Writing, concerts, theatre and a little bit of travel

Tag: Emmanuel Cassimatis

Seeing Earth: a Concert!

It’s really going to happen. After waiting almost two years because of Pandemic lockdowns, Stuart Greenbaum’s piece Seeing Earth, written for Ensemble Francaix — and commissioned by me — is to receive its world premiere performance tomorrow evening. The ‘live’ performance will take place in Melbourne’s Athenaeum Theatre but, if it’s too hard to get there (eg if you live in England) you can tune in through the Melbourne Digital Concert Hall:

I have mentioned Ensemble Francaix elsewhere on this blog: a fine Melbourne-based chamber trio: Emmanuel Cassimatis – Oboe, Matthew Kneale – Bassoon and Nicholas Young – Piano.

A couple of years ago I decided it was time for me to stop playing oboe. I had two fine instruments, which I would sell. But I wanted the money from the sale to go towards something musical — in a sense, for me, something in memory of my oboes. I love the combination of oboe, bassoon and piano and indeed I had enjoyed playing some of the limited number of compositions for this ensemble — notably by the composer Francaix and also Poulenc. How exciting it would be to add to this repertoire. I approached Ensemble Francaix and they suggested that we ask Stuart Greenbaum whether he would be interested writing a piece for the trio.

The result is Seeing Earth. Stuart Greenbaum is professor of music composition at the University of Melbourne and currently the Head of Composition at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. His work has been performed by both the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. He has written opera and choral music as well as instrumental. Some of his works suggest a fascination with space and the future. For example, his work 90 Minutes Circling the Earth was named Orchestral Work of the Year at the 2008 Classical Music Awards. Another work, The Year Without a Summer was toured nationally and internationally at the City of London Festival (2011).

The concert includes another world premiere performance: Panvino’s Gluttony for Solo Bassoon. Other works will be Borodin, arranged by Davies – In the Central Steppes of Asia, Britten, Pan from the Six Metamorphoses after Ovid for Solo Oboe and Johann Sebastian Bach – Allemande, Courante, Sarabande & Gigue from French Suite No. 5 in G Major, BWV 816 (1725) — I assume this will be played by Nicholas on piano.

Do tune in to Melbourne Digital Concert Hall if you possibly can. They are fine players. It will be a great concert.

And here is a review of the concert:

Ensemble Franҫaix

Ensemble Franҫaix is a newly-formed chamber group for oboe, bassoon and piano – a fairly uncommon combination although some beautiful chamber music has been written for it, particularly by French composers, Jean Franҫaix (1912 – 97) and Francis Poulenc (1899 – 1963). For both concerts Franҫaix’s Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano was performed.

Jean Francaix

Jean Franҫaix

This piece suits the double reeds perfectly and is woven together by an often jazzy piano part. Many of the movements are lively – phrases are tossed off, as if playfully (although in fact many are difficult to execute) contrasted with lyrical writing, in particular I noticed some beautiful phrases for bassoon – it does a great deal more than plod around the bass line.

Ensemble Francaix 1

At the first concert the trio was joined by clarinet and horn to perform Paul Stanhope’s Morning Star II (1993). Stanhope is a Sydney composer. Much of the work was minimalist in nature, but lyrical passages reflected aspects of Australian Indigenous music.

The clarinet and horn remained with the group to perform Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (1874). I didn’t think that the instrumental arrangement added much to the overall conception of the piece, although it did bring out aspects that usually aren’t prominent. My preference is for the original piano solo version.

The second concert featured Ensemble Franҫaix without additional instruments and displayed the inherent versatility of the oboe, bassoon, piano combination. Here we heard a trio by André Previn (1994) – known for his jazz writing. As the three movements suggest (Lively, Slow, Jaunty), much of the music is busy and syncopated, but, particularly in the slow movement, also smooth with rich harmonies.

The final piece is a favourite of mine: Francis Poulenc’s Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano (1926). Matthew, the bassoon player, reminded us that Poulenc was influenced by Mozart – and although I’m very familiar with the piece, I’d never thought of that before. Knowing this helped me to become aware of the beautiful aria-like phrases that mingle with French jollity.

ensemble-francaix 2

Ensemble Franҫaix: Emmanuel Cassimatis, Matthew Kneale and Nicholas Young

Ensemble Franҫaix has a mission to encourage more writing for their combination of instruments. For the second concert they had written their own arrangement of Grainger’s Molly on the Shore, which was lively and appealing. They are preparing for their first international performance at the Osaka International Chamber Music Festa in May. Let us hope that it is the first of many successful international performances.

ensmble francaix 2

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