Reviews of concerts, 2010-11

Evening Concert on 2nd October 2010: Hallelujah!

The following review was submitted to the local press:


Farnham's United Reformed Church celebrated 350 years of its history in a concert of choral and instrumental music last Saturday evening. The music came from a similar period, from Bach to Cole Porter, sung by Surrey Voices under their energetic and inspiring conductor, Malcolm Hicks.

Starting off with Zadok the Priest the choir were in uplifting form, accompanied at the organ by Richard Pearce, and their conductor brought out more degrees of light and shade than are usually heard in performances of this anthem. They continued with two Bruckner motets: the appropriate Locus iste (This is a place hallowed by God..), and Ave Maria with its exultant cry of "Jesus!"

They followed with Fauré's Cantique de Jean Racine, Mozart's Ave Verum and Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, all with Richard Pearce's impeccable organ accompaniment and exquisitely sung by the choir.

Another joyous, celebratory anthem followed: Britten's Jubilate Deo (O be joyful in the Lord), followed by Malcolm Hicks's own beautiful arrangement of Our Father. Panis Angelicus was the next item, and the first half of the concert ended with a stirring chorus from Haydn's Creation, The Heavens are Telling.

In between the choral items, young musicians from Frensham Heights School entertained the audience. The impressive young cellist Joshua Clarke played Bloch's Prayer, accompanied by Rupert Gardner at the piano. Later, another young man named Edward Clarke (we were told they were not related) played Bach's Siciliano on the flute, accompanied by Edwin Rolles, and Edward achieved a beautiful legato. These two young instrumentalists obviously have a very promising musical future.

In the second half of the concert the choir let their hair down, giving us delightful excerpts from opera and musical theatre. They would have done credit to the Royal Opera Chorus in their rousing accounts of Verdi's Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves and Mascagni's glorious Easter Hymn. Between these came the Habanera from Bizet's Carmen, its tricky chromaticisms ably mastered by the experienced mezzo-soprano soloist Helen Clutterbuck.

The organist of the United Reformed Church, John Mansfield, then played two well-known pieces on the organ: The Swan (from Carnival of the Animals) by Saint-Saëns, and Noel Rawsthorne's arrangement of Londonderry Air. These popular tunes were much appreciated by the audience.

Ending their concert in light and popular vein, the choir sang My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music, On the Street where you Live from My Fair Lady, and a medley of Cole Porter tunes known by all - certainly a lot of the audience's favourite things. These numbers gave the men and women of the choir the chance to sing separately, and it was good to hear the robustness of the men on their own, and the pure tone of the women. Accuracy of pitch is all-important in choral singing, and this is a quality in which Surrey Voices excel.

A huge impetus to the performances of these popular pieces was given by Richard Pearce's stylish piano arrangements, and by Louis Garson on string bass, which pointed the rhythms in a magical accompaniment.

This splendid concert ended with Malcolm Hicks conducting choir and audience in Handel's Hallelujah Chorus - a tremendous ending which almost raised the church's lofty roof. Farnham folk who missed this concert really missed a musical feast enjoyed by all the participants.

The church is extremely grateful to Surrey voices for giving this concert, the proceeds of which were for church funds.

Click on the picture for a larger version.

Concert on 5th October: Ingrid Cusido

The following review appeared in the local press:

The lunchtime concert given by Ingrid Cusido on 5 October 2010 at Farnham United Reformed Church featured the music of Isaac Albéniz, the Spanish composer who was born 150 years ago, in 1860. Spain has a rich musical heritage, and nowhere more than in the music of Albéniz.

The programme began with the French Suite in the B minor by J. S. Bach (BWV 814), showing a wide variety of colour in the music, from the brilliance of the Courante to the tenderness of the Sarabande and the dancing Minuet. The fiery gigue made a good transition to the music by Albéniz.

Ingrid chose four pieces from Albéniz's suite 'Iberia'. 'Evocación' is a piece dreaming of Spain, as its title suggests, and was followed by the exciting, percussive 'El puerto', descriptive of a busy port. The rhythmical 'Albaicin' refers to the Moorish quarter of Granada, while 'El polo' is a dance from Andalucia. All these pieces are very free and bold - certainly very Spanish; they were well received by the audience.

As an encore Ingrid played the short Sonata in F sharp minor by another Spanish composer, Antonio Soler, a welcome extra to a highly enjoyable recital.

Click on the picture for a larger version.

Concert on 2nd November: Alan Brett

The following review appeared in the local press:

Alan Brett is a fastidious and musical player of that wonderful instrument, the cello, and he is equally at home in solo and ensemble music. The concert he gave at Farnham United Reformed Church on Tuesday 2nd November as part of the regular Music at Lunchtime series of concerts was a solo concert - the first time a solo cellist had appeared in the series' 13-year-old history.

