Ashwell Music Festival 2018

The Fine Arts Sinfonia of London

The Fine Arts Sinfonia of London

Conductor Michael Nebe
Leaders Peter Fisher/Martin Smith

Sunday 21 May 2006 7.30 pm – St Mary’s Church Ashwell

In this section:


First Half

W.A. Mozart

Divertimento No 3 in F-major for strings
(KY 138)

  • I Allegro
  • II Andante
  • III Presto

Antonio Vivaldi

(1678-1 741)
Cello Concerto in G-minor

  • I Allegro
  • II Largo
  • III Allegro

JS. Bach

Suite (Overture) No 2 in B-minor

  • I Overture
  • II Rondeau
  • III Sarabande
  • IV Bourree
  • V Polonaise
  • VI Menuet
  • VII Badinerie


We invite you to enjoy a glass of wine during the Interval.

Edward Elgar

Serenade for Strings in E minor, op 20

  • I Allegro piacevole
  • II Larghetto
  • III Allegretto

Samuel Barber

Adagio for Strings, op 11

Benjamin Britten

“Simple Symphony” op 4

  • I Boisterous Bourree
  • II Playful Pizzicato
  • III Sentimental Sarabande
  • IV Frolicsome Finale


JAK BERRY Solo Flute

VIOLIN I Peter Fisher (leader), Nathaniel Vallois, Neil McTaggart, Mardyah Tucker

VIOLIN II Frances Andrade, Pippa Harris, Bjorn Petersen, Irina Pakkanen

VIOLA Levine Andrade, Mariya Sotirova, Victoria Cecil

CELLO Matthias Feile, Catherine Wilmers, Clare Deniz

DOUBLE-BASS Catherine Colwell

HARPSICHORD Nicholas Durcan

Programme Notes

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Divertimento no 3 in F major for strings (KV138)

Mozart was born in Salzburg, into a musical environment. His father, Leopold, was a composer and violinist who soon recognised his son’s exceptional talent. The young Mozart began learning to play the keyboard at the age of three and was composing at five. He and his sister were taken on tour to play in various European cities and London. In 1763, Mozart’s first works were published and in 1764 he wrote his first symphonies.

After a period in Paris, he spent two years composing in the service of the archbishop in Salzburg. His first major opera, Idomeneo, (1780) was one of his commissions. In 1781, he decided to make Vienna his home and this marked the beginning of his period as a mature composer. He lodged with the Weber family and married their daughter, Constanze. Mozart was not adept at financial management, and despite much work, his financial position became perilous. He did not find a court appointment and wrote begging letters to his friends. These loans were never repaid. In the autumn of 1787, Mozart succeeded Gluck as Kammermusicus in Vienna but at less than half Gluck’s salary. In 1789, Friedrich Wilhelm II offered him the post of Kapellmeister in Berlin, at a good salary, but he declined. An opportunity to go to London was also refused.

Mozart’s compositions include operas, notably Cosi fan tutte , The Marriage of Figaro , Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute , 41 symphonies, concertos, serenades, chamber music, piano sonatas and church music, including the Requiem that he never finished before he died. He was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave.

In the spring of 1772, Mozart wrote three small, versatile works for string quartet of which this evening’s work is the third. They are known as both divertimenti and Salzburg symphonies (they were written in Salzburg). Although not true symphonies, they possess qualities that do not disgrace the title.

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): Cello Concerto in G minor

Vivaldi was born on 4 th March 1678, the son of a musician in the Cappella di San Marco in Venice. His virtuoso violin playing soon made him world famous but his poor health induced him to seek job security in the Church and he was ordained in 1703. However, his asthma worsened and he left the priesthood the same year to accept an appointment as music director and professor of violin at the “Ospedale della Pieta”, a girls’ boarding school. The high standard of playing and orchestral discipline soon made this school world famous with visitors arriving from all over Europe to admire their performances under Vivaldi’s direction. He remained in this position until 1740 but often took extended holidays to perform elsewhere and supervise performances of his works. In 1740, Vivaldi left Venice for Vienna where he died in 1741.

