Concert 6. Wednesday 12th March 2014 8pm Print




Time and the Seasons



Vaughan Williams, Somervell, Gurney,

Ireland, George Butterworth & Britten

Selected Songs
Robert Saxton Song Cycle "Time and Seasons"
Britten Folk Songs of the British Isles including "The Salley Gardens"
Finzi Song Cycle "Before and After Summer"





Within months of its formation in 2005,
the Escher Quartet was invited by both
Pinchas Zukerman and Itzhak Perlman to
be the quartet-in-residence at their
summer festivals. Appointed BBC New
Generation Artists in 2010-12, they
continue to play at prestigious venues and
festivals around the world.
The short Bridge Quartet, a single
movement in three sections, starts with a
vigorous march, followed by a lovely slow
section, and a jolly finale. Britten’s last
quartet (1975) was the composer’s
swansong. It ends with the famous
Passacaglia finale – now to be viewed as a
farewell to life. Elgar’s quartet was written
in the aftermath of WW1 along with the
violin sonata, piano quintet and cello
concerto. Nostalgia for times past and the
horror of war pervade this quartet. The
outer movements are restlessly beautiful
and the central movement marked
piacevole (pleasing) tells of innocent
“…total focus, unflagging energy, bottomless
technique and, perhaps most important, rare
musical insight and a profound level of cohesion.”

As we know from his previous visit to Ilkley in 2006, Roderick Williams has a beautiful baritone voice and is an accomplished recital artist. Andrew West, a distinguished accompanist, has performed with Roderick in many recitals.


Almost all these composers and poets lived in the shadow of the two World Wars. The title of the programme is taken from Saxton’s new song cycle based on poems by the composer about childhood memories of the Norfolk coast. Britten’s famous folk song settings then lighten the mood. The recital ends with Gerald Finzi’s settings of poems by Thomas Hardy. Both voice and piano parts combine Finzi’s unique ecstatic and rhapsodic music with his acute sensitivity to the rhythms and inflections of the words.


[of the Finzi Songs] "Williams and West crystallised their characters perfectly. It was hard to imagine them better sung."









A Wonderfully Communicative Song Recital at the Ilkley Concert Club


From the moment Roderick Williams came on stage he captivated us with his engaging smile, his eye contact so it seemed with every audience member, and his glorious warm baritone voice that filled the hall effortlessly. I must confess that twentieth century 'English song' is a far from favourite genre of mine, perhaps I've heard too many tasteful 'gentlemanly' performances. But his imaginative response to this apparently restricted emotional world converted me to their cause, aided and abetted by Andrew West's skilful accompanying; hypnotic in Butterworth's On the Idle Hill of Summer, busy but never overwhelming in Vaughan Williams' The Water Mill.


They gave the premiere of Robert Saxton's song cycle Time and the Seasons six months ago in Oxford where it received an enthusiastic review from The Times music critic. Whilst being clearly music of our time it presents no difficulties for the open-minded listener. Saxton's settings of his own texts are very illustrative and varied, catching the bleakness of winter, the warmth of spring and so on in a very distinctive way. The performers responded acutely to this colourful music: the monotonous bleakness of winter, the lightness of spring and the final song which moves from darkness to joy on 'you laugh'.


The Britten folk-song arrangements gave Roderick Williams a chance to demonstrate those acting skills we're familiar with from his opera appearances, Andrew West accompanying characterfully.


Unlike the Saxton cycle, Gerald Finzi's Before and after Summer has no narrative structure, it is just a collection of songs gathered together with texts by Thomas Hardy, lasting over half an hour. Such was the conviction of the performance that the experience was constantly gripping, whether in the drama of Channel Firing, the contrasting moods within songs as in The Self-unseeing or the bleakness of He Abjures Love. No printed texts were supplied but the clarity of Williams' diction and his acute response to the words rendered them unnecessary.


A memorable event that raised the bar for future song recitals.



The following recordings were recommended in the concert programme


English Songs

I can recommend two budget 2 CD sets with a great variety of songs , performed by some of the best known British singers and accompaniment. "The Very Best of English Songs" is a Warner/EMI compilation with the reference number 5 75926 2. The Naxos set "English Song" has rather more modern recordings on 8.557559-60. Both sets are sure to give a great deal of pleasure.


Robert Saxton

This is a relatively new work and there are, at present, no commercial recordings.



Tonight's singer has made a number of recordings of English Song, and there are some of the Britten settings on Naxos 8.572600 (mid price). The pianist is Iain Burnside, and the performances and recordings are excellent. Britten's "Songs and Proverbs of William Blake" and "Tit for Tat" are the couplings. Peter Pears and Benjamín Britten, the original performers, give a more extended selection of songs on Australian Eloquence ELQ 4672362 (mid price), where the older recordings sound very well indeed.



Mr. Williams and Iain Burnside have made a lovely recording of this piece on Naxos 8.557644 (mid price). Finzi's "I Said to Love" and "Let us Garlands Bring" complete this superb disc.


Raymond Waud.







Have you ever wondered exactly what music has been played over the 68 Seasons at Ilkley Concert Club? Did Kathleen Ferrier ever sing at Ilkley? Is it true that Alfred Brendel has played at Ilkley? When was the Trout Quintet last played here? . . . . and so on!


Well! The answers to any such queries are just a few 'mouse clicks' away, because we shall shortly be able to make our Concerts Database available to you on the website. It contains full details of all but one of our concerts over the 68 Seasons. You will be easily able to:

· See the programme for any selected concert.

· Search by composer for any piece of music with the date(s) when it was played.

· Search by type for any piece of music (e.g. string quartet, piano sonata, etc.) with the date(s) when it was played.

· Search by name for any artist or group with the date(s) when they appeared.

· Search for an artist or group by the type of music (e.g. piano duet, clarinet quintet, etc.) with the date(s) when they appeared.


Once you have found what you searched for, a further click will take you to the full concert programme to put your information into context.


The list of artists and groups that have played for us make makes absolutely fascinating reading. You might also like the challenge of identifying pieces of music that have not yet been played at Ilkley, but which you would like to hear. Alternatively, you might just recall an evening that you especially remember and would like to remind yourself of the details. The initial form of the database was created for our 50th Anniversary Season and has been an invaluable tool for our Concert Planning over the past 18 years. There is a little editing of the internet version to complete before the database is made generally available, at which point a link will be available on our website. Tony Hudson (Vice-Chairman)




Your Chairman is looking for a volunteer to help him with a rewarding but demanding task. Each year, towards the end of June, you receive your brochure. To advertise the programme to members and potential members, I write about 200 very carefully selected words choosing suitable photos of artists for each concert.

I need a volunteer to help me to produce the brochure copy – so that we have backup if I am unable to do it. You need FOUR qualities: enthusiasm for music and a wish to learn more about it; familiarity with researching information on the internet and elsewhere; be a confident user of computers for producing documents; most importantly – an ability to write clearly and concisely. If you are interested to find out more please contact me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .