, with energy and passion’). Urgent, dramatic runs of semiquavers and fugue-like imitations are followed by decelerations and second thoughts. Such localized contrasts create a complexity and depth of meaning that strains at the limits of a Classical sonata’s expressive capabilities. The second theme’s descending contour slows to an adagio, before a surge of energy propels us onwards. Right at the very end of the movement, we arrive unexpectedly in the tonic major, which feels a long way from the triumphant major-key arrivals found in earlier C minor works by Beethoven.
The movement finally comes to rest in a pianissimo C major — and that, in effect, is where the music remains through most of the Arietta. Here there is little conflict: tension is exchanged for sublimity. The simplest of themes is subjected to ever more complex subdivisions of metre, until by the third variation the calm of the original is transformed into euphoric abandonment (with an uncanny foreshadowing of 20th-century boogie-woogie). The fourth variation returns to a more static representation of the theme over a rapidly articulated bass pedal. The fifth variation, which follows an episode of trills, is the only real excursion away from C major in this movement, and uses the theme in its original form over a yet more richly textured accompaniment. In the sixth and final variation the theme moves into the uppermost register of the piano, intertwining itself around a continuous trill on the dominant, G, the whole becoming ever more meditative and ethereal: an expression of sublime spiritual serenity, achieved after conflict and suffering, that is unmatched in Beethoven’s entire oeuvre, and perhaps in any other.
Angela Hewitt occupies a unique position among today’s leading pianists. With a wide-ranging repertoire and frequent appearances in recital and with orchestras throughout Europe, the Americas and Asia, she is also an award-winning recording artist whose performances of Bach have established her as one of the composer’s foremost interpreters. In 2020 she received the City of Leipzig Medal: a huge honour that for the first time in its 17-year history will be awarded to a woman.
In September 2016, Angela began her “Bach Odyssey”, performing the complete keyboard works of Bach in a series of 12 recitals. The cycle was presented in London’s Wigmore Hall, New York’s 92nd Street Y, and in Ottawa, Tokyo and Florence. After her performances of the complete Well-Tempered Clavier at the 2019 Edinburgh Festival, the critic of the London Times wrote, “…the freshness of Hewitt’s playing made it sound as though no one had played this music before.”
Hewitt’s award-winning cycle for Hyperion Records of all the major keyboard works of Bach has been described as “one of the record glories of our age” (The Sunday Times). Her discography also includes albums of Couperin, Rameau, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Fauré, Debussy, Chabrier, Ravel, Messiaen and Granados. Her second disc of Scarlatti Sonatas (2017), the penultimate volume of Beethoven Sonatas (2019) and her second recording of Bach’s Six Partitas (2019), all hit the Billboard charts in the USA. An album of Beethoven Variations will be released in autumn 2020. In 2015 she was inducted into Gramophone Magazine’s “Hall of Fame” thanks to her popularity with music lovers around the world.
Conducting from the keyboard, Angela has worked with many of the world’s best chamber orchestras, including those of Salzburg, Zurich, Lucerne, Basel, Stuttgart, Sweden, and the Britten Sinfonia. One recent highlight was her debut in Vienna’s Musikverein, playing and conducting Bach Concertos with the Vienna Tonkünstler Orchestra.
Her frequent masterclasses are hugely appreciated. When all concert activity abruptly stopped in spring 2020 due to the pandemic, Angela went online to share daily offerings of short pieces—many of which form the basis of teaching material. Her fans were thrilled, and she was happy to inspire them and stay in touch.
Born into a musical family, Hewitt began her piano studies aged three, performing in public at four and a year later winning her first scholarship. She studied with Jean-Paul Sévilla at the University of Ottawa, and won the 1985 Toronto International Bach Piano Competition which launched her career. In 2018 Angela received the Governor General’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2015 she received the highest honour from her native country – becoming a Companion of the Order of Canada (which is given to only 165 living Canadians at any one time). In 2006 she was awarded an OBE from Queen Elizabeth II. She is a member of the Royal Society of Canada, has seven honorary doctorates, and is a Visiting Fellow of Peterhouse College in Cambridge. In 2020 it was announced that Angela would be awarded the Wigmore Medal in recognition of her services to music and relationship with the hall over 35 years.
Hewitt lives in London but also has homes in Ottawa and Umbria, Italy where fifteen years ago she founded the Trasimeno Music Festival – a week-long annual event which draws an audience from all over the world.
St John's Waterloo
St John’s, the church on the roundabout at Waterloo, was built in 1824 for Waterloo’s working people and rebuilt in 1951 as the church of the Festival of Britain: a beacon of hope and resilience. Today, more than ever, it is responding to the needs of London’s diverse communities as a church, a charity and a well-known music and arts venue, committed to being here for everyone.
St John’s Artistic Director Euchar Gravina said: “St John’s is a well-known music venue and runs the annual Waterloo Festival. In these challenging times, we’re finding new ways of bringing hope and new ways to serve through a year-round programme co-curated by artists and performers whose aim is to create stronger communities as well as creating art.”