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Sunday 23rd April 2017 7.30 pm
Primrose Piano Quartet
Susanne Stanzeleit violin, Dorothea Vogel viola
Andrew Fuller cello, John Thwaites piano
with Leon Bosch double bass
Schumann: Piano Quartet in E flat Op.47 D667
Bottesini: Grand Duo for violin and double bass with piano
Schubert: Quintet in A major D 667 (The Trout)
The last concert of Keswick Music Society’s season was given by the Primrose Piano Quartet, a fine ensemble formed in Glasgow in 2004, and named after violist William Primrose, born in 1904 at 18 Wilton Drive Glasgow. The plaque on this house rightly describes him as one of the greatest of all musicians!
Susanne Stanzeleit (violin), Dorothea Vogle (viola), Andrew Fuller (cello) and John Thwaites (piano) displayed their considerable musical abilities from the start of a most rewarding concert. Schumann’s Piano Quartet has often been needlessly overshadowed by his more popular Piano Quintet so it was good to hear this committed performance by musicians who clearly engaged with its mixture of Romantic and Classical qualities. The first movement’s slow introduction was suitably mysterious, the Allegro was paced with precision and touches of expressive phrasing caught Schumann’s reflective moments. The Scherzo was impressively neat and tidy – Schumann in slightly subdued vein. Not so the slow movement where he lets his hair down and gives the cello an opening melody to die for – Andrew Fuller produced tone of intense yearning and made a deep impression before sharing Schumann the songwriter with his colleagues. Back to Bach for the finale with lots of fugal entries and energetic striving – a positive performance of invigorating music. Much of the enjoyment of this piece was due to the excellent balance between the model B Steinway piano and the strings. John Thwaites managed it well and was never in danger of overpowering the strings. Larger pianos are a health risk to string players!
Next something completely different entertained and delighted the audience – Giovanni Bottesini’s Gran Duo Concertante for violin, double bass and piano, a pot-pourri of pseudo Italian operatic arias and dramatic gestures. Bottesini wrote the improbably difficult bass part for himself and an even more fiendish violin part surely influenced by Paganini. Leon Bosch joined Susanne Stanzeleit and John Thwaites to despatch this musical diversion with total aplomb. He explained his longtime immersion in Bottesini’s music for double bass and then performed feats of agility up and down the fingerboard that most of the audience had never experienced. Susanne Stanzeleit was equally impressive with cascades of scales, arpeggios and harmonics – easy virtuosity that ensured the audience could enjoy an outlandish fun piece.
Finally all five players combined in Schubert’s Trout Quintet, full of his most infectious melodies and harmonic felicities. It veers towards a serenade with its lighter style and five movements, and the double bass makes a special contribution. The depth of its bass line and occasional melody lends an earthy quality that cannot always be taken seriously. Every movement had its highlights in this happy performance. Schubert’s delicate piano writing in the first movement was captivating; the viola and cello harmonised melody in the Andante bewitched; the fire from everyone brought the Scherzo to life; the variations enabled each player to shine and the finale brought energy back for a barnstorming finish.
Review by John Upson
|Sunday 19th March 2017 7.30pm
Michael Petrov cello
Alexander Ullman piano
Prokofiev: Cello Sonata in C, Op. 119
Schumann: Drei Fantasiestucke Op.73
(this replaced the previously advertised item by Janacek)
Elliott Carter: Figment for Solo Cello
Chopin: Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 65
Two very fine young musicians, the cellist Michael Petrov and pianist Alexander Ullman, performed an interesting programme of four contrasting works at the Theatre by the Lake on Sunday evening, 19th March, for Keswick Music Society.
The cellist positioned himself in front of the piano, towards the edge of the stage, and, for the most part, this arrangement worked well, although in some passages the piano seemed to fade into the background to some degree. The acoustic screens worked particularly well in the quieter passages to project the sound towards the audience.
