Thursday, 25 July 2013

Miriam Hyde's Centenary

Today as I listened to Classic Breakfast with Emma Ayres I learnt that it's Miriam Hyde's centenary year. I also learnt there was an Australian composer called Miriam Hyde. Looks like maybe I should've known this already and I admit her face rings vague bells but really, how many Australian composers can you name? How many women composers? So how many Australian women ... anyway the point is I now know about her and would like to hear more of her music.

There's a good biography of her at the Australia Music Centre's website (click here for that). Turns out she was a successful composer, pianist, poet and musical educator with an OBE and AO and the International Woman of the Year (1991-2). Her piano concerti were performed by major English orchestras in the 1920s too, with her as the soloist.

Most of her music appears to have been written for piano, including learning pieces of various levels, some set to her poems. I found this performance of one on YouTube entitled Forest Stream and it does seem to flow and bubble as a stream winding through a forest and over rocks might do.

From that page I found a link to a recording - possibly of the WASO in 1965 with her as soloist but I can't swear to that - of her second Piano Concerto. It also has some text from a Keys to Music program Graham Abbott must have run last year about Miriam Hyde the composer. And I'm glad the link was there. It's a very good concerto, full of drama and virtuosity without being a show-off piece, and quite Romantic in feel, at least to my ear.

There was also this short Reverie, which may be one of her 'exam' pieces but has a lovely dream like quality to it; and this in turn led me to a piece called Spring. This performance is for an exam but still the piece is a wonderful evocation of that season so beloved of artists.

Which in a strange way leads me to what I will finish with, a quote from Miriam Hyde on music and her compositions - I feel my music can be a refuge for what beauty and peace can still be omnipresent...the triumph of good over evil. I make no apologies for writing from the heart.

I think we can all be thankful she did.

PS Closing tabs I discovered this performance of her Fantasy Trio by Trio Fidelis, and it's a good closer. There's more out there - get listening!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Janacek's Birthday

To celebrate Janacek's birthday I thought I'd find some nice YouTube clips of his music. Starting with what is arguably his most famous work his Sinfonietta. This is a powerful version by the Wiener Philharmonika conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras. The opening of this work is such a stirring piece, but with that edge that something is different. Then it launches into a dance of instruments before a gentle clarinet leads us to a meadow, then back to the dance and on the piece goes, it really is an amazing work.

The orchestral suite from his opera The Cunning Little Vixen is a new discovery for me, thank you internet. Strong opening with strings and brass, moving into a beautiful softer passage - Leos was clearly one for shifts in mood. And the flutes and violins moving against the deeper percussive sounds are stunning. Why have I not heard this before? Rustic in feel but with drama and beauty mixed. The ending is strong percussively but strangely stark compared to the rest of the work.

I'll provide some quick links to two of my other favourites of his - the Lachian Dances, which are a collection of dances he wrote towards the end of his life looking back at the countryside the modern world had changed forever; and his Taras Bulba Rhapsody, written in response to the novel of the same name by Gogol.

There's a lot more great music Janacek wrote I'm sure. Keep exploring people!