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|Sunday 14th April 2019 7.30pm
with Julian Bliss clarinet
Matthew Denton and Michelle Fleming violins
Eoin Schmidt-Martin viola, Emma Denton cello
Beethoven: Quartet in F major Op 18 No. 4
David Bruce : Gumboots for clarinet and string quartet
Brahms: Clarinet Quintet
On Sunday April 14th, Keswick Music Society presented the final concert of the 2018-19 season played by the Carducci String Quartet with Julian Bliss, clarinet. The internationally renowned quartet has a stunning reputation and we were not disappointed. Their immaculate playing and ensemble and the searching musicality of interpretation held the audience enthralled throughout a programme which satisfyingly combined classicism and modernity. The concert opened with one of Beethoven’s earliest string quartets, Opus 18 No 4. Here Beethoven already shows his passionate energy and seriousness, set off by the virtuosity of the final Gypsy inspired rondo, and the quartet gave an outstanding performance.
Julian Bliss, one of the world’s finest clarinettists, joined the Quartet for the rest of the concert. He is well known for his brilliant and innovative playing in many musical genres and it was a delight to hear the clarinet and also the bass clarinet played by a true master. ‘Gumboots’, by the contemporary composer David Bruce, was an unfamiliar contrast, being originally inspired by the rhythms and sounds of the dancing in Wellington boots by South African miners, their sole means of communication. The music evolves from despair and anger to the celebration of the resilience of the human spirit, and was engrossing and well received by the audience.
The second half of the concert consisted of Brahms’s late and great Clarinet Quintet, written, as were his other compositions for that instrument, after he had almost given up composing but had just heard the great clarinettist Richard Mulfeld. It has been called one of the greatest pieces of chamber music ever written, and the Quartet’s performance demonstrated why it is so admired. Their amazing togetherness and thoughtful interpretation and the combination of the timbres of strings and clarinet explored the depths of this reflective piece. As the last chords died away the audience were spellbound. The brochures for the 2019-20 concert season are now out and the Music Society looks forward to welcoming audiences and members old and new back in September.
Review by RFAC
|Sunday 24th March 2019 7.30pm
Royal Northern Sinfonia
Karin Hendrickson conductor
Bradley Creswick leader
Peter Francomb horn
Rossini: The Italian Girl in Algiers
R. Strauss: Horn Concerto No. 2
Mendelssohn: Italian Symphony
Keswick Music Society’s concert at the Theatre by Lake on Sunday saw a welcome return of the Royal Northern Sinfonia conducted by Karin Hendrickson, and was made up of three favourite works from the orchestral repertoire.
The concert began with Rossini’s Overture to the comic opera ‘L’Italiana in Algeri’ which the composer wrote at the age of just 21. The opera was hugely successful and the overture is now a favourite concert piece in its own right. It is full of humour, dynamic and rhythmic contrasts and sheer energy. The slow pizzicato opening in the strings was followed by the full orchestra. A beautifully played oboe solo led into the allegro section where the woodwind sparkled and the string scales and staccato passages were brilliantly performed. Rossini’s favourite device of a slowly rising crescendo with increasing tempo brought the overture to a brilliant close.
The orchestra was joined by Peter Francomb for a performance of Strauss’ second horn concerto. This was written in 1943, in the latter part of the composer’s life, after a long period of devoting himself almost entirely to operatic works. This was a dark time for Strauss. His health and that of his wife were poor, and the mass deportation of Jews caused great concern for the family, since Strauss’ daughter in law was Jewish. Yet the 2nd horn concerto is a joyful and carefree work, perhaps providing him with an escape from the terrible events surrounding him.
It is a technically demanding work for both soloist and orchestra, with conversational passages between them often more reminiscent of chamber music. These were effortlessly managed in this performance with soloist conductor and orchestra in complete harmony. In contrast to the two virtuosic outer movements the Andante con moto, with gentle muted strings and soft tender playing from the soloist brought intimacy and a sense of calm. The last movement began with an arresting horn call and developed into a scintillating movement of complex harmonic and rhythmic passages leading to a triumphant ending.
Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian Symphony’ was inspired by a trip he made to Italy in 1830 – 31. It is a sunny joyful work, reflecting the love he felt for the country, its climate and its people. The exuberant opening set the scene for the first movement, which was full of dynamic contrasts and foot tapping rhythms. The staccato passages in the strings were neatly played and the whole movement was filled with light. The second movement has the feel of a religious procession, with padding cello and bass parts under a solemn melody, played here with tenderness by violas followed by violins. The third movement, in the form of a minuet and trio, returns to the sunny mood of the first, with a lilting melody in the violins. The horns in the trio section as well as the woodwind were expressively played. The final movement is a breathtaking dance, and this performance was exhilarating, with the fiery rhythmic theme passing through the orchestra. The conductor set a breathless pace and the symphony raced through to its conclusion.
This was a happy ending to an exciting evening’s music, clearly much appreciated by the large audience.
Review by Sue Johnson
|Sunday 17th February 2019 7.30pm
Tim Horton piano, Benjamin Nabarro violin, Gemma Rosefield cello,
Naomi Atherton horn, Adrian Wilson oboe
Schumann: Three Romances for oboe and piano
Reinecke: Trio in A minor Op. 188 for oboe, horn and piano
Schumann: Adagio and Allegro for horn and piano
Brahms: Piano Trio in B Op. 8
Sunday 17th February 2019 3.00pm
Afternoon Half Term Family Concert
Tim Horton piano, Benjamin Nabarro violin, Gemma Rosefield cello, Naomi Atherton horn, Adrian Wilson oboe/cor anglais)
and narrator Polly Ives
On Sunday February 17th, Keswick Music Society presented two concerts by Ensemble 360, a versatile group of string and wind musicians of international standing based in Sheffield’s Crucible Studio. Their versatility was well demonstrated by these contrasting concerts: in the afternoon a full house of children and accompanying adults heard and saw the tale of ‘Giddy Goat’, the mountain goat with no head for heights, narrated and played in front of a large screen of colourful illustrations. Audience participation in gestures and song, and appropriate musical accompaniment of both well-known and newly composed pieces helped the story along to the great enjoyment of all.
Later, for the Music Society’s 7.30pm evening concert, the Ensemble showed a very different side to their musicianship, with music from the Romantic period by Brahms, Schumann and Reinecke. Then they turned from playfulness to an evening of deeply thought out performances.
There was a moment in the Adagio of the Brahms Trio in B when the music almost seemed to stop, a still point at the very heart of the music, when violin, cello and piano had achieved a peacefulness. And then the music returned with a new intensity, alternating between a joyous certainty and an almost demonic agitation.
The first movement began with a simple broad melody played beautifully on the cello by Gemma Rosefield, but rapidly the mood changed and deepened as Benjamin Nabarro’s violin offered a challenge, echoing and repeating the cello. With pianist Tim Horton, who drew a sympathetic timbre from the piano, we found we were listening to an intense emotional conversation. This was a powerful performance of a work of extraordinary depth. Brahms had originally written the trio when he was 22, but he revised it extensively 35 years later and added a lifetime’s experience to a work of youthful passion.
The concert opened with Adrian Wilson and Tim Horton playing Schumann’s Three Romances for Oboe and Piano, a beautiful, thoughtful work where the sheer quality of the oboe playing lent a magic to the simplicity of the melodies.
When Naomi Atherton on the horn joined Adrian and Tim to perform Reinecke Trio in A minor, there was a feeling of two very different instruments, the mellow oboe and the glowing horn, combining to speak almost as one, both in the melodic slow movement and in the stirring finale.
Listening to Naomi play the Adagio by Schumann you felt the horn was made to produce such a slow flowing melody, but when she played the rapid Allegro you realised how versatile the instrument could be.