From the opening cello solo of Prokofiev’s Sonata in C minor (Opus 119), it was clear that we were about to experience an evening of notable musicianship. The emotional intensity of this music, written at the time of Stalinist repression, became immediately apparent in the first movement, although, despite Prokofiev’s illness and depression, some light shone through in the Russian folk melodies. The second movement is a playful Scherzo and Trio, with a humorous ending, in which the alternations between cello and piano were particularly effective. The final Allegro, with its strongly rhythmic and energetic interplay between the artists, came across especially well.
By contrast, Schumann’s Three Fantasies (Opus 73) were much more conventional in terms of harmonies and their ternary – ABA – structure. Written mostly in the sunny key of A major, they are effectively ‘songs without words’ which allowed the soloists to display their fine techniques, most noticeably in the highly energetic and passionate finale.
After the interval, we heard the American composer, Elliot Carter’s ‘Figment for solo cello’, composed towards the end of the composer’s very long life. It is atonal and rhythmically complex and makes use of unconventional sounds of the instrument, presenting a series of contrasting, dramatic moments, based on a single musical idea.
To complete the concert, we returned to the nineteenth century, with a memorable performance of Chopin’s Sonata in G minor (Opus 65). This work opens in a dark mood, in the Allegro moderato, with passionate interchanges between the two instruments, which were extremely well expressed by Michael and Alexander. The Scherzo and Trio is much more by way of lively entertainment, as the cello and piano exchange short phrases between each other. The final Allegro, introduced by a gentle Largo, was a lively romp, clearly enjoyed by both the performers and the audience.
Review by Mike Town
|Sunday 19th February 2017 7.30pm
Royal Northern Sinfonia
Bradley Creswick director
Mozart: Overture Marriage of Figaro
Vaughan Williams: Lark Ascending
Tippett: Divertimento on Sellingers Round
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7
Sunday's concert by the Royal Northern Sinfonia in Theatre by the Lake in Keswick opened with the buzzing, gossipy excitement of Mozart's Overture to the Marriage of Figaro. Later, Michael Tippett's Divertimento on Sellinger's Round received an inspiring and intelligent performance from the four soloists - flute, clarinet, oboe and bassoon. Tippett was developing his own musical voice drawing on the music of his past from Purcell to The Yeomen of the Guard to create a rich piece, resonant of its English heritage but speaking the language of post-war Britain.
The evening, however, belonged to Beethoven and Vaughan Williams. When Beethoven conducted the first performance of his Seventh Symphony, he felt the excitement of the forceful rhythms with such passion that, according to Louis Spohr, "at the entrance of a forte he jumped in the air". Bradley Creswick led the Royal Northern Sinfonia in a performance of the symphony with equal excitement. In the final Allegro con brio the bows swept across the strings with increasing intensity as the symphony was brought to a resounding and triumphant conclusion.
There was a moment of complete stillness at the end of The Lark Ascending. The Seventh Symphony had been written at a time of patriotic rejoicing towards the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Vaughan Williams wrote this ecstatic piece in the shadow of the First World War. The pastoral voices in the strings are often uneasy and troubled. In tonight's performance, Bradley Creswick imagined a lark, muted, unsure, gaining confidence, and at last climbing to a great height, only to fade into the distance and a quivering silence. This was not the usual triumph of the soloist celebrating a rural English landscape in "a silver chain of sound", but rather a sensitive and informed performance. That moment of stillness and silence was a testimony to its emotional power.
Review by Steve Matthews.
|Wednesday 15th February 2017 7.00pm
High Standards at Young Musicians Concert
The main house at the Theatre by the Lake was crammed full of proud family members on Wednesday night who went to see local musicians perform in the Keswick Music Society’s annual Young Musicians Concert.
The event is a highlight of the society’s yearly program which always attracts a capacity audience who are treated to an evening of high quality performances by young musicians who attend local schools.
The eight-strong Keswick School Guitar Ensemble kicked off this year’s concert in fine style and played a pleasant Catalan folk song before changing the mood to play the bluesy ‘Examiner Blues’.
Next came Keswick School pianist Lucy Mooney who played a sweet version of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ which then merged seamlessly into a rousing boogie-woogie tune.
