Showing posts with label Jelly d'Aranyi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jelly d'Aranyi. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Remembrance: Jelly d'Arányi plays FS Kelly



The young violinist Jelly d'Arányi - sometime muse to Ravel, Bartók and even the ageing Elgar - was much in love with the gifted Australian musician FS Kelly, some 12 years her senior. Born in Sydney, educated at Eton and Oxford, he was also an Olympic gold medallist in 1908 for his supreme skill at rowing. Jelly met him through one of his teachers, who was also her oldest and dearest friend in Britain, Donald Francis Tovey; thereafter she often played duos with him. During WWI Kelly survived Gallipoli, where he composed a violin sonata for her. A short period of leave brought him back to Britain for r&r; then in 1916 he was sent to the Somme and never returned. Jelly kept John Singer Sargent's drawing of him on her piano for the rest of her life.

For today, Remembrance Day in the WW1 centenary year, here is a rare recording of Jelly playing his Serenade Op.7, with Ethel Hobday at the piano. Listening to it today in memory of all those caught up in the horrors of those years - and the generation of their loved ones who were left behind, as Jelly was, to live with their memories alone.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Happy birthday, Jelly

The great violinist Jelly d'Arányi, muse to Ravel, Vaughan Williams, Bartók and many other composers (maybe even Elgar), was born on this day in 1893. The woman for whom Tzigane was created is today remembered far too little, yet the more one digs into her life, the more fascinating it becomes. She was the great-niece of Joseph Joachim - her elder sister Adila Fachiri (her married name), herself a fabulous violinist, was among his last pupils and was at his bedside when he died.

Jelly's life housed countless mysteries. One of the most intriguing is that she enjoyed a duo with Myra Hess for some 20 years, yet merits scarcely a mention in passing in Hess's largest biography to date (I've been trying to find out what went wrong between them, but so far to little avail). She never married, but the great love of her life is said to have been the Australian composer and Olympic rowing champion Frederick Septimus Kelly, who was killed at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. And she gave the UK premiere of the Schumann Violin Concerto in February 1938: as for the famed "spirit messages" from Schumann asking her to track down and perform the piece, which was suppressed by Clara, Joachim and Brahms after the composer's death, there's no doubt that she certainly believed that her messages were genuine - and that they proved effective in restoring the concerto to life.

Please listen to her, Felix Salmond and Myra Hess playing the slow movement of Schubert's Piano Trio in B flat major.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

A lost generation - and some that need finding

As the commemorations of the World War I centenary begin, music is very much part of the equation. Radio 3 is starting a new series entitled Music on the Brink on 5 January, looking at the music of five crucial cities at the time of the war's outbreak. 

This article appeared in short form in the Independent a week or two ago, but what follows here is my longer original: an introduction to the effect of the "Great War" on the composers who had to participate in it, those who lived and those who died. Some are household names, but others can benefit from the chance of rediscovery that this year may bring.

We already had FS Kelly's deeply moving Elegy for Strings for Remembrance Day, so to start let's hear Jelly d'Aranyi (violin) and Ethel Hobday (piano) playing his Serenade Op.7.





The composer and poet Ivor Gurney once wrote: “Despairing work is the noblest refuge among other despairs”. During commemorations for the centenary of World War I this year, Gurney’s music will be much to the fore, together with that of a generation of composers who, if they survived, found themselves indelibly scarred by their wartime experiences. Their responses were extraordinarily varied. Far from being a catalogue of gloom, their works reflect everything from mourning to pacifism, from iconoclasm to wry humour and escapism. 
 
Gurney’s history is as emblematic as it is tragic, and his songs as beautiful as his poetry. Always prone to depression, he had suffered a breakdown while still a student; but after serving in the war, in which he suffered a shoulder wound in 1917 and gassing only months afterwards, he was diagnosed with “deferred shell-shock”. He spent his later years in and out of mental institutions. Later this year there'll be a Radio 3 Composer of the Week series devoted to his compositions.


Among the most familiar of his contemporaries is Ralph Vaughan Williams. He was 41 on the outbreak of war, but served first as a private in the Royal Army Medical Corps, later as a second lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery. He weathered considerable horrors with greater than average strength, though later suffered deafness thought to have been caused by noise damage from gunfire. His Pastoral Symphony – light years from Beethoven’s – references not idealised country scenes, but the fields of northern France. It incubated, he recalled, “when I used to go up night after night with the ambulance wagon at Ecoivres and we went up a steep hill and there was a wonderful Corot-like landscape in the sunset.” A trumpet cadenza captures the sound he heard of a bugler practising yet hitting the wrong note.