Ensemble 360 presented a well-thought-out programme that took us to the heart of German Romanticism.
Review by Steve Matthews
|Wednesday 13th February 2019 7.00pm
Young Musicians' Concert
Last week a full house at the Theatre by the Lake was treated to an evening of superb musical entertainment provided by the Keswick Music Society’s annual Keswick Young Musicians Concert. The young musicians of Keswick, between the ages of 6 and 18, displayed a high standard of musicianship throughout the night to the delight of their families and friends.
First to grace the stage were the 6 very young members of the Skiddaw Strings, plus teachers and a drummer who was almost dwarfed by his drum kit, and the group competently played 4 tunes by Helen Butterworth.
Guitarist Theo Wallace was next on stage next accompanied by the same drummer. Remarkably, Theo has only been playing since last September and the two performed the piece “Old York” to a high standard.
Oscar Holt Middup came next and from memory very confidently played the 1st movement of Seitz’ Concerto in D major. He produced a pleasant tone from his violin and coped very well with the technical difficulties, the fast and slow passages, and his ability and enthusiasm were a credit to one so young.
Next was Year 10 pianist Lucy Mooney who played the mysterious and atmospheric ‘Lighthouse in the Fog’ with a mature, intuitive feel for the music.
She was followed by guitarists Elijah Hamilton and Ewan Wallace who played the blues duet “De Haas”. Their performance was short but very sweet with a good grasp of the blues genre.
Year 8 Anna Bray then sang “When a Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square”, an excellent and surprisingly mature rendition of a much-loved song.
Joshua Cragg, Year 7, was next up and his guitar solo, the traditional Japanese tune “Sakura”, expertly conjured up images of the Orient.
Grade 8 student trumpet player Oscar Craig followed and his interpretation of the technically difficult “Tico Tico” by Zequina de Abreu bought Mexican scenes to mind.
A group of 8 young guitarists were next who played “Zoo Blues” and “Shotgun” by George Ezra, allowing each musician to improvise a little in the blues piece, which they did very well.
Year 10 students, Bella Stamper and Lara Wilson then played the violin duet “Czardas” by Helen Butterworth and they expertly bought the sounds of European folk music to the theatre.
Saxophonist Hannah Rumney then played Solveig’s Song by Grieg and the lovely, soulful sound of her instrument was a pleasure to the ears.
Four guitarist and singer Dominic Wilson were next up and the singers young, clear voice was ably accompanied by the musicians in a nice performance of Ed Sheeran’s “Photograph”.
A sextet of very young violinists then put in a sprightly interpretation of Helen Butterworth’s “Rumba” which delighted the audience.
Pianist Charlotte Hignett was next with Russian composer Cesar Cui’s Waltz in E Minor. Her playing was sensitive and her phrasing was mature for one of such tender years.
The Keswick School Junior String Ensemble bought the first half to a close with 3 short pieces by Helen Butterworth, which were played with enthusiasm and ability.
The 14-strong Keswick School Guitar Ensemble kicked off after the interval with “La Volta” by Praetorius which was very well played, followed by the school’s Jazz Band who bought the sounds of New Orleans to the theatre with “Is You Is” and “Buffalo Head”. The great performance featured talented solos by saxophone, bass guitar, drums and lead guitar.
The familiar Hungarian Dance by Brahms was then played by violinist Leah Montgomery who coped well with the double stopping and the technical tricks to give a performance of maturity.
Next came a duet by saxophonist Hannah Rumney and pianist Charlotte Hignett who gave a great version of “Africa” by Toto.
Sounding like an old blues singer, guitarist Richard Kelso complete with loop pedal, then performed Eric Clapton’s “Leyla”. Sounding mature beyond his years, Richard has a great musical future ahead of him.
The first public performance by an all-female young string quartet came next and their playing of “Italian Suite” by Sheila Nelson was very impressive.
