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Rochdale MUSIC Society
Saturday 9 October 2021 TOUCHSTONES Concert by The Merraki Duo: Meera Maharaj (Flute) James Girling (Guitar)
A capacity audience in Touchstones on Saturday, 9 October, gave overwhelming reassurance to the Rochdale Music Society trustees that their resumption of Concert Series following the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions had been eagerly looked forward to by subscribers and public alike. It is good to note that the range of musical styles and performances offered year by year by the Society since its inception in 1980 is still appreciated.
This first concert of the 2021 - 2022 Concert Series was held in the Rochdale town centre venue, since the Heywood Civic Centre is not yet available to the Society. (Concerts in 2022 are scheduled for Heywood.) It featured Flautist Meera Maharaj and Guitarist James Girling. ’Meraki’ comes from the Japanese and means ‘from the heart and depth of the soul’.
Although the Touchstones acoustic was not ideal, it served sufficiently well for the Meraki Duo to provide an evening of delightfully varied music in a well planned programme, which everyone present obviously thoroughly enjoyed. Applause was universally enthusiastic at the end of each item, the first of which was the Sonatina for Violin and Piano Op. 100 by Dvorak. arranged for Flute and Guitar by Andrew Massey. Not the ‘New World’ Symphony, but written in the USA around the same time, this is a work exhibiting the same conflicting emotions of feeling exiled yet at home that makes it so attractive. The flute may not have the same warmth of tone of the violin, but it can be equally forceful when required, and render soaring melodies with passion and depth of feeling, as in this performance. Similarly, the guitar may be thought of as not being able to match the tone and power of the modern concert piano, but with the technical prowess of a performer like James Girling it can provide a no less complete and convincing accompaniment. ‘Arrangement’ do not always work, but this one did splendidly.
Meera Maharaj then played two complementary dance pieces for solo Flute, a Bach Allemande and a Gavotte by William Alwyn, both finely refined performances. James Girling followed on with two Bagatelles for solo Guitar by William Walton, which beautifully demonstrated the wide range of melodic and harmonic resources available to an accomplished exponent of the acoustic guitar such as he.
The first half of the concert ended with the Duo giving a polished account of an arrangement of the wistful song, Beau Soir, by Debussy.
In the second half the audience was transported to South America for revelatory performances of some colourful and adventurous twentieth and twenty-first century music from that continent, beginning with three of the Tangos from the History of the Tango by Argentinian guitarist and composer, Astor Piazzolla, whose 100th birthday anniversary year this is. Flute and guitar danced together with just the right amounts of tender and passionate romance that this music shows developing over a period of some hundred or so years.
The last three works in the concert featured music by contemporary Brazilian composers, which no doubt opened the ears and minds of those in the audience who, like myself, are not familiar with all the technical explorations and accomplishments of classical guitarists in recent years. Rafael Marino Arcaro is a young composer whose 4 movement Suite for Flute and Guitar, written for the Meraki Duo in 2020, and called A Norte, Rio Preto - ‘North of Rio Preto’ - makes enormous demands on both instrumentalists. It is a musical embodiment of the nature of the Brazilian rain forest and its indigenous people, savagely tender and wildly beautiful, calling for extreme treatment of the instruments involved. Would you believe the extraordinary sounds a flute or guitar can produce, and in such quick succession? No wonder this performance was greeted with gasps of astonishment and rapturous approval.
The planned concert ended with a let-your-hair-down account of the Quarteto Novo’s Misturada. Then, as an even more cathartic encore the Duo returned to play music from the film music score of Black Orpheus.
The Rochdale Music Society’s next concert will be held in St. Chad’s Parish Church, Sparrow Hill, on Saturday, 27 November, when the Georgian pianistic genius, Luka Okros returns to Rochdale by audience demand and will include Nocturnes and Ballades by Chopin in what promises to be a programme to remember. Full details on the website www.rochdalemusicsociety.org.
Saturday, March 7th 2020 Heywood Civic Centre THE PELLÉAS ENSEMBLE
Saturday, March 7th 2020 was a rewarding day for those who love live music in Rochdale. First, there was a very attractive programme of arrangements of mainly French music performed in St. Chad’s parish church at lunchtime by the student members of the Anemoi Wind Quintet. Then in the evening there was the Rochdale Music Society’s concert in Heywood Civic Centre, the fourth in its 40th Anniversary Season. This also featured some French music, including a work specifically written for the unusual combination of flute, viola and harp which is the composition of the Pellêas Ensemble. Flautist Henry Roberts, Violist Luba Tunnicliffe and Harpist Oliver Wass who all studied at the Guildhall School of Music in London now make music together for the delight of their audiences up and down the country. Saturday’s concert evening was a very good example of this. To begin with, they took us back to the time of the doyen of early Baroque composers in France, François Couperin, from whose large collection of Trio Sonatas and Dances four dance movements had been chosen to be played by the Ensemble with great precision and charm. A tasty and satisfying starter on a Concert Menu of delicious European musical dishes. There followed the Suite Paysanne Hongoise, an arrangement for flute and piano (on this occasion the harp) by Paul Anna of Hongarian peasant folk tunes in the collection of Bela Bartók, whose later music demonstrates how deeply ingrained in his musical imagination were these melodies and rhythms. There was no mistaking how deeply affected by the musical landscape the two performers were, for they made a very colourful display of its combination of unabashed rawness and simple charms.To end the first half of the concert four movements from Prokofiev’s ballet suite, Romeo and Juliet, received the flute/viol/harp treatment to great effect in a performance that made up brilliantly in tonal and dynamic quality and balance for the lack of a full orchestral complement.After the interval Between Earth and Sea, a quite recent work by British composer Sally Beamish (whose 1993 work Five Changing Pictures was commissioned by the Rochdale Music Society) acted as something like a trou normand, refreshing the pallet before the next rich dish. Definitely ‘offshore’ in its Celtic evocation of the plangent call of the redshank seabird, this was presented with meticulous attention to the contribution each instrument was called on to make as the musical eye was opened on, focused on and closed to a bleak but engaging landscape. In complete contrast, Debussy’s Claire de lune was then a surprise addition to the programme. Played on the harp alone, it brought the warmth of a summer’s evening to the concert, which continued with a spirited account of the advertised Prelude to the Debussy suite from which it had been taken, the Suite Bergamasque. To end their concert, the Pelléas Ensemble chose to tantalise their audience with an entrancing account of the Petite Suite by one of twentieth century France’s well-known, but not as celebrated as perhaps he should be, composers, André Jolivet. Like the Bartók earlier on, this is a musical tapestry woven out of fragments of folksong melodies. It is obviously enjoyable to play, as this performance from the long-breathed, opening extended melody that is the first movement to the breathless final fling of the last amply demostrated.
Next month’s concert will be on 4 April. Pianist Patrick Hemmerlé will play a programme including Chopin’s four Ballades - a real treat in store! Details on the website www.rochdalemusicsociety.org.
Saturday, February 1st 2020 Heywood Civic Centre LUKA OKROS pianoforte
This was the third in what is proving to be a musically most rewarding 40th Anniversary Concert Series promoted by the Rochdale MUSIC Society. The young Georgian pianist, Luka Okros, brought his Eurasian take on the music of four European composers, three of them from eastern European regions, to delight and bewitch the appreciative audience in Heywood Civic Centre. A graduate of the Moscow Tchaikovsky State Conservatory and the Royal College of Music in London, he has already become an artist of international acclaim whose technical mastery is put to the service of performances radiating warmth of personality as well as depth of musical understanding.
On this occasion Luka chose to begin his concert with a short, but most attractive Sonata in E minor by the 18th century Austrian composer, Haydn, which he played with precision and poise. This was followed by a telling account of the Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor by Polish composer, Chopin. For this work to have its maximum impact the performer has to succeed in making the first two movements and the last movement build up to and follow on from the third movement, which is a lengthy and intense Funeral March. The connections were made so effectively in this performance that, as the last movement’s terrifying outburst of muffled fury in the face of death and the beckoning grave fell silent, the audience’s loud and long applause was thoroughly justified.
The second half of the concert began with the Six Musical Moments written in some haste by the Russian composer, Rachmaninov, in his early twenties at a time when he was in fairly desperate need of money. These are often played separately either singly or in varied combinations. So a complete performance of them all at once gives the pianist and listener alike an opportunity to explore their textural, melodic and harmonic riches in one sitting. It is an exploration well worth getting involved in, for it reveals just how spontaneously a musical mind like Rochmaninov’s conceives and gives birth to fully formed and integrated ideas that are immediately appreciated for their artistic genius and technical mastery. From the miasmic and largely subdued wandering up and down the keyboard of the melodic line in the first of these ‘Moments’ to the paean of praise for the resources of the modern piano and its ability to produce sounds of noble exaltation with which the sixth one brings to their thunderous conclusion Luka’s presentation was as near perfect as you could expect, given that the instrument he was not playing was the latest Fazioli or Bosendoefer. Quite astonishing, really!
Equally astonishing was the performance of the Austro-Hungarian composer Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C sharp minor with which Luka chose to end his programme. When a pianist of Luka’s technical accomplishment plays music like this, you can sense that his heart and mind are combining to release through his fingertips the fullest extent of the possible communicative energy being built up throughout the body- how else could such apparently effortless speed and sensitivity be present together?
With the audience insisting by their applause that he return to play an encore, Luka enchanted them with a delicious Intermezzo of his own composition, and sent them away thoroughly satisfied by an evening of great musical experiences.
The next RMS Concert will be on March 7th at 7.30pm in Heywood Civic Centre when members of the Pelléas Ensmble (Flute, Viola and Harp) will be playing a varied programme of music from the 18th to the 21st centuries. Details on the website: www.rochdalemusicsociety.org. Tickets in advance from the Box Office, Tel. 0300 303 8633.
VICTORIA STRING QUARTET 7 December 2019 in Heywood Civic Centre.
Rochdale Music Society’s 40th Anniversary Season’s second concert evening featured four local musicians of international standing who each contributed their technical brilliance to delightful performances of music by Mozart, William Alwyn and Schubert. Violinists Benedict Holland and Catherine Yates with violist Robin Ireland and cellist Jennifer Langridge brought their combined experience of decades of playing in renowned ensembles and orchestras to provide an experience which was afterwards described by one member of the audience as having been “worth the ticket money for just for the first five minutes!”. I heartily agree. The whole evening’s music-making was on the highest level of technical and artistic delivery.
