Friday 7 April
Diversions in Fine Music
with Robert Gilchrist

Sor, F. Variations on a theme from Mozart’s The magic flute, op 9. Eduardo Fernandez, gui.

Fernando Sor was a Catalan, who brought to the attention of Britain’s Regency audiences the Spanish guitar, an instrument with which they were, until Sor’s visit, unfamiliar. Unlike his compatriot, Basil Fawlty’s hapless Manuel, Sor seems to have had an unerring sense of what the English wanted from him, and prominent in that repertoire were guitar arrangements of music plundered from the great operas of the day. This is a fine example.

Monday 10 April
Diversions in Fine Music
with Neil McEwan

Stanford, C. Villiers Irish rhapsody no 6, op 191 (1923). Lydia Mordkovitch, vn; Ulster O/Vernon Handley.

The rise of nationalist music in the late 19th c was widespread throughout Europe and Scandinavia, as the likes of Grieg, Sibelius, Smetana, and Dvorak on pleaded their peoples’ cause in the language of orchestral and choral music. Oddly, though, for such an innately lyrical people, the Irish seem to have produced few such figures.

The only notable exception is Charles Villiers Stanford, who wrote six Irish Rhapsodies. But for him, the idea of an Ireland independent from the United Kingdom was a tragedy, not a triumph. He wrote his sixth Rhapsody in 1922, as the Irish Free State tore itself apart in a civil war that confirmed Stanford’s worst fears, and it bears the freight of the grief he felt.

Wednesday 12 April
Concert Hall
with James Hunter

Field, J. Piano concerto no 5 in C, ‘Fire by lightning’ (1815). Míceál O’Rourke, pf; London Mozart Players/Matthias Bamert.

Dublin-born John Field was a master of the early pianoforte who made a fine career in London as a young man, but moved eventually to St Petersburg, where he settled permanently. Field exploited the growing expressive power of his instrument, notably by inventing the nocturne. His fellow Irishman Míceál O’Rourke has curated his work extensively, with recordings, not only of all the nocturnes, but his concerti, of which the 5th is the most dramatic, depicting a storm in ways which, at certain points, recall Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony.