A composer-performer collaboration with music of the past

Monday, 13 July 2020 | 3.00pm – 3.30pm

About the event

Peter Le Tissier’s Prelude and Robert Schumann’s Papillons Op. 2 are performed side by side in a celebration of collaboration. Here we see the musical collaboration necessary between composer and performer, especially in the preparation of performance. At the same time, there is collaboration evident between composers old and new as Le Tissier takes inspiration from Schumann to create a prelude to the work.

Peter Le Tissier

The piece written here has an intimate relationship with Schumann’s op. 2 Papillons, for piano. In particular, motivic ideas from the 2nd and final sections were the inspiration for the piece. Schumann’s use of the horn-call in the last section was the starting point for the piece, with the idea of an either implied or really present pair of natural horns in D – in the version heard in this performance, the horns are of course implied. An important aspect of this use of the natural horns is the idea that they should be ‘in the distance’ – Schumann’s fantastic use of the horn call to close Papillons implies a sudden broadening of the landscape, and this is an idea that has been carried into the Prelude. The use of the harmonic series (coming from the natural horn idea), in particular featuring the sharpened fourth, is expansive throughout the prelude and allows the piece to sit somewhere in between a ‘pure’ D major and its parallel Lydian mode. The ambiguity of this provides much of the tension in the piece, with the tonal centre deliberately staying fairly strongly centred on the pitch ‘D’ throughout. The piece is designed to run immediately before, and lead directly into the Schumann piece. As a result, there isn’t a strong sense of ending, rather a transition into the material that opens Papillons itself. The idea is to round off the Schumann – the horn calls appearing at the end should now be embedded with extra meaning, given the material of the prelude.

Peter Le Tissier
Composer’s note

Papillons, Op. 2
Robert Schumann

Schumann was a German composer who is mainly remembered for his piano works. Schumann’s passion for both music and literature enabled the composer to create works that were often indebted to literary models and tropes. This work, Papillons Op. 2, is one such work inspired by literature. In common usage ‘Papillons’ translates to ‘butterflies’, however, it is more likely that the title refers to masks worn at a ball as fantastical carnival and dance features throughout the work. Schumann began to compose this work at 18 when he was influenced largely by dances of Schubert and by Jean Paul’s romantic novel, Flegeljahre (Adolescence). Jean Paul’s writing style combines extravagant metaphor and fantasy with humour and features two opposing characters. It is perhaps not surprising that this novelist should have inspired Schumann, whose later writing featured conflicting depictions of his own subconscious Florestan and Eusebius (one active and one passive). The listener may perceive hints of these later characters in this work as reflective and introspective movements are juxtaposed with confident and ostentatious movements. The work is divided into twelve movements. Indicative of the romantic obsession with literary fragments – a form which is at once complete in itself yet points to something beyond itself – this work can be conceived of as a whole made up of fragments. On another level, the work is itself a fragment of many things, Schumann’s musical oeuvre, literary traditions and the canon itself. Each movement is like a dance, reminiscent of ballroom scenes in Jean Paul’s novels. With a nod to humour and metaphor, the final movement quotes part of the German ‘Grossvater-Tanz’ or ‘Grandfather’s Dance’, which was played to mark the end of an evening’s dancing.

About the creators

Aletheia Woodhouse

Aletheia is a PhD Student at Royal Holloway, University of London where she reads Music. Here, she has had the privilege of studying the piano with Matthew Stanley for 4 years. She first began to play the piano at age 6 and was awarded a DipABRSM in 2014. She has been awarded funding from various organisations to finance her musical education as a consequence of her talent. Notably, she was granted two awards from the charity Awards for Young Musicians, for whom she has participated in a media publicity campaign. When at home in Devon, she is a lounge pianist at Ilsington Country House Hotel and Spa where she has been employed since 2016.   As a chamber musician, she has had success in a clarinet-violin-piano trio, premiering Nathan James Dearden’s ‘snag’ in 2018 and performed Copland’s Appalachian Spring with the student-led Luciform Sinfonietta in May of the same year. As a violinist, she is a member of the Royal Holloway Symphony Orchestra. Aletheia will continue to develop her performance skills at Royal Holloway, whilst specialising in research. 

Peter Le Tissier

Peter Le Tissier is a conductor and composer currently studying at Royal Holloway, University of London, where he is pursuing an MMus, majoring in orchestral conducting and studying under Neil Ferris. Since beginning to study conducting in 2015, Peter has gone on to found the Englefield Green Festival Orchestra, with whom he has performed works by Beethoven, Wagner, and Bruckner, as well as new pieces, including Peter’s own Serenade for guitar and chamber orchestra, and Leonardo’s Legacy, commissioned for Portuguese composer Miguel Diniz and premiered in March 2019. He has also since 2017 been the conductor of the Luciform Sinfonietta, a flexible chamber ensemble performing works ranging from Mozart to Stravinsky and Schönberg. Peter is also conductor of the Surbiton Symphony Orchestra, with whom he has performed large-scale works, such as Bruckner’s Symphony no. 4, ‘Romantic’, and Mahler’s 5th Symphony. Alongside copious amateur work, Peter has also conducted professional ensembles, including the Berlin Sinfonietta in a performance of Beethoven’s 4th Symphony as part of an international masterclass, and the CHROMA ensemble in composition workshops. His work has also contained opera, with Peter currently filling the role of principal conductor at the Raven Opera Company, with 2019 also seeing Peter direct the Royal Holloway Symphony Orchestra’s tour to Flanders, featuring Dvorak’s ‘New World’ Symphony. As a composer, Peter’s work has been performed in a variety of venues, with performances of a trio Dealbh Geamhraidh having occurred in the Picture Gallery, Royal Holloway, and set to be performed again in 2021 in Turin, Italy. He has also premiered two of his own works for orchestra, most recently the Òrain Sìtheil in February 2020. Alongside composing, Peter is also a dedicated orchestrator, and his version of Arthur Somervell’s A Shropshire Lad song cycle was first performed in Belgium, with the Royal Holloway Symphony Orchestra, in 2019.

Music at Royal Holloway MixTape

Contents of this event can also be listened to via the Department of Music’s new MixTape on SoundCloud. Please feel free to join us and subscribe to hear the very best of our students and staff.