Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

The Baroque era’s most famous composer, J.S Bach is known for his complicated and innovative style. He used counterpoint, the playing of multiple melodies simultaneously, and fugue, the repetition of a melody with slight variations, to create richly detailed compositions.

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The man

  • had 20 children in his lifetime
  • shared music with his children, some of whom became successful composers in their own right (most notably Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach as well as Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach and Johann Christian Bach)
  • he was a deeply religious man who said

    The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”

  • he was gifted with a fantastic understanding of complicated music

    It’s easy to play any musical instrument: all you have to do is touch the right key at the right time and the instrument will play itself.”

The music

  • Bach’s use of counterpoint and harmony meant that his music is revered for intellectuality, technical expertise and beauty
  • Famous works include the Brandenburg concertos, the Goldberg Variations, The Well-Tempered Clavier, the Mass in B Minor, the St Matthew Passion, the St John Passion, the Magnificat, the Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, more than 200 surviving cantatas, and a similar number of organ works, including the celebrated Toccata and Fugue and Passacaglia and Fugue. 
  • With the exception of opera, Bach mastered every major Baroque genre; composing sonatas, concertos, suites and cantatas, on top of his countless keyboard, organ and choral works.
  • As newer styles of music came into Germany, Bach was seen as too old fashioned. After his death, Mendelssohn’s 1829 performance of St Matthew Passion helped bring Bach’s music back to popularity.

b070e8304d9bc2bfb3d77792413f8914On the 31st of March 1685, Johann Sebastian Bach was born to a musical, German family. His father, Eisenach’s town musician, is thought to have taught a young Johann the violin. At just 10 years old Bach was an orphan and went to live with his older brother, a church organist. This led to a deeper musical education and various positions as an organist himself.

Bach found an employer with a passion for music in Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen. His last employer had Bach imprisoned for trying to resign! Once he made it to Cöthen, Bach devoted himself to instrumental music. In 1721 Bach created a series of orchestra concertos, which became known as the “Brandenburg Concertos”. Around this time he also completed the first book of “The Well-Tempered Clavier”, a collection of student pieces working on specific technical issues. Despite writing such major works, Prince Leopold’s new wife discouraged the Prince’s passion for music and Bach’s orchestra was dissolved in 1723.

Flute works

  • Partita in A minor BMV 1013
  • Many flute sonatas as well as trio sonatas involving the flute
  • Musical offering BMV 1079
  • Triple Concerto BMV 1044
  • The flute also features in a number of his sacred works including the aria “Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben” from St Matthew Passion

 

https://open.spotify.com/user/forteflutes/playlist/1l1qQdfK0X7yqVJSS6Es6C

Tempo

Tempo is the speed of the beat – how fast or slow the music is.

Tempo markings are words used to describe how fast a piece should go, they are often in Italian:

  • Grave – slow, solemn
  • Largo – rather slow, stately
  • Adagio – slowly
  • Andante – moderate, walking speed
  • Moderato – moderate speed
  • Allegretto – fairly quick
  • Allegro – quick, lively
  • Presto – very fast

Metronome markings are a more specific way to measure tempo, they tell us how many beats there are per minute. So

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crotchet-music-note-quarter-quaver-151922.png = 80 means 80 crotchet beats per minute. We can put this pulse onto a metronome to play along with (to practice accurate rhythm and tempo) or just to check our tempo before we play

Portable metronomes, metronome apps and online metronomes are widely available with lots of free options!

The BBC Elstree Concert Band return to St Luke’s Hospice Summer Proms

Harrow School, High Street, Harrow on the Hill, HA1 3HP

8th July 2016 19.30 – 22.00

“The choice of music never fails to excite. We are so lucky in E&B to have been able to call on such combined talent.” Pat Strack, Elstree & Borehamwood Town Mayor

Nearly 30 years after its first performance, the BBC Elstree Concert Band will perform in the iconic Speech Room at Harrow school for a special St Luke’s proms celebration.

Directed by Andrew Morley, the band will play a range of pieces, focussing on contemporary, film and show music from the likes of Gorb and Sparke. You are invited to have drinks on the terrace overlooking the vale, or in the breath-taking War Memorial Building, before the concert in the historic Speech Room.