Bach wrote six important suites for cello solo, that is to say cello without any keyboard accompaniment, but after his death in 1750 virtually no compositions were written for cello solo until the 20th century. Alan therefore chose to play two of Bach's suites for cello separated by the Serenade for cello solo written by Hans Werner Henze.

The Bach suites follow the same pattern, namely Prelude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, two Minuets, Bourees or Gavottes and Gigue. In his helpful introduction Alan Brett mentioned that the Preludes were improvisatory in style, exploring the tonality of the suite of which it was the first movement. The two suites he chose to play were no. 2 in D minor (which has minuets as the penultimate movement) and the perhaps rather livelier no. 3 in C major (which has bourees as the penultimate movement).

Hans Werner Henze's Serenade of 1949 provided a cheerful contrast, consisting as it did of nine short movements (none longer than one minute in duration), each of them taking the form of a little tone picture and very refreshing.

Alan produces his own handwritten editions for every work in his repertoire using composers' manuscripts, facsimiles or original edition. Playing from clean texts, free of others' markings, he feels he can reveal and communicate more clearly what the composers themselves wrote and intended. His playing brought the pieces to life, with a lovely contrast between his forceful fortes and silky pianos and it was a joy to listen to throughout.

Click on the picture for a larger version.

Concert on 7 December: Anneke Scott

The following review was submitted to the local press:

Anneke Scott is an outstanding young player of that wonderful and elusive instrument, the horn: not the modern horn with valves, but the old natural horn. Anneke was the performer at the lunchtime concert given at Farnham United Reformed Church on Tuesday 7th December 2010 as part of the regular Music at Lunchtime series of concerts. Her programme was devoted to the compositions of the French horn player and composer Jacques-François Gallay. In January 2010 Anneke was awarded a prestigious Gerald Finzi Scholarship to undertake performance-based research into Gallay's works, and she has just returned from an intensive time in Paris which was part of that research.

Gallay lived in an amazingly virtuosic environment in Paris at a most creative time (the mid 1800s). He became principal horn player of both the Théatre Italien and Louis-Phillippe's private orchestra, later becoming professor at the Paris Conservatoire. While in Paris Gallay will have become acquainted with very many other famous musicians such as Rossini and Paganini, and Gallay's caprices for horn are in some ways modelled on Paganini's for violin solo.

The audience were privileged to be the first to hear Anneke play her programme of Gallay's caprices, arranged by her into five short suites. Individual movements have marked characters and can be visualised as operatic scenes - soldiers' chorus, tranquil landscape, tenor soloist's showpiece and so on - and this, together with the different tone-quality of individual crooks (for instance, mellow, bright, earthy), made for a varied and attractive programme. Features that were particularly welcome were Anneke's introduction to the music and the history of Gallay and her description of the horn and the way in which the crooks are used.

It was a most attractive concert and I am convinced that we shall hear a great more of Anneke Scott in the future.

Click on the picture for a larger version.

Concert on 1 February 2011: Music Students from Frensham Heights School

The following review appeared in the local press:

The first concert of 2011 in the Music at Lunchtime series held at Farnham United Reformed Church on 1st February was given by music students from Frensham Heights. Their annual visit is always keenly anticipated and very much enjoyed.

This year's concert was the last to be led by Edwin Rolles, who has retired as Director of Music, though he still teaches at the school. His place as Director of Music has been taken by Rupert Gardner, and both teachers were at the concert, each one providing piano accompaniment for the students.

The first student, however, was a pianist, and one we have heard before: James Collymore, who gave a riveting account of Albeniz's electrifying "Asturias".

After that Dominic Clarke played a Morceau Symphonique for trombone by Guilmant. Dominic's tone was good although some of the rapid arpeggio passages seemed to cause him a little difficulty. Another brass player, Mune Sugiyama, played the first movement of Hummel's well-known trumpet concerto. He made a great effort to contrast the soft and loud passages of the music and in spite of the occasional split note gave a creditable performance. The final instrumentalist was Simon Collins (clarinet), who managed to achieve a good soft tone where needed. He played the fifth movement of the attractive Victorian Kitchen Garden suite by Paul Reade.

There were five singers. Andrew Adamson, whom we have heard before, has a fine bass voice and gave us "Ol' Man River" from Jerome Kern's musical "Show Boat" - an enjoyable, musical performance. Fergus Kittow sang "He shall feed his flock" from Handel's Messiah - transposed down to the alto register. Again this was an enjoyable performance, with discreet ornamentation in the repeat of the first phrase.