The concert began with Mozart’s E flat Quartet written in the wake of his meeting with Haydn and finding the influence of the older man’s music exciting and illuminating. From the first movement’s somewhat mysterious opening through the harmonious conversation between the instrumentalists that quickly develops into an elaborate and colourful tapestry of melodic phrases, to the cat and mouse chase atmosphere of the understated drama of the finale - Mozart’s ability to entertain as well as challenge and satisfy the musical intellect of his listeners was deliciously presented in a performance of impeccable taste.
This was followed by William Alwyn’s Three Winter Poems, musical images of great clarity, brilliance and, despite their outward chill, deep warmth. With such spot-on performances, including some beautifully clear, very soft yet full bodied high notes in the first violin part, who could not have been utterly entranced by the sights of wintry landscapes, with frozen waters and sparkling snow showers ?
After the Interval there was a single work: Schubert’s Quartet in A minor, known as the ‘Rosamunde’ because of the memorable theme from his incidental music to a stage production which the composer uses as the main idea in the second movement. He also uses melodies from one or two of his songs in the other movements. These give the music its lyrical qualities, which were superbly articulated by each of the players in their turn singing out with the warmth and inner strength the music inspires despite being generally melancholic in atmosphere. (Schubert was ill and miserable at that time.) But it is not gloomy. As the final movement’s climax to this finely structured performance made abundantly clear, it is life-affirming in the face of difficulties and dangers, and celebrates the power of music to emphasise the positives of human existence rather than the negatives.
THE OLDHAM BAND (LEES) Saturday, October 26th 2019 7.30pm in Heywood Civic Centre A Review by Graham Marshall
The Rochdale Music Society has been promoting great music played by great musicians for the last forty years in venues across the borough. In recent years the venue has been the Civic Centre in Heywood which provides a welcoming, comfortable and acoustically generous setting for both audience and performers alike. On Saturday, October 26th the Society’s 40th Anniversary Season began with a flourish as the members of the award-winning Oldham Band (Lees) flooded the auditorium with a rich assortment of colourful and expertly served musical delights.
The Band’s range of musical genres is wide enough to embrace an Overture by Rossini - that to his opera Tancredi - and a brilliant Gershwin encore piece - Strike up the Band - as well as consorting with one of its members - Matt Corrigan - as richly voiced and finely tuned vocalist in offering several deliciously delivered songs, including Beyond the sea (some of us remembered the original Charles Trenet version) and Cry me a River.
The concert began in traditional fashion with a March, Senator by G. Allen, which made an instant impression of the disciplined playing we were to experience throughout. This was followed by the Rossini overture, after which the Band’s leading Cornet player, seasoned player and conductor Alan Hobbins, responded to the extreme technical challenges of Napoli with great aplomb. The Buglers’ Holiday by Leroy Anderson then featured the Band’s buglers in a tantalising display of technical dexterity before the prize-winning Flügel player, Toni Heywood, gave an enchanting performance of George Michael’s Faith.The first half of the concert ended with some beautiful melodic expression in the Prière à Notre Dâme from the Suite Gothique for Organ by Léon Boëllmann and some suitably full-throated deep brass sounds in the Toccata from the same Suite.
The second half began with an exemplary account of the March: Le rêve passe by G. Krier. Chipanecas, which followed, gave the whole band opportunities to show how well they can make breathing sounds and click their fingers in time while accompanying the traditional hand-clapping song tune from Chiapas in Mexico. Matt Corrigan returned to Cry Me a River by A. Hamilton and Feeling Good by A. Newley. It was then with some diffidence that the Musical Director, John Collins, introduced Keep me Praising, a lively and inventive combination by A. Mackereth of two much loved Salvation Army Songbook tunes. He need not have been diffident - it worked out well in performance, and the audience showed its appreciation of the fact!
The next to last work proved, for this reviewer, the least satisfactory musically. The Benedictus from Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man is very repetitive in its original context, and even though it gave the soloist an opportunity to shine as with ‘a pure, clear light’, it sounded quiet monotonous in this wordless arrangement by A. Small. On the other hand, the Finale to Fraternity by T. Deleruyelle which ended the concert programme is another test piece and gave the Band members the chance to show that they can be just as proficient in playing softly as they can in letting things rip!
John Collins is to be congratulated along with every member of the Oldham Band (Lees) for marshalling his forces with understated authority and excellent musical results.The Rochdale Music Society’s next concert will be on December 7th and feature the Victoria String Quartet in music by Mozart, Wm. Alwyn and Schubert.
SATURDAY 11 MAY 2019 7.30pm in Heywood Civic Centre
ABEL SELAOCOCE cello and MAYA IRGALINA piano
This, the last concert in Rochdale Music Society’s 2018-19 Series, proved an exciting, colourful and rewarding finale to months of the most splendid music-making by performers of international status enjoyed by the discerning citizens of Rochdale Borough and beyond who have formed the audiences.
The South African cellist, Abel Selaocoe, is noted for bringing to the concert hall his exceptional talent for exploiting the whole range of sonorities offered by his instrument from scratch and scrape to sweet and soulful. On this occasion he excelled in performing solo music of several very different genres, and duets with the excellent Belarusian pianist, Maya Irgalina. Both Abel and Maya are former students of Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music, which continues to produce numerous musicians like them - of first rate international acclaim.
The concert began with two movements from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3, the Prelude and Sarabande. Bringing his personal approach to the music, Abel performed the Prelude with almost dismissive aplomb before delivering the Sarabande with an astonishing, Baroque-style vocal descant incorporating native African sounds: his inner, personal response to the music was being revealed in no uncertain way. The audience not only approved but was enthralled. When Maya arrived to take part in Benjamin Britten’s Sonata (1965), the stage was set for an intensely moving account of this remarkably inventive music, which seems always to be searching for answers to questions it can hardly formulate. Abel and Maya convinced the audience that the search is not only necessary but aesthetically desirable, and wonderfully satisfying; even if, because of the very unaccountable nature of life’s highs and lows, joys and sorrows, attractions and repulsions, it can never reach its conclusion.
By way of contrast and of bringing some sense of emotional and intellectual closure to the first half of the concert, the ‘study in song’ which is Ravel’s “In the style of Habanera” gave them an opportunity to dance together in enchanted, perfumed sound; which they did. Strictly speaking, it was perfectly timed and delivered.
In the second half of the concert Abel continued to exhibit his extraordinary talent for leading members of his audience into sound worlds they might otherwise avoid and so miss out on. In James MacMillan’s Kiss on Wood and Giovanni Sollima’s Lamentatio he conjured up the sweetest, imploring sounds and the warmest, heartfelt, contemporary melodies you ever wish to hear, along with the most compelling, brutish cries and clamourings such as we are forced to acknowledge as inevitable features of the human condition. Maya then showed her capacity for delighting an audience with deeply felt and convincing performances of two of Rachmaninov’s Op. 16 Moments musicaux, in spite of the unusually indifferent piano she was having to play.
The concert was brought to an end with another combined effort: a finely balanced performance of “In the style of Albeniz” by the neglected twentieth century Russian composer, Rodion Shchedrin. With its elegantly structured Iberian flow this nicely complemented the Ravel work which had ended the first half, and it brought closure to the whole evening’s experience.
The programme notes promised that this concert “will amuse, excite, bewitch, astound, disturb, enrage, confound and generally prove the power of music to enliven, enhance and justify your aesthetic enjoyment of life in a world where extremes of delight and despair prove all too often to provoke you to wonder “WHY?” It fulfilled this, and left us wondering whether or not the Society’s next Concert Series, which is its 40th Anniversary year, begins in October with an evening of brass band music to be performed by the Lees & Oldham Band, will hold further life-enhancing moments of such musical magic.
We can expect as much, if not more.
SATURDAY 11 APRIL 2019 7.30pm Heywood Civc Centre.
ZELKOVA STRING QUARTET
Caroline Pether (Violin) - Ed Pether (Violin) - Alistair Vennant (Viola) - Jonathan Pether (Cello)
It was a privilege to be a member of the audience in Heywood Civic Centre for the Rochdale Music Society concert at which the Zelkova String Quartet - Casroline Pether (violin 1), Ed Pether (violin 2), Alistair Vennart (viola) and Jonathan Pether (cello) - excelled in performing three masterpieces of the genre. In what was a striking musical sequence of rising emotional intensity they carried their listeners along from the heart-warming atmosphere of Mozart’s ‘Hunty’ Quartet through the comparatively challenging tensions of Mendelssohn’s E minor Quartet Op. 44 No. 2 to the emotional outbursts of Dvorak’s Op.106.
Mozart’s ‘Hunt’ Quartet in B flat, given its nickname from the hunting horn-like sound of the opening of the first movement, immediately established the players’ credibility as members of an ensemble that was going to go about its business of an evening’s music-making that would give their audience intense pleasure - and themselves the satisfaction of knowing it. Their artistic objective of ensuring that every note was to be perfectly sounded in exactly the right place was obvious from the first few bars, and through the four movements of this delightfully accomplished and witty Mozart work they displayed their commitment to excellence.
The Mendelssohn Quartet in E minor provided further scope for them to show the depth of their interpretive understanding. This they did with great assurance. From the assertive melody with which the First Violin sets an interesting, ear-catching dialogue going from the beginning of the first movement, through the whirling sounds of the Scherzo second movement and the third movement’s Song without Words, to the gathering tide of colourful sound that brings the whole work to a vigorous conclusion the technical precision and interaction of every player contributed to a superb account of the composer’s intentions.
Dvorak’s Op. 106 Quartet in G is a work of epic proportions, wide-ranging in its musical imagery and technical demands. The first movement begins in a state of anticipatory excitement, and then establishes the rhythmic, Bohemian atmosphere that is to dominate the whole work. There is relaxation when a more settled, flowing melody for the first violin surfaces and holds the attention for a while. In the ensuing development of the movement’s ideas all four instrumentalists are featured adding their individual tonal colours to the animated conversation. All this was splendidly communicated.