Emily Rogers, guitar, and Josh Prescott, cajon drum, then played an authentic version of ‘She’s So Lovely’ by Scouting for Girls before Ella Horne played the piano piece ‘Forty Winks’ with real feeling.
Keswick School cellist Oscar Craig then played Fauré’s plaintive ‘Apres une Reve’ with passion before the St Herbert’s School Wind Group delighted the audience with their ‘Razza Sazza’ piece. Consisting of 6 young girls playing flutes and clarinet, the group from St Herberts’ played brilliantly despite their tender years.
Then came guitarist Keir McIntosh who played a version of Beethoven’s ‘Ode To Joy’ and really did capture the essence of the master composer’s great tune.
Singer Olivia Marsden was next and she overcame her nerves and sang very strongly a version of the Elton John song ‘Electricity’ and she was followed by a short but sweet performance of ‘Staccato Beans’ by pianist Rosalind Weir.
The Keswick School Year 7 guitar group were up next and performed a sprightly version of the Match of the Day theme then changed the mood with ‘Riptide’ with the addition of two ukuleles.
Saxophonist Arran Horne then played J S Bach’s Sinfonia on his instrument and did full justice to the well-known classical piece. The trio of Ben McGregor, Leah Montgomery and David Scott on piano, vocals and guitar respectively, then performed John Legend’s ‘All of Me’ with great passion of professionality.
Next, fellow saxophonist Laura Hughes played Wolf-Ferrari’s ‘Strimpellata’ and coped well with the piece’s technical difficulties before the Keswick School String Group bought the first half to a rousing close with three evocative folk tunes.
After the interval, the brassy tones of the Keswick School Jazz Group shone with three jazzy pieces which featured exceptional drumming and great solos from all musicians, one of whom could barely be seen above his music stand.
Carla Gengnagel next played Perlman’s violin piece ‘Hora Hatikvah’ and displayed a pleasing vibrato before the powerfully voiced Fay Inglis sang ‘Burn’ by Lin Manuel Miranda whilst accompanying herself on guitar.
The Keswick School Wind Band played a mash-up of tunes from films Pirates of the Caribbean and Grease before trumpeter Ethan Wykes captured the jazz mood with ‘The Turkey’.
Guitarists Josh Prescott and David Scott played a delightful version of George Harrison’s ‘Here Comes the Sun’, followed by the Keswick School String Trio performed Handel’s Water Music. Two of the brave violinists had to step in at the last moment because of illness to the original musicians.
Leah Montgomery came next with her performance of Adele’s ‘Skyfall’ which she played on the piano without music and sang with true professionalism. Her talent and unassuming nature suggests that she could be a star in the making.
The manly voices of the Male Only Voice Ensemble then impressed the audience with two songs before singer and guitarist Erin Collin further wowed listeners with her mature version of ‘Somebody Else’ by The 1975.
Next up was the neatly coordinated Keswick School String Quartet who effectively played an extract from Telemann’s Concerto for 4 Violins before drum virtuoso Alex Chalker performed the drumming extravaganza ‘Overture’ to electrifying effect.
The sweet harmonies of the Keswick School Chamber Choir bought the evening of music to a moving close with the songs ‘Guiding Light’ and ‘Don’t Worry About Me’ which left the audience roaring their approval.
Keswick Music Society secretary Mary Cooke then thanked everyone who helped put on the concert, including all the performers, music teachers at Keswick and St Herbert’s schools, theatre staff, particularly the technical crew who did a great job, and the audience for coming.
Review by Johnny Denny - Keswick Reminder
|Sunday 15th January 2017 4.00pm
Nick Pritchard tenor
Ian Tindale piano
Schubert: Die Schone Mullerin
The Fair Maid of the Mill
It is always a pleasure to attend a concert at the Theatre by the Lake, even in the winter, and on this occasion the earlier time meant that one could savour the backdrop of Derwentwater and Cat Bells, with the sheep grazing in Crow Park. There is always a warm welcome from members of the Keswick Music Society committee, to inspect tickets and provide a smart and comprehensive programme, with detailed notes written by John Cooper Green. They were supplemented on this occasion by a very informative introduction by the tenor soloist Nick Pritchard aided by his accompanist Ian Tindale.
