The sixth annual Martinborough Music Festival took place in the wine village's fully restored Town Hall in September of 2023. The festival was founded to bring some of New Zealand's best classical musicians to the small Wairarapa town each year for a weekend of stellar chamber music.
In this concert, Poulenc's classically-inspired trio for oboe, bassoon and piano, de Falla's Spanish Dance from La Vida Breve, and a string quintet by Boccherini. The second half featured oboe and viola in 2 Rhapsodies by Loeffler and Marsalis' jazz-infused Meeelaan for bassoon and string quartet.
Francis Poulenc: Trio for oboe bassoon and piano
Robert Orr (ob), Todd Gibson-Cornish (bssn), Laurence Matheson (pno)
Any classical music festival that has access to an oboist, bassoonist and pianist will like perform this work by Francis Poulenc, and as you'll hear at the end of the first movement, the audience was delighted by the performance from Robert Orr, Todd Gibson-Cornish and Laurence Matheson.
The composer was 25 when he began work on the trio, and as a member of Les Six, a group of young composers working in Montparnasse in the early 20th century he was seen as a rising star. Often labelled as a 'Neo-classicist', this work is perhaps the most striking example of the movement which had been popularised by Stravinsky. In fact, the opening movement is inspired by Haydn, and apparently Stravinsky himself gave Poulenc 'some good advice' on the final movement. While the influences of both composers are strong, Poulenc adds his own kind of Parisian café-music charm.
Poulenc dedicated the trio to his friend and contemporary composer, Manuel de Falla who found it delightful!
Manual de Falla: Spanish Dance from La Vida Breve
Benjamin Baker (vln), Laurence Matheson (pno)
A charming link to the previous work by Poulenc, violinist Benjamin Baker took to the stage with pianist Laurence Matheson for this much-loved spanish dance. A classic encore for violinists in this Fritz Kreisler arrangement, Baker commented he'd been playing it for so long that it was all muscle memory now.
The work comes from de Falla's prize winning opera, La Vida Breve in which a young gypsy girl falls in love with a wealthy young man. The dance comes in the second Act when the man marries someone of his own social class.
Luigi Boccherini: String Quintet in E G275
Donald Armstrong, Wilma Smith (vlns), Amanda Verner (vla), Matthias Balzat, Ashley Brown (cellos)
Boccherini picked up the cello from his father who was an accomplished cellist and bass player. Their work as musicians gave him a truly international upbringing, moving from Rome to Milan to Vienna, and finally Paris. It's there that Boccherini the younger began finding valuable patrons for his compositional career from the brother of the Spanish King to Frederick Wilhellm II of Prussia, whose favourite instrument was the cello. Boccherini composed a huge body of chamber music, over 100 works alone were string Quintets featuring two cellos.
Listeners will find themselves in very familiar territory when this (single cello) string quartet reaches the Minuet, which has become one of the most recognisable tunes in Classical music.
Charles Loeffler: Two Rhapsodies for oboe, viola and piano
Robert Orr (ob), Wenhong Luo (vla), Laurence Matheson (pno)
Charles Loeffler was born in Germany and became a professional violinist, even studying with the reknowned Joseph Joachim, the well-known violin virtuoso and friend of Brahms. But Loeffler was drawn to French music and eventually made his way to Paris to study with Debussy before emigrating to the US and finding positions with the New York Symphony Orchestra and the the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
As a composer he frequently revised works, and these two Rhapsodies are a ways from their original material. They began life as settings of two poems for bass singer, clarinet and piano. While the poems by Naurcie Rollinat, called 'The Pond and 'The Bagpipe', are about death and loss of love, the music is sweet and even cheerful at times, touching on the pastoral.
Wynton Marsalis: Meeelaan for bassoon and string quartet
Wynton Marsalis is a world reknowned classical and jazz trumpeter, band leader, composer, and has long been the artistic director of Jazz at the Lincoln Centre in New York. Meeelaan was composed the Lincoln Centre's Chamber Music Society bassoonist Milan Turkovic. The work's title is a phonetic spelling of Marsalis' pronunciation of the bassoonist's name, and that sense of playfulness is found in the music of the work which blends together the composer's mastery of classical and jazz styles.
Recorded at the Martinborough Town Hall, 23 September, 2023
Producer/engineer: David Houston