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. .

2017

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.

2015

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

2010

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.

2014

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.


2012

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

2010

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.

2011

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

2010

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.

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