Vivaldi was the first composer to devote a large number of works to the solo cello. It is not known if he had the girls of the “Ospedale della Pieta” in mind when he wrote them or if they were written for virtuosi like Vandini. These 27 concertos demand performers of extraordinary talent at a period when the cello was not fully developed it had not acquired its final size or number of strings.

These concertos display the same creative genius as Vivaldi’s works for the violin.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750): Suite (Overture) no 2 in B minor

Overture, Rondeau, Sarabande, Bourée 1, Bourée 2,Polonaise, Menuet, Badinerie

J. S. Bach was born in Eisenach (Germany) on 21 March 1685 and received his earliest musical education from his father, Johann Ambrosius Bach. He was orphaned by the age of ten, then brought up by his elder brother, Johann Christoph (who had studied under Pachelbel), until he went to boarding school in Lüneburg where the famous Georg Boehm was working as organist.

On leaving school, Bach soon found employment in Arnstadt (as an organist) and Weimar (as a violinist). It was here, in 1714, that he became organist and concertmaster at the Court. In 1717 he went to Cöthen as Capellmeister. Five years later, in 1722, Bach accepted the most prestigious post as organist and choirmaster at the St. Thomas Church and Choir School in Leipzig where he remained until his death on 28 July 1750.

Bach married twice and had 20 children, some of whom became well-known composers.

Bach’s Suite in B Minor was never published during his life. Only the flute, a viola and the continuo parts survived in autographed form all other parts were found from contemporary copies. Places and dates of composition are uncertain. It was assumed, at first, that the Suites were written in Cöthen, but close scrutiny of the development of Bach’s hand writing revealed that they are of a later date, most probably written in Leipzig between 1735 and 1746. The first edition of the suites appeared in 1853 after Mendelssohn had performed the St. Matthew Passion and had included the 3rd Suite in a Gewandhaus Concert against wide spread opposition. He persuaded Peters to publish the Suites and award them the recognition they deserved.

The Suite became a popular art form after Agostino Steffani had put together a collection of popular dances from his operas, beginning with an Overture, calling this art form Overture-Suite. Both Jusser and Telemann used this form in their compositions. The Suite finally became the most common and popular musical form of the early 18th century.

Bach wrote only 4 orchestral suites. His handling and reprocessing of contemporary dances, his reworking of their melodic and harmonic structure into a mature art form shows his superiority over his contemporaries, most of whom assembled their suites in production line style (series production). Bach’s Suite in B Minor belongs to those works most heavily influenced by the French style which is based on music written by Lully in France between 1650 and 1700.

The Suite begins with an overture in 3 sections a much ornamented introduction is followed by a fugal section, with the third being a restatement of the opening, changed into triple time and headed “LentemenC. A Rondeau and a Sarabande follow. After the second Bouree, Bach includes a Polonaise, fashionable at the time for its rustic and “barbaric beauty”. The title “Polonaise” was used as a heading for all “exotic” dances, not simply to those of Polish origin.

The Menuet is graceful and elegant, and the Badinerie lively, witty and almost banal.

Edward Elgar (1857-1934): Serenade for Strings in E minor, op 20

Allegro piacevole Larghetto Allegretto

Edward William Elgar was born on 2 June 1857 in Broadheath near Worcester, and died on 23 February 1934 in Worcester. Elgar showed much talent as an instrumentalist and achieved a good playing standard on many instruments. He became a violinist in the orchestra in Birmingham and later became organist in succession to his father at St George’s Roman Catholic Church, Worcester. After a brief stay in London, he settled in Malvern and later in Hereford, taking part in all local music making. His output is extensive and earned him a place amongst the world’s most important composers. He was knighted in 1904, received the Order of Merit in 1911, became “Master of the King’s Music” in 1924 and was created a Baronet in 1931. He was awarded Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Cambridge, Durham, Leeds, Oxford, Yale, Aberdeen and Pennsylvania.

The Serenade for Strings was written in 1892, two years after the overture Froissart op. 19 (1890), and a year before his cantata The Black Knight, op. 25 (1893). He considered his Serenade to be amongst his most successful compositions and reused its material later in his Elegy , op. 58 (1909). The Serenade shows the influence of Handel’s string technique as Elgar had made a major study of the “master’s” string writing.

