Category Archives: News

Autumn ‘mini-tour’: Duo Concerts with Douglas Holligan in Edinburgh and St Andrews 15th and 19th October

 

 

shostakovich

It’s been a little while since I did some duo playing and so it has been extra rewarding to get together with fine pianist Douglas Holligan and start working on our duo programme for two concerts this October.

Our programme is a very interesting one, including two lesser played works. The first is Vaughan Williams’ charming Romance for Viola and Piano, which was published posthumously and probably intended for the viola virtuoso Lionel Tertis. The second is Shostakovich’s final work: his Sonata for viola and piano Op. 147 – a towering work covering the whole range of emotions, including what he himself described as ‘an adagio in memory of Beethoven’ which uses quotations from the Moonlight Sonata. Dedicated to the violist of the Beethoven quartet, Fyodor Druzhinin, it was composed just weeks before his death and you can almost hear the meditations on death and the afterlife in the elegiac outer movements. The playful middle movement draws heavily on music Shostakovich had written for an abandoned opera called The Gamblers, based on a Gogol play, and presents many challenges for both instruments, not least several passages of chromatic double-stopped parallel fourths!

Our first concert is 15th October at the Edinburgh Society of Musicians in Stockbridge, Edinburgh, at 7.30pm. This concert will also include piano works by Bach and Rachmaninov. The second concert is in St Andrews at The Byre Theatre at 1.10pm on Weds October 19th. Hope to see you at one of them (or both!)

Britten’s Turn of the Screw, Byre Theatre, 22nd-24th June

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Bored of the Referendum campaigns? Then come down to the Byre Theatre, St Andrews, on the 22nd, 23rd or 24th June and see Byre Opera’s performance of Britten’s ghostly masterpiece, The Turn of the Screw. It is based on the novel by Henry James about a governess who goes to look after 2 children in a remote house, and the unearthly happenings that start to unfold after she arrives.

I am playing viola in the chamber orchestra, and this is the third Britten opera I have played in. I have come to like Britten’s style of writing- good tunes interspersed with idiomatic vocal writing, plus the advantage of the text being in English and therefore  easily understandable for the audience. Britten’s operas are often very inclusive, containing parts for children, and this opera is no exception – Miles is played by 2 young boys (there are 2 casts for different performances).

The facebook event is here and you will find Byre Opera on instagram as @byre_opera. Look forward to seeing you there – tickets are selling fast!

We are also touring the performance to Stirling MacRobert on 28th June and The Maltings, Berwick on 8th July if you can’t make the St Andrews performances.

 

Teaching studio now open again!

I’m excited to announce that I’m now ready to take on a few more private students. I teach all ages and abilities and tailor my teaching to the student’s capabilities and preferences. Ideally I would like a few more viola students, but as I teach both violin and viola, and violin can be a good starting point for viola, I welcome both instruments! I have an excellent record of my students passing ABRSM exams, with most achieving a distinction or merit.

student violinist

 

Here’s my profile on Music Teachers UK. Contact me if you are interested in learning to play or if you’d like to hone your skills! I am based in Fife, on the East coast of Scotland.

Fugue for Thought Podcast: A Viola Player Speaks, Part 1

Here’s a link to the blog article by Alan Missroon of Fugue For Thought that mentions the podcast that we recorded recently. I was inteviewed by Alan for an article for his blog back in 2014, and Alan was keen to talk to me about more viola related things, and this is the result! We talk about viola repertoire including concertos, being a viola player in the orchestra, recitals and a recent masterclass I did with Martin Outram, and much more!

 

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Podcast with Jess Wyatt of A Viola Player Writes. Listen to the episode in iTunes or via Podbean. This is Jess’s Facebook page. Jess Wyatt was another of my early guest interviewees who I burdened wi…

Source: Podcast: A Viola Player Speaks, Part 1

Teaching studio: currently full

Please note that currently, my teaching studio is full and I am not accepting any new private students for the moment. Sorry for any inconvenience – I do know that it is hard to find a good string teacher in Scotland!

If this situation changes, and it may do come the spring term, I will post on this blog and on my facebook page to let you all know! (See sidebar or here www.facebook.com/jesswyattviola)

Keep playing and practising in the meanwhile,

Jess

New Facebook page!

I have a new facebook page! If you’d like to stay up to date with all my musical activities, then please press ‘like’/’follow’ and updates should automatically be shown on your newsfeed (I’m still fairly new to how this all works, so please forgive my technical ignorance!) You can also send me messages about professional enquiries (no spam please).

I will be using the page to post news, concerts I’m doing, teaching hints and tips, and to share any other local events that I’d like my students to know about and/or attend if possible!

