Friday 2 April 4.00 pm
Streamed LIVE concert in an empty church
Haydn: 'The Seven Last Words on the Cross' for string quartet
The Bridge String Quartet
Robert Gibbs (violin)
Catherine Schofield (violin)
Michael Schofield (viola)
Lucy Wilding (cello)
with readings by Christopher Kent
The celebrated Bridge String Quartet make a welcome return to St Mary's Perivale with regular collaborator, the actor Christopher Kent, well known to local audiences for his recent recital performances at St Mary's of Never Such Innocence, Odyssey and Enoch Arden by Richard Strauss Haydn's timeless, soul-searching string quartet The Seven Last Words on the Cross was originally commissioned by the Bishop of Cadiz in 1786 for the Good Friday Service at the Oratorio de la Santa Cueva, with the movements separated by devotional words and meditations. This special performance recreates Haydn's original plan by interspersing the movements with readings by Christopher Kent of classic and contemporary poetry, including works by Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Mary Oliver, Philip Larkin and others. The programme was first performed to acclaim in London last Easter.
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“The Bridge Quartet's players are, as can always be counted on, exemplary in technical address and masters of musicality. They are also serious artists dedicated to promoting the works of their native English composers ” FANFARE (USA) 2014
The Bridge Quartet's reputation as an ambassador for English music is universally recognised. The group has travelled widely to festivals in USA, France, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Bulgaria and Kenya and has broadcast English music live on the BBC and on various continental radio stations. Their recording legacy began with three CDs for Meridian records of early and mature quartets by their namesake Frank Bridge and a consequent catalogue of recordings has been sprinkled with discoveries, most notably for EMR records. The quartet has unearthed and brought to life neglected works by Norman O'Neill, Sir Hubert Parry, Goossens, Hurlstone and Howells to name a few. With Michael Dussek (piano) their most recent CDs, ‘Heracleitus' and ‘Blue Remembered Hills', have featured Ivor Gurney's song cycles with tenor Charles Daniels and baritone Roderick Williams respectively. The latter CD is due to be officially launched in May following a concert at the 2021English Music Festival.
“this brilliant performance by Williams, Dussek and the Bridge Quartet, make this disc an absolute must-have, not just for Gurney aficionados but for all lovers of English song, indeed all song” Opera Today June 2020
Other plans for 2021 include Easter performances of Haydn's ‘Seven Last Words' with actor Christopher Kent and some ‘postponed' Beethoven birthday celebration concerts alongside further world premiere recording work of English repertoire. The quartet is very grateful for the continuing support of the Bridge Quartet Initiative Trust (charity no 1133156)
Christopher Kent has appeared on stage, screen and radio in a wide range of roles from Shakespeare to contemporary drama. London theatre appearances have included Cyrano de Bergerac with Robert Lindsay at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and The Government Inspector with Timothy Spall at Greenwich Theatre. He is also one of the UK's best-known voiceover actors and his voice is regularly heard on commercials, documentaries, film trailers and literary recordings. Recent concert work includes collaborations with the Orlando Choir, West London Sinfonia and the Bridge String Quartet. With his regular recital partner the pianist Gamal Khamis he continues to perform the acclaimed narrative recitals Never Such Innocence (described by BBC Radio 3 as “an incredibly moving performance"), Odyssey – Words and Music of Finding Home and Tennyson's epic poem Enoch Arden, as set to music by Richard Strauss.
Notes on the music:
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) was commissioned to write his Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross by the Bishop of Cádiz in 1786 for the Good Friday service at the Oratorio de la Santa Cueva. It was originally conceived for full orchestra and later adapted in 1787 by the composer as his string quartet Opus 51, the form in which it is now best known. The work begins with an Introduction followed by seven meditative movements based on the Seven Last Words, which appear in the score in Latin under the first violin part. The Terremoto (Earthquake) conclusion is based on verses from Matthew 27: “ At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split.”
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34)
Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43)
Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother (John 19:26–27)
God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34)
I thirst (John 19:28)
It is finished. (John 19:30)
Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit (Luke 23:46)
Here is a Wound That Never Will Heal I Know, by Edna St. Vincent Millay
from Lollingdon Downs, by John Masefield
Touch, by Michael Donaghy
Pain, by Ivor Gurney
Sonnet number 90, by William Shakespeare
When Death Comes, by Mary Oliver
Poem number 1499, by Emily Dickinson
Going, by Philip Larkin
Notes on the poems:
Edna St Vincent Millay (1892-1950) was an American lyric poet who achieved great fame in her early years, not least for her mastery of the sonnet form, before her work fell from favour.
John Masefield (1878-1967) was Poet Laureate for over thirty years. Lollingdon Downs was a meditative sonnet sequence written in 1917 and named after his Berkshire home.
Michael Donaghy (1954-2004) was a New Yorker who moved to London in 1985 and was one of the most lyrically gifted poets of his generation. In “Touch” he reflects on eternal motherhood while viewing the remains of a young Neanderthal woman.
The poet and composer Ivor Gurney (1890-1937) survived the trenches of WW1 but never fully recovered and spent his later years in an asylum. “Pain” is the second of his Sonnets 1917 written as a “soldier's riposte” to Rupert Brooke's patriotic War Sonnets , the most famous of which is “The Soldier” (“If I should die think only this of me…”).
Of the 154 sonnets of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) the last 28 are addressed to the mysterious Dark Lady and the first 126 trace the poet's fascination with, infatuation for and eventual estrangement from an unnamed young nobleman. Sonnet 90 elaborates on his fears of rejection and betrayal.
Mary Oliver (1935-2019) was an American poet who won the Pulitzer prize in 1984. “When Death Comes” dates from 1990 and is both a meditation on death and a rallying call for life.
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) was a prolific but reclusive poet who wrote over 1,800 poems, only a dozen of which were published in her lifetime. Few had titles and many, like Poem number 1499, meditate on themes of death and immortality.
Philip Larkin (1922-85) was one of the foremost English poets of the twentieth century though his output amounted to only four slim volumes over as many decades. Surprisingly, given its sense of foreboding, “Going” is a relatively early poem (1946) but the fear it hints at is not just of death but also of the loss of belief and certainty.
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