The acoustic seemed better for having the screens in place, and the piano was sounding well, always sensitively played. Although Nick Pritchard had a score by his side he didn’t really need it, as he was fully conversant with every twist and turn of the plot. Schubert’s setting of Wilhelm Müller’s cycle of poems ‘Die schöne Müllerin’ underlines and expresses the tortured emotions arising from the young travelling miller’s unrequited love, thwarted by the seemingly more eligible huntsman.
With often economical textures, Schubert depicts every aspect of the text, from the optimistic opening “Wandering is the miller’s joy” to the consolatory final lullaby. The rippling of the mill stream is never far away, and the young miller’s reactions to the resident miller’s daughter were vividly conveyed by our soloist, although some of the more poignant moments could perhaps have a had a darker timbre. It is significant that the arrival of the huntsman is set in a minor key, despite being in the usual lively rhythmic style, as it is from this moment that the trouble begins.
The symbolism of flowers and the colour green are all exploited, with the transition from “the favourite colour” to “the hateful colour” agonizingly contrasted by both musicians. Nick Pritchard has a bright and telling voice, which showed no signs of fatigue, and Ian Tindale provided a precise and well balanced accompaniment throughout what was a most satisfying performance of this demanding work.
Grateful thanks are due to those who arrange and support these concerts, which are a significant enhancement of Keswick’s cultural life.
Review by Ian Hare
|Sunday 15th December 2016 7.30pm
Alina Ibragimova violin
Bach: Sonata No. 3 in C major, BWV 1005
Bach: Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006
Ysa˙e: Sonata No. 4 in E minor Op. 27/4
Ysa˙e: Sonata No. 5 in G major Op.27/5
Ysa˙e: Sonata No. 6 in E major Op. 27/6
It may seem a daunting prospect for some to listen to a concert comprising solely of an unaccompanied string instrument. At the Theatre by the Lake on Sunday the Keswick Music Society presented such a concert in the form of a recital by the much acclaimed violinist Alina Ibragimova. Any misgivings were soon allayed by her exceptional playing in which the violin gave full voice to every expressive possibility.
Ibragimova is an unassuming player with an astonishing technique, a ravishing tone and deep understanding of and dedication to the music she performs. Her purity of tone and faultless intonation give resonance to the sound, and this combined with subtle use of the bow creates a huge range of tonal colours.
The first half of the programme consisted of two works by J S Bach. In his Sonatas and Partitas he firmly established the violin as a solo instrument in which separate lines of music can be played simultaneously and where the harmonic structure is implied. The Sonata in C major consists of four movements and begins with a gentle slow dotted rhythm to which is gradually added more notes until all four strings are played at the same time, something once considered impossible but in this performance effortlessly mastered. The massive and complex fugue was played with skill and artistry and the gentle Largo brought a feeling of calm before the brilliantly executed Allegro assai.
The E major Partita is a set of dance movements in the French style. The originality and character of Ibragimova’s playing made this familiar music sound fresh and exciting. The Preludio was played at breathtaking speed with scampering semiquavers and a lovely unexpected diminuendo in the final bar. The Loure swayed rhythmically and the Gavotte was playful with a cheeky pianissimo to finish. The stylised Minuets and the lively Bouree led into another virtuosic display in the Giga.
Eugene Ysaye was a Belgian virtuoso violinist much revered in his day. He was a great admirer of the unaccompanied violin works of JS Bach which influenced his set of six Sonatas for solo violin written in 1923. They reach the limits of violin technique but they are not only extrovert displays of virtuosic brilliance, but are full of lyricism, imagination and character.
The last three sonatas in the set were performed by Ibragimova demonstrating her ferocious technique. The most demanding passages seemed to hold no fear for her, allowing free rein to her breadth of musical understanding and expressive powers.
