Free for students, staff and the local community

On Wednesday 11th October, we welcomed classical guitarist Laura Snowden to St Gregory’s Centre for Music as the third offering in our lunch time concert series for this academic year.

Laura was the first guitarist to graduate from the Yehudi Menuhin School, where her guitar tuition was made possible by a donation from the Rolling Stones. She was selected by Julian Bream to give the Bream Trust Recital at the Wigmore Hall both in 2015 (described by The Guardian as ‘a poignant, mesmerising show’) and again this November 2017. Whilst at the Royal College of Music she was selected for the Tillett Trust, St John’s Smith Square, International Guitar Foundation, Worshipful Company of Musicians and ‘Making Music Philip and Dorothy Green’ young artist schemes, and was invited by guitarist John Williams to perform at Shakespeare’s Globe with her folk ensemble Tir Eolas.

A charming and talented musician, Laura began her concert with the humorous disclosure that she first started learning the classical guitar when the Spice Girls split up as, she stated, “there was nothing left for her in the world of pop music after that”.

She opened the varied programme with Suite No.3 for Violoncello by J.S Bach, with the arrangement for guitar by her mentor Julian Bream.

“Performing Bach’s Cello Suites on the guitar always raises questions: the guitar has such a different resonance to the cello, and we want to make the music work as best we possibly can on our instrument. Some guitarists, finding the Cello Suites so perfect, so complete, perform them exactly as they were originally written (simply changing the key). Others ask themselves – if Bach had been given a modern guitar and was asked to arrange the Suites, what would he have written? In fact, Bach arranged his own fifth Cello Suite for the lute, and there are significant differences between the two versions.” – Laura Snowden.

The following piece, Introduction et Caprice Op.23 by Giulio Regondi, Laura described as the only really romantic piece expressly written for the guitar and in her programme notes spoke of the composer’s equally romantic upbringing, worthy of a Charles Dickens novel.

“He was orphaned by his Swiss mother and brought up in Lyons by an Italian foster father, who was himself a gifted musician. He displayed such prodigious talent on the guitar that by the age of eight he was already dazzling critics in Paris; he came with his father to London at the age of nine, achieving further success and earning good money. When he was only thirteen his father handed him a £5 note and absconded with the remainder of their money, leaving young Regondi to fend for himself in London with the help of foster parents and friends. However, his career continued to flourish and although he spent most of his life in London, he went on various tours abroad, even performing a duo with Clara Schumann in Leipzig.” – Laura Snowden

The third piece came from the six parts of the atmospheric Sechs Musiken Op.25 by Hans Erich Apostel – in juxtaposition to the smooth and uplifting previous works of the programme – who was a student of composers Schoenberg and Berg and followed their 12-tone technique.

“There is something cynical and desolate about the music; as though it is trying to say something, but can’t quite say it. At the same time, there is a certain lyricism (which I also hear in Berg’s music) and, because much of the piece is so cold, the melodic and lyrical aspects feel all the more touching.” – Laura Snowden

The final work of the programme was the three movement piece by the Spanish composer Jaoquin Rodrigo, entitled Tres Piezas Espanolas, which includes Flamenco elements.

“Rodrigo described his Fandango as reflecting ‘the gallantry and pomp of 18th century Spain’, and there certainly is a formality and even certain austerity to the piece, but to me there are also occasional glimpses of something wilder. Rodrigo was fascinated by ancient Spanish music, and this Fandango might well be described as neo-Baroque. But are we dealing simply with a nostalgia for a past ‘golden age’ – a modern interpretation of a playful dance, peppered with humorous ‘wrong notes’ – or are the ‘wrong notes’ suggestive of an anguished, at times even grotesque, relationship with the idea of Spanish identity and history? These questions are a simplification but I hope to give you an idea of the questions raised by these pieces and the elements which I am trying to balance side by side: the dance, the formality, the gallantry, the moments of humour, flashes of flamenco, pain, nostalgia, the gentleness, the grotesque.” – Laura Snowden.

Next up: the medieval folk ensemble, Jogleresa, this Friday 20th October