Friday 17th June 2016 at 8pm
Jerome Hynes Theatre,
National Opera House Wexford
Musici Ireland Sextet
|Mia Cooper, violin|
|Jane Hackett, violin|
|Beth McNinch, viola|
|David Kenny, viola|
|William Butt, cello|
|Grainne Hope, cello|
Brahms String Sextet no. 1 in B flat major op 18
Brahms String Sextet no. 2 in G major op 36
The classical repertoire contains few string sextets. One such early effort is Brahms’s String Sextet No. 1, scored for pairs of violins, violas, and cellos. Beethoven had composed many quartets, but not a single sextet. It was a genre known only to the lesser talents of Spohr and Boccherini, and, as of 1860, the twenty-seven-year-old Brahms, who opted for a sextet exactly because of its rarity. At the time, the young composer was spending his summer as music master of the royal court of Detmold, where his duties were sufficiently limited as to allow much opportunity for pleasant walks in the woods. Perhaps that mellow atmosphere contributed to the composition’s gentle charms. Upon completing the piece Brahms sent it to his friend, the violinist Joseph Joachim, with a note reading, “I have been quite a long time over it and I do not suppose that this will have raised your expectations… but with God’s help, nothing is impossible.” Joachim, after playing through the piece with friends, expressed cautious optimism and arranged a premiere in Hanover on October 20, 1860.
Brahms was present for the occasion, as was his dear friend Clara Schumann, who remarked of the piece, “It was even more beautiful than I had anticipated, and my expectations were already high.” Spared the burden of Beethoven’s ghost, the new sextet – and its young creator – scored a success
Around the time of the Sextet No. 2, Brahms was in the middle of one of the big romances in his life, with the singer Agathe von Siebold. Many of their friends, in fact, felt that an engagement was on the way. But Brahms wasn’t ready to commit, and wrote her that while he wanted to continue their relationship, he didn’t wish to “wear fetters.” They soon parted ways, and the composition of the Sextet No. 2 was to some extent cathartic for Brahms: after completing the work, he wrote to a friend, “Here I have freed myself from my last love.” But she was constantly on his mind. In fact, at three points in the Sextet’s first movement, one can hear the violins playing her name in notes: A-G-A-D-H-E (with the “D” replacing the “T,” and the “H” designating the note B natural in German).
When Brahms started work on his second sextet he was apparently in the same emotional turmoil he had been in while composing his first. Though eternally devoted to Clara Schumann, he had allowed himself to become temporarily engaged to Agathe von Siebold, a young soprano who inspired several of his songs. Enshrined in the music are his memories of Agathe as well as the state of his thoughts about Clara. The letters of Agathe’s name (AGAHE in German musical nomenclature, AGABE in English) form the passionate climax of the first movement’s second subject, though by the time he wrote it their engagement was in the past, even if the music suggests that strong feelings still existed.
This work, however, is not to be interpreted as an autobiographical composition; Brahms would have been the first to insist that it be heard as abstract music. Nevertheless it does have an unusual mixture of energy and plaintiveness, as well as a strong motif of vanished love.
Musici Ireland is based in County Wexford. It was established in 2012 by Beth McNinch, consists of the cream of Irish talent, who are all highly regarded soloists, chamber and orchestral musicians. Beth was also keen to create an ensemble that could collaborate with artists from different disciplines, such as composers, actors, poets, puppeteers and dancers. Future plans for the group involve wonderfully inventive educational projects and commissions from Irish composers, as well as resurrecting long forgotten works.
Mia Cooper, violin studied at the Royal Northern College of Music with Yossi Zivoni and has been involved in a wide variety of music making in the ten years since. She was principal first violin of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for five years, and also regularly plays and records with London’s chamber orchestras and ensembles, including the Fibonacci Sequence, Barbican Trio, Brodsky Quartet, Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Academy of St Martin-in-the- Fields. Mia was a guest leader of the CBSO, and BBC National Orchestra of Wales and before moving to Dublin, spent three summers leading the St Endellion Orchestra. Mia participates in chamber music festivals across Europe, and also in Mumbai, and last summer performed in Lithuania a music project of A Midsummer Night’s Dream where both rôles and music were performed by seven musicians (in Lithuanian).
As a soloist Mia has performed much of the Baroque solo violin repertoire with the New London Soloist’s Orchestra, and also plays as a soloist with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. She has recorded a wide variety of chamber music, including works by Nicola Lefanu (Goldberg Ensemble, Naxos 8.557389), Bartók (Duos, with Yossi Zivoni) and Stanford (clarinet quintets with Rob Plane and the Gould Piano Trio).
Mia teaches violin at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. She was appointed leader of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra in 2006.
Jane Hackett, violin has studied since the age of eight at the Royal Irish Academy of Music and is now in her final year of the BA in Music Performance course, studying with Maeve Broderick. She is participating for the second time in the RTÉ NSO’s Mentoring Scheme and has toured Europe, America, China and Japan with the European Union Youth Orchestra, the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland and the RIAM Symphony and Chamber Orchestras. She is currently Leader of the RIAM’s Symphony and Chamber Orchestras. Jane has won numerous prizes at the Feis Ceoil and this year was a semi-finalist in the Freemason Young Musicians Competition.
Jane has performed as a soloist in many venues in Ireland and abroad, including the Helix, the National Concert Hall, the Carthage International Music Festival, Tunis, and in Glasgow with the Royal Scottish Academy’s Chamber Orchestra. She has just completed a very exciting Erasmus programme in Graz, Austria with Professor Maighread McCrann and Chia Chou. Jane plays a Michael de Hoog violin; her bow was made by Noel Burke.