The adagio from the Sonata for Oboe and Continuo by Geminiani was then played by oboist Emily Kelso and cellist Mr Ligertwood and both skilfully bought the strains of the Baroque to the theatre.
Year 10 pianist Rosalind Weir then gave a mesmeric performance of the Chopin Nocturne in C minor. With a sensitive feeling for Chopin, her confident playing was a joy to hear.
The 14 young member of the Chamber Choir then sang two songs from “Hamilton” and their sweet young voices raised the rafters in the theatre.
Guided by teacher Louise Peacock, the Keswick School Senior String Ensemble came next with an abridged version of “Spring” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Their interpretation was full of emotion and drama and a very apt way to bring the concert to a close to rapturous applause.
Many of the young musicians played in several of the groups and it is a credit to themselves and their schools and teachers that they showed so much ability and maturity.
Youngsters from Keswick School, St Herbert’s, Borrowdale, Braithwaite, Threlkeld and Bassenthwaite were involved and thanks must go to those schools and their staff.
Also, the Keswick Music Society and the Theatre by the Lake must be congratulated for bringing the concert to the public and concert demonstrated that the musical future of Keswick is in very good hands.
Review by Jonathan Denny
|Sunday 6th January 2019 7.30pm
Catriona McDermid bassoon
with Mana Shibata oboe
and Suling King piano
Peter Hope: Four Sketches for Oboe, Bassoon & Piano
Stephen Dodgson: Suite for Oboe & Piano
Edward Elgar: Romance for Bassoon Op. 62
Nina Rota: Toccata for Bassoon & Piano
Anonymous (18th Cent.): Caprices for solo bassoon
Clemence de Grandval: Trio de Salon
Benjamin Britten: Pan, Phaeton, Niobe and Arethusa from Six Metamorphoses for solo Oboe
Francis Poulenc: - Trio for Oboe Bassoon and Piano
Fabulous Musical start to the New Year.
The New Year got off to a fine start for Keswick Music Society on Sunday 6th January with three highly talented, young, up and coming musicians. Each player already has an impressive list of accomplishments. Catriona McDermid, bassoon, is currently a recitalist for Countess of Munster Musical Trust and has already performed with some of our leading orchestras including the RPO and BBC Philharmonic. Mana Shibata, oboe, is originally from Japan but came to the UK at the age of 13 to study at Chetham’s School of music. She has been awarded several distinguished prizes including the Evelyn Rothwell/Barbirolli Prize. She has also played in some of our leading orchestras including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra & Manchester Camerata. Suling King, piano, studied at the Purcell School of Music, Royal Academy of Music and King’s College where she specialised in piano performance. She regularly accompanies musicians at the London Colleges and the European Union Youth Orchestra.
These three young players immediately engaged with the audience by coming on stage with lots of smiles and suitable introductions to their pieces. They made very interesting connections with the music and indeed themselves, including the fact that Elgar wrote his violin concerto for the great grandfather of Suling (the pianist).
The concert opened with Four Sketches for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano. What a delightful set of pieces they were and a splendid way to open the concert giving the audience an opportunity to get used to the sound of the three instruments. The piece was beautifully written for the combination and the musicians exhibited some stylish and sensitive ensemble playing with a lovely interplay between the oboe and bassoon. The third sketch was particularly melancholic and beautiful with some lovely lyrical passages played with excellent tone and control. Their ensemble playing in this piece was outstanding and it is quite clear they enjoy playing together.
Stephen Dodgson was a contemporary of Peter Hope and his Suite for oboe and piano was the second item on the programme. This consisted of five movements which didn’t offer the variety one might expect from five different movements. Whilst it was lovely to listen to and beautifully played by the oboist and with superbly sensitive piano accompaniment they were all very lyrical in style apart from the Scherzino which gave us a rather sudden and enjoyable quirky ending.
