St Christopher

Words and music
Event 7
Tuesday October 11th, 8.00pm 
Little Missenden Church

Rediscovering music with narrated text
Franz Liszt
The Sad Monk
Isolde's Liebestod
Charlotte Bray
Two Drops of Water (premiere)
David Matthews
William Walton (arr Iain Farrington)

This is an archived event from the 2011 programme.

Eleanor Bron narrator

COUNTERPOISE: Alexandra Wood violin, Kyle Horch saxophone, Deborah Calland trumpet, Iain Farrington piano

We expect words with music to be sung, but this programme explores a long tradition of music with spoken text, narrated by the magnificent voice of Eleanor Bron. 19th century composers liked their ‘melodramas’; Edith Sitwell later declaimed her witty poems to William Walton’s delectable Façade music. Now composers like David Matthews are reviving the tradition. 

Liszt’s powerful score for his melodrama The Sad Monk foreshadows the music of his old age, enhancing Lenau’s dramatic poem with daring and eerie harmonic progressions.  His transcription of Wagner’s radiantly beautiful Liebestod captures the rapturous essence of the original.

David Matthews uses Ted Hughes’s vivid translation of Ovid’s tale of the hunter Actaeon – he glimpses the goddess Diana bathing naked, in her outrage she turns him into a stag, and his own dogs tear him to pieces.  The score evokes the beauty of the natural landscape, the thrill of the chase and a poignant elegy for Actaeon’s death.

“Matthews is not the first composer to use a trumpet to evoke the sounds of hunting but with violin, piano and sax scurrying alongside the effect was bracing. The trumpet provided sweeter accompaniment for Diana’s bathing, while as the goddess quietly rejoiced in poor Actaeon’s death, the violin unfurled an ineffably sad melody” (Nick Kimberley, Evening Standard)

Walton’s Façade is a perennial delight – tuneful, playful and quirky music over which Eleanor Bron weaves the elegant and amusing word patterns of Edith Sitwell’s poems.

Young composer Charlotte Bray (fast-rising and much in demand) was inspired by a Wislawa Szymorska poem in her Festival commission.

Four of the UK’s finest instrumentalists make up Counterpoise, whose unusual instrumentation yields fascinating sonorities.  The group loves unearthing neglected works, developing new repertoire and exploring the relationship between music and spoken text.
The incomparable Eleanor Bron is one of the most celebrated and best-loved British actresses (and one of the most distinctive voices) of her generation.  She enjoys working with musicians.

“Crisply narrated by Eleanor Bron and deftly played” (Independent on Sunday)

Counterpoise asked OPERAHOUSE Music Projects to help children from Little Kingshill Combined School to create their own music, working with writer Roy Apps and composer John Webb.

Counterpoise's website can be found here. An interview for Musical Criticism is here.

The Wikipedia page on Eleanor Bron is here. A review of a recent performance can be read here.

David Matthew's website can be accessed here. Charlotte Bray's website can be entered by clicking here.

Charlotte Bray’s commission was funded by the Britten-Pears Foundation, the RVW Trust and the Festival Friends.