The second, slow movement explores depths of emotion not always to be encountered in Dvorak’s better known orchestral and choral works. Heart on sleeve he takes us into a world where the most intense feelings and emotions can be openly expressed and shared in musical terms. The members of the Zelkova Quartet shared with the audience their deeply felt awareness of what they were communicating through their playing.
The darkly galumphing main theme of the third, Scherzo, movement was announced with aplomb by all concerned, resounding with almost Beethovenian wit and getting more and more wonderfully outrageous at each of its several reprises.
The final movement is not without some tender moments, but is largely fiery. Inexorably pursuing its dramatic way towards an inflamed, swirling conclusion, it makes great demands on the performers’ concentration and cimmitment. With such a superb performance as this was, every member of the audience seemed to be caught up with the players in a most exhilarating whirlwind of Bohemian dance. The tremendous applause was only to be expected!
SATURDAY 2 MARCH 2019 7.30pm Heywood Civic Centre
ROSALIND VENTRIS viola SAM ARMSTRONG piano
The Violist Rosalind Ventris and Pianist Sam Armstrong joined forces for an evening of Classical and Romantic music presented by Rochdale Music Society in Heywood Civic Centre on 2 March as part of their 2018-19 Concert Series. It began with Three Romances for Viola and Piano by Clara Schumann. These melodious pieces, with their subtly refined harmonies, gave the audience an very pleasurable introduction to the sound of a viola being played by a soloist with great artistry and assurance and accompanied by a pianist of equal musicianship.
There followed Niccolo Paganini’s Caprice No. 14 . This short, energetic and fanfare-like piece was for solo Viola, and it gave the performer an opportunity to show her consummate skill in playing more than one part at a time! So, too, and by great contrast, did the very subdued and intimate Elégie by Igor Stravinsky which came next. This work demands great finesse in playing melody and accompaniment at the same time. Rosalind proved more than equal to the task, and was able to communicate well its subdued, troubled and yet calming atmosphere.
Sam Armstrong returned to share in a showcase performance of the Sonata for Viola and Piano by Rebecca Clarke, a relatively unknown composer, who was born and educated in England, but spent most of her long life in New York (having been stranded there at the outbreak of World War 2). Her Viola Sonata was written in 1919 and shows the influence of such French composers as Debussy and Ravel. Its three movements are colourful, impassioned and withal ‘impressionistic’ with a British accent!.The joyful exaltation to be experienced in the work’s opening fanfare-like section was boldly proclaimed and the gentler feeling of the contrasting melody that followed was warmly delivered. Both performers then made it very easy for the audience to go with the flow of the finely elaborated dialogue that makes up this poetic romance. As was also the case with the swirling fantasy of the second movement, and the mysterious tenderness and longing expressed in the opening of the third movement before being carried away by the outbursts of delight that lead on to the work’s final, enthusiastic assertion of musical joie de vivre.
To begin the second part of the concert, Rosalind played a version of the Prelude from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 5. Her performance well expressed the spiritual serenity and assurance this music contains.
The concert ended with the Sonata in F minor by Brahms. Written very late on in his life, and originally for clarinet rather than viola, it is a good example of the simple yet enchanting beauties Brahms was able to share with the musical world, his mature and settled mind proving fruitful to the end. From the piano’s somewhat mysterious yet bold opening to the work and the viola’s wide-ranging melody that goes with it, providing all the material for everything that happens in the first movement, to the the final flourish of the fourth movement that has caused the players to join together in dancing for joy, this was a delightfully accomplished performance, acknowledged by an appreciative audience. As an encore they played Fauré’s Aprés un rève, reminding the audience that music is conjured up from minds open to wonders of fantasy in sound.
SUNDAY 9.DECEMBER 2018 3.00pm Heywood Civic Centre
It was something quite different from usual that the Rochdale Music Society had on offer for the audience gathered in Heywood Civic Centre for the second of its concerts in its 2018 - 19 series in the afternoon of Sunday, 9 December: internationally acclaimed guitarists, Antonina Ovchinnikova from Russia, Maria Benischek from Austria, Ayako Kaisho from Japan and, from Hungary, Réka Mihalovics-Zottmann. When they play together they call themselves “Gitarrissima”, for which I offer the pedestrian translation, “Lots of Guitars being playing together, sounding as only they can their very best”.
There are usually five in the ensemble, but their regular fifth member had been taken to hospital with a serious illness, from which everyone present expressed the hope that she would fully recover very soon. Meanwhile, it was hoped that the necessary adjustments to the scoring would not materially affect the performances. Which it didn’t.
Their programme included movements from some well-known ballet and opera scores by Tchaikovsky and Gershwin along with music by African and Japanese composers and a surprise bouquet of seasonal numbers.
To begin with, there were four movements from Bizet’s Ballet Suite, Carmen, which amply established the artistic right to treat orchestral music to arrangements for guitar ensemble! Not only because of the Spanish connexion, but, more importantly, their capacity for presenting particular versions of music of any genre. When music that is very familiar in its original orchestral form is played in an arrangement for a smaller ensemble or a solo instrument with keyboard accompaniment it may sound either like an ‘obvious arrangement’ or ‘as if it were written that way originally’. In both cases the listener may find it satisfying or otherwise. Gitarrissima performed music from Tchaikovsky’s ballet suites, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker which, though obviously an arrangement and sounding very different from the original, made for a quite satisfying listening experience. ( … though some of the audience may have had a little difficulty in hearing the topmost notes. The middle and lower registers of acoustic guitars resonate more fully than the highest in a largish auditorium using no electronic amplification.)
Music from Gershwin’s opera, Porgy and Bess, with its jazz and blues basis, lends itself more readily than Bizet or Tchaikovsky, to being arranged to sound like music for a guitar quartet. It gave the players scope to demonstrate the wide-ranging technical possibilities for timbre, texture and depth of sound offered by the guitar. As did the African piece, Bantu, by Andrew York, the Hungarian Fox Dance by Leó Weiner and the Thracian dance, Rachenitsa by Petko Stainov. All these sounded as though a guitar quartet was the natural medium of musical expression, which, of course, speaks volumes for the accomplishment of these players.
The arranger of most of the items in the programme is a former member of the group, Krisztina Groß Dobó, should be mentioned for her expertise in ‘translating’ the music so well into ‘guitar’. Particular congratulations for her work on the other items in the programme. Two works by Shostakovich, Tahiti Trot (Tea for Two) and Waltz No. 2 from his First Jazz Suite, which went down a treat. So did Aaron Copland’s Hoe down from the ballet, Rodeo.
To begin the second half of the concert Gitarrissima threw in a delightful selection of seasonal goodies not noted in the programme. Led by Rudolph (the red nosed reindeer) they invited us to have a merry little Christmas while listening to jingle bells ringing, and dreaming of the snow falling as we write Christmas cards wishing everyone Feliz Navidad. It was a feel good gesture that was much appreciated by the audience, not least for the the players’ great interpretive and technical skills that this potpourri demanded!
10.11.2018 in Heywood Civic Centre ALEXANDER SOARES pianoforte
Rochdale Music Society began its 2018-19 Concert Series in Heywood Civic Centre with a welcome return visit to the platform by the young pianist, Alexander Soares, who had entranced the audience’s ears by his performances of Bach, Debussy, Chopin and Schumann back in 2016.
This time he began with Bach’s English Suite No. 6 in G minor, a work from the composer’s early years which nevertheless show every sign of maturity. Its five dance-rhythm movements call for delicate and intricate finger technique as well as historical appreciation of style. In this performance we were thrilled by the precise positioning of every last semiquaver in the music’s ebb and flow.
We were then transported from early Bach to a work from the later years of the twentieth century French composer, Henry Dutilleux: his Three Preludes, written between the years 1973 and 1978. These have the effect of taking you on a musical journey to explore some of the extraordinarily colourful melodic and harmonic nooks and crannies to be discovered within the resources of the modern pianoforte without having resort to any gimmicks. Alexander is obviously already very familiar with them, since he covered the territory with consummate ease and left us in no doubt about his artistic delight in doing so. There were echoes of Debussy, Ravel and Messiaen all coming together convincingly in this evocative and sometimes quite jazzy musical landscape.
To end the first half of the concert Alexander gave a superb account of one of the most difficult works in the pianist’s repertory: Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit. Each of its three movements is inspired by a poem by Aloysius Bertrand from his collection, Gaspard de la Nuit — Fantaisies à la manière de Rembrandt et de Callot, completed in 1836. In the outer movements, Ondine and Scarbo, the composer makes some extraordinary technical demands on the pianist which members of an audience watching and listening can only marvel at when experiencing the kind of response given by the performer on this occasion. The middle movement, Le gibet, makes interpretive demands no less difficult for being technically easier to meet. Again, a response such as given on this occasion holds the audience spellbound.
To begin the second half of the concert Alexander accepted the invitation to include pieces by Rochdale composer, Graham Marshall, who was celebrating his 80th Birthday that day. These were Eleanor’s Waltz, Prelude No. 3: Largo, and Valse Chouette, all of which he played with aplomb and finesse to warm reception from the audience.
The concert ended with Beethoven’s Sonata in A flat Op.110, another work from a composer’s maturity and one which explores a wide range of human feelings, their rising and falling in intensity. This is especially so in the last movement, which is one of fugal fantasy comparable to the greatest of Bach’s preludes and fugues for organ. Beethoven’s musical vision and his exploitation of the potential of the pianoforte allow him to open up sound vistas perhaps even more expansive and thrilling in their climaxes. In the very best of interpretations he can be encountered taking us to the mountain top of aesthetic delight and leave us marvelling there.
Such was the case in this performance. And that can be said in spite of the fact that the instrument provided by the Society on this occasion seemed not to be quite up to its usual top standard, but showed some resistance to being called on to be full throated, especially in its middle range. .
18.05.2018 in Heywood Civic Centre by KOSMOS
A Review by Graham Marshall
KOSMOS consists of two musicians, Harriet Mackenzie (Violin) and Milos Milivojevic (Accordion) whose partnership is still in the making, but who are already delighting audiences around the world with their individual interpretation of both classical and folk music.
