ClefLogo  Concert 2 - Programme Notes

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Concert No 2

8pm Saturday 13th October 2018
at Holmes Chapel Leisure Centre

O Duo  
(Drums, Bongos and Marimba)

Oliver Cox and Owen Gunnell

  “phenomenal artistry....brimming with style and panache…”
- Daily Telegraph 

ODuo Photo by John Ferro Sims    

The programme notes for this concert are:

Bongo Fury
by O Duo (Oliver Cox and Owen Gunnell b.1980)

Bongo Drums originate from the Afro-Cuban culture and are single headed drums with conical or cylindrical hardwood shells. The shells, which are joined together horizontally, are of the same height but of different diameters. The heads are either membrane or a plastic material and are nailed or screw tensioned to the shell. Bongos are played with bare hands the fingers striking the heads like drum sticks. Great virtuosity is possible, the players obtaining numerous subtle effects of tone control, including glissandos, by pressure from the finger tips, flat fingers and the butt of the hand. Many composers have included bongos into their scores. The drums remain integral instruments in Latin-American bands.

Bongo Fury was written in August 2002 for the première of the Duo’s Edinburgh Festival show. It uses rhythmic material from a variety of sources, including Cuban Son Montuno and Brazilian Samba Batucada, and is truly a furious bongo extravaganza.

Previous performance at HCMS concerts by O Duo on 8th December 2007.


Spanish Dance No.5 Andaluza from 12 Danzas Españolas
by Enrique Granados 1867 - 1916

Granados was a Catalan who founded a school of music in Barcelona and directed it until his death. He enjoyed a high reputation as a pianist and he composed piano works, seven operas, some orchestral suites and songs. He died at sea in 1916 when he and his wife drowned when the liner Sussex was torpedoed by a German U-boat in the English Channel. The twelve Spanish dances were originally composed for the piano.

Previous performance at HCMS concerts on the 11th January 1997 by the Hand/Dupré Guitar Duo.


Sonata *R.90 in F sharp major
by Antonio Soler 1729 – 1783

Antonio Soler was a Spanish (Catalan) composer, organist and friar. He studied in Montserrat from the age of six. He was a disciple of Scarlatti and composed nine Masses, several Requiems and Psalms, 120 keyboard sonatas for the harpsichord or piano as well as several quintets for organ and string quartet. He became a monk in 1752 entering the Escorial Monastery as organist 1753. He wrote a musical theoretical treatise in 1762.

Soler’s single movement sonatas owe a great deal to his mentor’s influence. In this sonata, Soler uses a variety of effects - alternating between major and minor keys as well as imitating Spanish rhythmic and guitar traditions.

*Soler’s works were catalogued by Samuel Rubio (1912 – 1986) a Spanish musicologist whose work in cataloguing much Spanish music is characterised by thorough and elegant scholarship.

Previous performance at HCMS concerts on 8th December 2007 by O Duo.


Fugue No.5 in F minor from 6 Preludes and Fugues Op.35
by Felix Mendelsshon 1809 – 1847

Mendelssohn's gifts were phenomenal. He was a good painter, had a wide literary knowledge and wrote brilliantly. His musical memory was amazing. He was a superb pianist, a good violist, and an exceptional organist and an inspiring conductor! Hans von Bülow described him as the most complete master of form after Mozart. He was born in Hamburg in 1809 and died in Leipzig in 1847.

The Six Preludes and Fugues Op.35 were composed in 1837 in the contrapuntal style favoured by J. S. Bach.

First performance at HCMS concerts. Prelude No 1 was played by Ronald Frost (Organ) on 22nd February 1974.


Take 5
by Paul Desmond 1924 - 1977

Paul Desmond who was born Paul Emil Breitenfeld on November 25, 1924 was an American jazz musician and composer who is best known for his work with the Dave Brubeck Quartet and for composing that group's biggest hit, Take Five. He was one of the most popular musicians to come out of the ‘cool jazz scene’.

In addition to his work with Brubeck, Paul led several groups and collaborated with many other jazz musicians. After years of chain smoking and poor health, Desmond succumbed to lung cancer in 1977 after a tour with Brubeck.

Take Five is a jazz icon and was originally recorded by the Dave Brubeck Quartet for its 1959 album Time Out. It was recorded at Columbia Records in New York City on July 1, 1959.

Fully two years later it became an unlikely hit and the biggest-selling jazz single ever. It has been revived since in numerous movie and television sound tracks and it still receives significant radio airplay.

Previous performance at HCMS concerts on 8th December 2007 by O Duo.


by Vittorio Monti 1868 - 1922

Vittorio Monti was an Italian composer, violinist, mandolinist and conductor. His most famous work is his Csárdás, written around 1904 and played by almost every gypsy orchestra.

Monti was born in Naples, where he studied violin and composition at the Naples Conservatoire. Around 1900 he received an assignment as the conductor for the Lamoureux Orchestra in Paris, where he composed several ballets and operettas, including Noël de Pierrot. He also wrote a method for mandolin Petite Méthode pour Mandoline, in which he included some of his own works, Perle Brillante, Dans Una Gondola, and Au Petit Jour.

It is a rhapsodical concert piece written in 1904 and is taken from a well known folk piece based on Hungarian Csárdás. It was originally composed for violin, mandolin or piano and there are arrangements for orchestra and for a number of solo instruments. The piece has seven different sections, each one of a different tempo and key. The first half of the piece is in the key of D minor which then modulates to D Major then back to D minor, and then finally finishes in D major.

Previous performances at HCMS concerts on 16th January 1983 by the Albion Brass Consort and on 23rd November 2013 by Rhys Matthews.


by O Duo (Oliver Cox and Owen Gunnell b.1980)

O Duo’s own composition from 2011, Searching, represents a journey spent - as the title might suggest - 'searching' for something, and the emotions and feelings which this journey throws up - sadness, longing, excitement, anticipation among others. Searching deploys a wide array of tuned and un tuned percussion in a glistening constellation of timbres, at times hushed and haunting and at other time, athletically spry in a way that benefits from actually watching the performers in action.

First performance at HCMS concerts.


Clapping Music
by Steve Reich b. 1936

Clapping Music is a minimalist piece written by Steve Reich in 1972. It is written for two performers and is performed entirely by clapping.

Reich and his ensemble were on tour in Europe in 1972 when after a concert in Brussels, the promoter asked if they would like to go see some Flamenco music. The musicians ended up in a club and watched a pair of musicians who by Reich's account were terrible guitarists and singers. The musicians started clapping very loudly when Reich and his group, who were mainly percussionists, joined in. After the concert Reich realised that he could use this as the basis for work, not least as it could be performed with only a few people rather than taking two trucks of equipment.

A development of the phasing technique from Reich's earlier works such as Piano Phase it was written when Reich wanted to (in his own words) "create a piece of music that needed no instruments beyond the human body". However, he quickly found that the mechanism of phasing slowly in and out of tempo with each other was inappropriate for the simple clapping involved in producing the actual sounds that made the music.

Instead of phasing, one performer claps a basic rhythm, a variation of the fundamental African bell pattern in 12/8 time, for the entirety of the piece. The other claps the same pattern, but after every 8 or 12 bars shifts by one eighth note to the right. The two performers continue this until the second performer has shifted 12 eighth notes and is hence playing the pattern in unison with the first performer again (as at the beginning), some 144 bars later. The variation of the African bell pattern is minimal; it contains just one additional beat. However, this minimal addition results in a much more interesting piece from the point of view of the variation of syncopation as the piece progresses.

The piece was first performed at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, Texas on 13 November 1973. This is the first performance at HCMS concerts.


