Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Ian Venables: A busy time composing...

I was delighted to hear that in this time of ‘economic woes’ and ‘credit crunches’ that Ian Venables career as a composer is going from strength to strength. Perhaps the most exiting work that he is working on at the moment is the large scale song cycle ‘Remember This’. This is a setting of Andrew Motion’s commemorative elegy which the poet laureate wrote after the death of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. I am not normally a great fan of Motion’s poetry, but I do feel that this was a particularly worthy setting and is ideally suited to Venables compositional style. I look forward to hearing the first performance and especially wonder what he will make of my favourite stanza, the sixth:-
On the crest of their Downs
with galloping sunlight
the horses in training
know in their bones
nothing but racing, so all they can manage
today is the beauty
of sprinting and spurting...

The composer has told me that the work is complete in draft form and that he is at present scoring it for two voices, string quartet (a favoured medium of Venables), piano and percussion which may include optional parts for tubular bells, a bell tree, a tuned gong,marimba and glockenspiel.
Equally exciting is the forthcoming performance of his fine Piano Quintet by the Coull Quartet with Mark Bebbington. Mark continues to impress enthusiasts of British music with his superb recordings of Frank Bridge, John Ireland and Howard Ferguson. This concert will be given in Worcester on 8th May (Details to follow). A recording of this Quintet and other chamber music from SOMM with the same ensemble is also on the cards.
One particular event I am looking forward to is the War Poets Concert at that great ‘socialist’ church of St. James’ Piccadilly. This will include works by John Ireland, George Butterworth, Ivor Gurney, Gerald Finzi and the lesser known John Jeffreys and Elaine Hugh-Jones. Some of Venables songs will also be performed.
Another highlight of Ian Venables year (so far) will be the release by Signum of his Song Cycle, Invite to Eternity, which are settings of four poems by the great John Clare. But perhaps the most important work on this CD will be the String Quartet Op.32. The chamber ensemble for this recording will be the Dante Quartet with the tenor Andrew Kennedy. I look forward to reviewing this CD and the recording of the Quintet!

1 comment:

mathias-richter said...

I think the quintet is one of Ian's most important works and I am glad that it will reach a wider public soon. To me it is the most passionate piano quintet since Elgar. His romanticism is likely to rouse criticism from a modernist position but the music is strong enough to withstand thorough study.
I was lucky to do a short analysis by ear a few years ago which Ian kindly approved.
His workmanship is superb and the quality of the material never falters. It is very seldom to encounter a musical personality of such great emotional range.