Other survivors were less well adjusted. EJ Moeran was a case in point. He was 19 in 1914 and spent much of the war as a despatch rider until being wounded at Bullecourt in 1917. Not only his psyche but also the progress of his career was overturned; it was soon hampered further by mental instability and alcoholism. He was just beginning to achieve real recognition when the outbreak of World War II intervened. Fortunately his concertos for cello and for violin have recently been enjoying a resurgence of popularity thanks to new recordings respectively by the cellist Guy Johnston and violinist Tasmin Little. Here's the second movement of his Serenade:



Many composers were less fortunate still. George Butterworth died in the Battle of the Somme, aged 31. A friend of Vaughan Williams and fellow collector of folksongs, his most celebrated work is the song cycle A Shropshire Lad, exquisitely evocative settings of AE Housman, as well as an idyllic work for orchestra, The Banks of Green Willow

A less famed loss at the Somme was the Australian composer Frederick Septimus Kelly, who had survived Gallipoli and was also a rowing champion, having won a gold medal in the 1908 Olympic Games. Recently the director of the Canberra Festival, Christopher Latham, has unearthed a violin sonata that Kelly penned on the boat home from Gallipoli, intending it for the violinist Jelly d’Arányi – also a vital inspiration to Ravel, Vaughan Williams and Bartók – whom he was widely expected to marry. It is a relatively carefree-sounding piece – as if imagining its strains in the trenches had offered a means of mental escape. 

Many who did not see action found their attitudes to life and music transformed nonetheless. Frank Bridge espoused strong pacifist views; the impact of the war induced him to transform his hitherto romantic style into near-expressionism – for instance, in an uncompromising piano sonata dedicated to the memory of the composer Ernest Bristow Farrar, who was killed in action. Bridge’s student Benjamin Britten was later to echo his pacifist outlook; and Farrar’s young pupil Gerald Finzi was deeply affected by his mentor’s death, which contributed to shaping his distinctly dark view of life.

Across the Channel, Claude Debussy was dying of cancer; he did not live to see the conflict’s end. He came to view composition as an act of resistance and patriotism. “I want to work not so much for myself, but to give proof, however small...that not even 30 million ‘boches’ can destroy French thought," he declared. His last works are three instrumental sonatas that show not a hint of the turbulence around him, signed ‘Claude Debussy, musicien français’. 

Maurice Ravel became a driver of ambulances at Verdun. In his piano suite Le Tombeau de Couperin each movement is dedicated to a different fallen friend. He, though, resisted the drift towards nationalism: “It would be dangerous for French composers to ignore systematically the works of their foreign colleagues, and thus form themselves into a sort of national coterie: our musical art...would soon degenerate and become isolated by its own academic formulas,” he wrote. But his La Valse is often seen as an unwitting evocation of the world of the Viennese waltz imploding in cataclysm.

This is the piano version, played by Yuja Wang at Verbier:


The composers of Vienna itself responded to the war in manners ranging from the personal to the outright political. Franz Lehár, that supreme composer of operetta, produced a tone poem for tenor and orchestra entitled Fever, portraying the memories of a soldier in shell-shock. At the other extreme, the youthful Erich Wolfgang Korngold became musical director of a regiment, for which he composed a military march. When his commanding officer complained that it was too fast, he quipped: “This is for the retreat.” 

For Arnold Schoenberg, who undertook military service aged 42, the war symbolised – at first – an attack on the reactionary musical world, especially that of France: “Now we will throw these mediocre kitschmongers into slavery, and teach them to venerate the German spirit and to worship the German God,” he wrote in 1914. But German musical losses were intense, too: just one example was the immensely gifted Rudi Stephan, whose opera Die ersten Menschen was only premiered five years after his death on the Galician front. 

While surviving composers processed their experiences through their art in many different ways, an overarching result became clear. The war had produced such trauma and disillusionment that the only way forward was to sweep away the past and find a new, sometimes revolutionary approach for the future. The scene was set for a fresh century of music, rising from the ashes of the old one.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Remembrance Sunday rarity



This is the astonishing Elegy for Strings 'In Memoriam Rupert Brooke' by Frederick Septimus Kelly, the brilliant Australian pianist and composer who survived Gallipoli only to meet his death at the Somme.