Prelude Op.34 No.6 in B minor by Dimitry Shostakovitch 1906 - 1975

In the winter of 1932-1933, Shostakovich was in the middle of writing his opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, and had just finished the score for Counterplan, a film about hardworking machinists in a turbine factory in Leningrad. For fun, Shostakovich turned his hand to piano works, 24 preludes and the first piano concerto, and then to a cello sonata. Shostakovitch knew of several sets of preludes, all written on the 24-section Chopin “model”, beginning with Alkan in 1847, then Blumenfeld (1892), Scriabin (1896), Cesar Cui (1903), Glière(1907), and Rachmaninov (composed between 1892 and 1910).

There the similarities end. Shostakovich and Chopin wrote 24 preludes which are economic and striking, but their musical content is as different as these two personalities were, a hundred years apart. Shostakovich’s 24 preludes are in the same key sequence as Chopin’s, using all the major and minor keys in the usual order, and relying on the same general principles of musical economy.

Previous performance at HCMS concerts on 21st March 1998 by Katya Apekisheva.


Sonata * R.84 in D major
by Antonio Soler 1729 – 1783

Best known for his keyboard sonatas, the music of Soler shows the influence of Scarlatti without imitating it, including the sounds of Spanish dances and Italian influences. There is more about Soler, and the classification of his compositions, in the R.90 Sonata notes above.

This Sonata is a radiantly joyful, merry and mischievous, lively and light musical celebration. It is in 3/8 time, with running 16th notes, ornamentation, and nice dynamic contrasts.

First performance at HCMS concerts.


Mad Rush
by Philip Glass b. 1937

Philip Glass is an American composer who was born in 1937. He is a prolific composer and epitomises so called ‘minimalist music’. His music has won many awards and accolades but listeners are divided into those who find his compositions fascinating and those who find them distinctly boring and tedious.

The piano music is typical of the composer’s style being hypnotic, timeless, clear and some describe as being beautiful. As a performer the possibilities for creating colours in Philip’s music are infinite – his melodies, sonorous harmonies and formal structures allow room for individual interpretation and expression.

In 1979 Glass composed Mad Rush in honour of the 14th Dalai Lama’s visit to North America. The piece is extraordinary - it can be moving, contemplative and urgent. It is of indeterminate length!! It was originally written for organ and was commissioned by Radio Bremen.

First performance at HCMS concerts.


Marimba Spiritual
by Minoru Miki 1930 - 2011

Minoru Miki was a Japanese composer and artistic director, particularly known for his promotional activities in favour of Japanese (as well as Chinese and Korean) traditional instruments and some of their performers. His vast catalogue, where aforementioned traditional instruments figure profusely either solo or in various types of ensemble with or without Western instruments, demonstrates large stylistic and formal diversity. It includes operas and several types of stage music as well as orchestral, chamber, solo music and music for films. Miki was probably the second best known Japanese composer overseas after Takemitsu.

He was a pioneer in the composition of contemporary classical music for large ensembles of traditional Japanese instruments. In 1964 he founded the Nihon Ongaku Shūdan (Pro Musica Nipponia ensemble), also known as Ensemble Nipponia, for which he has composed extensively.

Minoru Miki composed this piece during the summer of 1968 for Ms. Keiko Abe's first marimba recital. Before that year, Miki had listened to many marimba performances, but many of the pieces which he heard were arrangements of famous Western instrumental pieces. He also found that tremolo was used too often. When he agreed to compose this piece, therefore, he was determined to avoid the use of tremolo except in very limited cases.

From an early age Miki loved the special feeling of Indonesian Gamelan ensemble music. There are very different mechanisms at work in the Gamelan and marimba. For example, the marimba has fixed well-tempered pitches while Gamelan scales are very special in comparison. Regardless of these differences, he wanted to create a unique, fantastic music using just one marimba.

Marimba Spiritual was written in 1983 - ‘keeping in mind the acute period of starvation and famine in Africa which was occurring at that time’. The piece is actually in two sections; the first a ‘static requiem’, and the second a ‘lively resurrection’. Originally written for solo marimba and three percussionists, it has been re-arranged for duo, with the drums and marimba battling it out to the end.

Previous performance at HCMS concerts on 8th December 2007 by O Duo.

© Programme notes by Dr Martin Hudson.



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