Each of the Sonatas was dedicated to a contemporary violinist and so has its own particular character. Sonata number 4 was dedicated to Fritz Kreisler and recognises that violinist’s admiration for Bach and the Baroque style. In contrast to her playing in the first half of the concert Ibragimova now played in a free romantic style with a richness of tone that sounded almost like a full string orchestra. The last movement was taken at breakneck speed, but was always under control.
The second Sonata is pastoral in mood and here Ibragimova produced a huge variety of warm tone colours down to an almost impossible pianissimo.
The fifth Sonata is in the Spanish idiom and is probably the most technically demanding. Although full of showy virtuoso passages it is romantic passionate and dramatic. Ibragimova overcame the formidable difficulties with ease and gave a performance full of character and joy.
We were indeed privileged to hear such a player in Keswick and can only hope that she will return in the not too distant future.
Review by Sue Johnson
|Sunday 13th November 2016 7.30pm
Bach: Goldberg Variations
Chopin: Etudes Op. 25
‘Just listen to the music…..’
From the moment he stepped on to the platform to give the pre-concert talk, the French pianist Patrick Hemmerlé quietly and authoritatively captivated the audience. The music in his programme – Bach’s Goldberg Variations in the first half of the concert and Chopin’s Op.25 Etudes in the second half – not only demands the highest pianistic technique, but is also, especially the set of variations, fiendishly complicated in musical structure. Patrick’s account of these complexities was beautifully clear and did them full justice, but then, in case any listeners were feeling a bit daunted, he finished by saying: but don’t worry about all this, just listen to the music.
And that was the key to the evening. We knew from the programme notes that both the Bach and the Chopin contain some of the most difficult music in the whole piano repertoire – especially in the Bach for a piano with only a single keyboard instead of a two manual harpsichord. The double challenge to the pianist is to surmount the technical problems without appearing to struggle, and to enable his listeners just to enjoy the beauty of the music. This Patrick did from beginning to end.
The Goldberg Variations published in in 1741 were traditionally written to help ambassador Count Kaiserling to sleep at night, and contain some of the most calm, introspective and beautiful music (which it would be a pity to fall asleep to!); the Count would however have been woken sharply by some of the ferociously exuberant and hectic movements. Patrick was equal to their challenges however and while those who had sight of the keyboard could well appreciate his virtuosity, this did not compromise the musical message, and we were treated to a masterly and thoughtful account.
In the second half, we had a complete contrast of style with the Chopin Etudes, or Studies, written in the 1830s. As their name suggests they are truly punishing challenges to a pianist; but they are, again, just wonderful music to listen to. They almost all have descriptive titles, such as ‘Butterfly’, ‘Ocean’ or ‘Cello’ – but while the audience is basking in their beauty, the pianist is facing the most fearfully difficult passages, while at the same time appearing to carry on regardless and bring their musicality to the fore. Melancholic, sensuous and dramatic episodes contrast with wild and fearful difficulties. In all of these Patrick Hemmerlé was again triumphant.
It was an exhilarating and emotionally involving evening, at the end of which the audience had been taken on an absorbing exploration of two great musical minds, and of two contrasting and beautiful musical landscapes.
Review by Roger Cooke
|Sunday 25th September 2016 7.30pm
Orchestra of the Swan
David Curtis conductor
Raphael Wallfisch cello
Rossini: The Italian Girl in Algiers
Beethoven: Symphony No. 8
Dvorak: Cello concerto
Keswick Music Society’s 69th season got off to a stupendous start with a packed Theatre by the Lake enjoying a concert by the “Orchestra of the Swan” under their director David Curtis. This was some of the finest orchestral playing I have heard in this theatre and the well-balanced orchestra gave us a programme that thrilled the audience. With its dry acoustic the Theatre by the Lake is not the most sympathetic venue for musicians to perform but the orchestra rose brilliantly to the challenge and produced playing of rhythmic precision and energy giving us ensemble playing at its very best.
