Goehr & Harry Mini-Festival: Jonathan Powell (piano)
These two concerts interleave piano works and string quartets by one of Britain’s greatest living composers, Alexander Goehr, with the music of one of his former students, Martyn Harry, who is professor of composition at Oxford University’s Faculty of Music and the lecturer of music here at St Hilda’s College. The second concert juxtaposes two new works composed for the Villiers Quartet, including Goehr’s Fifth Quartet, which was commissioned by the Swaledale Festival.
Our festival surveys Goehr’s music from different parts of his career, tracing his journey from one of the UK’s leading representatives of the avant-garde to a composer whose work suggests a strong critical engagement with the music of the past. There are rare opportunities to hear live performances of the large-scale piano cycle ‘…In Real Time’, whose sonority and temporal structure is a fascinating development of Messaien’s music, and the Clarinet Quintet, which is based on a mass by Josquin.
Whereas our perception of time is arguably a key concern for Goehr, Martyn Harry’s works employ maps to represent physical space in music, reflecting on ideas taken from landscape studies and social geography. ‘Bletchley Bedford Sandy’ is the second of his largescale cycle of piano pieces, ‘48’, and is dedicated to Alexander Goehr, drawing its inspiration from the names of the nine stations on the now-defunct ‘Varsity Line’ that ran from Oxford to Cambridge before its closure in 1967. Harry’s powerful new ‘Borderline’ for string quartet presents a topological representation of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland in sound.
Goehr: Nonomiya Op. 27 (1973)
Harry: Bletchley Bedford Sandy (2014-19)
Goehr: ...In Real Time Op. 50 (1988)
Goehr & Harry Mini-Festival: Villiers Quartet