Verbrugghen Ensemble

Friday, 19 August 2016 at 8pm

Andrew Barnes (bassoon), Bridget O'Donnell (violin), Francesco Celata (clarinet), Andrew Haveron (violin), Alex Henery (double bass), David Thompson (horn), Roger Benedict (viola), Umberto Clerici (‘cello)

"From languid serenity to passionate intensity, this performance was arresting.... With thanks to the intensity, focus and commitment of the musicians it was a most rewarding debut concert." ClassikON 26 April 2016

Programme

Mozart           Quintet in A for clarinet and strings, K 581

Schubert        Octet in F, op 166, D 803

About the Artists

The newly formed Verbrugghen Ensemble commenced in 2016 as ensemble in residence at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music to celebrate the Conservatorium's new centenary of music making and research.

Directed by renowned conductor John Lynch, the Verbrugghen Ensemble is made up of internationally acclaimed soloists and orchestral musicians, most of whom are faculty members of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

Fiercely committed to passionate performance of the masterpieces of the chamber music literature, alongside cutting edge new works from Australia and beyond, the Verbrugghen Ensemble strives to connect with audiences in new and meaningful ways. Read more.

Programme Notes

MOZART    Quintet in A for clarinet and strings, K 581

Allegro / Larghetto / Menuetto / Allegretto con variazioni

Mozart's clarinet quintet was composed in 1789 between the first two Prussian quartets.  Even though the clarinet predominates as the first among equals, this work is in no way a concerto.  Alfred Einstein suggests that Mozart treated the clarinet as if "he were the first to discover its charm, its 'soft, sweet breath', its clear depth, its agility".  Mozart called the work "Stadler's quintet", having composed it for performance by his friend and fellow Freemason, Anton Stadler, for whom the later clarinet concerto was written as well.

The version of the quintet which is frequently heard is thought by experts to have been an arrangement for clarinet and strings of the original work which featured the basset clarinet, whose lowest note is one octave below middle C.

The development section of the first movement of the work has a concertante air about it, but for all five instruments, and the cantabile   character of the second theme is resumed in the larghetto   movement, where it is developed more fully.  The third movement contains two trios    most unusual for Mozart, except in serenades and divertimenti  the first in a minor key for string quartet alone, and the second a Ländler,  in which the clarinet becomes the rustic instrument which it was (and has remained) in South Bavaria and other alpine regions.  The finale consists of five wonderful variations on a march-theme, followed by a coda.

SCHUBERT  Octet in F major, op 166, D 803

Adagio – Allegro – Più allegro /  Adagio /  Scherzo: Allegro vivace /  Andante – Un poco più mosso – Più lento / Menuetto: Allegretto /  Andante molto – Allegro – Andante molto – Allegro molto

In 1824, Count Ferdinand Troyer, a talented amateur clarinetist, commissioned Franz Schubert to compose a work for winds and strings modeled on Beethoven’s immensely popular Septet.  Schubert added a second violin to the Septet’s ensemble, thus creating an Octet.  The work was given a private premiere with an ensemble that included several of the musicians – among then Troyer – who had performed in the premiere of Beethoven’s Septet many years earlier. This announced that Schubert’s Octet was a worthy companion piece to the earlier Beethoven work. The Octet’s first public performance was in 1827.

The Octet has the genial ambience of a ramble through the countryside with interludes of unsettled introspection. Life is good the music seems to tell us, but beware the gathering storm clouds.  It is a long work, nearly one hour but interest never flags. The Octet is buoyed along by a variety of moods and ideas, inventive treatments of bright melodies and rhythms, beautiful solos and fine ensemble writing.

The work opens with a gentle, yearning passage from the clarinet, and then erupts in joyous melodies. The horn passages contribute a hearty rustic quality. In the second Adagio movement, serenity returns with a lovely melody from the clarinet, which is enriched, developed and repeated first by the violin in counterpoint with the horn, then by the cello and clarinet. In a brooding coda, the clarinet voice is subdued, the strings tremble nervously.

Anxiety passes and exuberance returns to the music in the form of a Scherzo movement with hunt-like themes and vigorous rhythms, reaching almost symphonic power.

The Andante brings a more intimate mood with a set of variations, based on a pretty duet taken by Schubert from an early unperformed comic opera.  In the first four variations, violin, horn and cello take turns with bright virtuoso displays. The fifth variation brings moments of disquiet and eeriness, before the final variations return to a dancing, romantic mood.

The  Menuetto movement is stately and dignified, with beautiful blending of wind and strings building to an exciting crescendo.

The final movement opens dramatically. The cello and violin shudder ominously, before the sunny character and sprightly rhythms of the main theme emerge.

Schubert was already an accomplished composer in many forms when he received the commission for the Octet in 1824. He responded by creating a masterpiece. He gave the Octet the orchestral colour of his symphonies and the airy lightness of his chamber music. He also gave the Octet moments of the expressive intensity that marked his A minor and D minor string quartets composed in the same year.