Beth McNinch, viola, studied at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She began her freelance career in London, where she was in great demand from the major orchestras in the U.K. She performed regularly with the London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, English National Opera, BBC Concert Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Ballet Sinfonia, London Sinfonietta, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Ulster Orchestra, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra of Wales. Since moving to Ireland in 2007, Beth has worked and toured in Ireland and America with the RTE National Symphony Orchestra and Camerata Ireland with Barry Douglas. She is principal viola of the Wexford Festival Opera Orchestra and has appeared as guest principal with English National Ballet, the RTE National Symphony and Concert Orchestras.
As a soloist, Beth has performed the Telemann viola concerto many times and has recorded it with the Corelli Ensemble. She has also performed Vaughn Williams’ Flos Campi for Solo Viola, Choir and Orchestra. Beth made her solo debut at the National Concert Hall in 2013. She performed Mozart Sinfonia Concertante in 2015 with Ioana Petcu-Colan, violin and the Wexford Sinfonia at the National Opera House, Ireland.
Beth is a prolific chamber musician, having played regularly in string quartets since the age of nine. She was a founder member of the Guillami quartet, formed in 1998, finalists in the Royal Overseas League chamber competition in 2002 and winners of the Bulldog Scholarship for string quartets from Trinity College. They have a recording of Shostakovich, Mozart and Walton and were resident quartet at the Ludlow Festival for four years.
Beth is the founder and Artistic Director of Musici Ireland, a chamber ensemble offering a unique platform for classical musicians of international repute to deliver a high quality of performance in Ireland, based on outstanding music for unusual combinations of instruments. The Members of Musici Ireland all come with a formidable wealth of experience as soloists, chamber musicians and orchestral players.
Beth plays on a cut down Viol by Barack Norman, dating back to the1650s. The instrument was made into a viola by Matthew Hardie in 1818.
David Kenny, viola is a native of Cork, graduated from the Cork School of Music having studied viola with Constantin Zanidache and Simon Aspell. As a freelance violist he has worked with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra, John Wilson Orchestra and the Irish Chamber Orchestra. He has played Principal Viola with the European Union Youth Orchestra and National Youth Orchestra of Ireland.
David has performed with chamber ensembles at the West Cork Chamber Music Festival (Young Musicians Platform), Music in Drumcliffe Festival Sligo, Interlaken Classics Festival Switzerland, Toscanasaal Wurzburg Germany, KBC Great Music in Irish Houses Festival, RDS Dublin and the National Concert Hall Dublin. He is a member of the Chiral Quartet, the ‘Ensemble in Residence’ at the CIT Cork School of Music. In June 2013 he had the privilege of performing two Mozart String Quintets with the Vanbrugh Quartet.
In 2012 David gave the Irish première of Geoffrey Burgon’s Viola Concerto with the CSM Chamber Orchestra and in 2013 performed Telemann’s Viola concerto with the CSM Baroque Ensemble. David acknowledges the support of The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Music Network and The Arts Council.
William Butt, cello was born in London. He studied at the Royal Northern College of Music with Moray Welsh and after winning awards and scholarships such as the Royal Society of Arts, Martin Trust and first prize in the Muriel Taylor competition, he furthered his studies with Antonio Lysy in Montreal. He now enjoys a busy career as soloist, chamber musician and is professor of cello at the Royal Irish Academy of Music.
On the concert platform he has performed extensively throughout Ireland, the UK, Europe and the Far East. In recent seasons he has appeared as soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, the Orchestra of St Cecilia and the Ulster Orchestra for BBC Radio 3.
He has performed and broadcast all the major concerti. In 1997 he gave the Irish premiere of the Walton concerto with the National Symphony Orchestra, in 2001 the Dvorak concerto with the NSO and 2003 a tour of the Schumann concerto with the NSO. As well as a performance of the Protecting Veil by John Tavener with the Hibernian Orchestra he undertook a series at the National Concert Hall in Dublin in 2004 with the orchestra of St Cecilia and Barry Douglas in which he played the Dvorak, Elgar, Shostakovich (No 1), Tchaikovsky Rococo variations, and both Haydn concerti in three concerts over a two week period. He has also performed and broadcast the cello concerto by Victor Herbert with the Ulster orchestra.
His recording of the three suites for solo cello by Benjamin Britten by Warner Music UK (Warner Classics/Apex) received very exciting reviews in the English press including the Observer and the Independent on Sunday in which the recording was awarded five stars. He plays on a fine cello made by Giovanni Grancino in Milan (1690).
Gráinne Hope, cello completed a Bachelor of Arts Degree and Bachelor of Music Performance in NUI Maynooth and the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama before receiving a full scholarship to further her studies in America. She went on to complete a Masters Degree in Performance and an Artist Diploma with Ann Martindale Williams, principal cellist of Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at Duquesne University.
She has travelled widely and played with many orchestras in America and Ireland including the Altoona Symphony, Erie Symphony, Soesterberg Festival Orchestra, Camerata Ireland, RTE Concert Orchestra and the Wexford Festival Opera Orchestra.
Gráinne is founder and artistic director of Kids’ Classics which delivers a music programme in 4 of Dublin’s Children’s Hospitals and was chosen to represent Ireland to become a trainer or musicians in Healthcare Settings as part of a pioneering European programme with Music- Network (Ireland), Musique et Santé (France), Turku (Finland) and the Royal Northern College of Music (UK).
Gráinne is currently freelancing with Ireland’s Orchestras as well as tutoring with the Young Orchestral Pops Orchestras and working on Dublin City South East Strings Project taking place in Deis Schools.