Catriona McDermid then treated us to one of the most famous pieces written for bassoon, the Romance by Elgar. She showed superb control of her instrument with a beautiful tone and dynamic control throughout the range.
The first half of the programme ended with a delightful Toccata for bassoon and piano by Nino Rota. This composer was a prolific writer of film scores and certainly knew how to write a good tune and include humour. He has written some excellent wind music which is both enjoyable to play and hear. This little Toccata was no exception.
Playing unaccompanied on a double reed instrument is quite a solitary experience and can make the performer feel vulnerable. However, Catriona showed great confidence and expertise in her execution of the Caprices for solo bassoon by an anonymous composer of the 18th century. She displayed her ability over the whole range of the instrument and played very musically, a piece which was probably written initially as an exercise.
Clemence de Grandval was the only woman composer included in this programme with her Trio de Salon. Apparently Sant-Saens wrote that her ‘melodies would certainly be famous if their author did not have the flaw, irremediable in the eyes of many, of being a woman’! Happily, how things have changed. There were indeed some beautiful melodies, where the oboe and bassoon had conversations with each other. These were executed perfectly. The role of the piano in this piece was very much an accompanying one until towards the end when a flourish of virtuosity was revealed and enjoyed. Suling displayed her ability to be a fine accompanist as well as a soloist when it was appropriate.
Mana Shibata chose to play four of the Six metamorphoses for solo oboe by Benjamin Britten. Again, to play unaccompanied can be very lonely but she played with confidence and great musicianship showing excellent control of this double reed instrument which can be very difficult to achieve. She made it appear effortless.
Finally, we heard the fabulous Trio for piano, oboe and bassoon by Francis Poulenc. Poulenc has written some of the best music available for wind instruments and this is no exception. It is a stunningly good piece. The composer has a mastery of interweaving beautiful melodic lines along with the inclusion of a great sense of humour in faster passages. Catriona, Mana and Suling were able to display their amazing individual technical abilities, their dynamic range and their superb playing as an ensemble. It was a dazzling piece to finish their programme and the audience showed their immense appreciation at the end of the concert.
Keswick Music Society is very grateful to the Countess of Munster Musical Trust which gave very generous support for this concert.
Review by Elaine Moor
|Sunday 9th December 2018 7.30pm
La Serenissima Baroque Ensemble
Adrian Chandler Artistic director
3 trumpets, timpani, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 8 violins, 3 violas, 2 cellos, double bass, theorbo, harpsichord - 24 players.
Concerto for 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 oboes, bassoon, strings & continuo in D, TWV 54: D3
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767)
Concerto movement for 2 oboes, bassoon, strings & continuo in E flat
Johann Georg PISENDEL (1687 – 1755)
Concerto for violin, bassoon, strings & continuo in B flat
Giuseppe BRESCIANELLO (1690 – 1758)
Concerto movement for violin, 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 oboes, bassoon, strings & continuo in D, BWV 1045
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 – 1750)
Concerto movement for violin, strings & continuo in a
Johann Georg PISENDEL
Concerto for strings & continuo in A, RV 158
Antonio VIVALDI (1678 – 1741)
Concerto for violin, 2 oboes, bassoon, 3 trumpets, timpani, strings & continuo in D, FaWV LD4
Johann Friedrich FASCH (1688 – 1758)
A dazzling musical ensemble
Entering the Theatre, the audience at the Keswick Music Society’s Christmas Concert was greeted by the stage set for the Theatre’s Christmas production of Beauty and the Beast – gigantic chests of drawers and a man-sized carriage clock! Had they come on the right evening? Reassuringly, a harpsichord stood amongst the baroque furniture, and the stage was soon filled with musicians in colourful dress with period instruments and a joyful programme.
