Reviews of concerts, 2009-10

Concert on 7th October 2009: Steve Bowey (organ)

The following review appeared in the local press:


The opening concert in the 2009-2010 Music at Lunchtime series held at Farnham United Reformed Church was given on Tuesday 7th October by an organist, Steve Bowey.

Steve is a brilliant organist who in his ARCO examination two years ago won the coveted Limpus Prize awarded to the candidate gaining the highest marks for organ playing. His virtuoso technique showed well in his opening piece, Bach's Prelude and Fugue in G (BWV550).

That Prelude and Fugue was followed by the beautiful set of variations written over a century earlier by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck on an old tune Mein junges Leben hat ein End, or My young life comes to an end. These variations , written as they were for manuals only, provided a relief from the two fiery pieces before and after them; they also demonstrated the fine colours of some of some of the softer stops of the organ.

Those variations were followed by Mendelssohn's Prelude and Fugue No.1 in C minor, a piece clearly inspired by Bach but in Mendelssohn's characteristic style. The prelude is rather serious and the fugue dance-like, but both were played with equal panache.

Steve was keen to play an English piece and chose After an Old French Air by Percy Whitlock. Whitlock's music suits the URC's Henry Jones organ very well, and, like the Sweelinck piece, this piece showed some of the colours of which the organ is capable.

Finally Steve played the last movement of the first organ sonata by the nineteenth century French organist Alexandre Guilmant. This brilliant piece was originally written for a much, much larger organ, but sounded very well under Steve's capable hands; it certainly put the organ through its paces.

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Concert on 27th October 2009: Yllka Istrefi (piano)

The following review was submitted to the local press:

Yllka Istrefi is a very fine pianist: she was awarded the "Most Outstanding Student Prize" when she completed her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in her native Albania. She has been resident in London since 2001, and spends her time in giving concerts here and abroad, and teaching.

On Tuesday 27th October Yllka gave a recital at Farnham United Reformed Church as part of the regular Music at Lunchtime series. She opened with an authoritative account of Beethoven's monumental Sonata in E major, op. 109. The breathtaking energy of the quick sections were more than matched by the tenderness of the final movement. Masterly.

The next item was Samuel Barber's four movement Excursions, op. 20. The first, allegro, movement, is great fun to listen to (fiendish to play!) but unless you are let into the secret you do not realise that it is a musical portrait of an old American steam locomotive. Barber makes extensive use of blues technique in the movement, and also in the second, entitled simply "In slow blues tempo". The third movement is based on an American cowboy song, "Streets of Laredo" and the fourth a joyful barn dance. As in the Beethoven, Yllka's playing was forceful and tender in turns.

Rafet Rudi is not a name that is well-known to English listeners; but he is the Director of the Prishtina "Remusica" Festival and was Yllka's Professor in the past. Departing from the printed programme, Yllka played Rudi's "Arbereshe Bells", an effective short impressionistic piece slightly reminiscent of Debussy's "La Cathédrale engloutie".

Finally Yllka gave us Prokoviev's third Sonata, another fiery piece, brilliantly played, which made a fitting end to a most enjoyable concert. Thank you, Yllka.

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Concert on 17th November 2010: Elisabeth Tuson (piano) and Susan Clark (flute)

The following review was submitted to the local press:

The flute is an instrument of many colours, and one that can convey many moods. That fact was demonstrated clearly by the playing of the duettists Elisabeth Tuson (flute) and Susan Clark (piano) at the concert they gave at Farnham United Reformed Church on 17th November as part of the regular Music at Lunchtime series.

The first piece was the relaxing Canzone by Samuel Barber, demonstrating a soft, dreamy tone. This piece, together with the Ballade by the Swiss composer Frank Martin, demonstrated Elisabeth's control and her lyrical legato line, especially as she negotiated the wide leaps in the Ballade.

Claude Bolling's Suite for Flute and piano and Robert Muczynski's Sonata present formidable difficulties for both flute and piano: the former is unashamedly a piece from the jazz age, but both pieces demand firm control of the very tricky rhythms. Here Susan's virtuosic piano playing came into its own. Both instruments seemed to be playing independently of each other but clearly they were in very close accord.

Between those two pieces Susan gave us the Menuet and the Presto from Ravel's Sonatine - a delicious performance of this well-known piece.
The final item was La Flûte de Pan, by Jules Mouquet, piece in a different style again: mercurial, liquid flute tone alternating with rapid passages. Altogether both performers presented apparently effortless technical brilliancy with a strong rapport with the audience. Who could ask for more?