They promise “Wild gypsy fiddling, emotive Jewish and Greek music ….. hot-blooded tango…….Japanese, Polish and Sephardic songs with new, unique arrangements …… Bach, Brahms and Sarasarte.….…….”. And that is just what they delivered, with sustained and dazzling virtuosity, to the members of the audience in the Heywood Civic Centre on Friday, 18 May, who found themselves enthralled by an experience of music-making that was as compelling as it was out-of-the-ordinary. “Come again!”, was the vocal response of one of them as the concert came to its close - a sentiment clearly agreed by the rest.
Even the most exceptionally gifted violinists can struggle to play at the very top of their instrument’s range. Harriet Mackenzie ventured up there a lot, and made it sound easy to produce full-throated sounds, warm and resonant and at great speed. She has many tricks of the trade in her repertoire and she will continue to astound audiences by displaying them, is she can maintain the level of execution she reached for us in Heywood.
The accordionist, who introduced his Italian instrument as a ‘portable organ’ with the potential for imitating the sounds of many different instruments, provided an almost orchestral accompaniment. There may have been those among the audience who came with little idea of what a modern accordion is capable of doing in the hands of an expert like Milos. They will have been not only surprised but probably completely blown away by the range of sounds he was able to produce, and the way in which he was able to layer those sounds to produce a rich and colourful texture beautifully complementing the tonal qualities of the violin.
It is difficult to compliment Kosmos too highly on they way they have succeeded in their intention to provide, by their venture into musical performance based on scholarly research and personal gifts of insight, a new kind of concert experience to be enjoyed and remembered by those privileged to experience it.
The Rochdale Music Society’s 2018-19 Concert Series will begin on Saturday, 10 November, with the return of pianist Alexander Soares, who will be playing music by Beethoven, Ravel and Albeniz in what promises to be an virtuoso display of pianism not to be missed by anyone who loves piano music at its very best.
Friday 20 April 2018 HEYWOOD CIVIC CENTRE
THE LOUKO PIANO TRIO
We have come to expect that, when students from the Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music display their talents on the concert platform, we shall enjoy a feast of technical excellence. Never can there have been a generation of performing musicians with such intensive preparation for the public arena as ours, and the RNCM is a world leading contender for producing the goods. So much so that the three young musicians who make up the Louko Piano Trio have journeyed from Finland and South Korea to learn their trade at the hands of some of the world’s greatest exponents and teachers who are listed among its staff.
I make this point, because it is not always the case that we experience both the technical accomplishment and the maturity of artistic interpretation that were brought to the musical expression in this concert by these players. They have been making music together in this way only since 2015, when they met at the RNCM: Errki Louko (violin), Waynne Woo Seok Kwon (cello) and Victor Lim (piano). Each showed mastery of his instrument and depth of understanding of the composers’ intentions.
They played Trios by Beethoven, Fauré and Dvorák, which between them cover over a century of compositional developments in a Western Europe with the considerable expansion in melody and harmony that took place in the so-called ‘Romantic’ era. All quite different from the native musical traditions of Korea (and even Finland). Yet these musicians seemed to be fully at ease within the structures and sounds of music that is essentially concerned with stolid formality and Teutonic resonance - Beethoven and Dvorák - or sensual Gallic elasticity - Fauré.
They began with Beethoven’s Trio Op. 70 No. 1 in D major. This has been dubbed the “Ghost” because of the eeriness of its strangely scored slow movement. But there is passion and hilarity in abundance in the other movements, and all three features were splendidly observed and expressed as the music progressed towards its joyous conclusion.
Then came the Fauré, a work of the composer’s later years, when he had already become deaf. Deafness for Fauré, as it had been for Beethoven, provided the opportunity for exploring the treasure trove that lay at the heart of his musical being. The resulting music is a superb distillation of the very essence of his artistry - simple yet subtle, ear-catching yet profound. Like the finest of French wines brought to the table just at the right time for enjoying it at its best, the Trio poured this out with the finesse of a Master Musical sommelier.
Dvorák’s Trio filled the second half of the concert. This substantial work presents the performers with many a technical and interpretive challenge born out of the significant artistic development that had been taking place in the composer’s life as he was writing it. Not least as a result of having formed a friendship with Brahms, and still grieving over the death of his mother. From the ominous, passionate opening of the first movement to the dramatic twist of the finale there are many pitfalls that might ruin a satisfying performance. But violinist, cellist and pianist alike avoided these with ease and succeeded in conveying the music’s colourful and exciting messages so as to earn the audience’s Gold Star applause.
Friday 9 February 2018 HEYWOOD CIVIC CENTRE
THE FITZROY STRING QUARTET
Award winning musicians Stefano Mengoli (violin) from Italy, Laura Custodio Saba (violin) from Spain and Emily Pond (viola) and Michael Newman (cello) from England came together to form the Fitzroy String Quartet in 2014, since when they have performed to great acclaim in many venues in this country and abroad.They concert they gave as the first in this year’s Rochdale Music Society series of Friday nights in the comfortable and acoustically friendly Heywood Civic Centre had been arranged with them at the last minute, since the previously booked Aurea Quartet was prevented from performing because of illness. The Fitzroy’s programme was an imaginative one. Three Quartets from three different centuries, each making a significant contribution to its composer’s personal artistic development and carrying forward the technical development of string quartet writing, were offered to the discerning and very appreciative audience: 18th century Haydn, 19th century Beethoven, 20th century Bartok. It was an evening when there was much to be learned in terms of ‘musical appreciation’ as well as enjoyed in terms of excellence in the music-making that filled the auditorium with a wide range of sonorities possible when accomplished musicians are in full command of their instruments.The concert began with Haydn’s Op. 74 No. 3 in E major. This ranks among the numerous quartets in which the composer reveals his genius as an innovator. In it he pursues a style which allows the players to contribute more or less equally to the musical conversation as it unfolds. Genial in atmosphere and demanding depths of understanding rather than heights of virtuosity, it gives them scope to make their personal instrumental mark on the musical experience as a whole. Which is how the Fitzroy members presented it, with impeccable technique and charm. The other work in the first half of the concert was Bartok’s String Quartet No. 3. Written in 1927 towards the end of a decade in which the composer’s native Hungary was suffering tremendous distress and European composers were still trying to come to terms with the need to tame chromaticism after the experiments of Schoenberg, it consists of a single movement in which two contrasting moods, desolation (slow material) and fury (fast, frenzied dance-like material), are presented, reviewed and finally dismissed (in disgust ?). At times the players are called upon to extend the normal range of violin sounds by making use of such techniques as glissando, ‘snap’ pizzicato and playing with the wood of the bow. Since these are mostly when the music is at its fastest and either loudest or quietest, they require the utmost of concentration and dexterity on the part of the performers. The members of the Fitzroy Quartet rose magnificently to this challenge, and gave an account of this strident music which convinced the audience of Bartok’s achievement in taming chromaticism in his own way to audibly satisfying results. The second half of the concert was devoted to Beethoven’s so-called ‘Harp’ Quartet, Op. 74. From its hesitant Poco adagio beginning and its expansive Allegro which form the first movement through the strangely troubled calm of the Adagio ma non troppo second movement and on through the intense Scherzo rondo third movement to the unexpectedly soft three chords which bring the set of Allegretto theme and six variations which make up the fourth movement to it close the players demonstrated their firm grasp of the composer’s musical intentions and their consummate ability to realise them to the delight of an audience. Chamber music is primarily for the delight and nurture if those trained to take an active part in it. But those of us who merely observe it happening can reckon ourselves well blessed in finding ourselves in the company of the likes of the Fitzroy Quartet, which deserves to go on to be recognised as worthy of international status.
FRIDAY 3 November 2017 Heywood Civic Centre
THE WILLSHIRE PIANO DUO
This was the first concert in the Rochdale Music Society’s 2017-18 season, and held on what is to be the regular concert evening this season: Friday.
The Willshire Piano Duo is James Willshire and his wife, Philippa, both soloists of distinction in their own right. They sat together at the one piano on the stage of the Heywood Civic Centre and brought musical delights to the appreciative audience with a programme of music by Schubert, Debussy, Ronald Stevenson, Saint-Saëns, and Rimsky-Korsakov.
The concert began with Schubert’s Four Polonaises D599. These are not as complex or emotionally demanding as the better-known Chopin’s solo works in this genre, but they give what is, perhaps, a more realistic picture of this fashionable, courtly Polish dance with its characteristic rhythm. James and Philippa obviously enjoy playing these, engaging elegantly as they did on their keyboard dance floor.
By way of contrast to such stylised music, the Six Epigraphes Antiques by Debussy which followed call for considerable flexibility, delicacy and detailed control of the musical process. It is by no means for two people to sit side by side at the same piano keyboard and respond as one to the variety of technical demands this kind of music makes as it weaves its way through contrasting melodic and harmonic textures. But such is the musical partnership of James and Philippa that they managed to achieve a near perfect balance of presentation that brought Debussy’s musical images vividly to life for an enthralled audience.
Next, the Duo played two Folk Song arrangements by Ronald Stevenson. Stevenson, who died in 2015, was a prolific composer whose music is not given the prominence it deserves in concert programmes. From the impact these examples made on the audience, it would seem that all would have linked to hear more of the many arrangements of Folk Songs he made from various parts of the world. The Song for New Year’s Day and The Song of the Cray Fisher are from China, and the oriental flavour of their melody and harmony is sensitively treated to charm the western ear.To end the first half of the concert James and Philippa introduced a sequence of three movements from the Carnival of the Animals suite by Saint-Saëns which were not ‘on the programme’ but had been requested by a very young member of the audience who is just beginning to learn to play the piano. The movements were Fossils, The Elephant and Aquarium. What a gesture! What a treat!
The second half of the cocnert was devoted to a single work, Scheherzade, by Rimsky-Korsakov. This, perhaps the most well-known and best loved of his works, is usually to be heard in its original, very colourful orchestral guise. When played in the composer’s arrangement for piano duo it inevitably lacks a great deal of the variety of texture and sound available to the orchestrator. This can lead to some of the more repetitive passages seeming a bit longer than necessary, because of the monochrome nature of a single instrument. But the performance on this occasion was more than equal to the challenging technical and interpretive demands made on the pianists, who made sure from the very first bars that every member of the audience was carried away by Sinbad and his crew to a land where princes battle for honour or make sweet love to princesses, and where the stony heart of a savage sultan can be softened and moved by the fantastic stories one of his wives tells him. Such a performance is proof that the piano can, in the right hands, be made to sound like a full orchestra! Hands like those of The Willshire Duo.