La Serenissma is an ensemble of 23 musicians, playing baroque string and wind instruments, timpani, the harpsichord and a theorbo - an elegantly long necked lute. They specialise in the music of the Venetian composer Vivaldi and his associates and contemporaries, including stars of the age such as Bach and Teleman, and others like Pisendel, Brescianello and Fasch, nowadays less well known but celebrated throughout the Europe of their time. Not only were they contemporaries, but were well connected by friendship, marriage and godfatherhood. Hence the title of the concert: The Godfather, and their name, by which the City of Venice was widely known; a feast of North Italian music was to be expected.
The concert was a fulfilment of this promise: from the opening piece for full ensemble including the three trumpets, in the following two single-movement concertos for various combinations of instruments by Pisandel, to the Bach movement which concluded the first half of the concert,
The second half began with a concerto featuring the violin and the baroque bassoon. If the set suggested Beauty and the Beast, the question was: which instrument was which? In fact, as in the story, where the Beast’s gruff exterior is transformed into elegance and pathos, in the beautiful slow movement the bassoon was allowed to reveal its inner soul. Then a concerto by Vivaldi himself showed why he really was ‘the Godfather’ and the evening concluded with a rousing concerto by the composer Johann Friedrich Fasch, probably unfamiliar to many of the audience but clearly well worth seeking out.
We heard - and watched - dazzling violin playing from the director Adrian Chandler and stunning oboe and bassoon playing, and virtuoso playing by the strings, timps, trumpets. All, including the sweetly toned theorbo, given their moments to speak.
The audience were immersed and clearly loved both the music and La Serenissima’s vivacious and expressive presentation with Adrian Chandler’s pithy introduction to each item. “Superb band!” and “More of this!” among the audience’s farewell comments.
The bassoon will feature again in the Society’s New Year Concert on January 6th, when Catriona McDermid will offer the freshness and delicacy of music for wind instruments by a wide range of composers including Elgar, Britten and Poulenc, with Mana Shibata, oboe and Suling King, piano.
Review by RFAC
|Sunday 11th November 2018 7.30pm
Steven Osborne, piano
Poulenc: 3 Novelettes
Debussy: Images Book 2
Prokofiev: Piano Sonata No 7
Schubert: Piano Sonata in Bb D960
The pianist Steven Osborne enjoys an enviable reputation as an international artist, both as a solo recitalist and a concerto performer. Last Sunday evening Keswick Music Society brought this world class performer to the stage of the Theatre by the Lake. Osborne clearly has a phenomenal technique but he used this as a vehicle to take us from display and accuracy into the heart of the music. He is one of those special artists who take us into emotions far beyond what words can express and in doing so showed an empathetic understanding of what the composer was trying to convey. Like the majority of the audience, I was fully absorbed in Osborne’s performance; time seemed to stand still as he extracted from the piano every possible tone colour.
The first half of the programme consisted of works from the first half of the twentieth century. The “Three Novelettes” by the French composer Francis Poulenc opened the recital and set the hallmark for what was to follow. What the performer described as an “amuse-bouche” drew the audience straight away into a world of sensitivity and musicality. Osborne almost seemed to caress the piano as gentle sounds were coaxed out of the instrument. Poulenc’s fellow countryman Claude Debussy, the centenary of whose death we celebrate this year, used the sound of the piano to evoke images. The three pieces in “Images Book 2”, in Osborne’s opinion are a “high point” in a pianist’s repertoire. Debussy wrote them in 1907 when he was interested in the “Symbolist” movement, taking three paintings and conveying the movement or story behind the images. It would be impossible, I think, to hear a pianist play with more control of dynamics than Steven Osborne. Every note was there in the first two pieces “Bells through the leaves” and “the moon sets over the temple” but yet the sound was so quiet that it was almost imperceptible. The third of the pieces “Goldfish” is acknowledged to be one of the most difficult works in a pianist’s repertoire. Osborne’s control of dynamics, shading, crescendi and diminuendi was incredible.
