Reviews of concerts, 2012-13


Concert on 4th October 2012: The Azuré Duo

The following review appeared in the local press:

Azuré Duo delights at Farnham United Reformed Church

Where do you start in a boat and end at a ballet? Why, in Debussy's Petite Suite, of course, via a procession and a minuet. That suite was the opening item in the delightful concert given by the Azuré Duo on Tuesday 2nd October as part of the regular Music at Lunchtime series at Farnham United Reformed Church.

It was clear right from the beginning that the two pianists, Nao Maebayashi and Eamonn Ramsay, were very much at home playing duets: they played as one player and the light and shade in these sound pictures was unanimous.

There was a change of mood for the second item in the programme, Mozart's sonata in D, KV 381 with its beautiful tune in the second movement and a last movement that could have come straight from a Mozart opera.

York Bowen is a composer that is heard too rarely these days, and his Suite no. 2, op. 71 could certainly bear hearing more often. After an all-too-short Allegro there is an extended Barcarolle and a fearsome Moto Perpetuo. Eamonn Ramsay told me that the composer is sometimes regarded as the English Rachmaninov and the suite combines a quite dense texture with light-heartedness - quite an achievement.

Finally we were treated to Piazzolla's Libertango, an extrovert piece performed with such vigour and rhythm that it made you want to get up and dance.

Concert on 6th November 2012: Sylvia Harper with Stephen Lacey

The following review appeared in the local press:

Treat for Music at Lunchtime Audience

It is certainly rare to have a musician playing four different instruments in the same short recital, but that is what we got at a concert given by Sylvia Harper at Farnham United Reformed Church on Tuesday 6th November 2012 as one of the Music at Lunchtime series of concerts. Sylvia is well known as a fine player of the oboe, and opened the concert with Telemann's Sonata in G minor.

After the oboe it was the turn of the oboe d'amore to be heard. Sylvia introduced the instrument with an all-too-brief extract from Bach before playing the second movement from Cantus Amoris by the Scots composer Owen Swindale. Swindale's use of the seductive tones of the oboe d'amore is quite different from that of Bach, of course, but delightful nonetheless. It seemed to this listener that the Scottishness of the piece came across clearly.

The cor anglais is a bigger brother of the oboe d'amore, and Sylvia introduced it by playing an extract of the most famous piece written for it, the Largo from Dvorak's New World Symphony. But the piece that was to be played as part of the recital proper was Paul Harris's jolly Sonatina, which was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience.

Then back to the oboe: we heard Paul Pierné's Fantaisie-Pastorale, a more substantial work. The central section, with a recitative-like solo over chords in the piano was particularly effective; after that both parts get more exciting and build up to a very satisfactory ending.

Sylvia's accompanist, the excellent Stephen Lacey, then moved to the organ to play two short pieces. The first was the toccatina for flutes called "L'organo primitivo" by Pietro Yon, showing a delightful lightness of touch; and the other Bach's "Jig" fugue, which danced along merrily.

The fourth instrument Sylvia brought with her was the bassoon, and she gave us a romance by Elgar, which, though it sounded to one listener as being very untypical of Elgar, was an attractive and unusual piece.

But Sylvia's main instrument is the oboe, and she concluded this very agreeable concert with the Polka and Italian Dance by Madeleine Dring. The polka is vivacious and full of activity and the Italian dance even livelier with exciting cross-rhythms, and made a very satisfactory end to a great concert.

Photographs © Eric Marsh

Concert on 5th February 2013: Students from Lord Wandsworth College

The following review appeared in the local press:

The Music at Lunchtime concert on Tuesday 5th February at Farnham United Reformed Church was given by music students from Lord Wandsworth College, a first for them and for the regular audience; and so it was with a sense of great excitement that the students were expected. The audience was not to be disappointed: in spite of the fact that three of the performers had to withdraw because of winter illnesses it was an excellent and enjoyable concert.

The central item was a performance of the Mexican Hat Dance by a string septet - a most enjoyable performance that must have been difficult to bring off, especially as one of the string players was absent.

