St Bride's: Music - Lunchtime Recitals

Clare McCaldin - mezzo-soprano, and Timothy Salter - piano

Tuesday, 29 November at 1:15pm - FREE ADMITTANCE - Retiring Collection

Clare McCaldin - mezzo-soprano, and Timothy Salter - pianoClare McCaldin - mezzo-soprano, and Timothy Salter - piano

Ivor Gurney

Three Elizabethan Songs

Orpheus; Sleep; Spring

Gabriel Fauré

Cinq Mélodies de Venise

Mandoline; En Sourdine; Green; A Clymène; C'est l'extase

Timothy Salter

Four Hopkins Songs

Peace; Spring; Spring and Fall; The Starlight Night

Maurice Ravel

Shéhérazade; Asie; La flûte enchantée; L'indifférent

Ivor Gurney - from Five Elizabethan Songs

Orpheus - Sleep - Spring

These three songs come from a group setting lyrics by Elizabethan poets and were often referred to by Gurney as The Elizas. They are among his best-known vocal works perhaps because the set includes one of the finest of all English songs, a setting of John Fletcher's text Sleep.

Gurney had been a prodigious student at the Royal College of Music, where he was taught by Charles Villiers Stanford, who nurtured many of the great English composer of Gurney's generation. However, despite Gurney being potentially "the biggest of them all", Stanford told another student Herbert Howells that Gurney was "unteachable", perhaps because of his incipient instability. He had already suffered a breakdown by the time he enlisted to serve in World War 1 and although he survived, the experience affected him profoundly. His health deteriorated and he died at the early age of 47, having spent the final fifteen years of his life in psychiatric hospitals.

Throughout the war and after, Gurney continued to write music and poetry. Gerald Finzi was one of his first champions, determined that Gurney's work should be properly recognised, although it is thought that a substantial proportion of his output is still unpublished and unrecorded.

Gabriel Fauré - Cinq Mélodies de Venise

Mandoline - En Sourdine - Green - A Clymène - C'est l'extase

Fauré began writing this group of songs while a guest in the Venetian palazzo of Winnaretta Singer, the heiress to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune who moved to Paris at an early age and duly became the Princesse de Polignac. When he returned to Paris and completed the set, Fauré dedicated it to Winnaretta.

The songs all set texts by Paul Verlaine, whose magnificent symbolist poetry was the rich fruit of a colourful existence encompassing alcoholism, drug dependency, prison and bisexuality. In Mandoline characters from the Commedia dell'arte are seen in a neo-classical scene in which they lounge beneath the trees and talk nonsense to each other; En Sourdine describes lying under trees with a lover, sharing the silence and the sounds of the wind in the branches; Green is a breathless request to a lover; the rocking motion of A Clymène evokes the Venetian gondoliers' song, the barcarolle, which is mentioned in the opening stanza; in the final song, C'est l'extase, the themes of the other songs are re-introduced making the group of songs, in Fauré's own words, into "a kind of suite".

Timothy Salter - Four Hopkins Songs

Peace - Spring - Spring and Fall: to a young child - The Starlight Night

I was drawn to the poetry of the Jesuit priest Gerard Manley Hopkins by its sense of controlled extremes: there is anguish and there is ecstasy, conveyed with fervour and passion, and all is expressed by means of a refined technique of great individuality. His language is rich in alliterations and rhythmic vitality; boundaries are expanded by unexpected juxtapositions and at times indeed the invention of new words. All this makes it a formidable challenge to set to music, additionally because of the intensely rhythmical nature of the poetry (Hopkins provided accents on syllables to clarify the rhythm and to draw attention to its frequent asymmetry). Despite telling myself that I would not repeat the exercise, I have nevertheless returned to his poetry more than once when choosing words to set for subsequent works. As far as I recall the first two of this set - Peace and Spring - are the first settings I made of any Hopkins words. They were written in 1963 while I was a student at Cambridge. I added Spring and Fall: to a young child and The Starlight Night in 1968.

