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Notes on the performers
Yorkshire pianist and composer Neil Crossland began playing the piano at the age of six and studied at the Royal College of Music, where he won major prizes in both piano and composition. Since then he has performed extensively at home and abroad, and written pieces in all genres. Neil has played at many major London venues, including the Barbican, Queen Elizabeth Hall. St John’s Smith Square, St Martin’s in the Fields, and frequent appearances at the Wigmore Hall and Purcell Room. He has performed all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas in a concert series at St James’ Piccadilly. He has also performed throughout the UK, in France, Greece, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Tunisia and recently in Singapore giving concerts of the unfinished Schubert Sonatas as well as workshops and masterclasses. Neil has made over 20 recordings on the Deltatel label, including the complete cycle of the Beethoven piano sonatas, and works by Haydn, Schumann, Liszt, Rachmaninov, Ravel and Poulenc. Among his other projects has been to revive and record the piano compositions of Astronomer Royal Sir Patrick Moore. He has appeared frequently on radio and television, including performing live on BBC Radio 3 and 4.
Variations in C Major, P. 132, MH 108a
Johann Michael Haydn was an Austrian composer of the Classical period, the younger brother of Joseph Haydn. Like his brother, Michael Haydn became a choirboy at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, receiving his early musical instruction there.
During his lifetime Michael Haydn was considered a better composer of church music than his brother. He was an intimate friend of Mozart (who wrote his violin-viola duos to fulfil a commission Haydn was too ill to complete) and was a teacher of Carl Maria von Weber. After his death, Haydn’s reputation suffered a long eclipse, and it was not until after World War II that his merit was again recognized.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)
Piano sonata No. 7 in D major, Op. 10 No 3
- Largo e mesto
- Menuetto e Trio
- Rondo – Allegro
Beethoven’s Piano Sonata was dedicated to the Countess Anne Margarete von Browne, and written in 1798. This makes it contemporary with his three Op. 9 string trios, his three Op. 12 violin sonatas, and the violin and orchestra romance that became his Op. 50 when later published. The year also saw the premiere of a revised version of his second piano concerto, whose original form had been written and heard in 1795. The Op. 10 sonatas are usually described as angular or experimental, as Beethoven began moving further and further away from his earlier models. This third sonata of the set is the longest at approximately 24 minutes. It is the only one of the Op. 10 sonatas that has four movements. The second movement is famous for its intimations of later tragic slow movements, as well as for its own beauty.
Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873 – 1943)
6 Romances – Songs arranged by Neil Crossland
- Op.4 No 3 – When silent night doth hold me
- Op. 4 No 4 – Oh, never sing to me again
Rachmaninoff’s 6 Romances, Op. 4 were written in 1890-93. Here are translations from oxfordlieder.co.uk:
Oh, long will I, in the silence of the mysterious night,
Chase from my thoughts and then call up again
Your artful chatter, your smile, your casual glance,
The thick tresses of your hair, so pliant in my fingers;
Breathing fitfully, alone, unseen by anybody else,
Burning with the glow of vexation and of shame,
I shall seek out the slightest hint of mystery
In the words you uttered;
I shall whisper and improve upon the past expressions
Of things I once said to you, things full of bashfulness,
And intoxicated, against all reason,
I shall wake night’s darkness with your cherished name.
Oh do not sing for me, fair maiden,
Those Georgian songs so sad;
They remind me
Of another life and a distant shore.
Alas, your cruel strains
Of the steppe and the night,
And the moonlit face of my distant beloved
Amy Beach (1867 – 1944)
Four Sketches, Op. 15
- In Autumn
Crossland will perform the first three of the four sketches by Amy Beach, published in 1892. Each piece in the set is headed by a quotation from a French poet: two from Alphonse de Lamartine, and two from Victor Hugo. An element of the natural world is here as well: three of the four quotations use nature images. The first piece, “In Autumn,” is a dancelike work in a minor mode, suggesting the nostalgia and melancholy of the fall season. The second piece, “Phantoms,” takes its name from the title of the poem Beach quotes. The quotation clarifies the ghostly reference with a further metaphor about the fleeting life of flowers. The music is a delicate waltz with, again, a nostalgic tone. Its ending is sudden, almost abrupt, further expressing the idea of ephemerality. The third piece, “Dreaming,” arises from the depths of the piano with a soft rocking figure. One can easily imagine its lyrical melody as “speaking from the depths of a dream,” as its poetic quotation describes.
Modest Mussorgsky (1839 – 1881)
Night on a bare mountain, arranged and embellished by Crossland
It was as a teenager that the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky was first inspired to write his orchestral poem A Night on the Bare Mountain, in 1867. He was an ambitious young man with dreams to compose a full-scale opera called St John’s Eve, which he said would include the scene of a witches’ Sabbath. It is through Rimsky-Korsakov’s version that Night on Bald Mountain achieved lasting
fame. Premiering in Saint Petersburg in 1886, the work became a concert favourite. Half a century later, the work obtained perhaps its greatest exposure through the Walt Disney animated film Fantasia (1940), featuring an arrangement by Leopold Stokowski, based on Rimsky-Korsakov’s version. Mussorgsky’s tone poem was not published in its original form until 1968. It has started to gain exposure and become familiar to modern audiences.