Alnwick, Recorded Music Society

Pottergate and Narrowgate in Alnwick
Pottergate and Narrowgate in Alnwick

There was a wealth of unfamiliar music to enjoy when Mike Alexander led members Into The Unknown.

Mike started with excerpts from Johann Lickl’s exquisite Cassation in E flat major for oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon. Lickl was an Austrian composer, inspired by his friend and idol Mozart, and this piece was at one time ascribed to Mozart.

Next came music by the Ukrainian composer Myroslav Skoryk. His Melody was composed for the film High Pass and became so popular that he could not bear to hear it any more.

The 16th century Italian composer Maddalena Casulana was the first European woman to have her music printed and published. Mike’s third choice was one of her vocal compositions, sensitively arranged for string orchestra by Colin Matthews in 2016.

Another 16th century composer came next, with two choral pieces by the Italian Giovanni Maria Nanino, the first a secular madrigal, and the second an adaptation of the piece for church use.

Less well known than her husband Robert, Clara Schumann was a composer of considerable talent, as demonstrated by a movement from her Piano Trio in G minor.

Staying with chamber music, Mike next introduced us to English composer Algernon Ashton. A contemporary of Elgar, Ashton was born in Durham, but his entire musical education took place in Germany. We heard the impressive final movement of his Cello Sonata No.2 in G major.

A short concerto for strings by the Italian composer Giacomo Facco followed. Composed in 1717, this was highly reminiscent of his contemporary Antonio Vivaldi.

In 1908, the Russian composer Nikolai Tcherepnin produced a short piano piece entitled Stars. What is remarkable is the resemblance to the theme of Star Wars, composed nearly 70 years later.

Another remarkable discovery was the music of Australian composer Sadie Harrison. Working with local musicians in Afghanistan in 2015, Harrison transcribed Afghan instrumental music as the basis for compositions of immense energy and appeal.

While the nationality of the Norwegian composer Leif Solberg may not have been a surprise, the 1951 date of his symphony was as this seemed to belong firmly in the first half of the 20th century. Nevertheless, this was music of a minor master worth hearing.

To conclude this most enjoyable journey off the beaten track, Mike’s final choice was a piece that had origins spanning two centuries. The little known Russian composer Oleg Komarnistsky used a fantasia for piano by Leopold Mozart as the basis for his Andante amoroso for violin and piano, composed in 1996.