Written in the Second World War, the Russian composer Prokofiev’s “Piano Sonata no.7” made an extreme contrast with the delicacy of the previous works. The harsh brutality, aggression, and brittle percussiveness of the first and last movements fully conveyed the feeling of “anxiety” which Prokofiev was trying to portray. However, particularly in the lushness of the quasi Rachmaninov central movement came an almost romantic feeling. Osborne once again, though his mastery of the piano, was able to put across the dichotomy of these two ideas.
Franz Schubert wrote his Piano Sonata in B Bb major D.960 in the last few months of his life. A sonata full of lyricism Osborne made the piano sing. Apart from the Scherzo and Trio all the movements are long and with an intensity of emotion that only a pianist of Osborne’s calibre could maintain. One could palpably feel the gamut of emotions Schubert went through in these last few months of his life, dying at the age of only 31. Contrasting with the beauty of Schubertian melodies came expressions of anger and physical pain that the composer must have been experiencing. This was a performance never to be forgotten and a real insight into the mind of Schubert.
In his youth Steven Osborne spent many summers at the Lake District Music Festival founded by his teacher Renna Kellaway. During that time he became a friend of Derek Hook the owner of Zefferelli’s in Ambleside. As an encore and a birthday present for Derek, Osborne performed a jazz improvisation on Kenny Wheeler’s “Kind folk”.
Review by John Cooper Green
|Sunday 14th October 2018 7.30pm
Trio Shaham Erez Wallfisch
Hagai Shaham violin, Arnon Erez piano,
Raphael Wallfisch cello
Schubert: Nocturne in E flat major op. 148
Beethoven: Trio in G major op. 1 no.2
Dvorak: Trio no.3 in F minor op. 65
A splendid Keswick Music Society recital by the Trio Shaham Erez Wallfisch drew a large audience to the Theatre by the Lake to enjoy a programme of Viennese and Czech music. The chamber music genre combining violin, cello and piano is special in that it has always attracted distinguished soloists to step sideways from their main careers as concerto and recital soloists to savour more intimate music making with friends.
Thus Heifetz, Oistrakh and Stern all formed stellar trios. Violinist Hagai Shaham, cellist Raphael Wallfisch and pianist Arnon Erez belong to the same category of outstanding musicians and who, fortunately for us, chose in 2009 to stick together and travel the international chamber music circuit.
Their programme started gently with Schubert’s Notturno, a single movement discarded for some reason but seen by some as anticipating the Adagio of his String Quintet. The calm static harmonies of the opening were sustained and shaped by the string players most sensitively and the energetic middle section despatched with sprightly authority. Next came Beethoven – his Trio op.1 no.2 which already shows signs of his urge to do things differently. As in Haydn and Mozart’s Trios the piano still has the main share of the musical material, but more melodic lines are entrusted to the strings, especially the cello who contributes expressive bass lines in the Largo free from the pianist’s left hand and starts the Scherzo all on his own. Balance between the parts was exemplary throughout, aided by Arnon Erez’s clarity and poise in his passage work and the graded dynamics he produced from the model B Steinway – an ideal size of instrument for chamber music. So many corners were turned with convincing grace or humour – Hagai Shaham’s hesitation as he introduced the perky second subject of the first movement and many moments in the brisk Finale. Beethoven certainly inherited Haydn’s sense of humour in this movement with its headlong opening and constant animation. The brilliant string playing (fine bow control and sharp articulation) was matched by equally impressive piano gymnastics in a performance of stylish energy.
