ECO Thursday Quiz on Twitter – No 4


Which of these musical instruments is the odd one out? And why?  1. Racket  2. Mirliton  3. Sordun  4. Krummhorn



@guyraybould – Mirliton


ECOrchestra Response:  The ECO applauds the correct answer from @guyraybould as well as his answer that points out a slight error in our Sp! We bow to his observation, are glad he’s paying attention, and have amended appropriately for posterity 🙂

The odd one out is indeed the Mirliton as all the others are a form of early double reed woodwind instruments.

The Mirliton is a form of jew’s harp, also known as flûte eunuque in the 17th century.   The Racket is a double reed woodwind instrument used in late 16th to early 18th century. Also known as a Wurstfagott or sausage bassoon.  The Sordun is another 16th century double reed instrument of the bassoon family. Noted for its muffled tone.  The Krummhorn is a double reed instrument from the middle ages and early renaissance. The body of a Krummhorn is curved and the reed enclosed in a capsule through which the player blows without actually being in direct contact with the reed.


ECO Thursday Quiz on Twitter – QUESTION 3

QUESTION NO 3 – ‘Saved by Poseidon Idomeneo is washed up on the island of Crete. Can you name 3 other operas set on a desert island?’


@GeorgeHoughton9 – Haydn’s L’Isola disabitata and David Amram’s Twelfth Night

@JhbPhilharmonic – Bizet’s Pearl Fishers and humorous offering of Britten’s Albert Herring!

@themusicalbrain – Haydn’s L’Isola disabitata


Responses to #ECOThursdayQuiz, June 26th were brilliant, witty and urbane – and largely correct 🙂 Haydn’s L’Isola disabitata Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Bizet’s Pearl Fishers were our own three thoughts.

We are thoroughly enjoying interacting with you.  Thank you all.

Recording with Rui Lopes in Henry Wood Hall – by Matt Roberts from St Edmund’s School, Canterbury

My name is Matt Roberts and I’m currently a pupil at St Edmund’s School in Canterbury where I have met some of the ECO outreach team when they visited the school in one of their recent projects. I have spent a week with the ECO doing some work experience, where I had the wonderful opportunity to attend two recording sessions. The second of which (25th June) I am writing a short blog for here:

My day starts with a tube journey to Borough, then a nice walk to Henry Wood Hall where I meet bassoon soloist Rui Lopes and recording team Andrew Keener (producer), Simon Eadon (engineer) and Dave Rowell (assistant engineer), along with the ECO’s general manager, Pauline Gilbertson – a great bunch of people who are always friendly and answer any questions I have with good grace.

The first recording session of the day begins at 2 pm with the orchestra taking about 15 minutes to polish up the trickier passages of Jean Françaix’sDivertissement”, written for solo bassoon and string quintet (later adapted for string orchestra), before official recording starts. The piece is a development of the original use for divertissements, which was in opera, usually involving a small group of musicians singing and dancing. It is fast and lively, full of humour and makes clever use of the bassoon’s vast range as an instrument, filled with ornaments and double octave leaps, pushing the soloist’s technique, musicality and stamina to the very limits.

Although being a devilish piece to play, Rui performs astonishingly well, creating the most wonderful tone and character that fit the piece perfectly. The English Chamber Orchestra plays superbly, displaying remarkable talent and musicianship. They do not have a conductor. Instead, leader Stephanie Gonley directs the orchestra as well as playing 1st violin and handles it very well indeed, always giving suggestions and encouragement to create a sound standard of playing from everyone.

As I sit and shadow the recording team, with Andrew scribbling away furiously in his score at any tiny and infrequent insecurity in the performance (an amusing spectacle I can assure you), I notice the number of takes on the microphone icon on the computer screen (which I will not disclose) and realise how much work it is to produce a CD quality performance. This takes a moment to register, but after it has my respect for the orchestra – and in fact the entire performing world – grows enormously.