Ben Bowles and William Davies sang a short duet from Gilbert & Sullivan's "HMS Pinafore": "Kind Captain, I've some important information", where Dick Deadeye is telling Captain Corcoran of his daughter's plan to elope with Ralph Rackstraw. In spite of the small space available in the church platform they acted their parts very effectively.

Finally Beatrice Hoare, the only girl in the programme, sang Mozart's beautiful "Laudate Dominum". Beatrice seemed to be slightly unsure of herself, but she has a good voice which she used well.

But altogether the concert was most enjoyable and a credit to the Frensham Heights music staff and their students.

The photograph shows Mune Sugiyama, Andrew Adamson, William Davies, James Collymore, Dominic Clarke, Beatrice Hoare, Fergus Kittow, Ben Bowles and Simon Collins. Click on it for a larger version.

Concert on 1 March 2011: Masayuki Tayama

The following review appeared in the local press:

Masayuki Tamara is a distinguished pianist who is particularly involved with the works of Rachmaninov; but at the concert he gave at Farnham United Reformed Church on Tuesday 1st March as part of the regular Music at Lunchtime series he played concertos by Bach, Mozart and Liszt.
Masa started with a memorable account of Bach's concerto no. 5 in F minor: a brilliant rendition of the allegro first movement, followed by exquisite tenderness in the Largo which follows, and a beautifully flowing final Presto.

The mood changed for Mozart's piano concerto no. 11 in F major: the conventions of the baroque were replaced by the poise and elegance of the classical form. It was in this concerto, more than the other two, where we missed the orchestra most, but Mozart, excellently played like this, is unbeatable.

The mood changed once again with Liszt's fiery concerto no. 1. Again Masa held the audience spellbound and they heard Liszt the brilliant virtuoso and breaker of hearts. This concerto, quite apart from its virtuosity, demands quick responses to the changes of mood, which is what we got, in abundance.

All in all, it was a beautiful and completely satisfying concert and it is hoped that we shall have a return visit from this outstanding performer.

Click on the picture for a larger version.

Concert on 26 April 2011: Richard Lane, violin, and Allan Beattie, piano

The following review appeared in the local press:

The performers at the lunchtime concert given at Farnham United Reformed Church on Tuesday 26 April as part of the regular Music at Lunchtime series were Richard Lane (violin), and Allan Beattie (piano).

That they are both popular local figures was demonstrated by the large audience who came specially to hear them.

Richard became blind 20 years ago, and his former guide dog, Simpson, made his own contribution to the concert by walking round the church during the concert so that the audience could make a fuss of him.

The first item was the slow movement of Bach's Concerto in A minor, where the silvery tone of the violin set the mood for the rest of the concert. As to the next piece, Beethoven's Romance in F, Richard explained that it was really a piano piece with violin accompaniment, Beethoven being more of a pianist than violinist. But it is such a stunning piece anyhow that the audience was enraptured.

At this point Allan gave us a solo, the Farewell Waltz by Chopin, op. 69 no.1, originally written as a farewell piece to Maria Wodzinska, to whom Chopin was once engaged, and a beautiful piece in its own right.

Richard explained that the opera Thaïs tells the story of a monk who sees a beautiful lady (Thaïs) from his cell but because of his vows of chastity is unable to express his love for her. That love is expressed by the beautiful melody of the famous Meditation, which he played next. It was followed by Richard's own version of Vaughan Williams' Lark Ascending, Kreisler's Liebeslied and Elgar's Chanson de Matin.



The photographs were taken by Michael Buckeridge: click on any of them for a larger version.

Concert on 3 May 2011: Polina Gerasimenko, piano

The following review was submitted to the local press:

The final concert in the 2010-2011 Music at Lunchtime series of concerts at Farnham United Reformed Church was given on Tuesday 3rd May by Polina Gerasimenko, who was born and educated in Russia but now lives in Guildford. Polina has just completed her Master's degree at Trinity College of Music under the renowned Russian concert pianist and professor Alexander Ardakov.

The first music was Schumann's Phantasiestücke, eight pieces he wrote in 1837, all in a romantic style but varying greatly in mood from the tender to the fiery and taking in the skittish. And what a performance! Not only did Polina catch the different moods of the pieces: it was as bright and fresh as if they were being played for the first time.

As a composer Schumann must be particularly hard to follow because the next piece is bound to break the magical spell: but in this programme the next (and final) piece was "Une barque sur l'océan" from Ravel's suite "Miroirs", another romantic piece, though not at all in the style of Schumann. This music is most pictorial: you could almost see the surging of the waves in the left hand and smell the salt spray in the shimmering right hand part. Wonderful.

It is the mark of a great performance that the audience comes away feeling as though this is the only way of playing the music, and that was the feeling we got.

The photograph was taken by David Galloway: click on it for a larger version.