Concert Reviews

Keswick Music Society 2023-2024 Season: Reviews 

3rd concert – Dame Imogen Cooper, piano St. John’s Church Saturday January 13th 2024

Imogen Cooper’s concert was attended by one of the largest audiences of recent years, and she lived magnificently up to all expectations as one of the most distinguished and cherished pianists of our time.  Her programme with music by Schubert, Bach, Thomas Adès and Beethoven took us on a fascinating musical journey and it was a joy to hear the Society’s piano at its best in the acoustics of St. John’s. John Hughes has kindly sent a photograph and link to the review of the concert on his blog. 

Imogen Cooper at Keswick Music Society

Review of Imogen Cooper’s concert

A fabulous piano recital

Dame Imogen Cooper’s concert, her second visit to Keswick in the past 12 years, was exceptional. Keswick Music Society rarely features a concert by an artiste with such a long and distinguished performing career, recognised by Sir Simon Rattle as “one of the greatest musicians England has produced”.  The concert, in St. John’s Church Keswick on Saturday January 13th attracted an almost full house. The audience was thrilled by her playing, which exuded an extraordinarily high level of emotional content, ranging from the triumphant to the tragic and pretty well everything between, as the music progressed.

The first half of the concert featured solely Franz Schubert’s music. She started with an Allegretto in C minor, her elegant playing of the Society’s Steinway Model B piano in St. John’s excellent acoustic charmed the audience from the very first notes. She started on the first of Schubert’s Four Impromtus even before the audience had time to applaud. Many of us have recordings of the Schubert Impromptus, maybe even played by Imogen Cooper, but to hear her play this well-loved collection live in front of us was a particular treat. The audience responded attentively and with warm applause at the end of her scintillating playing.
Following two Chorale Preludes by J. S. Bach, played immaculately, Imogen Cooper introduced Darknesse Visible by Thomas Adès herself, bringing this recent piece, based on John Dowland’s lute song ‘In darknesse Let Me Dwell’ to a wider audience. She again played directly on to the Beethoven Sonata in A flat without a break, having discussed this programming with the previous composer.

After much applause from the appreciative audience, she played a short encore by Bela Bartok, one of his Four Dirges, which brought us gently back to earth.

Many thanks to Keswick Music Society for bringing this international artiste to the concert series. The next concert in the series, on February  24th at St. John’s will feature music by Debussy, Mozart, Janacek and César Franck, played by the exciting young violinist Charlotte Spruit with Angus Webster, piano.

Mike Town

2023/24 Season 2nd concert – Lara Melda, piano, St. John’s Church Saturday November 25th 2023 

Lara Melda is a young and brilliant pianist currently delighting audiences around Britain, Europe and the antipodes: her career, launched when she won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 2010 as a 16 year old, continued through college and later with such celebrated mentors as Alfred Brendel. She is now widely recognised as a distinguished performer much in demand both as a soloist and with orchestras.

A broken ankle and then Covid had frustrated previous attempts of Keswick Music Society to book Lara in 2020 and again in 2021, but at last she was here – at St. John’s Church on Saturday November 25th – to give her recital, and a large and enthusiastic audience welcomed her.

Her programme, in effect a survey of 19th century piano music, began with Beethoven’s “Tempest Sonata”, written in 1801 and so called because he once directed a friend who asked about its meaning to ‘read The Tempest’ – and the contrast between the desperate chromatic passages and peaceful interludes could well thus be understood.

Next, came the soaring emotion of Liszt’s Étude ‘Un Sospiro’ (1848): Lara’s mastery of the considerable technical difficulties of this piece was evident throughout with beautiful control and an ethereal ending. 

The first half of the concert ended with two short pieces by Brahms – Intermezzo in A minor and Capriccio in D minor, both written in 1892, and both replete with contrasting moods and drama, amply responded to by the pianist.

After the interval, we were back to the middle of the century with Chopin’s Nocturne in b flat minor (1844) which provided an opportunity for Lara to demonstrate her ability to bring out the sonority of the piano with wonderful cantabile playing in the perfect acoustics of St. John’s. 

Lara’s performance of Chopin’s dramatic 3rd Sonata brought the concert to a magnificent conclusion, with delicate prestissimos, still points and bubbling flights of notes holding the audience spellbound. The sparkling energy and superb tone which she drew from the piano demonstrated her sensitive nuancing and brilliant virtuosity.