SATURDAY 10 June 2017 Heywood Civic Centre
THE DAN WHIELDON TRIO with RICHARD ILES
Rochdale Music Society’s Concert Series 2016-17 ended with a Jazz evening the Heywood Civic Centre on Saturday, June 11th. Composer and Pianist Dan Whieldon was joined by Richard Iles (Flügelhorn) with Gavin Barras (Acoustic Bass) and Dave Walsh (Drums) in a programme that featured arrangements of standards like Cole Porter’s “You’ve been so nice to come home to” and Miles Davies’ “Nardis” along with some of Dan’s own compositions as featured on his latest CD entitled Positive Changes.
Much of Dan’s music is inspired by people and relationships. So the concert began with his gentle, contemplative ‘For E.P.’ His ‘Marina’s song’ provided a delicately shaded yet colourful musical portrait of his young daughter and ‘Waltz for Ronnie’ a scintillating celebration of his wife. The conclusion of the concert was his wistful account of the tune from Parry’s oratorio, Judith, which has come to be known as the hymn tune ‘Repton’ and is used for words taken from the American Quaker poet’s ‘The Brewing of Soma’ which begin ‘Dear Lord, and father of mankind”. All this was performed with that depth of human feeling which makes jazz so appealing.
Jazz has not been the usual fare of Rochdale Music Society’s concert menus over the years, and it is perhaps for that reason that the audience on this occasion was comparatively small. But its members showed their warm appreciation of the players’ consummate artistry as each musician made his contribution to the ensemble’s take on the melodies and harmonies being explored. It all seemed so effortless - casual even. But there could be no doubt that the imaginations and inventiveness shown throughout the evening came from years of painstaking preparation and devotion to the cause.
Rochdale Music Society’s next Concert Series will consist of five concerts in the Heywood Civic Centre, all on Friday evenings at 7.30pm. The first will be on November 3rd, when the Willshire Piano Duo will be playing music by Schubert, Debussy, Rimsky-Korsakov and others. Further information about the Series will be found in the Society’s brochure to be made available soon, and from the Civic Centre Box office when the time comes.
SATURDAY MAY 11TH 2017 CLARE HAMMOND (Pianoforte)
Clare Hammond’s return to the Rochdale Music Society’s concert platform in Heywood Civic Centre on 13 May 2017 proved even more remarkable than had been her first appearance in the Society’s concert series in 2016, when her dazzling pianism was obvious to all privileged to be present on that occasion. Once again she demonstrated her capacity to bring vividly to life the musical visions of composers old and new with an assurance that was as complete in its technical accomplishment as it was in its artistic depth of feeling.Her recital began with the Suite in G (1707) by a French composer well-known in her generation but sadly neglected since, Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre. This set of six dance movements reveal de la Guerre’s talent for writing attractive keyboard music every bit as intricate, delicate and expressive as that of her better-known contemporaries, such as Couperin and Lully. Clare Hammond’s account of these was flawless in its overall approach and detailed execution of the stylised ornamentation which gives such music its distinctive flavourings.Whether the next item in her programme is one of a composer whose name will be better known in the future than it is as yet remains to be seen. The British composer, James Francis Brown (born 1969), is one of those of our own time when composers struggle to find their own identity in the aftermath of all the technical experimentation that threatened a return to melodic and harmonic chaos in the twentieth century. We in the so-called ‘developed’ world live in an age of ‘freedom’ where ‘anything goes’ in pretty well every area of human activity and endeavour. The danger is that things become over-developed and either imprisoned in their own cultural obesity or robbed of any real expression worth communicating. It was refreshing to be able to listen to music like this which, like the Fauré E minor Nocturne that was to be played later, has the stamp of a real personality exploring the outer regions of its self-awareness and being content to do so. Beethoven’s Sonata No. 4 in E flat Op. 7 filled out the rest of the first half of this concert. It is often referred to as ‘The Grand Sonata’ because of its length and depth of feeling, intense in every movement. Clare brought to her performance the ear of an interpreter steeped in its inner strength of relentless movement, sometime very swift (as in the outer movements), sometimes very slow (as in the second, Largo, movement). It was still the 18th century when this music was written, but it was opening up artistic and technical vistas that would be explored again and again by the Romantics of the 19th century, and remain open to our astonishment in the 21st century. A robust and heartfelt performance leaving the listener with the pleasurable excitement of wanting more!The second half began with that tour de force of experimental textures, harmonies and other devices which go to make for the intense enjoyment to be found in Debussy’s L’isle joyeuse - the ‘joyful island’ of Watteau’s painting, ‘L’embarquement pour Cythare’. It conjours up the scene of the voluptuous love revels of a party of aristocrats on the island sacred to Venus, goddess of love. Enough said. Clare Hammond entered into those revels with clear vision and pianistic triumph.Henri Dutilleux’s name is one that has come to be much appreciated by those who have followed the development of French musical composition in the twentieth century. He represents a much more accessible development in musical language than that of the likes of Varèse and Boulez. His 6 piano pieces ‘Au gré des ondes’ (’At the whim of the waves’ - radio waves) provide delicious insights into his personal success in taming chromatic dissonance in a very French way. Clare’s approach to these was as precise and captivating as had been her delivery of the de la Guerre Suite.Fauré’s Nocturnes rank among his major works for piano and reflect his development as a composer over a long span of time. Clare played two of these, No. 8 in D flat and No. 12 in E minor, with consummate attention to the detail of their underlying quest for a melodic and harmonic consensus to satisfy Fauré’s personal artistic quest for integrity. Finally, Clare offered the audience a 15 minute display of brilliant pianism that brought gasps of delight and appreciation as it finally came to its climactic ending - Stravinsky’s own 1921 arrangement of his Ballet music, Petroushka, as a Suite of 3 Movements. This was truly a magical musical experience with which left one wondering how it is possible for someone to exercise such individual control over every finger on both hands. The applause which then greeted Clare prompted her to take to the piano stool again and round off a wonderful evening’s music-making with a serene and mouth-watering account of a Scarlatti Sonata. What a bonus!
2017 25 MARCH HEYWOOD CIVIC CENTRE
CUILLIN SOUND is a group of three virtuoso wind instrumentalists: Dana Morgan (flute), Sarah Watts (Clarinet) and Laurence Perkins (Bassoon). Their ensemble playing is skilfully organised to maximise the effect of attractive arrangements of traditional folk-song tunes and to deliver satisfying arrangements of some more mainstream classical works, as the audience in Heywood Civic discovered at the Rochdale Music Society concert on 25 March.
Beginning with an evocative picture in music, “The day dawns”, and ending with “Western Isles”, an equally evocative set of folk tunes from the Shetlands, the evening’s music was interwoven with Beethoven’s “Variations of La ci darem la mano”, a suitably virtuoso set of variations on “La folia” and a version of a Rossini “Cavatina” featuring the whole range of notes that can be sounded by a bass clarinet - not to mention a somewhat unlikely, modernish take on a Handel Passacaglia, largely the work of the 20th century Swedish composer, Halvorsen.
All this was put together like the threads of the musical tapestry that is the colourful “Celtic Knotwork” by Edward Maguire with which the second half of the concert began.
The audience would surely have liked there to be more of this group’s pleasurable music-making than they made time for. But it was not to be; and will not be again, since it was to be last occasion on which Sarah Watts will be appearing with the others before continuing her career as solo bass clarinet virtuoso and teacher. We wish her well. And the others, too, as they continue to delight audiences with their speciality sound. .
11 FEBRUARY DIVERSO STRING QUARTET
A stunning performance of the String Quartet in E minor ‘From my life’ by Smetana crowned an evening of musical delight for a Rochdale Music Society audience gathered in Heywood Civic Centre on 11 February.
The music was played by the Diverso Quartet, a group of four Polish instrumentalists from diverse backgrounds: violinists Dagmara Foryś and Marci Ostrowski, violist Magdalena Krawczuk and cellist Zofia Lodygowska whose masterful individual technical accomplishment and combined artistic vision have been making a deep impression on audiences throughout Europe and in the Far East in the last couple of years.
Each half of the concert opened with one of the Divertimenti written by Mozart shortly after his return from a tour of Italy in 1771 while he was still a teenager. The first was that in F major K 138, the second that in B flat major K137. Both works reveal the astonishing compositional maturity of the 15 years old composer. They open up a world of 18th century Italian grace and charm into which this performance entered with whole-hearted enthusiasm, taking the willing and appreciative audience with it.
The restrained Classical elegance and measured exhuberance of early Mozart contrasted pointedly with the more up-front, emotive Romanticism of the other music in the programme.
Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in F minor, which filled the rest of the first half of the concert, was written only a few months before his early death in 1847 and has the title, Requiem for Fanny. It was a tribute to his sister, who had died earlier that year, and is music which expresses a wide range of dark feeling- foreboding, anguish, frustration, fear and defiance in the face of death, with heartfelt grief and melancholy. Not at all what might be expected from the composer’s larger, more popular orchestral and choral works, it gives us a glimpse into the richly furnished depths of Mendelssohn’s musical soul to which this performance gave vivid exposure.
So, too, the String Quartet in E minor ‘From my life’ by Smetana, written in 1876, offered the players the chance to demonstrate the extent of their artistic insight and technical prowess. This they did with breath-taking efficiency and effectiveness. Every note was perfectly placed and nuanced, making an obviously profound impression on the audience.
It has to be said that Rochdale Music Society is privileged to have been able to welcome the Diverso Quartet to its 2017 Concert Series.
The BRIXI SINGERS filled the air with a rich assortment of choral sounds to make the second of Rochdale Music Society’s two autumn special concerts given in Bamford Chapel a very satisfying experience for their appreciative audience.
From the intricately woven textures of the Baroque composer Antonio Lotti’s Crucifixus, with which the concert began, to the loose-knit polyphony of John Rutter’s Blessing, with which it ended, the singers showed how they were at home in many varied genres of part-singing. There were moments when a little more securely placed and rounded bass sounds would have helped to maintain the balance and sustain the impetus of one or two of the earlier items, particularly the Bogoroditsye Dyevo from Rachmaninov’s Vespers. But on the whole the vocal ensemble was nicely balanced and extremely well disciplined.