As a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral I sang in two recordings (Inspiration and Ceremony), but being as young as 10 and 12 for those I did not realise the full stress of all the bits and pieces that make producing a CD possible, only the stress of singing for three hours straight after a full school day and evensong beforehand. But even without the lessons and extra commitments, the ECO had a great task to undertake and I give my whole-hearted congratulations to them, the recording team and Rui for their commitment and excellent performance that day and I hope that the final result is a success for them all.

Unfortunately I could not attend the evening session as the curfew called for me to head home, though I was informed that all that was needed to be finished was done with great finesse and impeccable timing (quite literally last-minute stuff!).

Pieces recorded in the other June sessions were Ciranda Das Sete Notas by Hector Villa Lobos and Romance for Bassoon and Orchestra Edward Elgar. Rui Lopes and the ECO also recorded Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto in B flat and Vivaldi’s Bassoon Concerto in C in April and will both be made part of the CD as well as the pieces recorded this June.

ECO Thursday Quiz on Twitter – QUESTION 1 and QUESTION 2

QUESTION No 1 : ‘Brevity, clarity, truth’.  Which opera composer said this to his librettist?

FIRST CORRECT ANSWER : Verdi.  From @maddalena73

ECOresponse : Absolutely right! Verdi said it to Antonio Somma who was preparing a libretto for an opera of King Lear

QUESTION NO 2:    ‘Who wrote the first piece of music to be commissioned by the BBC? And what was the piece?’

CORRECT ANSWER:  The first BBC music commission was Holst’s choral ballet Morning of the Year in 1926.  Holst inscribed a score of his choral ballet The Morning of the Year to the English Chamber Orchestra’s founder Arnold Goldsbrough!

ECOresponse: Answer provided by #ECOThursdayQuizmaster Paul Sherman @DBassology

Naantali Music Festival 2012 – Paul Sherman, ECO double bass

The ECO’s visits to the medieval church on the hill just behind the colourful wooden shore front restaurants and bars of Naantali have, over many years, produced some extraordinarily memorable concerts.

It was in Naantali in the late 1990s that the festival’s visionary director, the cellist Arto Noras, had the inspiration of introducing the ECO to the great Finnish pianist and conductor Ralf Gothoni. Very soon afterwards, as a result of the relationship begun in Naantali, Ralf became the orchestra’s principal conductor, a post he held for ten years.

It was, therefore, an enormous pleasure for the orchestra to be reunited with Ralf for two concerts in this year’s Naantali Music Festival. The first concert on Tuesday, the festival’s opening night, featured two composers with whom Ralf has a special affinity; Haydn and Schubert.

The following evening, Wednesday, the Naantali church was as full as I have ever seen it – a wonderful testament to Arto Noras’ flair for adventurous and unusual programming. The first half of the concert started with a lyrical performance of Elgar’s Serenade for Strings. Ralf then directed Philip Glass’ ‘Tirol Concerto’ for piano from the keyboard, before delivering the main item of the evening, Shostakovitch’s Symphony No 14.

This Shostakovitch symphony is a late work, written in 1969, while the composer was in a Moscow hospital fearing he was about to die. It is a song cycle of poems about unnatural or premature death. Scored for soprano and bass soloists, strings and percussion, the work is a virtuoso exploration of the sonorities and textures of a string orchestra. The work reveals Shostakovitch as a composer willing to embrace many new compositional techniques, which can be interpreted as a sign of optimism, given that he believed he was living his last days.

Ralf has made Shostakovitch 14 one of his signature works since conducting it for the first time with the ECO in London in 2000, and his interpretation has evolved into one of profound musical insight. Ralf has said that for him it is highly significant that this symphony is dedicated to Benjamin Britten, the composer with whom the ECO had an extremely close relationship. It was Britten who conducted the ECO in the symphony’s first performance in the west, at the 1970 Aldeburgh Festival. Ralf feels that this connection somehow lives on, despite the orchestra now being comprised of a completely new generation of players.

For the musicians, Shostakovitch 14 is one of those pieces that presents a considerable technical and musical challenge and our principal cello joked as we were about to go on the platform that it sometimes feels like you’re about to do battle! And what an exhilarating battle it was. Judging by the audience response and the buzz in the waterfront bars afterwards, the Naantali/Gothoni/ ECO chemistry has again produced a performance to treasure.