The delighted audience showed their appreciation with sustained applause and were rewarded as they hoped with an encore – but, as Lara said to them, after an evening of enjoying the romantic turmoil of 19th century Europe it was perhaps time to remember the contemporary real sufferings of those in the middle east and those ‘who are not with us’. She played Gnossienne No.1 by Eric Satie, a spare and melancholy lament, a contrast to the feast of romantic music, although almost unbelievably written in the same year in which Brahms wrote the Intermezzo.

For their next concert Keswick Music Society feel very fortunate to be able to present a recital by the celebrated pianist Dame Imogen Cooper including music by Schubert, Bach and Beethoven. This will be on January 13th, as always in the outstanding acoustics of St. John’s. 

1st concert – The Alkyona String Quartet, St. John’s Church Saturday October 28th 2023

On Saturday evening Keswick Music Society started its 23/24 season with a superb concert featuring a young London-based string ensemble, The Alkyona Quartet, in the Society’s new venue at St. John’s Church. KMS has been looking for a permanent home since the previous arrangement with the Theatre by the Lake, which had hosted the Society’s concerts for over 20 years, came to an end as a result of the Covid lockdowns. Since then KMS has held a number of concerts at St John’s, and it is excellent news that this has developed into a permanent relationship.

Playing much loved works by Purcell, Haydn, and Britten, and introducing most of the audience to works by two contemporary composers, the American Jessie Macdonald and the Anglo-Bulgarian Dobrinka Tabakova, The Alkonya Quartet offered the audience a perfectly-balanced programme of mainly English chamber music.

The Quartet started the evening with Purcell’s Fantasia No. 6, one of 13 he composed in 1680 for viol consorts. These fantasias require a firm but delicate touch to bring out their subtle blend of English and continental influences. The Alkyona quickly showed us what they can do, combining the music’s richly sonorous harmonies, anchored by the cello, with clear direction from the first violin over the phrasing of the more complex contrapuntal passages.

The main pre-interval work was Haydn’s G major string quartet, Opus 76 No. 1. Haydn, known as “Father” of the string quartet for good reason, sets performers all sorts of technical and interpretive challenges in doing justice to this substantial, complex work. The Alkyona rose to all of them, from their exquisite phrasing of the opening bars to Haydn’s typically subtle joke at the finish.

After the Haydn the audience were awarded Jessie Montgomery’s Strum as a pre-interval contrast, followed immediately post-interval by Dobrinka Tabakova’s The Smile of the Flamboyant Wings. The former was introduced by the First Violinist as ‘pushing the boundaries of the string quartet’, the latter by the Cellist as ‘very complex for us’. The audience could be forgiven failing to notice this, so enjoyable were both works and so apparently effortless were the performances. Compositions like these, in the hands of innovative young musicians like the Alkyona, surely point the way forward for classical music.

The culmination of the evening was Britten’s String Quartet No. 1 in D, opus 25. An early work, written in 1941 when Britten was 28 and living as a conscientious objector in the USA, it seemed already to presage much of Britten’s later style and soundscape and brought the concert to an enthusiastically applauded conclusion.

Keswick Music Society and the Alkonya Quartet provided us with an outstanding evening of serious music expertly played. Forthcoming concerts will feature the pianists Lara Melda on Saturday 25th November and the incomparable Dame Imogen Cooper on Saturday 13th January 2024. The people of Keswick and its neighbours are privileged that a community music society can continue to offer us music and performers of international quality.

R.F.A. Cooke

Season 2022-23 Final Concert: Tuesday June 6th 2023 Theatre by the Lake
Review by Steve Matthews of Measure for Measure – the Music of Shakespeare’s Time performed by PIVA, The Renaissance Collective.

“Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!” cries King Lear in the storm on the heath, and the wind players of PIVA certainly blew with very swollen cheeks to create the sounds of Shakespeare’s theatre. Keswick Music Society‘s concert at Theatre by the Lake on Tuesday evening attracted a large and enthusiastic audience for the music of Renaissance England.
We entered another musical world, a world of shawms and curtals, crumhorns, cornetts and viols and English bagpipes and recorders in sizes you’d never seen before. There were six players and over forty instruments scattered across the green baize of a long table with recorders and pipes standing in groups like little copses all ready to make their contribution to the rhythmic, noisy and very musical entertainment.