Among the works in the first half of the programme were two examples of the kind of sugary church music much in vogue these days: the O magnum mysterium of the Amercian composer, Morton Laurendsen (b. 1944), and the O salutaris hostia of the Latvian, Eriks Esenwalds (b. 1977). There were also, to end the half. the Funeral Sentences of Henry Purcell. These, performed with dramatic effect, illustrated how far ahead of his time Purcell was in the use of bold, acid harmonic progression. Intermingled with these were idiosyncratic part-songs by Pearsall and Elgar, choice examples of the kind of music rightly beloved by our Choral Societies.
There was also a very short, but by no means insignificant, setting of the words “They shall not grow old…….” from Laurence Binyon’s “For the fallen” by Rory Wainright Johnston, the choir’s Conductor. This is well worth being added to the repertory of any group of singers who are up to tackling its striking tonal shifts, which are of a sort to be encountered increasingly in contemporary choral pieces.
After what had been a sequence of music intended to suit the evening before Remembrance Sunday, the second half of the concert was largely devoted to music of a more light-hearted nature, though not without the poignancy of some quite exciting and (and difficult!) settings of Negro Spirituals, one of which involved audience participation (well executed!). A somewhat frantic rendition of Shearing and Forster’s “Lullaby of birdland” was followed by the more expansive “You raise me up” by Brendan Graham & Rolf Lovland and Zaret and North’s “Unchained melody”. After the spirituals the concert was rounded off with two novelty settings of the nursery rhymes, “Old Mother Hubbard” and “Sing a song of sixpence” - both guaranteed to send any musically literate audience home happy.
9 October ELINOR NICHOLSON (Harp) with the VISTA TRIO
Members of the Vista Wind Trio, Jennifer Dyson (Flute), Beatrice Hubble (Oboe) and Caroline Waddington (Clarinet) joined forces with Harpist Elinor Nicholson to provide a varied programme of music for Rochdale Music Society’s first of two autumn special concerts to be given in the newly refurbished Bamford Chapel. Already well known as a concert venue with a welcoming environment for music-making, the Chapel now provides an even more comfortable place for audiences to sit back and enjoy the kind of excellent performances given on this auspicious occasion.
All four artistes featured as soloists at some point in the concert, and demonstrated their personal command of their instruments in skilful and refined performance of music from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries.
Together they gave insightful accounts of some works originally written for Flute/Oboe/Clarinet trio, and several attractive arrangements of music originally written for other instruments or ensembles.
Flute and harp came together in an impressive performance of William Alwyn’s Naiades, a work of great refinement and passion which occasioned a very warm response from the captivated audience.
Featured on its own, the harp's wide range of dynamic and expressive possibilities were expertly demonstrated by Elinor NIcholson.
11 June PRINCE BISHOPS BRASS
‘Brassy and classy’ - the sound of Prince Bishops Brass, a group of five musicians who share a talent for presenting a delightful evening’s music-making with something to suit people of every taste. Trumpeters Mike Walton and Derek Ruffel, Chris Senior on the horn and Trombonist Stuart Gray came together, underpinned by Stephen Boyd’s tuba, to produce a rich variety of timbre and tone that fully matched up to the demands of music such as the Fanfare “La Peri” by Paul Dukas which got the Rochdale Music Society’s concert in Heywood Civic Centre on June 11th off to an appetising start.
Music composed for a particular instrument or group of instruments does not always show up at its best when translated for others. The PBB’s wide-ranging programme demonstrated that, when processed by sensitive and imaginative musicians like them, all kinds of music can indeed be convincingly performed, sometimes even enhanced, when played on instruments quite different from those originally envisaged. Much depends on the arranger, of course, and that is why those responsible for the arrangements performed on this occasion are mentioned by name.
The Dukas Fanfare was followed by Paul Archibald’s arrangement of the Suite in D by Jeremiah Clarke, with it’s concluding fanciful March (often played as a Bridal Procession). An arrangement of J.S.Bach’s Fugue in G minor was confidently presented, as was Elgar Howarth’s arrangement of Fancies, Toyes and Dreames by the lesser known English Elisabethan composer, Giles Farnaby. A work much-loved by Classic fm listeners when played in its string orchestra arrangement, Reff’s arrangement of the Adagio by the 20th century American composer Samuel Barber, gave the players the opportunity to show their technical skill in more nuanced and lyrical ways. This they did before bringing the first half of the concert to an end with a flourish as the music of a song often attributed to King Henry VIII, Pastime with Good Company, rang out in hearty fashion in Stephen Roberts’ arrangement.
The second half of the concert featured music of a somewhat different kind all of which made quite considerable interpretative and technical demands on the players, who rose to the occasion with aplomb. Bram Tovey’s Santa Barbara Sonata, Michael Kamen’s Quintet and three of George Gershwin’s songs injected a dose of jazz into the proceedings and left the audience happily reeling after being caught up in a cakewalk, a tango, a stomp and the rhythm anything more than which who can ask for? Ray Chester’s Northumbrian Songs provided a suitably sobering moment of pause before Four Episodes from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein rounded the evening’s music-making off in style.
9 APRIL 2016 ALEXANDER SOARES pianoforte A Review by Graham Marshall
The name Soares may sound more like that of a footballer than a musician, but if it preceded by Alexander it is one for concert-goers to look out, because it belongs to the young London-born pianist who held the Rochdale Music Society audience in Heywood Civic Centre on 09 April spellbound with his exceptional technical accomplishment and artistic insight. He is surely destined to find international acclaim.
A player who gives performances from both the head and the heart, Alexander shared with his audience his deep insight into the musical substance of every moment of the music he drew from the notes on paper as provided by the composers J.S.Bach, Claude Debussy, Frederick Chopin and Robert Schumann.
He began the concert with the Partita No. 5 in G major by Bach, a work calling for utmost sensitivity and precision to make its impact in a modern concert hall setting using a sonorous grand piano. Alexander’s strong hands and light fingers proved more than equal to the task of presenting the music with both panache and delicacy as it moved through the varied motions of its dance sequence from its opening flourish to the fugal finale.
The music of Debussy’s Children’s Corner Suite is far from childlike in the technical demands it makes upon the player and the wide range of musical appreciation it expected of those who listened to it for the first time in 1908. It swirls and stands still, sleeps and wakens, frowns and smiles, lies low and leaps up; and all this with Debussy’s harmonic inventiveness and colourful pianistic exploration underlying its experimental structures. In one sense it provided an almost complete contrast in style to the disciplined, teutonic textures of the Bach Partita. In another, it was just like what a late nineteenth century Frenchman’s take on a Partita would be: romantic, rhapsodic, yet elegantly poised. Alexander revelled in facing up to the challenges presented by Debussy, and lulled the elephant to sleep, danced with the snow and took the cake with the golliwog as required.
Before the interval came a magnificent account of one of Chopin’s late works, the Polonaise - Fantasie Op. 61. This is music which seems to well up from the soul of the composer in a way that reveals his personality in an up-front way. There is nothing of merely superficial melodic charm, but there is everything of artistic insight into mid-nineteenth century developments in the process of communicating the deepest human feelings through music. This was clearly, and one might say almost definitively demonstrated in the performance given by Alexander Soares, which was quite breath-taking in its dynamic rise and fall.
After the interval there was the single work by Schumann, his Kreisleriana Op.16, which calls for even more artistic insight and technical expertise than the Chopin Polonaise-Fantasie. This determinedly teutonic outpouring of a composer’s soul in music makes a very substantial contribution to any concert pianist’s repertory, and demands the deepest insights into what goes on when a composer puts pen to paper. Alexander Soares gave a masterly account of the ups and downs of life as given by Schumann in this sometimes almost tranquil but all too often explosive work inspired by E.T.A. Hoffman’s “eccentric, wild and witty” character, the conductor Johannes Kreisler.
All in all this was a night of music to remember for the depth of understanding and the breadth of technical accomplishment the pianist brought to a rich variety of musical expression.
5 MARCH 2016 OPERA GALA CONCERT A Review by Graham Marshall
The singers were SARAH HELSBY-HUGHES (soprano), ALEXANDRA TIFFIN (mezzo-soprano), NICK HARDY (tenor) and TERENCE AYEBARE (baritone), all of whom delighted the audience with arias, duets and ensembles from the operas of Mozart, Rossini, Bizet, Verdi and Puccini and exhibited the ease with which they were able to approach the challenges in their well-chosen repertory.
There was intensity. There was restraint. There was exuberance, reticence, tenderness. Good humour, playfulness and trickery worked their magic, too. For an hour or so the Heywood Civic Centre stage was alive with the sound of music that both soothed and excited the savage breast with its charms, and showed that opera has so much to offer in the way it can turn human emotion and feeling into memorable song.
Captivating and overwhelming by turns, all these vocalised glimpses of the joys and sorrows of human life as portrayed in their dramatic contexts were accompanied with finesse by JOHN PEACE, who brought to the piano a rich, orchestral dimension of sound complementing the vocal range of the singers.
10 OCTOBER MARICOSTA STRING TRIO with MARTIN ROSCOE (pianoforte)
Rochdale Music Society’s 2015-16 Concert Series began with some exceptionally fine performances of music from the Romantic era by the members of the Moricosta String Trio and Martin Roscoe, pianoforte. String Trios by Franz Schubert, the earliest of the three Romantic composers featured in the programme, graced the opening of both halves of the concert. The later one (D581 from 1817) came first, and, by its geniality and tuneful accessibility, gave the audience a very pleasant opportunity to settle into the refined atmosphere of chamber music.
The players - violinist Lucy Baker-Stockdale, violist, Steven Burnard, and cellist, Jessica Burroughs - showed their well-seasoned musicianship and artistic depth of understanding in their enchanting realisation of the composer’s song-like intentions. The acoustic of the Heywood Civic Centre played its part, too, in enhancing their combined sounds.
Martin Roscoe, who joined the string players for a performance of Schumann’s only Piano Quartet (1842) is a pianist of international stature and accomplishment who can always be relied on to enhance the platform as soloist or in association with other instrumentalists. No wonder, then, that he provided the perfect piano contribution to the intense feeling and animated conversation which characterise the outer movements, and added his dexterity to the excitement of the fast flowing Scherzo and his lyrical touch to the magical world of the slow, third movement of Schumann’s masterwork.