Naantali Music Festival – Thoughts from Pauline Gilbertson, ECO Director

We had lost count of how many times the ECO has been fortunate enough to perform at the Naantali Music Festival, which takes place every June at one of Finland’s most popular summer resorts, on the beautiful Naantali/Turku archipelago – but the Festival’s founder and artistic director Arto Noras confirmed that this is our 9th visit.

Our first visit to Naantali Festival was in 1982 with Vladimir Ashkenazy as soloist and conductor, after which we were regularly reinvited. It was on our 1999 tour that we first worked with the conductor/pianist Ralf Gothoni, who was subsequently appointed Principal Conductor of the ECO and continued in that capacity until 2009. We were delighted to be invited to make a return visit for two concerts with Gothoni this summer.

The 2012 Naantali Festival programme includes a broad selection of orchestral and chamber music ranging from Marais to Penderecki and beyond. The ECO’s first programme was of music by Haydn and Schubert, including Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante with four excellent Finnish soloists: Elina Vahala, Samuli Peltonen, Paula Malmivaara and Jussi Sarkka. Our second concert comprised Elgar’s Serenade, Philip Glass’ first Piano Concerto (Ralf Gothoni directing from the keyboard) and Shostakovich’s 14th Symphony (again with stunning soloists, Mari Palo and Nicholas Soderlund). The 15th century Naantali Church provides a picturesque venue and this year looks even more stunning than before, following recent renovations.

The Orchestra flew to Helsinki on 4 June and arrived at Naantali Spa Hotel after a smooth two hour bus ride along the forest-fringed, almost traffic-free motorway. There was no rehearsal that evening so we were able to take a walk along the picturesque coastal path into Naantali’s old town and enjoy one of the many restaurants overlooking the harbour. The sun eventually set around 11pm but the water continued to sparkle in the ensuing twilight. Sleeping through the night here is a challenge for some of us, as light invariably creeps around the curtains to suggest that it is not really night-time at all….

The next day was a busy one, with rehearsals for the Shostakovich Symphony as well as for the first concert of Haydn and Schubert. Our London Shostakovich rehearsal had been for strings only, but the symphony now really began to take shape with the added percussion and two vocal soloists contributing to the emotion, drama and dark beauty of the music. For a few it brought back memories of performing this symphony in the early 1980s conducted by Rostropovich at Aldeburgh Festival, and we also recalled – before the time of any current ECO players – an even earlier Aldeburgh performance, the symphony’s first ever performance in the West, conducted by Benjamin Britten.

Our first concert was also the opening night of the 2012 Festival. Finnish audiences are immaculately dressed and very well behaved, and this one hung onto every note. Haydn’s Symphony No.49, ‘La Passione’, was followed by his sparkling Sinfonia Concertante for solo violin, cello, oboe, bassoon and orchestra in which the soloists’ dialogue is often quasi-operatic.



The old church made of stones

Still stands next to the piles of rock and ruins

Neither the raids of the Danes nor the wars were able to tear down its walls. 

It emerges from the smoke, from the flames recalling all the bygone days

And Naantali, the small borough with birch-bark roofs grew up in its shadow.’

Huugo Ehnqvist

Naantali Church, built for the use of the Catholic Convent of St Bridget in 1443, is the setting for today’s rehearsal and for this evening’s concert.  Inside, the polished wooden benches are covered, today, with violin cases, water bottles and tour reading material.   The orchestra is seated and tuning; oboe reeds have been adjusted, music angled to catch the light from the chandeliers and soloists positioned.

The opening melodies of the Haydn Sinfonia Concertante rise into the vaulted ceiling and the ECO sounds good already, even at 10.30 in the morning.  The second piece on the rehearsal schedule is Shostakovich’ Symphony No 14, based on poems about death.  The text, sung by two soloists, contains little of the optimism often included in poems on this topic.  Yet this morning, with sun streaming in through the leaded windows, it sounds magnificent.