Alnwick Recorded Music Society’s treasurer Susan Trafford took members on a magical mystery tour of Europe with a wide ranging choice of music that sometimes represented more than one location at a time.
She started at home with a lively recording of Kathryn Tickell playing the Morpeth Rant.
From here, we crossed the channel to the Netherlands to hear a most unusual version of Tulips From Amsterdam, played on ocarinas by Michael Copley and Friends.
We were then whisked off to Sweden to hear Jakob Lindberg playing two lute pieces by the German composer Silvius Weiss.
Susan explained that Lindberg’s instrument, made in 1590, is the oldest surviving lute, which although later restored, still retains its original soundboard.
Next came a visit to the Savonlinna Opera Festival in Finland for excerpts from a performance of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana with the orchestra of the Novaya Opera of Moscow. Here we had the interesting combination of Finland, Russia and Sicily.
Moving on to France, Susan chose The Death of Ophelia by Hector Berlioz, performed by the John Aldiss Choir, conducted by Colin Davis. Again this represented more than one country as Shakespeare’s Hamlet, on which this music is based, is set in Denmark.
Firmly set in Italy, we were introduced to music for a Venetian Coronation. This spectacular and atmospheric recording by the Gabrieli Consort and Players, conducted by Paul McCreesh, included the entry music by Hans Leo Hassler, with drums, bells and the sound of fireworks.
Moving to Milan, the next piece of music came from La Scala. This was Rossini’s Petite Messe Solenelle, neither little or solemn, but a charming work with the singers – in this case Mirella Freni, Luciano Pavarotti and Ruggero Raimondi – accompanied by pianos and harmonium.
Leaving Italy, we were treated to a flying visit to Austria with an amusing ocarina arrangement of an extract from Franz Schubert’s Trout Quintet, before arriving at our final destination, Germany.
Here Susan chose to take us to the depths of the Rhine for the opening of Richard Wagner’s epic Rhinegold, performed by the Bayreuther Festspiel, conducted by Daniel Barenboim.
This was the longest and most dramatic piece of the evening and brought Susan’s musical peregrination to a resounding conclusion.