Maurice Ravel - Shéhérazade

Asie - La flûte enchantée - L'indifférent

Ravel was especially interested by the character of Scheherazade, the heroine and narrator of The Arabian Nights and first wrote an orchestral overture evoking her. He later met symbolist poet Tristan Klingsor who had recently published a collection of free verse called Shéhérazade, inspired by Rimsky-Korsakov's symphonic suite of the same name, which Ravel also admired. Ravel and Klingsor were both members of a group calling itself Les Apaches (the Hooligans) and, after hearing Klingsor read some of his poems, Ravel decided to set three of them to music.

The voluptuousness and languor of the settings is typical of the fascination with the exotic and foreign that characterised not only music but other art-forms at this time. The first song, Asie, is substantially longer than the other two and in it the poet feverishly imagines himself escaping to Arabia and even China, before returning to reality and telling tall tales "like Sindbad" over a cup of tea. In La flûte enchantée a young woman hears her lover playing the flute and feels joined to him by music, despite their physical separation; in L'indifférent a young man passes the poet's door, oblivious to the latter's attention and ambiguous intentions.

Clare McCaldin has built a diverse career and a reputation as a powerful communicator on the opera stage and concert platform and has sung at the Salzburg Easter Festival, the Royal Opera, ENO, the BBC Proms and the Edinburgh International Festival. Clare is a great advocate of new music and has performed work by Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Cecilia McDowell, Hugh Wood, Michael Zev Gordon and created roles for Opera North, Royal Opera, WNO and Aldeburgh.

She appeared in Errollyn Wallen's Cautionary Tales at the 2014 Latitude Festival and in Stephen McNeff's Prometheus Drowned, on tour for Nova Music Opera. Clare's company McCaldin Arts continues to tour her solo shows, Haydn's London Ladies and Vivienne. Madrigali dell'Estate, a CD of works written for her by Stephen McNeff and her recording of Hugh Wood's Laurie Lee Songs were both awarded four stars by BBC Music Magazine. Notes from the Asylum, her second solo CD with Champs Hill Records includes the premiere recording of Stephen McNeff's Vivienne. Clare is a Founder Trustee of New Notes & Noises, a charity dedicated to creating high-quality performances of new work and multi-disciplinary collaboration. Read more about our first project, The Ubiquitous Woman, at newnotesandnoises.org.uk.

On behalf of the Haydn Society of Great Britain, Clare fund-raised and oversaw the installation in 2015 of the first commemorative blue plaque to Joseph Haydn in London.

Timothy Salter is a composer, conductor and pianist. Besides his compositional activity he is musical director of The Ionian Singers with whom he has performed and broadcast internationally. As a pianist he has travelled widely playing with singers and instrumentalists. For many years he taught both composition and performance studies at the Royal College of Music, London. His own musical studies at no point encompassed a formal composition course; his training as a composer was (and is) in the understanding of the elements of pitch, rhythm and timbre with respect to the dynamics of movement in any piece of western European music of the past five centuries, elements that for him remain fundamental for composition today.

He is a strong advocate of the composer-performer, believing that executant experience has as invaluable effect on composition. He has written a substantial body of choral works and works including chorus, and much of his wide-ranging instrumental music has been written for colleague performers. His compositions include instrumental, chamber, and orchestral music; choral music and songs. His music has been recorded on numerous labels. He has received many public and private commissions and his music has been broadcast throughout the world. Further information: www.timothysalter.com

Clare McCaldin is known for her powerful communication on the opera stage and concert platform. She has sung at Salzburg Easter Festival, Royal Opera, BBC Proms and Edinburgh International Festival and is a keen advocate of contemporary vocal and dramatic repertoire. Madrigali dell'Estate, her debut CD, and her recording of Hugh Wood's Laurie Lee Songs were awarded four stars by BBC Music Magazine. Her latest CD, Notes from the Asylum, is now out on Champs Hill Records. Clare has also produced her own solo shows, Haydn's London Ladies and Vivienne and is currently developing The Ubiquitous Woman.

Timothy Salter is active as a composer, conductor and pianist. His compositions include instrumental, chamber and orchestral music, choral music and songs. He has received numerous publicly and privately funded commissions; his music has been recorded on various labels and performed and broadcast throughout the world. He is musical director of The Ionian Singers. For many years he taught both composition and performance studies at the Royal College of Music. As a pianist, he performs and records widely with instrumentalists and singers.

www.timothysalter.com