This preview has been provided by Mallarmé Chamber Players.

The Triangle’s most eclectic chamber music ensemble is offering its 33rd season of imaginative and innovative programs. With music performed on period instruments to newly commissioned works, Mallarmé Chamber Players creates collaborations across genres — music, dance, poetry, film — which showcase a variety of North Carolina artists including composers.

The six concerts in the concert series fall under one or more designations including National Delights, Mallarmé HIP, and Emerging Artists. National Delights highlights music and food of a specific nation.

The concert series opens on September 25th with music by 20th century British composers for piano quartet and various combinations therein, called High Tea. Many know the name of Benjamin Britten, but may not be familiar with the music of Arthur Bliss, Frank Bridge and William Alwyn. Their music is unique from one another yet strongly influenced by war and British folk traditions. Pianist Jeremy Thompson will join violinist Janet Orenstein, violist Suzanne Rousso and cellist Nathan Leyland in an intimate concert at the home of Elizabeth and Michael Schoenfeld in Durham.

Series Concert 1: HIGH TEA (National Delights)
Music of 20th Century British Composers for piano quartet


Frank Bridge – Phantasy Quartet
Benjamin Britten – Cello Sonata
William Alwyn – String Trio
Arthur Bliss – Piano Quartet


Jeremy Thompson piano
Janet Orenstein violin
Suzanne Rousso viola
Nate Leyland cello

PROGRAM NOTES (compiled by Suzanne Rousso)

Frank Bridge (1879-1941) was born in Brighton and studied at the Royal College of Music in London from 1899 to 1903 studying under Charles Villiers Stanford and others. He played the viola in a number of string quartets, most notably the English String Quartet and conducted some before devoting himself to composition. Bridge is best known through his most famous pupil, Benjamin Britten, who recognized his teacher’s genius and frequently programmed his works.

One of Bridge’s earliest chamber music compositions is the Phantasy for Piano, Violin, Viola and Cello in F Sharp Minor, H. 94, written in 1909-1910 and is in Bridge’s early romantic style. This is one of many compositions written in the 16th-century ‘phantasy’ form by numbers of English composers at the behest of W. W. Cobbett, who had founded an annual prize in 1907 for pieces in the form.

The work is essentially in one movement in an arch form that mimics the movements of a standard piano quartet but is played without pause. In its twelve minutes it contains a slow, dramatic introduction followed by a light-hearted scherzo and then a gradual slowing to a tranquil ending. The work reveals

Bridge’s early style at its most fluent. Benjamin Britten revealed the essence of this work perfectly: “Sonorous yet lucid, with clear, clean lines, grateful to listen to and to play. It is the music of a practical musician, brought up in German orthodoxy, but who loved French romanticism and conception of sound — Brahms happily tempered with Fauré.”

Born in Suffolk, the son of a dentist, Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) showed talent from an early age. He studied at the Royal College of Music in London and privately with the composer Frank Bridge. Britten first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy was Born in 1934. With the premiere of Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to international fame. Over the next 28 years, he wrote 14 more operas, establishing himself as one of the leading 20th-century composers in the genre. In addition to large-scale operas, he wrote “chamber operas” for small forces, suitable for performance in venues of modest size. Among the best known of these is The Turn of the Screw (1954).

Britten’s close friendship with cellist Mstislav Rostropovich inspired the Cello Sonata (1961), Cello Symphony (1963) and three suites for solo cello (1964–71). The sonata was premiered by Rostropovich with Britten at the piano at the 1961 Aldeburgh Festival. Britten wrote this analysis of the Cello sonata, Op. 65 “Dialogo (Allegro): This movement is throughout the discussion of a tiny motive of a rising or falling second. The motive is lengthened to make a lyrical second subject which rises towards and falls from a pianissimo harmonic. Scherzo–pizzicato (Allegretto): A study in pizzicato, sometimes almost guitar-like in its elaborate right-hand technique. Elegia (Lento): Against a sombre piano background, the cello sings a long tune. This tune is developed, by means of double, triple, and quadruple stopping, to a big climax, and sinks away to a soft conclusion. A brief Marcia (Energico): The cello plays a rumbustious bass to the jerky tune in the piano. The trio has horn-like calls over a repeated triplet bass. The march returns very softly, with the bass (now in the treble) in harmonics. Moto perpetuo (Poco presto): The 6/8 saltando theme dominates the entire movement, frequently changing its character, now low and grumbling, now gay and carefree.”

William Alwyn (1905–1985) was born in Northampton, where he showed an early interest in music and began to learn to play the piccolo. At the age of 15 he entered the Royal Academy of Music in London where he studied flute and composition. He was a virtuoso flautist and served as professor of composition at the Royal Academy of Music from 1926 to 1955. His prolific output is close to 300 works that include music in the majority of genres, opera, ballet, orchestral, chamber, instrumental, and song. In addition to this Alwyn contributed nearly 200 scores for the cinema.

The String Trio was composed during 1959 and is dedicated to the Oromonte Trio, who gave the first performance on 23 October 1960 at the Falmouth Arts Centre. A BBC broadcast would follow by the same artists on 13 March 1962. The composer says the following about the work: “The first movement isconstructed on a 12-tone row given here complete but divided into smaller groups in the following three movements. The work begins with a short energetic passage, which is immediately followed by a tranquil lilting theme using the whole twelve notes and developed in canon by each instrument in turn. This drifts away on the high upper register of the violin. The rhythmic opening phrase abruptly intervenes but quickly dissolves to a pianissimo ending. The second movement is a Scherzo based on a 5-note group derived from the 12-note row but with a strong tonal centre of C. This short note group is fully developed both in rhythm and melody and reaches a fortissimo conclusion. The Trio of the Scherzo, which forms the middle section of the movement, is a re-statement of the 12-note theme announced by the violin with a spiky persistent accompaniment. The Trio section ends with a fortissimo chordal statement, which resolves into a complete repeat of the Scherzo. There is a short coda in which the movement fades away into the distance. The third movement Cavatina is as indicated by its title a slow movement of a song-like character in complete contrast to the Scherzo which precedes it. The mood is quietly reflective and gradually works up to a fortissimo climax with the violin (molto intenso) high above the rapid arpeggio accompaniment of the other two instruments. The movement ends as it began, quietly and reflectively. The fourth movement plunges into the rhythmic finale. The pace quickens then changes to a slower and more lyrical mood alternating between quick and slow. This section, which ends with sforzando pizzicato chords, is followed by a brief coda where an augmented version of the twelve-note theme brings the work to a tranquil close.”

Sir Arthur Edward Drummond Bliss (1891 –1975) was the son of a New England businessman and his amateur pianist wife, Arthur Bliss was born in London in 1891. Educated at Rugby and then at Pembroke College, Cambridge, he spent a year at the Royal College of Music before joining the army. At the Royal College he was a contemporary of Herbert Howells, whose talent he particularly admired, and of Eugene Goossens and Arthur Benjamin. As an officer in in the army, in which he served from 1914 until 1919, Bliss shared the horrors of trench warfare, being wounded and gassed. His brother Kennard was killed in action, a loss Bliss felt keen. In the post-war years he quickly became known as an unconventional and modernist composer, but within the decade he began to display a more traditional and romantic side in his music. In the 1920s and 1930s he composed extensively not only for the concert hall, but also for films and ballet.

One of the players in the first performance of the Piano Quartet, at a War Emergencies Concert in London in April 1915, was the great viola-player Lionel Tertis: it was through Tertis that Bliss was inspired to later write a viola sonata. After being wounded on active service in France in 1916, Bliss was transferred back to England and in 1917 found himself posted to Prior Park in Bath as an instructor to cadet officers. It was in Bath that a performance was arranged of his Piano Quartet that was dedicated to his friend Lily Henkel and her quartet and eventually published, thanks to his father and Eugene Goossens, by Novello.

The first movement opens in a pastoral mood with echoes of English folk-song, in a fantasy style that was typical of English chamber music of the period. There is a brief, charming Intermezzo followed by the lively finale in a meter that fluctuates from 2/4 to 3/4.


The Mallarmé Chamber Players are a flexible ensemble of professional musicians based in Durham, North Carolina, whose mission is to enrich the lives of their community through outstanding chamber music. The ensemble distinguishes itself by its innovative educational programs, its commitment to creative collaboration with other organizations, its creation of significant new work, and its dedication to serve a diverse population.

Mallarmé annually presents a series of concerts that features great, diverse, and multidisciplinary chamber music. Mallarmé performs everything from Bach with period instruments to commission and performing brand new works. In 2010, Mallarmé released, to great acclaim, a cd on Albany/Videmus records of chamber music by African American composers.

Mallarmé is unique in that we do not work with a small core of musicians, but instead use the wonderful musical talent North Carolina has to offer to perform with the ensemble depending on the needs of the repertoire. Most of Mallarmé’s musicians are members of professional organizations like the NC Symphony, free-lance players or faculty members of the numerous institutions of higher learning.

Mallarmé is a non-profit, tax-exempt, 501(c) 3 organization. The 2016-17 concert season is made possible in part by grants from the Durham Arts Council’s Annual Arts Fund and the North Carolina Arts Council.