More serious fare followed the interval: Dvořák’s Trio in F minor is on a large scale with a wide emotional range from turbulence to serenity and it certainly suited the Trio’s exceptional musical and technical abilities. From the subdued opening the mood soon changes to defiance and Dvorak’s abundance of musical ideas builds the movement into one of monumental scale. The players revelled in this wild and ardent music with finely controlled yet full-blooded tone and expression. The middle two movements offer some relief from this urgency. The Scherzo is marked grazioso and ambles pleasantly with a dreamy middle section – a chance for the players to take it easy. The slow movement plumbs deeper depths with an opening cello solo that Raphael Wallfisch played with immaculate and moving phrasing. A martial episode provides some contrast but the slow themes predominate and received glowing treatment from both string players. The Finale returns to stir the blood with Dvorak enjoying the cross rhythms of the Czech furiant – infectious ideas at which he excelled. The Trio continued their committed and technically flawless journey through this complex piece, lilting the second, waltz-like theme and making the most of another Dvorak speciality: his final vivace coda – a short but dynamic sprint that crowned a memorable concert .
Review by John Upson
|Sunday 23rd September 2018 7.30pm
Septura Brass Septet
Huw Morgan, Alan Thomas, James Fountain trumpets
Matthew Gee, Matthew Knight, Dan West trombones
Sasha Coushk-Jalali tuba
Bridging La Manche – England and France in harmony
Robert Parsons: Ave Maria
Josquin des Prez: Ave Maria a 6 (i.e. for 6 players)
Henry Purcell: The Married Beau
Jean-Philippe Rameau: Suite from Dardanus
Hubert Parry: Songs of Farewell
Claude Debussy: Préludes
Maurice Ravel: Trois Chansons
Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Turtle Dove
A large and appreciative audience at Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake was treated to a magnificent concert last Sunday by Septura Brass. Comprising seven of the UK’s finest trumpet, trombone and tuba players; among them principals of the BBC Symphony, the Philharmonia and the Royal Philharmonic orchestras; this opening concert for Keswick Music Society’s 2018-19 season was music-making of the very highest quality.
Septura’s “counter-factual” mission is to re-imagine the brass septet’s existence for the past 400 years and the music that might have been written for it. By arranging great composers’ works and playing with great style and musicality they aim to put the brass septet firmly on the musical map. Judging by last week’s concert they are well on course.
The concert contrasted English and French music over the centuries and opened with two versions of the Ave Maria by the 16th century composers Parsons and Josquin, starting with the sonorous chorales of the Parsons version.
The collective precision of Septura’s playing, and the beautiful tonal and dynamic balance between the players meant you could hear each of the 7 instruments’ lines perfectly, within a cohesive sound that at times almost resembled a cathedral organ. This was chamber music playing out of the top-drawer, but with a sound to fill the biggest of halls. In the second version of the Ave Maria, the Eb trumpet soared above Josquin’s intricate interplay of ancient melodies; producing harmonies that at times sounded quite modern.
This was followed by two suites of dances by Purcell and Rameau, interspersing slow courtly minuets and lyrical airs with lively hornpipes and gigues in canon form. These movements allowed the musicians to demonstrate their virtuosic technical skills: the trumpets and trombones bouncing phrases off each other to great effect in the Purcell; brilliant descending scales played in perfect unison in the Rameau; and some lovely mellow echo effects from the tuba and trombones balanced with exceptional tone production from trumpets playing high up the register.
The second half juxtaposed one of Parry’s Songs of Farewell with arrangements of piano pieces by Debussy. The reworking of Parry’s very English pastoral respected Parry’s own skills as an orchestrator, and the group’s beautifully articulated sonority conveyed a real sense of longing and melancholy. By contrast the Debussy offered a variety of timbres and colours, especially in the movement where the trumpets used a different mute almost every other phrase. This was very imaginative arranging, sparkling playing, and yet still very convincing Debussy.
The programme closed with versions of Ravel’s Trois Chansons; three jolly folk-songs, and Vaughan Williams’ The Turtle Dove. Originally written for baritone and chorus, this arrangement featured a superbly played euphonium solo.
Septura’s music does sound like pieces originally written for brass. The arrangers’ respect for and stylistic interpretation of the original scores, and above all the precision and musicality of playing by Septura’s members, produces great music which the original composers would surely have recognised as their own.
Review by Mike Richardson