Monday, 12 October 2009

Bluebell Klean: Concerto in E minor for Pianoforte and Orchestra

I recently wrote a post about this composer. Basically I collected all the bits and pieces that I could find and which others had given me the references for. There is not much. Even a search of the contemporary Census records has borne no fruit. It seems likely that Bluebell Klean is a pseudonym of some sort, although I do understand the surname Klean is of Jewish origin, and there were a number of people called this reported in the 1891 and 1901 census – but not Bluebell. I have enquired at the Royal College of Music: she did not attend there nor, it seems at the Royal Academy of Music.
It is always difficult to discuss music that one has not heard. With this Piano Concerto it is highly unlikely to be heard – unless the score and the parts were to turn up. Yet it is a good example of how a major piece can be composed, performed and then largely forgotten. The cynic would suggest that it was because she was a women, however I could name at least half a dozen other Piano Concertos from that period that have also been lost to the world. It seems to be a common problem.
The first and most likely the last performance of Bluebell Klean’s Piano Concerto was given at Bournemouth on December 13 1917. The composer was the soloist and the orchestra was conducted by Sir Dan Godfrey. Other works in this concert included Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony in A minor The Scotch Op.56 and Frederic Corder’s Prospero Overture and Charpentier’s Impression d’Italie. The Musical Times records that “this work was ‘very capably played by the composer and proved to be a work of merit’.

We are fortunate in having the programme note for this work, and I make no apology for reproducing it below – with a few minor edits.

Analytical Programme Note by F Gilbert-Webb

“The composer of this work is British born, and has received her musical training entirely in England. The most noteworthy of her compositions are a Quintet in C minor, for pianoforte and strings, which has been performed twice at the Wigmore Hall, London, and a Piano Trio in F. Miss Klean has also written many songs, the best known of which are The Water Sprite and A Fancy of Fontenelle. She has twice had the honour of playing before Queen Mary.
The concerto is constructed on classical line. It begins with an orchestral tutti which starts the delivery of the principal subject, Allegro ma non troppo. It is of emphatic character, in E minor, and is followed by what is technically known as a bridge passage leading to the second chief subject in G major. The bridge passage should be observed as much use is made of it in varied forms as the work proceeds.
If the first theme is taken as expressive of the masculine element of the music, the second theme is amiably feminine. The pianoforte enters with a short cadenza built upon the first subject. When the orchestra re-enters it is with the same subject which is dealt with simultaneously by the solo instrument. In due course the pianoforte takes up the second theme and when it is repeated by the orchestra it is ornamented by the solo instrument. After the return of the first subject in a tutti in C, the pianoforte indulges in an important cadenza. These portions form the development section, in which is contained the recapitulation of the thematic material. In this the second subject returns in E major and proves its feminine character by dominating the situation. The conclusion is approached by a long pedal passage on F sharp, which leads to an exuberant finale.
The second movement is an Andante in E major in three-four measure. It opens with an introduction of twelve bars leading to the announcement by the orchestra of the principal melody, the significance of which is increased by a syncopated accompaniment. The pianoforte repeats the theme slightly varied. Presently the solo instrument introduces two phrases from the principal subject of the first movement. These are repeated by the orchestra on its re-entrance. A climax is worked up and proves the herald of the second subject in C sharp minor. The pianoforte repeats it with varied treatment. Later on the first melody returns in E major on the flutes and violins. Another big climax is built up, but the movement ends quietly with passages based on the principal melody.
The finale is in Rondo form. It is in E major and begins with a short introduction based on the first tow notes of the Rondo subject. The pianoforte announces this theme which gains in vivacity by being written in the rhythm of the Polka and by the manner it is supported by the orchestra. The second subject is in C major, is of a light character, and is ingeniously approached by the orchestra, which announces it. Some frisky passages on the pianoforte seem to express satisfaction with the second subject while being delivered by the orchestra. Subsequently the principal themes are heard in combination. A climax having been achieved there ensues an episode in B flat. This is founded on a singing melody given out by the pianoforte. When repeated by the orchestra the solo instrument indulges in some chattering remarks in counterpoint. In due course the Rondo theme returns slightly varied for full orchestra. The melody of the Episode comes back, but now in E major and in augmented form. The pianoforte has some airy passages, and a big climax is worked up in Eb upon the episode from which, by an ingenious modulation, the conclusion is approached, the concerto ending brilliantly in E major.”

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