Just a block away from London’s Houses of Parliament stands St. John’s Smith Square, a church with quite a history. Built in 1710 it burnt down in 1742, was rebuilt and hit by lightning in 1815, rose from the ashes again and offered room in the interbellum to a boy’s choir with Benjamin Britten one of its members. On the 10th of May 1941 the church was bombed by the nazis and it took until 1969 before the city decided to rebuild the church in its old splendor. Since then St. John’s Smith Square became a concert venue for high ranking musicians. A few of May 2017 concerts: The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (2/05/17), pianist Alexander Gavryluk (03/05/17), and the young British Ferio Saxophone Quartet (11/05/17).
The last concert features amongst others a selection of Guillermo Lago’s Ciudades. Recently, on the 23rd of april the same quartet in this venue performed the world-premiere of Lago’s The Wordsworth Poems, inspired on three poems by William Wordsworth (1770-1850).
Why Wordsworth? When Lago received the Ferio Quartet’s invitation to write a new composition he asked the four musicians what poet they really love and admired and what their favorite poem would be. Ferio suggested Wordsworth right away, a romanticist ‘pur sang’, who described the decline of rural England in wonderful playful poetry. Their most beloved poem was Composed Upon Westminster Bridge and Lago used this as an inspiration for the first movement. He selected two more poems for the next two movements: With Ships the Sea was Sprinkled Far and Nigh and Composed during a Storm.
The recent assault on the 22nd of March on Westminster Bridge being a very fresh memory gave the opening movement, very enchantingly performed by the Ferio, an inevitable character of a ‘In Memoriam’. The tranquil opening theme reappears in the following two movements as an indication of an old world we left behind us. What replaces that old world? Disquiet and hectic pace, elements that occur in Lago’s music too. Yet in Ferio’s interpretation transparant beauty and contemplation prevail. While thousands run outside the concert hall in London’s marathon Ferio creates a mood of deep concentration.
Good news for those who could not attend this memorable concert in London: the Ferio Quartet very recently recorded The Wordsworth Poems with the Chandos label together with Lago’s full cycle Ciudades and other works, by French composers. The CD will be presented on the 14th of July 2017, adding a jewel to the repertoire for saxophone quartet.
© 2017 Saskia Törnqvist (translation Willem van Merwijk)