At the beginning and the end there was an all-male barbershop group: the opening item consisted of two spirituals, Steal Away and I Got Shoes and, at the end, George Jones' Songs of Yale and A You're Adorable, arranged by Edwin Rolles, who conducted the group. Again, things were not easy as they missed two singers, which must have been very tricky when there were only five singers left to carry the day. But the performances were very creditable.

A number of the singers gave solo items. Ollie Sayers gave a good performance of Trade Winds by Frederick Keel. Jack Flower performed Jerome Kern's The Way You Look Tonight most enjoyably, and Chris Stanton showed his versatility by singing Lord God of Abraham, an imposingly serious song from Mendelssohn's oratorio Elijah, followed by a patter song: My name is John Wellington Wells, from Gilbert & Sullivan's The Sorcerer at a speed which made the audience breathless but not, it seems, the singer.

Only one girl sang: Imy Potts gave us the beautiful, and moving, Cujus Animam from Pergolesi's Stabat Mater.

In addition there were three solo instrumental items. As well as being a key player in the string ensemble, Helen Frawley is a fine oboist and performed the Italian Dance by Madeleine Dring, lively, foot-tapping music. Sadiya Mohammed gave a beautiful rendition of a Romance by Schumann on the flute, with a lovely liquid tone. And as the penultimate item on the programme we heard Billie's Bounce by Charlie Parker, bounced on the saxophone by Harry Rokison - great fun.

Lauren Crowther, the Director of Music, is to be congratulated on the high standard attained by these students. Lauren was ably assisted by her Assistant Director of Music, Cathy Mason, and Charles Withall, Lord Wandsworth College's Musician in Residence, as well as Edwin Rolles, mentioned above. They are keen to return next year, and the audience are just as keen to hear them again.

The final concert in the 2012-2013 series of Music at Lunchtime will be on Easter Tuesday, 2nd April at 1.10 pm when Jill Crossland, the pianist, will be giving a concert of music by Bach, Beethoven and Chopin.

Click on the photograph for an enlarged version.

Concert on 2nd April 2013: Jill Crossland, piano

The following review appeared in the local press:

The final concert in the 2012-2013 Music at Lunchtime series at Farnham United Reformed Church was given on Easter Tuesday, 2nd April, by the acclaimed pianist, Jill Crossland. The programme was a sort of triptych, with works from the baroque, the classical and the romantic repertoire.

Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata in C minor, BWV 911, is not one of the most frequently heard works of the great master, but a very fine one, and it formed the first part of the triptych. Crisp and delicate playing, in a piece that was in turns fiery and gentle, gave the audience an idea of what was still to come

The central part of the programme was Beethoven's Sonata no. 14 in C sharp minor, universally known as the "Moonlight" sonata, with its beautiful, dreamy first movement followed by a performance of the minuet which made it sound fun and more fire in the third movement - a work for a virtuoso, which had virtuoso treatment.

Finally Jill performed four nocturnes by Chopin: the first two nocturnes from Opus 9 and the two which make up Opus 27. The first of the four is marked as Chopin's first nocturne and if that was the way he announced his debut into the world of nocturnes, it was a phenomenal piece with which to demonstrate his compositional technique.

Like its successor, it was given deliciously poetic treatment on the piano. In Opus 27 no. 2 Chopin keeps the listener guessing whether he is writing in C sharp major or C sharp minor and places the many off-scale notes in such a way as to demand an equally precise response from the pianist which of course they received from Jill.

In all the nocturnes one admired the apparently effortless ease and delicacy with which Jill played the rapid cadenza passages.

The audience was further delighted when, as an encore, Jill played the second prelude from Book 2 of the Well-tempered Clavier by Bach.

The first concert of the 2013-2014 series will be given by Yllka Istrefi, the pianist, for her third visit to Farnham United Reformed Church, on Tuesday 24th September at 1.10 pm. Yllka plans to play Rachmaninoff's second piano sonata at her concert.