An Olympic rowing champion in 1908, he was a sometime pupil of Donald Francis Tovey at Oxford and was close to the young Jelly d'Aranyi, who hoped to marry him. The Sonata he wrote for her on his way back to Britain from Gallipoli - having composed it in his head while in the trenches - was unearthed and performed a couple of years ago by the Australian violinist Chris Latham and turned out to be a carefree, sunny sort of work. The same cannot be said for the Elegy, which is not many miles in mood from Vaughan Williams's Tallis Fantasia.

Please listen, enjoy and think.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday Historical bonanza of Jelly d'Aranyi

Yesterday was the 120th birthday of one of my great musical heroines, the violinist Jelly d'Aranyi. And on Youtube, it turns out that an absolute bonanza of her recordings has recently been uploaded - and my goodness, they're amazing. (I still live in hope, though, that one day someone, somewhere, will turn up a recording of her playing the Schumann Violin Concerto in 1938. That's another story.)

Born in Hungary in 1893, Jelly moved to England with her mother and sisters in about 1909. Her playing, beauty and vitality inspired numerous composers to write for her, among them Bartok, Ravel (Tzigane), Ethel Smyth, Vaughan Williams (Concerto Accademica), and FS Kelly, whom she might have married had he not been killed in the Battle of the Somme.

Here are three short glories.

'Jig' from FS Kelly's Serenade, recorded in 1924. With Ethel Hobday (piano).



Purcell 'Golden' Sonata, recorded in 1925, with Jelly's elder sister Adila Fachiri (violin) and Ethel Hobday (piano). Adila was a student of "Onkel Jo" - the d'Aranyi's great-uncle Joseph Joachim - who also bequeathed her his Strad.

This Purcell was later to feature works they performed in Westminster Abbey in 1933 as part of Jelly's tour of British cathedrals giving free concerts for all comers with retiring collection to benefit the unemployed. It became known as Jelly's "Pigrimage of Compassion". T



Gluck: Dance of the Blessed Spirits. With Conrad v. Bos (piano). No commentary needed, really.






Friday, March 01, 2013

Friday Historical: More Jelly d'Aranyi - very unusual

If you enjoyed last week's d'Aranyi/Hess/Cassado treat, you'll be eager to hear our rarity from Jelly and unnamed accompanist...

Hooray for people who take the trouble to rescue ancient 78rpm records that their friends are chucking out, take them home, play them on an early gramophone and film it to share with the rest of us who might never otherwise hear treasures like Jelly d'Aranyi playing the Albeniz Tango. I quite like our host "the Colonel"'s comparison of the piece to a palm court orchestra, but d'Aranyi's playing is several major cuts above that. Listen to that tone, the nuancing of her intonation and phrasing, the inner-sprung rhythm...


Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Historical: purple Brahms patch with d'Aranyi, Hess and Cassado

This extraordinary recording from 1928 has finally popped up on Youtube. Here's the second movement of Brahms's Piano Trio in C, Op.87 played by Jelly d'Aranyi (violin), Myra Hess (piano) and Gaspar Cassado (cello).



As I understand it, these sessions - this Brahms and also the Schubert B flat Trio (with Felix Salmond on the cello) - were Hess's first recording. She and Jelly d'Aranyi worked together for some 20 years, giving countless recitals at the likes of the Wigmore and Queen's Hall, but these trios seem to be the only surviving example of their collaboration.

Sometime in the war years, it appears that they must have had a massive fallout. Serious enough that in Hess's biography by Marian McKenna, d'Aranyi - her duo partner for two decades - is afforded just one mention, in passing. I've met a number of people who knew one or the other, sometimes both, yet nobody seems sure exactly what went wrong.

The music world is full of these situations, of course, and in the end it's immaterial since the result, unfortunately, was the same whatever the cause. But when you hear the fine blend of their sounds, d'Aranyi's mellifluous charm sparking against Hess's wit and intelligence, the flow of detail and infinite shading of ideas that takes place in their music-making (it's even more obvious in the Schubert, incidentally), it seems little short of tragic that their every move was not captured by microphone - and that their partnership has somehow been wiped from history.

Friday, November 16, 2012

HUNGARIAN DANCES goes Romanian


Yes, it's the latest edition of HUNGARIAN DANCES, and it's in Romanian. Heartfelt thanks to Editura Rao in Bucharest for bringing it out with a priceless new title and this arresting cover pic that looks ever so slightly like Nicky Benedetti. More info, in Romanian, here. 

To celebrate, here's a special Friday Historical: the incomparable Jelly d'Aranyi, playing... something very Hungarian.