The programme began with Rossini’s well-known overture to his opera “The Italian girls in Algiers”. This sparkled with fun and we heard some superb woodwind playing from first of all a buoyant oboe and then a wonderfully fluid flute. Throughout the evening the woodwind gave us some exemplary solos and some very fine ensemble work. David Curtis, brilliantly controlled the famous Rossini “Signor crescendo” as we heard a musical crescendo building up excitement until it reached a climax. Curtis’ control of the orchestra during the whole evening demonstrated a high degree of not only understanding of the music but also the forces at his disposal.
The clear sight lines in the theatre bring the performers very close. This was especially evident in Dvorak’s “Cello Concerto” in which one felt that the soloist Raphael Wallfisch was performing to each member of the audience individually. The English cellist Wallfisch has an international reputation and it was a privilege to hear this great player perform one of the greatest cello concertos ever written. The “Orchestra of the Swan” took us immediately from the translucent and ephemeral Rossini Overture of the early nineteenth century to the emotive and sonorous concerto written in the last decade of that century. This concerto is not only one which demands a highly accomplished soloist but one who understands the heart and soul of this music as Dvorak put so much of his own personality into it. Both orchestra and soloist are to be congratulated on a truly memorable performance of such depth. Some may have listened to this concerto in a large concert hall performed by a much larger orchestra but few of us will have ever been so involved with a performance as we were last Sunday evening.
Beethoven’s “Symphony no.8” was the final work. Though it may be called the “Little symphony in F”, coming between two giant symphonies nevertheless this is a great work and shows a different side to Beethoven’s personality. Contrasting dynamics, rhythmic precision, carefully judged crescendi and diminuendi, superb exposed solo work and controlled tempi changes were hallmarks of this performance. The lively “finale” brought the whole concert to a glorious end and the rapturous applause from the audience was evidence of a concert much enjoyed by all.
Keswick Music Society and, in this case, the support of “Orchestras Live” are to be congratulated for yet again bringing for bringing musicians of the highest calibre to this remote area of northern England. The next concert will take place on Sunday 16th October and will be given by the “Dante String Quartet”. It is still possible to become a member of the society even at this late stage and if this concert is anything to go by I would encourage music lovers to sign up as soon as possible.
Review by John Cooper Green
|Sunday 16th October 2016 7.30pm
Dante String Quartet
Krysia Osostowicz, Oscar Perks violins
Yuko Inoue viola, Richard Jenkinson cello
Schubert: Quartettsatz in C
Mendelssohn: String Quartet in A minor, Op 13
Beethoven: String Quartet in A minor, Op. 132
As though for a play by Samuel Beckett, all was black: the curtains, the floor, the chairs, save for the quartet's faces and the rich varnish of their instruments. The Dante Quartet, named for the poet who found himself in a dark wood in the middle of life's journey, began their own journey
We set out with the quivering opening of Schubert's Quartettsatz. The melody on the violin strove to master the agitation and, as the beauty of that melody offered reassurance, we were left with a concluding dramatic, disturbing resonance.
The Schubert, written in 1824 four years before his death, was followed by Mendelssohn's second quartet from 1827. He was eighteen at the time and the question he raised in the opening theme led us on a lover's journey: romantic, despairing, passionate, vigorous and joyful.
Mendelssohn had asked the question, "Is it true?" of his love. Beethoven, profoundly deaf and recovering from serious illness, had asked the question, "Must it be?" of his life. In his fifteenth string quartet, Opus 132, he had answered it with the courage and joy he drew out of despair. It was his Dantean journey. In the first movement he seemed barely able to bear the pain. In the second he danced, slowly, heavily. But in the third, a Molto Adagio, "A convalescent's Song of thanksgiving to the deity", there was a hymn which, as the cello sang, seemed to achieve a heavenly peace. A swaggering march became increasingly agitated, urgent, desperate, until, the music beginning to dance, we arrived at a stillness where the bows hovered over the silent strings.
The journey was complete.
It is enough to say that the Dante Quartet played with such sympathy and passion that we were able to go on such a journey.
Review by Steve Matthews