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
Dasha Shenkman OBE
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
Spotlight Chamber Concerts and the Waterloo Festival bring 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 and seating in the round, the audience is invited to focus solely on the immersive experience of live music in this series of late-evening concerts and recitals.
This series was founded by Anthony Friend in 2020, and is an initiative of the Maggini Quartet Charitable Fund.
27 May 2021 (originally 19 December 2021)
4 June 2021
Solem Quartet & Friends
8 June 2021
Doric String Quartet
11 June 2021
Pavel Kolesnikov & Samson Tsoy
17 June 2021
23 June 2021
Anthony Marwood, Hélène Clément & Tim Posner
24 June 2021
Thursday 27 May 2021
François Couperin (1668-1733)
Ordre dix-huitième de clavecin (1722)
Le Tic-Toc-Choc ou Les Maillotins
Johannes Brahms (1833-97)
Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 5
Scherzo: Allegro energico
Intermezzo: Andante molto
Finale: Allegro moderato ma rubato - Presto
In order to make the distinction between the many renowned musicians of the Couperin family, including another ‘François’, the great French Baroque composer François Couperin became known as Couperin le Grand. This great French dynasty can be traced back to 1366, with the rural trader, lawyer and amateur musician Mathurin Couperin spawning a succession of instrumentalists who taught their children, passing on their skills to the point where Louis Couperin (1626-1661) became organist at the Church of Saint-Gervaise, Paris. This post stayed in the family until 1826, a period of 173 years; following Louis’ death at 35, Charles Couperin inherited the role before passing it onto his son, 'Fançois le Grand’, at the age of 11. François took up the post aged 18 after a seven-year custodianship by Michel Richard Delalande, during which time he was immersed in the instruction of the court organist, who effectively adopted him.
François Couperin le Grand (henceforth, ‘Couperin’) therefore grew up in the heart of Louis XIV Paris, famed for its mannered habits of dress, language and movement. Paradoxically, the aim was to appear ‘natural’, which meant re-learning how to walk, talk and gesture in the most refined, courteous way possible. One expression of this context is the way Couperin decorates the independent lines of his contrapuntal texture with ornaments, marked with a precise system of symbols that were explained in his keyboard treatises. These ornaments are an intrinsic part of the music, not simply florid artifice; the character of the pieces would be all but lost without them.
All of the courtly mannerisms of Louis XIV France came together particularly clearly in the codification of French dance at the time, each becoming more crystalline in its rhythmic and stylistic markers and finding its expression, naturally, in music. The instrumental suites by European Baroque composers, with their gigues and courantes, are full of French dances, even using the French spelling for the Spanish Sarabande. Couperin makes extensive use of dance forms and rhythms, grouping pieces together into suites in much the same way as, for example, Bach does.
Whilst dances and musical gesture are at the core of many of Couperin’s 234 pieces for harpsichord, so too is characteristic imagery: many of the titles, including those heard in this programme, paint a picture of a scene, person or situation. This habit was picked up again in the nineteenth century and beyond (think of Schumann’s Carnaval, Op. 9, with titles such as Papillons or Arlequin). Many of the references used by Couperin in his titles are too remote for us to fully comprehend today, possibly intended as in-jokes or caricatures, or named after individuals about whom we know little or nothing.
Finally, we must note that much of Couperin’s inspiration came not just from his immediate environment, but that, like most other great Baroque composers, Couperin’s musical outlook was fundamentally cosmopolitan. In particular, he looked to Italians such as Corelli to create what he described as a réunion des goûts (‘a meeting of tastes’) between French and Italian styles.
In 1713 Couperin received the royal ascent to publish, a privilege lasting 20 years. He published four books of harpsichord pieces, between 1713 and 1730, each containing numerous numerous Ordres de clavecin – suites containing around six short pieces. Though each of the individual pieces making up the individual Ordres is often no more than a two or three minutes long, performing any one of his four books would take between two and three hours; it is a vast output of music.
The Ordre dix-huitième de clavecin was published in 1722 as part of the Troisième Livre, and comprises six pieces, three each in F major and F minor. La Verneüille is a grand allemande in F minor depicting the Duke of Bourbon, named Verneuil; the second piece, we presume, refers to his daughter. The third piece, Sœur Monique is a rondeau-pastoral in F major, perhaps intended to honour a nun named Monique, though sœur functioned as a contemporary euphemism for a prostitute. Le Turbulent is a vigorous dance in double time, with a second section in triple time. L’Attendrissante (‘The Touching One’) is a sorrowful piece that is written for the lower half of he keyboard, returning to the serious mood of the opening movement. The tightrope dances of the famous, circus-trained Maillot family are portrayed in Le Tic-toc-choc, a piece of keyboard wizardry that requires two harpsichord ‘manuals’ (keyboards) to achieve its repeated-note effects; on the piano, this becomes a stunningly virtuosic feat. Le Gaillard-Boiteux (‘the fellow who limps’) closes the suite with a swinging, jolly rhythm in the ‘Burlesque style’.
