CLASSICAL NOTES with Nick Boston

Nick Boston October 30, 2022


American pianist Sarah Cahill returns with the second volume of her survey of keyboard music composed by women, The Future is Female. As with the first volume, the choice is eclectic, ranging from the late 17thcentury to the present day, and the loose theme this time is The Dance.

She opens with the delightful Suite No. 1 from Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre’s (1665-1729) Pièces de clavecin. Clara Schumann (1819-1896) is next, and her Variations of a theme of Robert Schumann, Op. 20. Cahill captures the atmosphere of this deeply personal composition with understated affection.

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We leap forward to 1957 for Germaine Tailleferre’s (1892-1983) Partita, with its wandering melodic lines and jazzy harmonies, and a playfully balletic dance to end. Later, the St Petersburg Waltz by Meredith Monk (b.1942) swirls around repeated chords with Eastern European inflections, and Gabriela Ortiz’s (b.1964) Preludio y Estudio No. 3 is full of insistent driving rhythms.

The disc ends with a dramatically expressive piece, She Dances Naked Under Palm Trees, by Theresa Wong (b.1976), with haunting use of the pedal to create ringing notes, and a deeply unsettling 13-beat metre. As with the first disc, with such a fascinating and well-chosen selection of diverse works, it is easy to forget the pianist here, and once again Cahill demonstrates an impressive command of such a wide variety of styles, so as well as being a great testament to the women composers here, high praise is deserved for these performances too.

Ruth Gipps (1921-1999) was an English composer, oboist, pianist and conductor, studying the oboe at the Royal College of Music with Léon Goossens, and composition with Gordon Jacob and Vaughan Williams. Her youthful Oboe Concerto, Op. 20, expertly performed here by Juliana Koch, along with the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Rumon Gamba, is full of lively writing for the oboe, along with lyricism in the slow movement, folksy dancing melodies in its finale. But its strengths also lie in the delicacy of the scoring, with just muted strings in the central Andante, and mysterious string textures in the opening movement.

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There are two short orchestral works here too, firstly an Overture to a never completed opera, Chanticleer, Op. 28, and a dark elegy on war, Death on the Pale Horse, Op. 25 (written in 1943), drawing inspiration from Blake’s painting of the same name.

The rest of the disc is given over to Gipps’ Symphony No. 3, Op. 57. The shifting tonalities of the opening movement, with rich string writing, builds to exhilarating, surging climaxes, and the Theme and Variations second movement is warm and lush, with highly imaginative use of percussion.

Again, unusual orchestral colour is on display in the Scherzo, with an ostinato (repeated figure) for harp and glockenspiel, against skittish string writing.

The finale is jaunty, with some striking moments for the brass – she certainly knows how to make the most of all parts of orchestral textures, and Gamba and the BBC Philharmonic exploit this to the full.

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Pianist Clare Hammond’s new disc of Études by Hélène de Montgeroult (1764-1836) is a complete revelation. Eight years younger than Mozart, Montgeroult, from a noble background, led a dramatic life involving a secret diplomatic mission, kidnap and imprisonment. Despite this, she was made professor of piano at Paris Conservatoire de Musique, and published nine sonatas, three fantasies, and her Cours complet containing 114 études and over 900 exercises, as well as various other pieces.

Hammond has absorbed her soundworld and performs these gems with nuance, warmth and virtuosic fluidity throughout. Given that there are 29 études from the 114 here, there is surely scope for a follow-up, which would be greatly welcomed.


Randall Goosby. Credit: Kaupo Kikkas

The London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Alpesh Chauhan, perform Brahms Hungarian Dancesand Symphony No. 3, and Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1, with Randall Goosby (violin) (7.30pm on Saturday, November 5 at Brighton Dome).

Carolyn Sampson. Credit: Marco Borggreve

The Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Barry Wordsworth, perform Haydn and Mahler, and are joined by Carolyn Sampson (soprano) for a selection of Mozart Concert Arias (2.45pm on Sunday, November 27 at Brighton Dome).

Brighton Dome tickets HERE

The Paddington Trio play Judith Weir, Beethoven, Pärt and Shostakovich (11am on Sunday, November 20 at Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts). Tickets HERE

Eirlys Myfanwy Davies

The Worthing Symphony Orchestra, conducted by John Gibbons, perform Alwyn, Coates, Bair, Vaughan Williams and Elgar’s Sea Pictures, with Eirlys Myfanwy Davies (mezzo soprano) (2.45pm on SundayNovember 13 at Assembly Hall, Worthing). Tickets HERE


Full reviews can be found HERE

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