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Concert on 2 February 2010: Music Students from Frensham Heights

The following review was submitted to the local press:

Students declare that the show must go on

Coughs and sneezes are a common feature of school life in winter, and it was no surprise to learn that three of the students from Frensham Heights who were to perform at the lunchtime concert at Farnham United Reformed Church were unable to do so at the concert held on Tuesday 2nd February as part of the regular series.

However, the five students who were available were determined that the show must go on, and played or sang extra music to make up.

The concert was opened by James Collymore, who played the brilliant Praeludium which makes the first movement of Grieg's Holberg Suite, which set the tone for the rest of the concert.
Josh Clarke played the first movement of the G major 'cello sonata by Sammartini, and, later, a Nocturne by Franz Strauss. Josh seemed a little tense but that did not show in his playing: he drew beautiful sounds from his 'cello.

Mimi Doulton has a nice soprano voice and gave us a Handel aria, "V'adoro, pupille", from the opera Giulio Cesare in Egitto, where Cleopatra is attempting to seduce Julius Caesar; and, later, some more Grieg: this time his sad but beautiful "Ein Schwan".

Mimi's sister Gisella is well known to Farnham audiences as a very fine oboist, and she did not let us down this time, playing some more Sammartini (the third and fourth movements of another sonata in G) and two movements from Jean Françaix' witty piece based on a flower clock, L'Horloge De Flore.

We shall not see Gisella Doulton this time next year for she has a place at the University of Cambridge, where we are sure she will have a distinguished career.

Another artiste we shall not see next year is Bronwen Ramsdale, who is taking a gap year prior to reading medicine. Bronwen has a fine soprano voice, and gave us four well contrasted songs: Dido's lament from Purcell's opera "Dido and Aeneas", Der Tod und das Mädchen by Schubert, the Habanera from Bizet's opera Carmen and "So in love" from "Kiss me, Kate" by Cole Porter.

As always, we are very grateful to the school authorities, the Director of Music, Edwin Rolles and, above all, to the splendid performers who provided so much sunshine on a dull day.

In the picture: Josh Clarke, Mimi Doulton, Gisella Doulton, Bronwen Ramsdale, James Collymore; click on the picture for a larger version.

Concert on 6 April 2010: The Hanson Duo

The following review appeared in the local press:

Performances of Mozart's string duos are all too rare, which is a great pity, as they are excellent chamber music. Even rarer are performances by twins, but at the concert held on Tuesday April 6 at Farnham United Reformed Church as part of the regular Music at Lunchtime series Harriet and Alice Murray, twin sisters who play the violin and cello respectively, gave a masterly performance of the duo in G, KV 423. The church was looking at its best with beautiful displays of flowers provided for the Easter festival.

Mozart's duos are full of music, almost like a string quartet in musical interest, having parallel passages alternating with contrasting sections, always with fascinating interplay between the instruments.

Kodaly's Duo, Op. 7, which followed, is more of a challenge to the audience, but is a fine work. There is a fiery declamatory opening, followed by a lyrical section: these two ideas alternate and combine throughout the first movement. The second, slow, movement is more lyrical and is followed by a faster third movement with a majestic opening. A most exciting work.

Alice and Harriet perform as the Hanson Duo, and I am certain that we shall be hearing much more from them in the future.

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Concert on 13 April 2010: Schubert's Fifth Symphony in B flat, conducted by Christopher Pelly

The following notice was submitted to the local press:

Chris Pelly, a 20 year old student and a member of Farnham United Reformed Church, is studying music at the University of Leeds. He is keen to become an orchestral conductor and he assembled an orchestra from his friends and others in order to give a concert at lunchtime on the 13th April, during the Easter vacation. The concert was given at the church as part of the regular Music at Lunchtime series.

The orchestra consisted of 20 players (strings, flute, oboes, bassoons and horns), which fitted comfortably in the space available in the church.

The piece Chris chose to play was Schubert's Symphony no. 5 in B flat, a popular choice, well suited to the relatively small orchestra. They rehearsed throughout Monday 12th April and on Tuesday morning, ready for the lunchtime concert. An audience of some 60 people came to hear the performance, which was very much enjoyed.

Chris said, "I was really impressed with how well the players came together as a group in the day-and-a-half's rehearsal time, and I am very grateful to the church for supporting and helping with the concert."








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