Concert Notes: Woven Threads

MCO’s Woven Threads can be heard on Thursday 9 March 7:30pm and Sunday 12 March 2:30pm at Melbourne Recital Centre; online via Australian Digital Concert Hall on Thursday 9 March 7:30pm; at McAuley Hall Sacred Heart College Geelong on Saturday 3 March 7:30pm; and at West Gippsland Arts Centre Friday 10 March 7:30PM.


This program Woven Threads presents us with an amazing array of textural works over time that take us from the single line or theme through to full exploration of the multiple interweaving lines of a fugue with its contrapuntal complexities.
It is difficult to capture the sheer magnitude of the influence of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) on Western music. A German composer, he was an all-round musician, teacher, and practitioner whose life was centred around his family, work and his God.
JS Bach took the forms and techniques of his time and extended, expanded, and enhanced them so that future generations would continue to explore his inventive mastery and achievement.
Two of the composer’s late works were Das Musikalische Opfer (The Musical Offering) BWV 1079 and Die Kunst der Fuge (The Art of Fugue) BWV 1080; each is considered as a great monument of contrapuntal writing. Much has been written on the genesis of ‘The Musical Offering’ built on a theme offered to the composer by Frederick the Great of Prussia to improvise a fugue. The work that followed was an extended collection of keyboard canons, fugues (ricercar) and a trio sonata.
As its title suggests, Ricercar à 6 is a fugue in six parts and considered the high point of ‘The Musical Offering’. The lengthy chromatic theme is presented six times across various instruments and registers, before being developed prior to its final statement.
Melody Eötvös (1984) was born in the Southern Highlands, NSW, Australia. Her work draws on both multi-media and traditional instrumental contexts, as well substantial extra-musical references to a broad range of philosophical, biological, and ancient topics as well as a sustained interest in late 19th-century life and literature.
Eötvös has studied with a variety of composers across the globe including Gerardo Dirié (Australia), Simon Bainbridge (UK), and, most recently with Claude Baker, David Dzubay, P.Q. Phan, and Aaron Travers (USA). She has also studied electronic music with Jeffrey Hass, John Gibson, and Alicyn Warren.
Eötvös has had her music performed by ensembles and orchestras such as the London Sinfonietta, BBC Singers, The Australian String Quartet, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and has participated in several electronic music festivals including SEAMUS 2011 (US), ACMC 2012 (Australia), and ICMC 2011 (New Zealand). She has also participated in numerous festivals and workshops internationally, most recently as a composer in residence with the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz (2019). Commissions in 2020 included The Philadelphia Orchestra (USA), The Australian Chamber Orchestra, and the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra (USA).
Eötvös is a Lecturer in Composition and Aural Studies at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne, Australia. Melody holds a Doctor of Music (2014) from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music USA, and a Master of Music (2008) from the Royal Academy of Music, London UK.
The composer writes: Meraki: This is a word that modern Greeks often use to describe doing something with soul, creativity, or love—when you put ‘something of yourself’ into what you’re doing, whatever it may be.
The German composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847) was one the great musical prodigies. By 1823 (aged 14) he had composed thirteen string symphonies as well as songs, sonatas, Singspiels and a cantata. In the period between 1822 and 1824 he produced five concertos, one each for piano and violin and three double concertos (two for two pianos, and one for violin and piano).
The Violin Concerto in D minor MWV03 was written for his violin teacher Eduard Rietz and was probably premiered at one the Sunday ‘musicales’ at the family home in Berlin. The score was not published in the composer’s lifetime and on his death it was handed to Ferdinand David who premiered the Violin Concerto in E minor Op 64 in 1845. The work was revived in 1952 by Yehudi Menuhin who premiered it at Carnegie Hall, New York and then arranged for its publication.
The work is in three movements: Allegro molto, Andante, Allegro. There is a sense of drive and spontaneous vitality in the outer movements, contrasted with the long sweeping melodies of the Andante.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) composed the Adagio and Fugue in C minor K 546 in June 1788. It is scored for strings and is an arrangement of an earlier Fugue in C minor K 426 for two pianos from 1783.
Mozart’s productively in the summer of 1788 was astounding. From June to August of that year he composed his final three symphonies: Nos 39 in E flat K 543, 40 in G minor K 550, and 41 in C major K 551, as well as the Adagio and Fugue. The work provides great contrast between the sombre Adagio and the four-part fugue marked Allegro.
Anton Stepanovich Arensky (1861¬–1906) was a Russian composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher. He studied composition with Rimsky-Korsakov at the St Petersburg Conservatory and upon graduating became professor of harmony and counterpoint at the Moscow Conservatory. It was here he came in contact with Tchaikovsky who gave him considerable encouragement. He held a number of conducting positions in Moscow and St Petersburg. Among his compositions were symphonies, operas, piano music, songs, chamber music, a piano concerto, and a violin concerto. Despite Rimsky-Korsakov’s comment in Chronicle of my Musical Life (1909) that Arensky ‘would soon be forgotten’, he is particularly remembered for his Piano Trio in D minor (1894), the piano miniatures, and the Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky (1894).
The Variations for strings was composed in 1894 and is based on Tchaikovsky’s Legend Op 54, No 5 (1883). Variations is an arrangement of the slow movement of Arensky’s second String Quartet Op 35. Following the statement of the theme, there are seven variations and a coda. The variations alternate between slow and fast tempos, and the focus shifting among the instruments with inventively changing textures.
Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (1932-2004) was an American composer and conductor named after the African-British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. His output spans ballet, instrumental and vocal music, incidental music, and film scores, and covers many styles including jazz and popular music writing arrangements for Marvin Gaye and Harry Belafonte. Carman Moore writing in Grove Music Online states, “his music draws on elements of Baroque counterpoint, American Romanticism, blues, spirituals, and rhythmic ingenuity.”
Sinfonietta No. 1 was composed in 1955 and is in three movements. Each of the movements incorporates contrapuntal writing. The final movement Allegro furioso is a rondo and marked by syncopation, repetition, and drive.
Notes: David Forrest (other than Eötvös)