For the moment, though, here’s something I’m very proud of, as I had the original idea a few years ago and never quite had the time to follow up on it until a student mentioned to me that it was really easy to do! (If you want to create a poster/mug/anything you want, just visit this site – I can highly recommend their service! It’s also excellent procrastination if you like creating hilarious memes/posters/lolcats, not that I would of course, ahem)

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Lunchtime concert on Weds 26th Feb – 1.10pm, Younger Hall, St Andrews

It’s been a long while since I posted on here, but I thought I’d let you know that I’m giving a performance of Schubert’s lovely Arpegionne Sonata, plus Enesco’s fearsome Concertstuck, this Wednesday at 1.10pm in the Younger Hall, St Andrews with my friend and pianist Audrey Innes. This is a great programme – and, oddly, Audrey told me she had heard exactly the same programme broadcast on Radio 3 a while ago, with the recording of the Arpeggione taken from a concert in none other than the Younger Hall by Ukrainian violist Maxim Rysanov! (This was part of the St Andrews music club series and I was present – it was spectacular!)

Just in case you are interested, I’ve included below some short programme notes that will be used on Wednesday.

Other things that have been happening in the long period since I’ve posted a blog include: doing a series of lectures/talks on ‘Listening to Music’ for a local adult education service (quite scary but good for my public speaking), starting to play for a great quartet called the Roxburgh Quartet (we have a concert on 2nd March – more details soon) and an audition for the Halle orchestra in Manchester (I didn’t get in, but was pleased to be asked to audition).

Programme Notes for Wednesday 26th’s lunchtime recital with Audrey Innes, piano

Arpeggione Sonata, D 821    

Schubert (1797-1828)

I. Allegro moderato

II. Adagio

III. Allegretto

Franz Schubert is widely known as a prolific composer of Lieder, but also produced chamber music, stage works and symphonies. Like Beethoven, he spanned both the Classical and Romantic periods and was therefore influenced by composers of both eras. His style incorporates expressive lyricism and chromaticism while conforming to classical traditions – all features heard in this sonata. This sonata belongs to the same period as Schubert composed his ‘Death and the Maiden’ quartet – near the end of his life when he was suffering from the advanced stages of syphilis.

This sonata was written in 1824 for a new six-stringed, fretted instrument, the Arpeggione, which was similar to a bowed guitar but held between the knees like a viola da gamba. The instrument had been invented the previous year, and Schubert was obviously taken with it, as the sonata was dedicated to the arpeggionist Vincenz Schuster. Unfortunately this instrument was no longer in use by the time of the sonata’s posthumous publication in 1871, due to its awkwardness to play and its unsuitability as a solo instrument with piano (it had a quiet sound which was easily obscured). Since then it has been arranged for the viola, cello and double bass, and even some woodwind instruments and guitar. Transcription has had to address the smaller ranges of these instruments and the use of 4 versus 6 strings, which renders some of the passages very difficult for the viola in terms of string crossing and octaves – these passages were surely much easier on the Arpeggione!

The first movement, Allegro moderato, is characterised by contrasts in mood – the haunting A minor melody at the start demonstrates Schubert’s exceptional melodic gift, while the more animated, almost cheeky second subject suggests a bubbling brook in the repeated semiquavers and yodelling in the octave leaps (from the Viennese Alps). It is in Sonata form (a favourite of Schubert’s), dividing it into four sections: the exposition where the first and second subject are stated, the development where these themes are explored and transposed, the recapitulation where the original ideas are consolidated, and a final coda which returns to the minor – a nice piece of symmetry.

The lovely second movement uses a rising and falling melody, creating long, arch-like phrases which answer each other. There is a curious period towards the end where both piano and viola have long, held notes – static chords which are strange, unless Schubert meant for the players to improvise, but this is not marked. Slow quavers lead us into the last movement – a vivacious Allegretto which uses octave leaps (which are very uncomfortable to play for the viola!), fast passagework and pizzicato, before returning to the opening dotted melody.

Georges Enesco (1881 – 1955)

Concertstück for Viola and Piano

Georges Enesco (also known as Enescu) was a Romanian composer, violinist, pianist, conductor and teacher who taught a young Yehudi Menhuin. A child prodigy, he entered Vienna Conservatoire aged seven, graduated aged 13, then continued his studies in Paris, where he remained for much of his life. His works are heavily influenced by Romanian folk music and their melodies; his output includes two Romanian Rhapsodies, an opera, symphonies and much chamber music as well as solo works.

The Enesco Concertpiece, composed in 1906, is a rite of passage for young viola players. Technically demanding and virtuosic, is It is often performed as a competition piece to show off the technical abilities of the performer, or to add a final flourish to a recital (as it is used here!)

As well as the gorgeous, expressive melodies in this piece, it utilises various virtuosic techniques to show off the viola (which is not normally a particularly virtuosic instrument!) Ones to look and listen out for whilst listening to the piece include:

–        Fast chromatic triplet scales and scalic passages

–        Martèlé bowing (heavy, on the string at the tip of the bow)

–        Syncopated slurred bowings  (only found in Enesco’s music and extremely difficult to do)

–        Double-note semiquaver scales

–        Double stops in thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths and octaves, and chords

–        False harmonics

–        Alternating triplets, semiquavers, semiquaver quintuplets and semiquaver sextuplets

–        Very high notes (too high for the viola, really!)