St Luke’s Hospice provides free care to people in Harrow and Brent living with illnesses that are no longer curable. You can come together with the musicians for a memorable night at the Summer Proms, to enable the hospice to continue its vital work. They rely on your generous support for over 70% of their funding and need to raise over £3.5 million each year in order to continue to provide free care to those in need.

The BBC Elstree Concert Band play in and around London, including performances at the Elstree and Maida Vale Studios, St James’s Church Piccadilly, Millfield Theatre, Allum Hall, St John Waterloo and Dorchester Abbey. The Band’s performances have been broadcast nationally as well as internationally through the BBC and they work support to charitable organisations such as the hospice.

Early bird tickets are £18 each until the 30th April, after which they are £20 per person.

http://www.stlukes-hospice.org/events/events-calendar/detail/summer-proms-2016

Chamber Music: Malcolm Arnold’s Suite Bourgeoise

This is a fun, unpredictable chamber piece by Sir Malcolm Henry Arnold, CBE (1921-2006). The 2nd dance in his Suite Bourgeoise for flute, oboe and piano trio, this is Tango (Elaine).

The much neglected suite for trio was one of Malcom Arnold’s earlier pieces. He uses atonality and rhythm to create an a series of off-kilter dances. They instill a feeling a celebration and happiness alongside a nervous edge in both listeners and players.

The titles give little insight to the composer’s mind or intentions, with no explanation of who Elaine is:

1. Prelude

2. Tango (Elaine)

3. Dance (censored)

4. Ballad

5. Valse (Ugo)

I can only imagine what the third movement, a tricky and explosive dance was like before is became ‘censored’.


PERFORMANCE NEXT WEEK: We will be playing this suite as part of a recital at the beautiful St Alfege’s Church, Greenwich, London. 14th April 2016 at 1pm. Free entry so come and have a listen!


Malcom Arnold’s Tango (Elaine) – the 2nd dance in his Suite Bourgeoise for flute, oboe and piano trio. This was recorded at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, Greenwich, London in Spring 2016.

Flute – Jessamy Robinson
Oboe – Felicity Cliffe
Piano – Lucy Murphy

Honegger’s Danse de la chèvre

Danse de la chèvre (Dance of the Goat) was written by Arthur Honegger in 1921 as incidental music for dancer Lysana of Sacha Derek’s play La mauvaise pensée.

The peaceful opening is troubled by the mysterious tone colour and prominent use of the tritone. The dance is suggested before it is in full swing.

It is thought that the story follows a dreaming goat or one that is dancing before falling back asleep, due to the circular structure.

Another theory is that it depicts a sacrifice, possibly due to the unsettling feeling that comes with the jaunty dance. Whichever story you think about, the solo nature leaves a lot of room for interpretation and once again proves that the flute is capable of surprising colours.

Debussy’s Syrinx

This short impressionist piece has won the hearts of many flautists over the years. Maybe it is due to the lack of technical obstacles or the amount of space for interpretation. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that Syrinx uses the flute to paint a beautiful picture.

The piece reflects greek mythology and the wood Nymph Syrinx. The Greek God Pan, entranced by the hunting Nymph, chased her. In an effort to protect her chastity, Syrinx fled to the river. The Gods came to her rescue and she hid as part of a reed bed. In hot pursuit, Pan’s frustrated and longing sigh created a rich melody across the reeds. Echanted, he cut them to create a pan pipe called Syrinx, so he always carried the gentle Nymph with him.

Pan and the pipes

Debussy was clearly influenced by the sound of the pan pipes; the hollow round tone colour is able to really come out at the end of the piece. The melody is fluid. It demands a lot of expression, rubato and variety, but Debussy did write very specific rhythms.

Originally called ‘Flute de Pan’ Claude Debussy wrote the piece in 1913, as incidental music for Mourey’s ‘Psyche’. The first solo piece using the modern Boehm flute, Debussy proves that a lone flute can explore the colourful world of impressionism.