This, as Jane Moulder told us, was Measure for Measure, the rumbustious world of Shakepeare’s time filled with the energy of music making. Three thousand rowdy people jostled together in the confines of the Globe Theatre – a penny standing, two pence seated and three-pence cushioned for the five hour duration of the play.

Keswick Theatre was almost as packed but the audience were far less rowdy. They were absorbed and fascinated by the sound. David Jarrett-Knock began the arresting opening fanfare on his natural trumpet which led into a spirited round of Pavanes and Galliards and Almaynes. This was the music of both the court and the street. It reached its high point with the sprightly Jude Rees and the sweet-voiced Mary Mohan selling their Fine Knacks for Ladies.

After invoking and imbibing Bacco Bacco at the interval as instructed, we were treated to the windy Earl of Oxford’s March and the lively, legal entertainments of Gray’s Inn before William Kemp’s jig as he danced his way from London to Norwich. This was followed by a prancing Moresco, a Gagliarda and a Zoppa among others.

Three of the members of PIVA, Eric Moulder, his wife, Jane, and Tony Millyard, make period instruments and their absorption in this music, their delight, enthusiasm and scholarship, their love for this music was transmitted to the audience.

And did they crack their cheeks? No. The concert ended with these winds blowing even more lustily and robustly than they had done in that first fanfare.


9th May, 2023 Theatre by the Lake
Review by Steve Matthews of Brompton Quartet playing Haydn, Mozart, Shostakovich

“The Haydn’s bonkers,” said Edward Keenan, the viola player in The Brompton Quartet. And he was right. The playful, agitated, quizzical, quirky questioning of the opening phrases of Haydn’s String Quartet in C major set the pattern for the music that followed, uncertain, fragmentary, teasing but taking us on a journey that led to the final sublime adagio. Maya Horvat on the first violin played a resonant simple melody against the resonant arpeggios from the cellist, Wallis Power.

The individuality of each player was evident as they explored the rich chromaticism of the opening Allegro in Mozart’s ‘Spring’ Quartet. The Menuetto echoed Haydn’s playfulness before the first violin revealed the beautiful sadness to be found in the Andante Cantabile. The quartet concluded with the rich complexities of the Molto Allegro played with a truly Mozartian verve and delicacy.
The second half of the concert opened with Caroline Shaw’s Entr’acte, a piece composed some twelve years ago. It had its own uncertainty and restlessness derived from Haydn, each instrument repeating the motif in multiple timbres until it almost disappeared in an almost mute scratching of the strings before the cello explored a more positive, appealing shape as though, at last we had arrived.

If Haydn’s quartet was bonkers than Shostakovich’s Quartet no. 9 was almost demented, a wild, ferocious piece of a man finding himself against the agony of the world. The five continuous movements had an ease of self expression but there was something disturbed, fragmentary about it, bits of tunes, motifs from William Tell, until we were drawn into the wild energy of a polka before the ferocious defiance of the long final Allegro.

The Brompton Quartet were a delight to listen to. All four players – the second violin, was played by Esther Park – played with individuality and vitality and yet there was such a lively creative conversation between the instruments.
And the Shostakovich left the players – and the audience – almost exhausted.


March 14th 2023 Theatre by the Lake
Review by Steve Matthews of Bella Tromba

Four trumpeters – Jo Harris, Emma Bassett, Clara Hyder and Emily Ashby – and on stage ten, perhaps a dozen trumpets – in C, in B flat, bass trumpets and piccolo trumpets and even a flugel horn and mutes of all shapes and sizes. And with all this plumbing we were taken on a world tour.
We began in Venice, where else? with a Monteverdi fanfare from the balcony above St Marks followed by softer, antiphonal sounds as though the trumpets were played by angels during the Vespers.

Carlo Gesualdo and the melancholic interweaving lines of O Vos Omnes took us to Verona and then we hurried on to Chianti to enjoy Days of Bells and Flying Creatures by Peter Longworth. Commissioned by Bella Tromba, this colourful piece brought us seven episodes of the sounds that fill the warm Italian days – the church bells, the birds, the flies, the cicadas, the religious chanting and the intoning, the cooing doves and the rooster, played on the bass trumpet.

Our next stop was in the Oxfordshire village of Deddington. Imogen Holst wrote her Deddington Suite for three recorders, but the mixture of sprightly tunes and pastoral colours were well-suited to three trumpets.

