Yvonne Howard – mezzo soprano
Wigmore Hall - 13 April 2006
Maddison – Hiver; Silence; Piano Quintet
Fauré– Nell; Après un Rêve; Automne; Notre Amour
Chausson – Chanson Perpetuelle
Mozart – Piano Concerto arr for piano & and string quartet
Adela Maddison (1863–1929) is one of those composers whose works seem to have been marooned in a byway of musical history, rating not even a mention in Grove's Dictionary of Music (at least not in the edition on my shelves).
She lived at a time when women were expected to know their place: to sing and to play a musical instrument were desirable accomplishments, to write a charming trifle or two might be acceptable, but to become a serious composer was definitely not comme Il faut .
Ignoring convention and abandoning her husband and children, Madison moved to Paris to pursue her musical career, studying with Fauré, and her two songs included in the concert date from this period. Expectedly, they are stylistic French, and although brief, they are works of considerable complexity – the composer keeps both performers and listeners on their toes as her music changes direction.
Her two songs were both set to words by Albert Samain, and in a very intelligent piece of programming, they were flanked by and contrasted with settings of poems of similar structure – ie Fauré's setting of the 5 line stanzas of Armand Silvestre's Notre Amour preceded the 5 line stanzas of Hiver and Silence! were followed by Chausson's Chanson perpetuelle – both in rhyming triplets. Yvonne Howard sang with confidence, and a clear respect for this repertoire.
Maddison moved from Paris to Berlin , returning to London in 1914 at the outbreak of war. Here she wrote her Piano Quintet, which received its first performance at the Wigmore Hall in 1920. Good to hear it back in the Hall, and to me it sounded very much the work of an English composer contemporary with Elgar. It opens with a sweep of strings into robustly tuneful melodies.
The whole piece is lively and many stranded, Maddison is something of a musical magpie, changing tack as some fresh idea catches her imagination. The third movement has a chorale like opening for the piano, and the final Allegro resembles an English folksong with just the hint a of a morris dance before a more wistful mood overtakes it. A piece well worth hearing and performed with aplomb.
The Fibonacci Sequence ended their concert ended with Mozart's Concerto in C major in Mozart's own “pocket handkerchief” arrangement for piano and string quartet. A safe choice.
Images: Kathron Sturrock & Adela Maddison