Spring sunshine brought an extra warm welcome to the twelve viola players who gathered at Ravenfield near Rotherham in South Yorkshire for a full day of viola playing, performance and technical help, tutored by Robin Ireland and hosted by Natalie Wing.
Robin directed the group in a variety of ensemble music, which included viola arrangements of Telemann’s Concerto in G for two violas and Mendelssohn’s Song without Words, op. 102 no. 3. However, the main focus for the ensemble work was an exploration of two chaconnes arranged for viola ensemble, starting with a three-part Chaconne by Handel arranged by Ross Cohen. This was followed by a detailed study of the first section of J. S. Bach’s Chaconne in a transformation for four violas by Ichiro Nodaἳra. The next section will be studied at the autumn workshop. To listen to a viola quartet performing this work click: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJ2zx0ooXug
The masterclass featured Rita Everett playing Bruch’s Romance, with piano accompaniment by Roger Hoyle. Robin’s technical and performance advice was of interest to both performer and audience.
This was followed by an indulgent session: time to sit back and enjoy some of the most wonderful viola passages within the quartet repertoire, ranging from Mozart’s Quintet in C through Brahms’ 3rd Quartet, Smetana’s 1st Quartet, Janacek’s and Vaughan Williams’ 2nd Quartets, and concluding with Brahms’ 1st Sextet. Details of the recordings are in the footnote below.
After lunch the chamber music theme was developed in a group session, where Robin, leading the players through a viola quartet version of Bach’s chorale BWV 60 ‘Es ist genug’, gave helpful tips on how to improve ensemble playing through leadership gestures and on ways to achieve better coordination with the others in the group.
To end the day, we were given a recital by Robin. Demonstrating the rich tone of his Amati, he played viola transcriptions of two movements from Bach’s Partita in E and two from the Sonata in C . Pianist Jack Littlewood then joined Robin for Rebecca Clarke’s Passacaglia for viola and piano. This was followed by Robin performing his own composition for solo viola, Passacaglia ‘Stone Psalms’, inspired by a soulful poem based on the rocks and stones of Portland by Sheffield-based poet Liz Barrett, and the recital concluded with the wonderful slow movement of Brahms’ Sonata in F minor for viola and piano.
Foot notes: references to featured recordings
Mozart Quintet in C K515
- Orlando Quartet: John Harding (violin I); Heinz Oberdorfer (violin II); Ferdinand Erblich (viola); Stefan Metz (cello); with Nobuko Imai (viola). Rec. 11-13 December 1989, Oud Katholieke Kerk, Delft, The Netherlands.
- Hausmusic, London. Period instrument recording from 2005 on the Verity label with Monica Huggett and Pavlo Beznosiuk (violins), Roger Chase and Simon Whistler (violas) and Richard Lester (cello).
Brahms Quartet No. 3 in Bb major Op. 67. Amadeus Quartet, viola – Peter Schidlof, 1960. Deutsche Grammophon.
Smetana Quartet No. 1 in E minor ‘From My Life’. The Lindsays on the ASV label, 1991. Viola – Robin Ireland
Leoš Janáček String Quartet No. 2 ‘Intimate Letters’ (1928) Stamitz Quartet (Bohuslav Matoušek (violin I), Josef Kekula (violin II), Jan Pěruška (viola); Vladimir Leixner (cello)
rec. Oct 1988-1990. Prague, DDD. BRILLIANT CLASSICS 6473
Vaughan Williams String Quartet No. 2. Maggini Quartet, released May 15, 2001 on the Naxos label.
Brahms String Sextet in B flat Op. 18. The Lindsays (viola, Robin Ireland) joined by Paul Watkins (cello) and Louise Williams (viola). ASV label 2004.
Natalie Wing and Sue Douglas
29th April 2015