Elgar was encouraged in the writing of this work by his wife who was, at that time, still waiting for recognition of her husband’s genius. The Serenade was, initially, rejected by his publishers but eventually won through and was among the final works recorded by Elgar himself in 1933.

Samuel Barber (1910-1981)- Adagio for strings op 11

Samuel Barber was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., on 91h March 1910, and died in New York on 23rd January 1981. He studied singing, piano, composition and conducting (under Fritz Reiner) at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. He was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, the Guggenheim Fellowship and the American Rome Prize. He became a member of the American Academy for Art and Literature, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Harvard University. His output included operas, ballets, symphonies, concertos, chamber music and many vocal works.

The Adagio for Strings was written as the slow movement to the String Quartet no. 1 (1936) and in its adaptation for string orchestra soon became Barber’s most popular work, premiered by Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Orchestra in 1938.

This work was played at the funerals of President Roosevelt of the USA and Princess Grace of Monaco. It was also used in Oliver Stone’s Vietnam War film, “Platoon”.

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) “Simple Symphony” op 4

Boisterous Bourrée, Playful Pizzicato, Sentimental Saraband, Frolicsome Finale

Britten was born on St Cecilia’s day, 22 November 1913, in Lowestoft, Suffolk. his father was a dental surgeon and his mother an amateur pianist. He began to play the piano at the age of two, and was reading symphony and opera scores at seven. By the time he had reached ten he had written an oratorio and string quartet, and by sixteen had produced a symphony, 6 quartets; 10

piano sonatas and other smaller works. He studied with Frank Bridge before going to the Royal College of Music where he studied composition with John Ireland and piano with Arthur Benjamin. Soon after leaving college, he wrote the music for a number of documentary films. For the text of his first song cycle, On this Island, he used W H Auden’s writings. In 1937, his Variations on a theme of Frank Bridge were performed at the Salzburg Festival.

Being a pacifist, Britten moved to America in 1939 when war was imminent. Whilst there, he produced his first big orchestral work, Sinfonia da Requiem (1940) and his first dramatic work, the operetta Paul Bunyan. He returned to England in 1942 and appeared before the “Tribunal of Conscientious Objectors”. He was exempt from military duty and was allowed to continue composing provided he performed in concerts promoted by the “Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts”. Before the end of the war, Britten had written the Ceremony of Carols and the Serenade for tenor, horn and strings. In 1940, his opera Peter Grimes, based on a story by the Suffolk poet, George Crabbe, appeared. This made Britten internationally famous and was regarded as a milestone in modern opera. He founded the English Opera Group, and in 1948, together with Eric Crozier and Peter Pears, he inaugurated the Aldeburgh Festival.

He wrote accessible music for children such as let’s Make an Opera, Noye’s fludde and the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. In 1961, he was commissioned to write a work for the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral. This work was the War Requiem, the text being taken from the Latin Mass and the poems of Wilfred Owen. Less than six months before his death at Aldeburgh on 4 December 1976, he became a peer, the first composer to receive this honour.

The Simple Symphony based entirely on material from works that Britten wrote between the ages of nine and twelve. Although the development of these themes is in many places quite new, there are large stretches of the work that are taken bodily from the early pieces, save for the rescoring for strings. Movements 1 and 3 are taken from piano suites 1 and 3 respectively, the second movement from a piano scherzo and the last from the piano sonata no 9.



Michael was born in Germany and studied at the Musik-Hochschule in Dortmund, in London at King’s College, London University, with Thurston Dart and Anthony Milner, and at the loyal Academy of Music with Florence Hooton and Colin Hampton. Radio broadcasts, television appearances, and worldwide tours as a cellist have taken him to Europe, the USA, Canada, and Australia. He is also a member of the Plaegan Piano Quartet that tours regularly.

The study of conducting began in Dortmund, and was continued later in London at Morley College with Lawrence Leonard, and in the Czech Republic at the International Conductors’ Seminar, Zlin, under Jiri Behlolavek, Kirk Trevor, Zdenek Bilek and Georg Tintner.

