Reviews of concerts, 2006-07


Concert on 24 October 2006: Elisabeth Tuson (flute) and Susan Clark (piano)

The following review was submitted to the local press

Brilliant performance of little-known music

Elisabeth Tuson (flute) and Susan Clark (piano) are two performers who like to offer a wide range of repertoire encompassing unusual pieces. A number of these were aired at the concert they gave at Farnham United Reformed Church on Tuesday 24 October 2006, which was the opening concert in the 2006/7 season of the regular "Music at Lunchtime" series.

The opening piece was by Georges Hüe, who died in 1948. The Fantaisie for flute and piano is a romantic piece with dramatic opening flourishes in the flute accompanied by double chords in the piano. A quieter, beautiful melody leads into more brilliant but still tuneful writing. The performance was very assured and quite thrilling.

Many of Vaughan Williams' early compositions were not published during his lifetime. Fortunately he did not destroy them and they were brought to light by his widow, Ursula. One such piece is the four-movement Suite de Ballet, which introduced the audience to an altogether gentler world.

A piano solo came next: Three fantastic dances by Shostakovitch gave an introduction to yet another sound world. This was the world of elves and goblins, graphically introduced by Susan Clark on the piano.

The second composer who is not generally known was Jindrich Feld, and we heard the lively first movement of his sonata for flute and piano, a piece full of surprises. It was followed by another pair of piano pieces, the improvisations nos. 7 and 13 by Poulenc, where the piano was really made to sing in a truly Poulencian style.

The final piece was by another composer who is too little known: Pierre Sancan. Again, Elisabeth Tuson demonstrated her complete mastery of the flute in this brilliant piece, while the piano part was equally lively. The concert was given on what was Sancan's 90th birthday, and it was a shame that he was not present to hear it. Nevertheless, it was a fitting end to a brilliant concert.

John Mansfield

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Concert on 4 November 2006: Masa Tayama (piano)

The following review was submitted to the local press

Firework Night

Perhaps with hindsight it would have been better not to have arranged a piano recital on Saturday 4th November; but in the event a tiny audience heard fireworks from the piano easily as exciting as the fireworks outside.

Masa Tayama was giving an all-Rachmaninoff recital at Farnham United Reformed Church. His programme started with Rachmaninoff's arrangement of the Bach Partita in E major for violin solo, with a very pianistic and highly enjoyable Gavotte framed by two brilliant movements, Prelude and Gigue.

Rachmaninoff's Morceaux de Salon sound like Chopin with a Slavonic accent. They are early works, written when the composer was about 20, but show unmistakeable signs of the mature master's hand. In particular the tempestuous contrasting section in the Mélodie, the malign spirits which appear in the Humoreske and the vigorous Mazurka - all well brought out in performance - prefigure the mature Rachmaninoff.

These pieces were followed by three of Rachmaninoff's Etudes-Tableaux, the dramatic performance of which reminded this particular listener of Moussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" - for example number 5 with its swashbuckling activity and no. 6, an argument between two characters, one aggressive and the other quieter.

The final piece Masa Tayama gave was Rachmaninoff's Sonata no. 1 in D minor (op. 28), where the stormy and passionate first movement gives way to an Andante where the pulse is slower without any let up in vigour. The final Allegro molto has serene sunny moments interrupted by threatening motifs, including the Dies Irae, with which Rachmaninoff seems to have an affinity.

Masa Tayama has a real feel for Rachmaninoff, and Rachmaninoff suits his formidable technique. It would be good to hear him playing music by other composers, too. But altogether this was a dramatic and passionate recital, well fitted to the fireworks outside.

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Concert on 4 November 2006: Tim Sidford, piano and violin, and Michael Sidford, piano

The following review appeared in the local press

Versatile musicians at Farnham United Reformed Church

It is not every day that one hears a pianist playing the violin, but that was a treat experienced by the audience at the concert given by Tim and Michael Sidford at Farnham United Reformed Church on Wednesday 7 November 2006 as part of the regular Music at Lunchtime series .

Tim and Michael stood in at a late stage when it became clear that Rita Le Var, the mezzo-soprano who was originally to have given the concert, was unable to perform. Tim was to have been her accompanist but instead gave a violin and piano recital.

The first piece was Haydn's Sonata in C, HOB xvi/50. Haydn is one of those composers who always surprises - leastways when played as expertly as at this concert. A delicate and playful start leads to contrasting stormy episodes which show the true mastery of the composer - and the performer. The adagio was restful in feeling with delicate figuration, which led to a joky rondo with extra witty moments thrown in.

Tim now took up the violin, accompanied by his father, Michael, on the piano, to play the allegro first movement of Elgar's violin sonata. This was no mean feat for someone who has just given a Haydn performance such as we had just heard. By turns passionate and lyrical, it showed that both musicians had an excellent feel for the music.

Returning to the piano, Tim ushered in a change of mood with "Reflets dans l'eau" the first of Debussy's Images. As we were reminded, the watery images suggested by the music reminded us of Monet's waterlilies, while the next piece, Mendelssohn's Rondo capriccioso, reminded us of the fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream (or perhaps of the champagne bubbles in Die Fledermaus) - an astonishing feat for the 19-year-old composer. It formed a brilliant fitting climax to a most enjoyable concert.

