Schumann closes well-being strand

Anthony Houghton, clarinet tutor and conductor of Sheff Uni Wind Orchestra
Anthony Houghton, clarinet tutor and conductor of Sheff Uni Wind Orchestra

SCHUMANN is the last ‘subject’ to feature in the music, disability, health and well-being strand of the Sheffield University Spring Concert Season next Tuesday which sees a visit by the much-admired Fidelio Trio.

Jumping out of the page before it is an in-house concert this Sunday, headed simply Notturni of Haydn in the season brochure, given by the Haydn Jessop Ensemble.

Only two of the eight seldom-heard, beguiling works are being performed, however, although the 15-member ensemble played six behind closed doors last week – read on!

The pieces were commissioned in the late 1780s by the King of Naples, Ferdinand IV who wanted some works with chamber ensemble to play on his lire organnizata, a sort of Neapolitan hurdy-gurdy with an in-built miniature organ.

Haydn must have wondered how he could avoid aristocratic patrons and employers with tastes for offbeat instruments, having penned copious amounts of music for Prince Nikolaus Esterházy who was partial to the baryton, a kind of multi-stringed viola da gamba.

The Notturni, or Nocturnes, inhabit the world of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and are equally ingratiating, almost all three-movement miniatures ranging in length from around seven to 15 minutes.

When Haydn came to London in 1791 and needed some extra music, he made use of the Notturni by adapting the two lira parts (Ferdinand’s duet partner is not known) for flute and oboe, in which form they survived.

In 2010/11 the Haydn Society of Great Britain and its director Denis McCaldin decided to record the Notturni along with Haydn’s Scherzandi, six miniature symphonies he penned in 1765 for similar forces, in collaboration with Trinity College of Music in London.

Both sets of works are divertimenti by any other name and the first of two CDs to accommodate them was made.

Then, for some reason unknown to Anthony Houghton, Trinity pulled out of the project.

Tony is clarinet tutor and director of the highly successful Wind Orchestra at Sheffield University and it was to him that Denis McCaldin turned with a view to completing the project with university players.

And, last week over three days of the half term, the now slightly renamed Jessop Haydn Ensemble, made up of the cream of the university’s music student population, recorded the second CD, the remaining six Notturni, at Sheffield High School for Girls.

The two they reprise on Sunday are in C – Hob No 25, and F – Hob No 25, which rather attractively bookend Janácek’s Mládi (Youth) suite and Johann Christian Bach’s Sinfonia Op 9 No 2, plus a new piece written specially for the concert by Benjamin Gaunt.