Michael’s first conducting appointment was as organist and choirmaster in Dortmund at the age of fourteen. He made his professional conducting debut aged sixteen with the Dortmund Philharmonic Orchestra. He was appointed music director of the Whitehall Orchestra (the orchestra of the British Civil Service) in 1990 and founded the Fine Arts Sinfonia of London in 1994. Annual concert seasons are presented with both orchestras. His conducting engagements have taken him to Germany, Spain and Turkey and his commitments as conductor, cellist, teacher, coach, and adjudicator ensure that Michael leads an active musical life.

His conducting repertoire is large and varied, ranging from baroque to contemporary music, including opera. Interest in contemporary music has lead to his attendance as a composer and performer at the International Courses for Contemporary Music in Darmstadt, Germany, and the Gaudeamus International Contemporary Music Festival in the Netherlands. Michael has done much pioneering work in this field, both here and abroad, with over a hundred UK and world premieres to his credit. Michael has been listed in the “International Who’s Who in Music” since its ninth edition

Jak Berry



Jak Berry discovered the flute after years of piano and trumpet lessons. He became principal flute of the Lancashire Students’ Concert Band a year later, which took him on tour throughout Europe and the U.S. leading to concerto performances in Belgium and the UK. At 16 he joined the National Youth Wind Orchestra of Great Britain playing flute and alto flute, and a year later he had been accepted to study at Trinity College of Music, London.

He has studied with both Lynda Coffin and Wissam Boustany at Trinity, and during his time there, Jak has played as principal in the TCM Sinfonia and performed Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no 4 in collaboration with the English Concert. He has also enjoyed two years of being co-principal flute with the Whitehall Orchestra, under the direction of Michael Nebe. He made his solo debut with the Fine Arts Sinfonia last October playing in Honegger’s Concerto da Camera and Holst’s A Fugal Concerto with oboist Janice Knight.

Jak is a dedicated chamber musician, having co-founded the Vanburgh Wind Ensemble and Flautet, a flute quartet interested in increasing awareness of an unusual ensemble. However, Jak’s first love will always be orchestral playing, a career which he strongly wishes to pursue.

Matthias Feile Catherine Wilmers



Matthias Feile was born in Munich and studied music in his home town, as well as at the Mozarteum Salzburg and the Musikhochschule Luebeck. From 1978 to 1981 he was a member of the Camerata Academica Salzburg.

After a stint as Principal Cellist of the Symphonisches Orchester Berlin, he moved to London in 1984. He was Co-Principal Cellis of the London Philharmonic Orchestra for four years, and from 1991 to 1998 he held the position of Principal Cellist of the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Since his student days he has performed as soloist and chamber musician in most European countries and beyond. In the 1980s he revived the unusual duo combination cello-guitar which lead to numerous appearances in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the Edinburgh Festival, performing a wide range of repertoire by Boccherini and Vivaldi and many other pieces from the baroque era as well as of works written especially for this ensemble.

He has also developed an interest in conducting, and in 2000 became conductor of the Marryat Players, an orchestra of young musicians in Wimbledon.

Matthias continues in a wide range of musical activity of playing, teaching and conducting, but since September 2005 he has also enrolled as a medical student at the University of East Anglia.



Catherine lives near Baldock and was a prize-winning student at the Royal Academy of Music and continued her studies in Vienna with Andre Navarra. She gave her London debut recital at the Wigmore Hall, awarded by the Incorporated Society of Musicians . The Times hailed her as an “eminently serious, musicianly artist of firmly projected tone, reliable intonation and positive attack”. She was awarded further concerts at the Wigmore Hall and Purcell Room by the R.A.M. and the Kirkman Society.

For ten years Catherine held the post of sub-principal cellist in the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and played in many recordings, including solo cello continuo in Monteverdi’s Ulysses.

As a chamber musician she appeared in the first London performance of Andrjez Panufnik’s piano trio at the Wigmore Hall, a Brahms series with pianist Leslie Howard at the Purcell Room and concerts with singers Sarah Walker and Yvonne Kenny at the Wigmore Hall.

Her CD for ASV of works by British woman composers between 1894 and 1994 received the rare Gold Award from the French recordings magazine “Diaposon”.

Catherine has toured widely in Europe and Sri Lanka, appeared live on “In Tune” (Radio 3) with Dame Thea King and appears in recitals for music clubs and charity fundraising events all over the UK.

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