Musical Mondays

by Harry Matthews, Music undergraduate student. 

Mondays at Southampton always seem to be the busiest days of the week for me. On one Monday recently I started my morning rehearsing new pieces for my ensemble with David Owen Norris. The piano and percussion ensemble rehearsed ‘Workers Union’ by Louis Andriessen and a brand new work by third year composer Millie Aldridge.  ‘Workers Union’ is an open score work for LOUD instruments, and we are really looking forward to playing this piece in May. After rehearsals I met with Michael Finnissy and we went to Turner Sims where I page turned for his Piano Quintet in B Flat Major, EG. 118 – Finnissy: Grieg-Quintettsatz. The piece was played by Finnissy and the Kreutzer Quartet in the Monday lunchtime concert series. It was a great experience to turn such a fantastic piece, Finnissy rewrites Grieg in two styles, one that fits Grieg’s and another that represents Finnissy’s own approach. The concert went really well, apart from the slight hiccup when Clinton’s Viola string snapped in the second part of Finnissy’s piece. Luckily, he had spare strings nearby and the concert was back and running in no time.

After the lunchtime concert, we had a small break to set up the recording equipment. At 3pm the workshop for composers began with the Kreutzer Quartet, featuring six new pieces by undergraduate and postgraduate composers. The quartet were very well versed in working with students, and had spent a good amount of time looking at our pieces before coming to us. It was an extremely valuable experience to have professional musicians critique our work. I have taken some treasured lessons in how to write for strings and REAL humans, rather than Sibelius.

Kreutzer Quartet in rehearsal
Kreutzer Quartet in rehearsal

Millie Aldridge:  ‘It was a really great experience watching a professional string quartet work through new pieces. The group provided lots of insight into how to appropriately and idiomatically write for the genre, and although I didn’t have a piece in the workshop, I learnt a huge amount from the experience.’

I have a lot more to work on in my string quartet, but without the opportunity to hear how my music sounds I would have been unaware of some faults in my writing. It was an extremely rewarding Monday looking back. The only way I could finish the day was with a few pints and a good chat with fellow composers.