After Beethoven, and in rivalry with his older contemporary Richard Wagner (1813-1883), Brahms was one of the towering figures in nineteenth-century German music. In his large-scale works, such as his four symphonies, and in his chamber music, such as his violin sonatas and string quartets, he updated the Classical forms of Beethoven and Schubert for the Romantic era. In his piano miniatures, he succeeded Schumann and Schubert, and in his choral works he looked back to the Renaissance and Baroque polyphonists. In sum, he combined three centuries of Western classical music with folk and dance styles, and recast them in the language of the art music of the second half of the 19th century.
Brahms was the son of a double bass player in the Hamburg State Theatre, who taught him violin, alongside his piano and composition lessons. From the age of 13, he earned money playing the piano at theatres, for dances, and, on occasion, in unsavoury taverns filled with prostitutes. In 1848, he made his public debut as a pianist in more salubrious circumstances in Hamburg; but he had a lifelong appreciation for gypsy music, allusions to which abound in his compositions, not least in his Hungarian Dances, WoO1. In 1853, Brahms met the great violinist Joseph Joachim while in Hanover accompanying the Hungarian violin virtuoso Reményi on a concert tour. Joachim, who would later give the première of Brahms’s Violin Concerto, Op. 77, was impressed by Brahms’s compositions and wrote letters of introduction to Liszt and Schumann on his behalf. Schumann then launched Brahms’s career with an article in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik entitled Neue Bahnen (‘New Paths’), hailing him as a genius. Brahms became extremely close to both Robert Schumann and his wife Clara, for whom he nurtured an unrequited love and provided support after Robert Schumann’s early death. Thereafter, Brahms enjoyed a highly successful career in his own lifetime, as both a composer and pianist.
It was also in 1853 that Brahms composed his Sonata in F minor, published the following year as his Opus 5, and presented to Schumann as part of the body of work that prompted him to sing Brahms’ praises in print. It is a gargantuan work, seeming to anticipate his efforts to compose a first symphony that would eventually take him nearly 20 years to complete. Instead of the usual three or four movements, Brahms gives us five, with a short Intermezzo appearing between the Scherzo and the Finale, full of Beethovenian, funeral march-like repeated-note figures. This recalls the stormy, grandiose quality of the opening Allegro maestoso; a substantial first movement that contrasts moments of the most delicate lyricism with heroic gestures in which the pianist flings themselves at the upper and lower extremes of the keyboard. The second movement, Andante espressivo, allows Brahms’ melodic gifts to shine in a song-like melody-and-accompaniment texture. It was possibly conceived as a setting of a text that appeared in the score, by C. O. Sternau, from the poem Junge Liebe (‘young love’):
Twilight falls, the moonlight shines,
Two hearts are united in love,
and keep themselves in bliss enclosed.
The Scherzo is sometimes an elegant waltz, and sometimes almost comically, furiously aggressive in its bombastic octave-laden piano writing and lurching chords. An ominous repeated-note figure, possibly echoing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, appears in the middle of the movement, interrupting the flowing Trio, and then again in the subsequent Intermezzo movement. The Finale begins almost as if it were a Scherzo, full of buoyant staccato rhythms, surprising flourishes and pregnant silences, but it builds to a climax so virtuosic that it might make Liszt blush – a powerful statement of intent for a composer barely 20 years old.
Angela Hewitt, piano
Angela Hewitt occupies a unique position among today’s leading pianists. With a wide-ranging repertoire and frequent appearances in recital and with major 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 September of 2016, Hewitt began her “Bach Odyssey”, performing the complete keyboard works of Bach in a series of 12 recitals. The whole cycle being 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.”
Her appearances in 2019/20 include sold-out recitals in Vancouver, Amsterdam, Beverley Hills, Atlanta, Dortmund, Leipzig and Malta. She has appeared as soloist with the Montreal Symphony (also performing Schubert’s Winterreise with Ian Bostridge), Aurora (London) and conduct Bach concertos from the piano with the Orchestra Leonore in Italy.
Recent highlights include her debut at Vienna’s Musikverein (playing and conducting Bach concertos with the Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich), the Cartagena Festival in Colombia, a residency at Harvard University, and Beethoven with the Xi’an Symphony in China.
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 and her penultimate volume of Beethoven Sonatas (including the “Waldstein”) were released in October 2017 and May 2019 respectively, both hitting the Billboard charts in the USA. In December 2019 a new recording of Bach’s Six Partitas will be released. In 2015 she was inducted into Gramophone Magazine’s “Hall of Fame” thanks to her popularity with music lovers around the world.
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.
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.”