Another fanfare – two very short quirky ones – and we were in the streets of Paris with Erik Satie and then we were with the twentieth century Corsican composer Henri Tomasi exploring the whole variety of sounds to be found in his Suite for Three Trumpets.

Next we were transported to the streets of Seville and the rhythms of the Habenara and the excitement and passion of the toreador in a colourful, but somewhat sporadic suite from Bizet’s Carmen.

Liepzig, or perhaps Vienna, was next in arrangements of three mellow waltzes by Clara Schumann before we found ourselves in Cornwall listening to the Sweet Nightingale in an old folksong.

Our tour ended in Harlem. Margaret Bonds’ Troubled Water was a piano piece based on an old spiritual. With this arrangement for four trumpets we found ourselves on the crowded noisy streets.

Our world tour was complete. We’d been transported from Venice to New York through a multifarious range of cultures and places thanks to the courtesy of four virtuosic trumpeters.

Review of Keswick Music Society Concert, Theatre by the Lake,  Tuesday, 14th February.

Harriet Mackenzie, violin, and James Boyd, guitar.

The violin and guitar are complementary instruments. The violinist bows the melody, flowing, resonant, singing, with a powerful voice. The guitarist plucks the harmony, rhythmic, complex, with an intimate, thoughtful voice

Harriet Mackenzie was statuesque, every inch a classical virtuoso in her elegant dress. James Boyd seemed, in all aspects, a folk guitarist, until his fingers moved across the strings drawing out the contrapuntal lines that supported the violin’s developing theme in the opening Adagio of Bach’s Violin Sonata in G major. The violin grew in sympathy with the quiet voice of the guitar and there was a sense of deep sadness at the heart of the Largo.

In Paganini’s Cantabile, violin and guitar moved in a seductive dance, the violin’s aspiring song drawing an adoring response from the guitar as both revelled in the beauty of the sound they created together.

James Boyd was alone as he evoked the melancholy that is the Saudade that opens La Catedrale by the Paraguayan composer Augustin Pio Barrios. Later, that sadness found religious consolation in one of the most profound of all works for guitar. 

Guitar and violin were drawn to each other and learned from each other as they explored the distinctive aspects of Spanish melancholy and longing in Manual de Falla’s Canciones Populaires.

Bach’s Andante from the Sonata in A minor for solo violin allowed us to hear the instrument’s emotional inward voice, but the Vocalise by Villa Lobos that followed was as though the richness of Bach had been transported to another continent and another century.

And we stayed in South America, in Argentina, as violin and guitar explored the sensual Histoire de Tango by Astor Piazzolla. The three movements took us from the seedy Bordello of 1900 Buenos Aires to the civilized cafe of 1930 and the cultivated night club of 1960. The players’ virtuosity extended the resources of their instruments creating colourful sounds to evoke the changing atmospheres.

This rich instrumental drama ended with the betrothal dance from La Vida Breve by de Falla where the girl, forsaken by her aristocratic lover, commits suicide.

This was the Music Society’s first concert back in the theatre. We were treated to an evening of complex drama as two very distinctive voices spoke passionately and intimately together. 

Steve Matthews.

Review of the Keswick Music Society Concert given by the Primrose Piano Trio on January 28th at St. John’s Church Keswick.

Tonight, the famous Primrose Quartet became the Primrose Trio.

However, first it was minus two. They were reduced to Susanne Stanzeleit on violin and Andrew Fuller on cello, but they were playing a remarkable display piece by the Norwegian composer, Johan Halvorsen. He had rewritten Handel’s dazzling harpsichord Passacaglia for the two instruments, and it called for extraordinary virtuosity to capture the complexities of the varied eighteenth-century dance rhythms on violin and cello.

And then there were three. John Thwaites joined them on piano for an immersive performance of Schubert’s B Flat Trio. Schubert knew he was dying, probably from syphilis, but he put aside his darkness and rage to write this wonderfully joyous, surging, flowing music for his friend’s wedding. Susanne said of all composers Schubert was the one she loved most. That love was apparent as she played the female voice against the sonorous cello in the beautiful exchanges of melody in the Andante.

And then there was one. John Thwaite played Schubert’s Impromptu in G Flat. The apparent ease and spontaneity returned us to the slow flowing melodies and the constantly moving accompaniment that was so full of life and beauty in the trio.