Martin also allowed himself to be interviewed briefly during the concert interval by Norman Warwick, the Rochdale Observer’s All across the Arts feature writer who opened up the conversation to members of the audience. This proved to be a welcome innovation in the Rochdale Music Society’s concert procedure. Similar interval interviews would no doubt be looked forward to on future occasions.
The single movement String Trio (D471 from 1816) by Schubert, which graced the opening of the second half of the concert, again showed the assurance and skill of the Moricosta artistes, and proved a delightful hors d’oeuvre to the main course of Fauré’s Piano Quartet in C minor (1876-83). This Quartet is one of the composer’s early works, but it shows an extraordinary artistic maturity and makes very considerable demands on its performers. From the to the bold, but restrained, opening theme of the first movement through the light-fantastic-toe-skipping passages of the Scherzo and the elegiac and noble melodies of the slow movement to the final movement’s flamboyant and heroic gestures the players are not given more than a fleeting moment’s respite. When, as was the case with the Moricosta Trio and Martin Roscoe, they respond to this challenge with such technical assurance and aplomb, they combine to communicate musical truths of abiding significance. One could wish that the hall had been filled to capacity with Rochdale people responding with joy to the sound of such
23 MAY ANDREW WHETTAM and FRIENDS
Renowned percussionist ANDREW WHETTAM and friends provided an upbeat finale to a Rochdale Music Society season which had already consisted of the Pomegranate Piano Trio, Zelkova String Quartet, recorder virtuoso Jill Kemp, the Caliente Ensemble, and pianist John Peace.
Andrew opened with Musser’sEtude in C,asignature piece forplayers of the marimba (wooden bars with resonators beneath) and then introduced three friends, all RNCM graduates and also currently neighbours.
Violinist Shirley Richards with a traditional Mexican tune and cellist Rebecca Whettam with the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria each provided melodic lines to marimba accompaniment.Percussionist Andrea Vogler joined Andrew with Rhythmic Collage, an exotic improvisation featuring eastern gongs, bells and chimes.
Solveig’s Song by Grieg arranged for violin and cello with another skilful marimba accompaniment led to the most substantial piece of the evening,Marimba Sonata by Graham Whettam, Andrew’s father. The limited tonal range of the instrument requiresconcentrated listening – like discerning JS Bach’scounterpoint or Steve Reich’s minimalism on a lute.Andrew demonstrated his phenomenal technique of striking the marimba with two or even threemallets or beaters in each hand like extended fingers – Edward Scissorhands meets Ashkenazy? – in this fascinating and uniquely extended work for the instrument.
More minimalism started the second half with Arvo Parts’Spiegel im Speigel (Mirror in Mirror) where violin and marimba playedsimple melodic fragments ad infinitum to mesmeric effect. In contrast the vibraphone (metal bars with resonators beneath) took centre stage for Brubeck’s iconic Unsquare Dance in 7/4 time which kept the other musicians fully employed withoff-beat clapping.
Jerome Kern’s timeless standard,All the things you are,gave Andrew full sway to explore the marimba as a melodic and expressive instrument. This was accompanied with brushes on side drum, which Andrea Vogler then exchanged for the Afro-Peruvian cajón (drum box)to accompany Andrew in his own jazz composition Boogie.
Andrew continued to take his marimba and friends through the gamut of musical genres with three Scottish pieces in this imaginative and varied musical journey for players and audience alike. Andrew’s solo encore, When I survey the wondrous cross, playing four real harmony parts with two beaters in each hand,creating a shimmering cantabile tremolo, demonstrated a more profound musicianship than is usually associated with percussion.
Look out for more interesting musical productions in the next season from October 2015. -Dr Joe Dawson 23 May 2015
THE FELL CLARINET QUARTET
The clarinet is one of the most agile of musical instruments, and coming in several sizes it offers composers a very wide range of pitch, dynamic and tonal possibilities. By beginning their programme for the Rochdale Music Society with the set of Ancient Hungarian Dances arranged by the Hungarian composer Ferenc Farkas the Fell Quartet set out their stall confidently to display just how and why the clarinet quartet has come to be accepted as a medium, like the string quartet, for artistic expression of the highest order
.In this, as in every work they played throughout the evening, the Fell Quartet, led by Colin Blamey, revealed its devotion to the clarinet and its readiness to promote original music by contemporary composers as well as bringing to the concert-goer’s attention earlier, unfamiliar yet attractive music successfully adapted for concert performance by a clarinet quartet.
Eddie McGuire’s Celtic Knotwork, which features elements of Scottish folk music to great atmospheric effect, Dubois’ Quatuor, with its unmistakably French sounding melodic and harmonic inflexions, an engaging arrangement for clarinet quartet of Gershwin’s Three Preludes (originally for piano) and an exhilerating concert medley of Klezmer music put together by a former member of the Fell Quartet, Lenny Sayers, entitled Raisins & Almonds, made up the rest of the busy first half of the concert.
If any doubts about the validity and sustainability of a concert given by an ensemble of four clarinets had lingered in the minds of members of the audience as the concert began, they will surely have been fully dispersed by the time the interval arrived!
The technical mastery of Colin Blamey, along with the other members of the group, Helen Bywater, Marianne Rawles and Keith Slade, all of whom could turn their lips and lungs to E flat, B flat, A or Bass clarinet at will, was evident across the whole range of their repertory. As was their infectious enthusiasm for music-making as an enjoyable activity for performer and listener alike communicated by each of them as they spoke in turn about the music to be played.
The second half of the concert began with a short piece entitled, Squirrels run along the fence top, by Graham Marshall, resident in Rochdale, who was present and gave a brief explanatory introduction to it. He had written it expressly for the Fell Quartet in 2008 after being inspired by the daily view of squirrels running backwards and forward along the fence top outside his study window. “Squirrels mean clarinets”, he said, and so it was proved in an impeccable performance of this ‘post-minimalist’ music, which was warmly received by Graham’s fellow Rochdale music lovers.
Czech composer Jiri Hudec’s Rapsodia per Quattro, Yvonne Desportes’ French Suite, and Ian Holloway’s Die Kunst der Klarinette (Variations on ‘Colonel Bogey’) continued to add to the immense range of artistic expression and masterly performances enjoyed by the audience on this eventful occasion. Warmth or coolness, a biting attack or an imperceptible approach to sounds both high and low such as can be obtained by from members of the clarinet family: all were delivered with consummate ease by this remarkably well-balanced quartet personnel, who rounded off the evening with a delightful arrangement of the Gershwin standard, Oh, Lady be Good, and then returned to add a little ragtime glitter as an encore.
10 OCTOBER POMEGRANATE TRIO
Rochdale Music Society’s 2014-15 Concert series began on October 10th with music by Mozart, Bethoven, Anthony Payne and Rachmaninoff played by the members of the Pomegranate Trio: violinist Fenella Barton, ‘cellist Rebecca Hewes and pianist Robin Green.
The cheerful Mozart Trio in B flat K.505 which began the programme was performed with ease and grace that matched the comfortable surroundings of the Heywood Civic Centre auditorium and provided an appetising starter. All three players seemed up for showing their appreciation to the full of the opportunities given by the composer for them to display their musicianship in the intricacies of the textural interplay of harmonic light and shade that is so marked and endearing a feature of Mozart’s personality.
By way of almost complete contrast in mood, the youthful Trio Elegiaque of Rachmaninoff which completed the first half of the concert, demands an emotionally restrained approach. Its expansive melodic material is experienced as growing out of its textural surroundings. Melodies surface, flourish with passion and return to their source. In this performance the sombre atmosphere was announced and maintained with dignity throughout. Each player relished the opportunity to make their instrument sing when called upon. The final, funereal section was particularly effective.
No less appropriate a blend of tone and colour was conjured up in the account the Trio gave , after the interval, of a very different piece: the Piano Trio written in 1988 by Anthony Payne shortly after he had finished his magnificent work of completing and preparing for performance the Third Symphony of Elgar. His Trio’s avowedly ‘romantic and legendary poetic resonance’, as the composer himself describes it, was challenging - for performers and listeners alike. Many members of the audience may not have been quite ready for the kind of streaming melody for cellist and violinist that Payne builds up and projects against a largely dissonant piano background. If that were so, they did not show it in the warmth of their applause.
To end the concert, the choice of Beethoven’s so-called ‘Ghost’ Trio (Op.70. No.1) was a perfect foil to the two somewhat sombre works it followed. There is really nothing ghostly about it, but the nickname has applied ever since it was given by one of Beethoven’s publishers, who found some of the scoring and sounds of the slow movement somewhat eerie. To play up the ‘ghostly’ nature of this would be a ghastly mistake. As it was the Pomegranate Trio brought suitable panache to the vigorous and colourful themes which which race along together side by side or in contrast in the first movement. The second (slow0 movement was executed with due care and attention to its breaches of technical barriers without making a melodrama of it. The third and final movement, a sort of escapade in which the players are enjoying a game of musical catch-me-if-you can, was delivered almost breathlessly to an audience ready to approve its vagaries and marvel at the technical accomplishment of the gamesters.
JILL KEMP (Recorder) and ALEXANDER ZRAM (Piano) This concert was a fascinating eye-and-ear-opener to an audience whose members may well have gathered not knowing quite what to expect! Recorder music tends to be regarded as suitable mainly or even exclusively for school children performing and listening at a very early stage in the development of their musical appreciation. What mistake it is to think that way!
Music written for the recorder family before the advent of the modern transverse flute was never all that easy to play or simple to appreciate. As the Sonatas by Telemann, Bach and Handel in this concert amply demonstrated. Very considerable technical agility is needed to address them properly and produce satisfying results. That Jill Kemp is fully equipped for this task was made quite clear by the clarity and brilliance she achieved in some of their fiendishly challenging fast passages. The continuo part was discreetly and punctiliously played throughout by Aleksander Szram, who somehow managed to give the distinct impression that there was also a stringed bass underlining the bass sonority. (This was a lovely effect.)
The earliest music in this wide-ranging programme was a set of Variations for the solo descant recorder by a little-known Dutch composer, Jacob van Eyck. We were transported by Jill’s performance to the riverside in seventeenth century Utrecht, where the composer would wander about improvising such fancies to the wonder of whoever happened to be around! A delightful excursion.