John Mansfield

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Concert on 6 February 2007: Music Students from Frensham Heights

The following review appeared in the local press

Six outstanding young musicians took the stage at Farnham United Reformed Church on Tuesday 6th February as part of the regular Music at Lunchtime series.

There were two pianists, both pupils of Tim Sidford, who was the performer at our November lunchtime concert. Charles Sicouri, from Paris, who has already been studying at the Paris Conservatoire, opened the concert with the famous Rachmaninov Prelude in C sharp minor. Charles showed a clear understanding of, and sympathy towards the music, and his performance was both stormy and tender in turns.

Joe Cook has a good romantic tenor voice and gave "The English Rose" from "Merrie England" by Edward German, a very popular choice.

Cansin Rathge next played two minuets by J. S. Bach, arranged for guitar by his teacher Vincent Lindsey Clark. Cansin has the distinction of being awarded one of the highest marks nationally in his music GCSE last year and his teacher must be very pleased with him.

Naomi McLean appeared at the Music at Lunchtime concert a year ago, and is a fine 'cellist. Naomi has been offered a place at no less than three major music colleges for the cello; but today she showed how well she could sing. In giving us Handel's aria Lascia ch'io piangia, Naomi demonstrated a clear well developed voice, using the excellent acoustics of the church very well. The roulades and other decorations in the da capo part of the aria were particularly pleasing.

This is the third year running that Gisella Doulton has appeared at one of these concerts. Gisella is a very accomplished oboist with tone and breathing all under total control.

Naomi now reappeared with Joe Cook to sing "Stay, Frederic, stay" from the Pirates of Penzance, by Gilbert and Sullivan - a well characterised and enjoyable performance.

The short concert concluded with the second pianist, Mikey Lee, whom lunchtime audiences also heard last year. This time he played the Liszt Liebestraum, an assured and beautifully stylish performance.

The accompanists were Edwin Rolles, Director of Music at the school, and his wife Annie, who teaches oboe and accompanied Gisella.

John Mansfield

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Concert on 6 March 2007: James Mooney-Dutton (organ)

The following review was submitted to the local press

Popular works at organ concert

The organ concert on Tuesday 6th March at Farnham United Reformed Church was given by James Mooney-Dutton who is still a student at the Royal College of Music, where his teacher is Margaret Phillips. Previously James had two Organ Scholar posts, first at Norwich Cathedral and the second at the Royal Parish Church of St Martin in the Fields. He is at present Director of Music at St Lawrence Church Eastcote.

The concert was given as part of Farnham United Reformed Church's Music at Lunchtime series.

James's popular programme started with Grayston Ives' robust "Intrada", a good, punchy introduction to a concert such as this one.

It was followed with Vaughan Williams' fine prelude on the hymn tune "Rhosymedre" and Léon Boëllmann's well-known "Prière à Notre Dame" from the Suite Gothique, in which James drew some enchanting sounds from the organ.

James adopted a strict no-nonsense approach to the Buxtehude Passacaglia in D minor, BuxWV161, allowing the music to speak for itself. Then he played two little Chorale Preludes by Bach and S. S. Wesley's Choral Song, very much the sort of music for which this organ was built in 1906.

Sweelinck's variations on "Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr" and Vierne's dreamy Berceuse followed, while the finale was the witty "Hornpipe Humoresque" by Noel Rawsthorne, based on the Sailor's Hornpipe (Last Night of the Proms version) but with hints of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto no. 3, Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Rule Britannia and Widor's famous Toccata.

John Mansfield

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Concert on 24 April 2007: Victoria Davies (harp)

Victoria Davies has recently returned from the Tamnak Prathom Harp Centre in Bangkok, where she had spent a year as resident harp teacher and as a soloist with the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra. In April Victoria gave a number of concerts in Japan with her fellow harpist Ema Mitarai from Bangkok.

Victoria's concert on 24 April began with the Sarabande and Bourrée from Bach's Violin Partita no. 1: it is amazing how well Bach's music transcribes for harp. That piece was followed by the Sonata No. 6 in B flat major, op. 3, by F. Petrini, an operatic-sounding Italian piece with a frothy opening allegro, a lovely slow movement and a brief finale. Prokofiev's Prelude in C major is on classical lines but with noticeably twentieth century harmony. A second Russian piece, Khatchaturian's Oriental Dance, led into four French pieces, Debussy's first Arabesque and his Rêverie, and two oriental-sounding pieces by Marcel Tournier, a contemporary of Ravel at the Paris Conservatoire. In "La Volière Magique" under Victoria's expert and sensitive fingers you can certainly hear the birds in the magic aviary and the wild "Danse du Moujik" gets wilder and wilder. A moujik is a Russian peasant, and the dance made one wonder what moujiks drink to dance like that.

As an encore Victoria gave us "Kan Khao Gin Gluay" (The Bat that eats Bananas), a traditional Thai piece arranged by her friend Ema Mitarai -- most appropriate for a harpist just arrived back from Bangkok.

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