And finally, we had all three musicians again in Tchaikovsky’s elegiac trio. He considered the sounds of strings and piano together were incompatible. However, responding to the death of his friend, Nikolai Rubinstein, he wrote a work of astounding proportions that encompassed his feelings of grief, rage and futility in the face of death. The two movements are each sets of variations. The cello’s opening melody announces the sadness of the deeply emotional first movement. In the faster, dramatic, profound second movement all three instruments reached far beyond themselves in a powerful statement of the human tragedy that can only end in silence. The very limitations of Tchaikovsky’s resources gave this last movement an almost orchestral force.

It had been a wonderful concert, a concert that encompassed the range of human passions from love to grief.

Steve Matthews

 

Keswick Music Society concert   St John’s Keswick. Saturday, 3rd December, 2022. 7.30pm

The Scott Brothers Duo – organ and piano

Two brothers, both in black, sitting with their backs to each other: one, Thomas Scott, at the keyboard of the Steinway grand with the lid defiantly open, and the other, Jonathan, almost hidden from view, commanding the magnificent Harrison organ with its two keyboards, its array of pedals, its fifteen stops and its towering assemblage of pipes. It was as though battle was about to commence.

In the Overture to the Barber of Seville by Rossini, the piano provided the life and bustle and the organ the colour of the orchestral instruments.

Debussy’s Claire de Lune is a luminous descriptive piece for piano, a pellucid watercolour. In Tom Scott’s arrangement, which married the piano with a responding organ, the piece became a rich oil painting, with a deeper, denser colouring.

Pietro Yon was the organist at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. The final movement of his Concerto Gregoriano is a magnificent virtuoso showpiece for organ and orchestra. The organ played its part brilliantly with several showy pedal glissandos and the piano concluded the piece with a triumphant glissando of its own.

Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite is programme music at its most evocative. The combination of tonal colours in the Death of Ase was sad and moving and the organ provided an ominous tread to the march of the Trolls in the Hall of the Mountain King.

The Overture to The Magic Flute by Mozart opened the second half and was followed by Schubert’s Ave Maria where organ and piano played and accompanied the melody in succession with an attractive contrasting effect.

In Tom Scott’s own Unknown Destination organ and piano challenged each other rhythmically until they reached their tumultuous conclusion.

The climax of the evening, however, was a superb performance of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, arranged, as were all the other pieces except the Yon, by Tom Scott. The organ played the orchestral part and the piano played itself and both brothers revelled in the life and vivacity of the music from the famous opening clarinet glissando to the pounding conclusion when organ and piano spoke as one. And that Harrison organ, only ten years older that the Rhapsody, threw off its clerical robes and seemed to swing down the aisle.

Siblings in rivalry? No, quite the opposite. A case of brotherly harmony in which both Tom and Jonathan delighted in displaying the contrasting qualities of their instruments with a zest and enthusiasm that the audience found infectious.

Steve Matthews

 

Keswick Music Society: The Odysseus Trio at St John’s Church. 12th November, 2022. 7.30 pm.

Three centuries, three countries, three composers and three performers playing three piano trios. Haydn’s last piano trio was written in Vienna when he was 64 in 1796. Faure was 78 and living in Paris when he composed his only piano trio in 1923 and in 1847, Schumann was 43 and, newly returned to Dresden, was suffering from severe bouts of nervous depression. The piano trio is a companiable form, friends playing, sharing the music, the instruments talking together. As the music flowed, the Odysseus Trio (Sara Trickey, violin, Seb van Kuijk, cello, Robin Green, piano) took us on a journey through three varied trios.The Allegro that opened the Haydn was a mountain stream, playful, bustling, splashing over the rocks, full of surprising and teasing phrases. And then it slowed into the andante, a courtly dance, a pleasing elegance that seemed to stop before, in the Scherzo, it quirkily hustled through the rapids. All, of course, played with a great sense of fun and liveliness. There was even a Haydnesque Farewell break, when Robin Green leapt from the piano and left the room for a medical emergency.The Fauré flowed like a wide and beautiful river, its broad melodies and dark waters reflecting the clouds and the sunlight. In the second movement, Andantino, the deep unison of cello and violin was possessed of a melancholy that was both sad and beautiful. This moved into an Allegro Vivo, with the steady moving current of the piano rushing past the lingering dark pools of the strings.It was the music of a wise old man.Schumann was a young man, lately married. He put his passionate and troubled soul into his music. This is music in spate with an energy that constantly threatens to break the bounds of contrapuntal discipline. Only in the slow third movement does it spread to become a pool that is dark and deep, before it rushes onwards in the final movement, played with fire, emerging in the sunlight.

