Thursday, 8 April 2010

Bluebell Klean: A Concert of Her Music in 1906

The first of Bluebell Klean’s concerts that it has been possible to trace was held on Tuesday, November 13, 1906 at the Bechstein Hall in London. The concert began promptly at 8.15 p.m. The programme announced in large writing that Miss Bluebell Klean will give an Evening Concert kindly assisted by Miss Esther Palliser, The Hans Wessely Quartet and Miss Johanna Heymann at the piano. The accompanist for the songs was Mr. Richard Epstein.

The composer was introduced in the programme as follows:-
‘Miss Bluebell Klean, who gives her first concert this evening, and appears in the dual capacity of composer and pianist, was born in London, and for the past three years has studied composition with Mr. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, at Trinity College, previous to which she had private lessons in harmony and counterpoint with Dr. Greenish, and for pianoforte from Mr. Gustave Ernest and Mr. Eduard Zeldenrust.’
It is noted that in addition to the works performed at this concert, the composer has written a Piano Concerto, a Piano Trio, and a number of piano and violin pieces, and many songs. Some of these songs were performed at the concert.

The first half of the evening opened with Schubert’s fine Impromptu in Bb played by Miss Heymann. This was followed by three of Klean’s songs – ‘The Voice of Sleep’ (Hamilton Aïdé), ‘A Fancy from Fontenelle’ (Austin Dobson) and ‘Open the Door’ (Anon).
‘The Voice of Sleep’ ‘reposes in the minor mode until the last verse, when it appropriately adopts the stronger major mode, ‘to toil and fight.’ In the ‘Fancy’ Miss Klean ‘has sought to suggest the gentle pathos of the lines of [the song] chiefly by a series of subtle harmonic changes. And finally ‘the harmonic scheme of ‘Open the Door’ is bolder than the preceding songs. It might indeed well open the door to discussion, for the signature is F major, the first chord is in G minor, and the last in A major. The transition to the last named tonality takes place on the concluding word of the final line – ‘You shall not kiss me,’ the result being that the music suggests that the lady might change her mind; for the leading note of the key of this sing is converted into the fifth of the new key, and there is always an atmosphere of possibility surrounding the fifth note of the scale.’ Would that we could hear this song, however, I believe that it was played from manuscript. Only the second song is listed as a published work.
The major part of the first movement was given over to the Quintet in C minor, for piano, two violins, viola and violoncello: the composer played the piano part. The work was a large-scale essay in four movements – allegro, andante, scherzo and a concluding allegro. I have published the programme note for this work in my blog previously.
Miss Esther Palliser sang three songs before the interval – Richard Strauss’s ‘Ich trage meine Minne’, Gabriel Fauré’s Après un Rêve and Chopin – Pauline Viardot’s Mazourke.

After the interval the composer played three short piano pieces. The programme suggests that ‘a posy of country flowers requires no description to appreciate its beauties, and analysis of these little pianoforte pieces is equally unnecessary.’ However the Cavatina was originally published under the title of Bagatelle: it would appear that this is a more appropriate name. The Scherzo is short and sweet, proving the old adage that ‘brevity is the soul of wit.’ Finally, she played a Gavotte in C minor. The score was inscribed with the words ‘A stately measure of olden day/In which December would dance with May.’

Miss Esther Palliser then sang three more of Bluebell Klean’s songs. The first was a setting by Longfellow, ‘A Day of Sunshine’ in which the composer ‘broke the rule that a song ought to begin and end in the same key’. The notes state that the ‘tonality chosen for [this song] is the popular key of Eb and the signature may be helpful to the accompanist, but in the setting of the last line a modulation is made into C minor, in which mode the song ends.’
This was followed by Mrs. Heman’s ‘Come to me, gentle sleep. The set was completed by Lady Alix Egerton’s ‘The Water Sprite.’ Klean appears to have used different keys for the last verse – the song began in Eb, modulated to G major for the final verse and further changed key to C major for the final words – ‘...and I am wise.’ The writer of the programme notes, most likely Bluebell Klean, suggests that the critics will decide if the composer was wise!
The concert concluded with a Caprice in Eb for solo piano. The note suggests that this is one of the composer’s latest productions. The serious matter of the piece was contained in the ‘central portion.’.

The concert was reviewed in the Musical Times December 1 1906:-
“Klean, a native of London, who gave her first chamber concert on November 13, at Bechstein Hall, claims special attention, as the programme consisted almost entirely of her own compositions. The most important of these was a Quintet in C minor for pianoforte and strings, which proved a pleasing and genial work based on melodious themes, which are tersely and clearly developed with admirable perception of effectiveness and contrast. Six songs from the same pen, and some short and bright piano-forte pieces, show considerable originality in their harmonic scheme and avoidance of conventionality, while the songs, severally named 'Open the door,' ' Come to me' and 'The water-sprite,' should find publishers. They were charmingly sung by Miss Esther Palliser, and the pianoforte pieces were expressively played by Miss Johanna Heymann. The Quintet was excellently rendered by the Hans Wessely Quartet, with the composer at the pianoforte”.

Most of the works played were from the manuscript. Some eight years later some of these works were given at another Klean concert. This suggests that she composed very few works indeed. There seems to be no works produced after the Piano Concerto in 1917: I have yet to discover where and when the Piano Trio was performed.

Finally, I was surprised just how expensive the tickets were in those days (1906) the cheapest was 2/6 (17 ½p) and the dearest was a whopping £1 1s (£1.05.) This would have been the equivalent of many a working persons weekly wages! Even the programme was 6d (2 ½p)

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