Reviews of concerts, 2007-08


Concert on 2 October 2007: Yllka Istrefi (piano)

The following review was submitted to the local press

Thrilling pianist from Albania

Yllka Istrefi, the Albanian pianist, has been resident in London since 2001, but the first recital she has given locally was on 2nd October 2007 in Farnham United Reformed Church as part of the regular Music at Lunchtime series.

The programme began with Beethoven's "Pastoral" Sonata in D, op. 28, a four-movement work which starts gently but with fiery moments and ends with a rondo which builds up to an impressive climax. Yllka demonstrated masterful handling of the piano throughout, especially in the wonderful Andante second movement.

That sonata was followed by two late pieces by Grieg from his Moods, op. 73, namely Resignation and Mountaineer's Song, both graphical works offering reflective moments between the other, stormier pieces. Those people who want to hear these attractive pieces should wait until later in the year when Yllka's CD will be issued under the Accustika label.

Finally Yllka gave us Liszt's Spanish Rhapsody - a virtuoso performance of this formidable piece, with moments of great tenderness and passages of hair-raising technical difficulty. This veritable tour de force left the audience all wanting more.

John Mansfield

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Concert on 6 November 2007: Robert Keane (tenor)

The following review appeared in the local press

It is always interesting to hear an artist for the first time, and Robert Keane, although he has been established in the United States for some time, has only recently made his UK debut. That was at Farnham United Reformed Church, as part of the Music at Lunchtime series, on Tuesday 6 November.

Robert's programme started with what was announced as "Four simple Italian sings" - a modest title which belied their beauty.

They were followed by two well-known Handel arias: "Comfort ye / Every Valley" from the Messiah and "Where're you walk" from the oratorio "Semele", both simple-sounding but taxing to sing, and three other varied pieces: "Un' aura amorosa" from the opera "Così fan tutte" by Mozart, "Come again" by John Dowland and the wonderful "Après un rêve" by Fauré.

Robert introduced his songs in a helpful manner and sang them as though he was singing among friends, which in a sense he was. He often started softly - his voice is capable of a beautiful mezza voce, and that, together with the ornaments he added in the Da Capo sections of his songs, made the experience of listening to him delightful.

Robert was well supported by Edwin Rolles at the piano.

John Mansfield

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Concert on 4 December 2007: Emmanuella Reiter (viola) and Ellie Fagg (violin)

The following review appeared in the local press

Outstanding duo plays Mozart

There is something very special about chamber music for small forces (duos, say) with no keyboard. Duos for violin and viola are somewhat rare, but in the hand of a master such as Mozart they become pure magic.

Mozart composed two such duos and they formed the entire programme of the Music at Lunchtime concert at Farnham United Reformed Church on 4th December, given by Ellie Fagg (violin) and Emmanuella Reiter (viola). Their unanimity and ensemble was such that they seemed to have been playing these pieces together for years. In fact (we were told) they had played them before, 14 years ago, when they were 10-year-old girls!

Since then Ellie has stayed in the UK, becoming leader of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain in 2001 and becoming a foundation scholar at the Royal College of Music under Yossi Zivoni, from where she graduated in 2005. Ellie has just completed her postgraduate studies at the RCM, which included 5 months study at the Mozarteum, Salzburg. This was all made possible with generous sponsorship from the Countess of Munster Musical Trust and from the Philharmonia Martin Musical Award scheme.

Emmanuella's career took quite a different path. After lessons in violin and piano at the Conservatoire National de Région de Nice, where she was awarded the Prix du Conservatoire, she entered the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, USA. In January 2001, discovering her passion for the viola, she entered the class of Kim Kashkashian at the New England Conservatory in Boston. There she received her Bachelor's and Master's Degrees, and served for three years as teaching assistant to Kim Kashkashian.

To return to the duos: they were both written at a time when Mozart was particularly impressed by the baroque style in general and Bach's style in particular. He of course left his own mark on that style, and the virtuosity shown by the writing (and, here, the playing) makes the pieces sound almost like a quartet at times. Listening to these six movements in two duos, one does not miss the second violin or the 'cello part at all, so imaginative is the writing. Hear them once, and you will want to hear them again.

John Mansfield

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Concert on 5 February 2008: Music Students from Frensham Heights

The following review appeared in the local press

Music students delight

Music students from Frensham Heights school are always welcome when they make their annual visit to Farnham United Reformed Church to give a concert in the "Music at Lunchtime" series. This year was no exception and all the performers were well received.

James Pepera-Hibbert, the youngest performer, opened the concert with the Larghetto from Handel's first sonata for recorder. The recorder is a quiet instrument, but James showed admirable breath control in the well-sustained long phrases he adopted for his performance.

Mikey Lee, a pianist, has appeared at these concerts before, and he brought us the prelude no. 13, opus 11, by Scriabin, another quiet piece. Mikey's performance was also quiet, understated perhaps, and showing good musicianship.

The third performer was quiet again: Cansin Rathgage, who played two pieces on the guitar, Adelita, by Tarrega and Villa-Lobos' prelude no. 3. Cansin will be going on to read music at university after the summer, and we wish him well.

Bronwen Ramsdale has a fine soprano voice, and she used the fine acoustic of the church well in her performance of Handel's "O Sleep, why dost thou leave me?", as did Hannah Poulsom (mezzo soprano), who sang a quieter piece, the spiritual "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?"

The operatic composer Verdi wrote an attractive piece for trumpet which was not discovered until some 10 years ago. Simon Jarvis played it, showing that the trumpet is capable of making a singing sound, not just a brash one.

Joe Cook, who sings tenor, was unfortunately the victim of a sore throat and so was unable to give the amatory piece he had planned; instead he sang the very dramatic aria "Total eclipse", from Handel's Samson, where Sansom bemoans the blindness which he has just suffered.

Gisella Doulton is no stranger to the Music at Lunchtime audience, having played the oboe at these concerts many times before. This year she played Gordon Jacob's Sonatina, a fine piece that has an intricate part for both the oboist and the pianist (in this instance, Annie Rolles, her oboe teacher).

The final piece in the programme was Rachmaninov's Prelude Opus 3 No. 2 in C sharp minor, played by Charles Sicouri, who managed the crescendos and diminuendos well in this virtuoso piece. His playing was exciting and tender by turns, and brought the concert to a fitting climax.

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This page was updated on 15 February 2008