The Odysseus Trio took us on a tour of musical form and history through a range of passion and humour in a powerfully expressive and moving concert.

Steve Matthews

Review of Keswick Music Society Concert, Theatre by the Lake,  Tuesday, 14th February.

Harriet Mackenzie, violin, and James Boyd, guitar.

The violin and guitar are complementary instruments. The violinist bows the melody, flowing, resonant, singing, with a powerful voice. The guitarist plucks the harmony, rhythmic, complex, with an intimate, thoughtful voice

Harriet Mackenzie was statuesque, every inch a classical virtuoso in her elegant dress. James Boyd seemed, in all aspects, a folk guitarist, until his fingers moved across the strings drawing out the contrapuntal lines that supported the violin’s developing theme in the opening Adagio of Bach’s Violin Sonata in G major. The violin grew in sympathy with the quiet voice of the guitar and there was a sense of deep sadness at the heart of the Largo.

In Paganini’s Cantabile, violin and guitar moved in a seductive dance, the violin’s aspiring song drawing an adoring response from the guitar as both revelled in the beauty of the sound they created together.

James Boyd was alone as he evoked the melancholy that is the Saudade that opens La Catedrale by the Paraguayan composer Augustin Pio Barrios. Later, that sadness found religious consolation in one of the most profound of all works for guitar. 

Guitar and violin were drawn to each other and learned from each other as they explored the distinctive aspects of Spanish melancholy and longing in Manual de Falla’s Canciones Populaires.

Bach’s Andante from the Sonata in A minor for solo violin allowed us to hear the instrument’s emotional inward voice, but the Vocalise by Villa Lobos that followed was as though the richness of Bach had been transported to another continent and another century.

And we stayed in South America, in Argentina, as violin and guitar explored the sensual Histoire de Tango by Astor Piazzolla. The three movements took us from the seedy Bordello of 1900 Buenos Aires to the civilized cafe of 1930 and the cultivated night club of 1960. The players’ virtuosity extended the resources of their instruments creating colourful sounds to evoke the changing atmospheres.

This rich instrumental drama ended with the betrothal dance from La Vida Breve by de Falla where the girl, forsaken by her aristocratic lover, commits suicide.

This was the Music Society’s first concert back in the theatre. We were treated to an evening of complex drama as two very distinctive voices spoke passionately and intimately together. 

Steve Matthews.

Review of the Keswick Music Society Concert given by the Primrose Piano Trio on January 28th at St. John’s Church Keswick.

Tonight, the famous Primrose Quartet became the Primrose Trio.

However, first it was minus two. They were reduced to Susanne Stanzeleit on violin and Andrew Fuller on cello, but they were playing a remarkable display piece by the Norwegian composer, Johan Halvorsen. He had rewritten Handel’s dazzling harpsichord Passacaglia for the two instruments, and it called for extraordinary virtuosity to capture the complexities of the varied eighteenth-century dance rhythms on violin and cello.

And then there were three. John Thwaites joined them on piano for an immersive performance of Schubert’s B Flat Trio. Schubert knew he was dying, probably from syphilis, but he put aside his darkness and rage to write this wonderfully joyous, surging, flowing music for his friend’s wedding. Susanne said of all composers Schubert was the one she loved most. That love was apparent as she played the female voice against the sonorous cello in the beautiful exchanges of melody in the Andante.

And then there was one. John Thwaite played Schubert’s Impromptu in G Flat. The apparent ease and spontaneity returned us to the slow flowing melodies and the constantly moving accompaniment that was so full of life and beauty in the trio.

And finally, we had all three musicians again in Tchaikovsky’s elegiac trio. He considered the sounds of strings and piano together were incompatible. However, responding to the death of his friend, Nikolai Rubinstein, he wrote a work of astounding proportions that encompassed his feelings of grief, rage and futility in the face of death. The two movements are each sets of variations. The cello’s opening melody announces the sadness of the deeply emotional first movement. In the faster, dramatic, profound second movement all three instruments reached far beyond themselves in a powerful statement of the human tragedy that can only end in silence. The very limitations of Tchaikovsky’s resources gave this last movement an almost orchestral force.