The latest music in the concert was a novelty work by David Bedford (d. 2011), one of his last compositions and written specially for Jill Kemp. This was a set of quirky variations on the well-known Kemptown Races tune. Jill brought the first half of the concert to a rousing conclusion with an impeccably executed performance full of poise and good hunour.
Two other ‘modern’ works were featured in the concert. In the first half, the Sonata Op. 121 by York Bowen provided the audience with an excellent example of mid-twentieth century music for the recorder conceived with lyrical and dramatic power. In the second half, the Aztec Dances by Edward Gregson, formerly Principal of the Royal Northern College of Music and present in the auditorium, provided us with some extraordinarily imaginative and unexpected sounds made by both recorder player and pianist. This tour de force for any recorder player was executed with finesse and aplomb, and proved to be the most substantial of the works in the programme, leaving the audience entranced.
Not much music was written for the recorder during the nineteenth century. The Variations Brillantes of E. Krähmer are among the few substantial works still played. They gave both Jill and Aleksander opportunity to show their dexterity and good humour, which was well appreciated by those who watched and listened. So did the arrangement Jill had made of Sarasate’s Gipsy Airs- originally a showpiece for violin and orchestra - with which she rounded off a thoroughly entertaining and artistically enlivening evening’s music-making.
11 FEBRUARY 2012 Pei Jee Ng (Cello)and Chiao-Ying Chang (Piano)
A delightful performance of Beethoven’s delicious set of variations on the aria ‘Bei Mannern, welche Liebe Fuh;en’ from Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute, got this varied programme off to a heart-warming start on a very cold evening, and sent out the message that the members of the audience were in for a treat. They were not to be disappointed. Australian cellist Pei Jee Ng and Taiwanese pianist Chiao-Ying Chang proved more than capable of filling the hall with stylish
sounds to be enjoyed live and remembered with enjoyment.
The wit, elegance and poise of Beethoven’s approach in manipulating Mozart’s tune were obviously central to their interpretation of this music. Beethoven cannot often be accused of being light-hearted! But here he is decidedly enjoying himself with playful moments showing his appreciation of Mozart’s genius. The performance actually seemed to take the audience by surprise, for the applause suggested unexpected pleasure.
Samuel Barber’s Cello Sonata is an introvert work with much powerful melodic material for the cultured voice of a cello to sing, as well as elegant and aggressive manœuvres to execute. Pei Jee Ng found this voice and convinced us that the song was beautiful, strong and enduring. He was encouraged here, as throughout the concert, by the sensitivity and accomplishment of his
collaborator at the piano, Chiao-Ying Chang.
The same can be said of Alfredo Ginastera’s Pampeana No.2 which began the second half of this exploration of the repertory from three continents. A cadenza-like evocation of the sights and sounds of his native Argentine pampas lands, this cadenza-like music held the audience into its spell and brought an enthusiastic response to its climax.
After music with Austro-German, American and Argentine - the latter admittedly born out of the Spanish and Italian origins of Ginastera’s parent s - accents, the concert ended with a fine account of the unmistakably personal César Franck Cello Sonata in A, adapted from his Violin Sonata in the same key.
Franck was born in what is now Belgium - but was then under the control of the Netherlands - and lived and worked for the most part in Paris. Whether this hybrid background explains his particular genius or not, his music certainly almost always sounds like someone else’s and no other composer’s at the same time! Like Bruckner’s, it has elements of melodic and harmonic simplicity and sophistication so fused together by the warmth of the composer’s personality that an audience can be left wondering whether they should be embarrassed or not by their instinctively positive response to such entrancing music. I, for one, think not. And so did everyone who was privileged to be present in the Heywood Civic Centre on this occasion
The NEW LONDON CHAMBER ENSEMBLE
Two world premières and new-to-Rochdale arrangements of classics enriched the musical feast served up in style in Rochdale Parish Church on 7 May by the New London Chamber Ensemble at this penultimate concert in the Rochdale Music Society’s 2010-11 season.
The ensemble members, Robert Manasse (flute), Melanie Ragge (oboe), Neyire Ashworth (clarinet), Stephen Stirling (horn) and Adam Mackenzie (bassoon) are all distinguished soloists and orchestral section leaders who come together from time to time to provide audiences with the fine fare of music in wide-ranging styles performed – sometimes choreographed – with the ultimate in technical precision and interpretive discernment.
An arrangement of one of Mozart’s pieces for barrel organ began the concert in ebullient, street-wise fashion. More delicately presented and with delicious tonal colouring, a selection of movements Ravel’s Mother Goose suite followed. Then Mozart returned in the form of his Serenade in C minor, which brought the first half of the concert to a handsome conclusion.
To begin the second half the players positioned themselves among the audience in different areas of the nave as they engaged in an enchanting performance of the oddball, American street musician Moodog’s “Birds of Paradise”.
Then they seated themselves to give the first performance of my Wind Quintet (2004), which was warmly received by the attentive audience. I have to say that the performance exceeded my imagination. And I am enormously grateful to these splendid musicians for having spent the considerable time and energy needed to bring to such a colourful and vibrant surface the inner conversations in musical terms that a composer seeks to share when putting notes on paper! I found myself asking, “Did I write that?” as they moved seemingly effortlessly and convincingly through the intricate web of melodic and harmonic challenges I had presented them with!
Ending the concert with Jim Parker’s “Mississippi Five” was just the right thing to round off an evening which had given obvious pleasure to audience and players alike. This five movement suite of tributes to classic jazz features was expertly executed with each player contributing his or her moment of bravura to a total display of the most New Orléans street-wise finesse.
- Graham Marshall
7 OCTOBER MUSIC BY NORTH-WEST COMPOSERS
The 2010-2011season of concerts presented by the Rochdale Music Society began on Thursday, October 7th with a programme illustrative of the lively mixture of styles to be encountered among the music of composers who belong to the North West Composers Association. The concert of music by North West Composers revealed the good acoustic properties of the building, which lends itself perfectly to the kind of instrumental and vocal sounds enjoyed this by the attentive and appreciative audience on this first collaborative occasion bringing the RMS and NWCA together.
Piano music by Colin Bayliss (chairman of the NWCA) and David Forshaw (Secretary NWCA) was deftly played by Christopher Pulleyn and the composer respectively. John Peace joined Christopher in some energetic duets by Graham Marshall (Vice-Chairman NWCA), whose ‘Five Whimsies’ were sung with great sympathy by the countertenor David Solomons and Pietà an icon for organ performed with conviction by Parish Church Master of the Music, Phlip Lowe.
David Solomons ( also a member of the NWCA ) accompanied himself on the guitar in performances of four delightfully whimsical songs of his own.
Geoffrey Kimpton (Treasurer NWCA) was the committed viola soloist in his own arrangement of a substantial and lyrical four-movement work he wrote originally for cello and piano, ‘Scope’, in which he was accompanied by John Peace.
Flautist Lesley Reading played the first movement of a Sonatina for FluteA and piano by Colin Bayliss, and also joined Graham Marshall in his Haitian Lullaby with Variants for Flute and guitar, a work written earlier this year as part of a disasters’ fund-raising project by the Delian Society, an internet group of composers from all over the world. The harpsichord voicing of an electronic keyboard made a perfectly acceptable substitute for the guitar in thiAs balanced performance.
This was the first time that Rochdale’s ancient Parish Church of St. Chad had been used as a venue for an RMS concert.
9 April NORTHERN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA with MARTYN JACKSON (Violin)
The Rochdale Music Society, with the most generous support of the late Doris Knowles, was able to engage the Northern Chamber Orchestra led by Nicholas Ward, and also the extremely talented violin soloist, Martyn Jackson, for a popular and well-loved programme of Beethoven’s Overture: Coriolan, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony.
Popular and well-loved is only half the story, as the standard of excellence for this orchestra and soloist made up the other half. The thirty members of the orchestra displayed an amazing, seemingly effortless facility to sound as one and with full command of the most exquisite expression under the leadership of Mr. Ward. It was hard to believe that he was able to achieve this precision and subtlety from his leader’s seat in the orchestra. That, of course, is the sign of a really good orchestra and one which listens well.
The young Martyn Jackson matched the orchestra’s brilliant ensemble with his own expressive and virtuosic talent. There is no doubt that the music world will hear more of this rising star.
- Shirley Mitchell
International pianist Matthew Kam, a rising star in the classical music world, opened Rochdale Music Society’s new season in style.
Born in Borneo but brought up in Australia from the age of 11, Matthew Kam graduated from Melbourne University in 2005 by which time he had won several prizes and achieved international notice. He then moved to the UK’s RNCM becoming a Junior Fellow from 2007-9, continuing to attract acclaim.
His opening work was, unusually, by a living composer: Carl Vine’s Piano Sonata (1990) is a brilliant piece of piano theatre, full of energy and references to jazz and popular music styles combined with pure percussion, even extending to a forearm smash! This could have been an inaccessible modern experiment but Kam’s skill, control and communication proved just how fresh fruit on the Vine can be.
Sonata No 3 in B minor Op 38 by Chopin brought us back to the nineteenth century tradition and demonstrated why this player has become so highly regarded.
After the interval we continued in Romantic mode with Prelude and Fugue in E minor Op 35 No 1 by Mendelssohn, atmospheric impressions of Oiseaux tristes by Ravel and Three concert pieces by Faure, which are heard played live all too rarely. A further vignette by Faure served as a delightful and thoroughly deserved encore. The music sounded all the better because of the Steinway grand piano specially hired for the occasion.
Rochdale Music Society exists to bring live music from first class performers to the borough. It needs your support to continue to do so. This season promises to be stimulating, with the Plane Dukes Rahman Trio 5 December, and in the New Year Eclipse, soloists from Chetham’s, the Stanford String Quartet, plus saxophone and guitar music, all at Heywood Civic Centre.
Review by JOE DAWSON
ROCHDALE TOWN HALL is a Grade I listed building with spectacular decoration in tapestry and stained glass. It dominates the Esplanade. What is at present just a road and the Town Hall car park lying between the War Memorial and the Town Hall will soon (2016) be replace by the newly opened-up Rive Roch, which was culverted a hundred years ago..
It has a very fine 4-manual organ.