It had been a wonderful concert, a concert that encompassed the range of human passions from love to grief.

Steve Matthews

 

Keswick Music Society concert   St John’s Keswick. Saturday, 3rd December, 2022. 7.30pm

The Scott Brothers Duo – organ and piano

Two brothers, both in black, sitting with their backs to each other: one, Thomas Scott, at the keyboard of the Steinway grand with the lid defiantly open, and the other, Jonathan, almost hidden from view, commanding the magnificent Harrison organ with its two keyboards, its array of pedals, its fifteen stops and its towering assemblage of pipes. It was as though battle was about to commence.

In the Overture to the Barber of Seville by Rossini, the piano provided the life and bustle and the organ the colour of the orchestral instruments.

Debussy’s Claire de Lune is a luminous descriptive piece for piano, a pellucid watercolour. In Tom Scott’s arrangement, which married the piano with a responding organ, the piece became a rich oil painting, with a deeper, denser colouring.

Pietro Yon was the organist at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. The final movement of his Concerto Gregoriano is a magnificent virtuoso showpiece for organ and orchestra. The organ played its part brilliantly with several showy pedal glissandos and the piano concluded the piece with a triumphant glissando of its own.

Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite is programme music at its most evocative. The combination of tonal colours in the Death of Ase was sad and moving and the organ provided an ominous tread to the march of the Trolls in the Hall of the Mountain King.

The Overture to The Magic Flute by Mozart opened the second half and was followed by Schubert’s Ave Maria where organ and piano played and accompanied the melody in succession with an attractive contrasting effect.

In Tom Scott’s own Unknown Destination organ and piano challenged each other rhythmically until they reached their tumultuous conclusion.

The climax of the evening, however, was a superb performance of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, arranged, as were all the other pieces except the Yon, by Tom Scott. The organ played the orchestral part and the piano played itself and both brothers revelled in the life and vivacity of the music from the famous opening clarinet glissando to the pounding conclusion when organ and piano spoke as one. And that Harrison organ, only ten years older that the Rhapsody, threw off its clerical robes and seemed to swing down the aisle.

Siblings in rivalry? No, quite the opposite. A case of brotherly harmony in which both Tom and Jonathan delighted in displaying the contrasting qualities of their instruments with a zest and enthusiasm that the audience found infectious.

Steve Matthews

 

Keswick Music Society: The Odysseus Trio at St John’s Church. 12th November, 2022. 7.30 pm.

Three centuries, three countries, three composers and three performers playing three piano trios. Haydn’s last piano trio was written in Vienna when he was 64 in 1796. Faure was 78 and living in Paris when he composed his only piano trio in 1923 and in 1847, Schumann was 43 and, newly returned to Dresden, was suffering from severe bouts of nervous depression. The piano trio is a companiable form, friends playing, sharing the music, the instruments talking together. As the music flowed, the Odysseus Trio (Sara Trickey, violin, Seb van Kuijk, cello, Robin Green, piano) took us on a journey through three varied trios.The Allegro that opened the Haydn was a mountain stream, playful, bustling, splashing over the rocks, full of surprising and teasing phrases. And then it slowed into the andante, a courtly dance, a pleasing elegance that seemed to stop before, in the Scherzo, it quirkily hustled through the rapids. All, of course, played with a great sense of fun and liveliness. There was even a Haydnesque Farewell break, when Robin Green leapt from the piano and left the room for a medical emergency.The Fauré flowed like a wide and beautiful river, its broad melodies and dark waters reflecting the clouds and the sunlight. In the second movement, Andantino, the deep unison of cello and violin was possessed of a melancholy that was both sad and beautiful. This moved into an Allegro Vivo, with the steady moving current of the piano rushing past the lingering dark pools of the strings.It was the music of a wise old man.Schumann was a young man, lately married. He put his passionate and troubled soul into his music. This is music in spate with an energy that constantly threatens to break the bounds of contrapuntal discipline. Only in the slow third movement does it spread to become a pool that is dark and deep, before it rushes onwards in the final movement, played with fire, emerging in the sunlight.

The Odysseus Trio took us on a tour of musical form and history through a range of passion and humour in a powerfully expressive and moving concert.

Steve Matthews

Concerts in Keswick: SEASON 2022-23

Concerts in Keswick: SEASON 2022-23

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