Review: The Ševčík Players in Ely Cathedral

 It is common to find Japanese instrumentalists involving themselves in Western traditions and history of music. Violinists imitate the great performers and composers and make impressive in-roads into this field. However, a most unusual affiliation was demonstrated in the south transept of Ely Cathedral recently by a fine select group of Japanese performers from Hiroshima, Japan. Under the directorship of Minoria Nakaune, this ensemble studies the methods, techniques and works of Otakar Ševčík (1852-1934). Ševčík was an eminent Czech violinist and teacher. He wrote a number of teaching books including an elementary violin tutor called The Little Ševčík that teaches the semitone system. His books cover different techniques of violin addressing them one at a time. Students practise a particular technique until it is mastered and progress to the next. Different positions of the fingers on the violin, and double-stopping (holding down and playing 2 strings as a time) are some of the techniques included. These and many other techniques were in evident in the pieces performed in the concert. The programme presented a variety of pieces including a number of exhilarating solos accompanied by accomplished pianist Seiko Kitabayashi, accompanied and unaccompanied ensembles and an amazing performance by all of the violinists playing ‘Moto Perpetuo’ Op. 11 by Paganini. This piece is challenging enough for a soloist but these 6 players managed to perform it simultaneously without a blemish. Their fingers flew over their instruments, not a beat missing and including refined expression that pinpointed prominent notes exquisitely. These performers played with meticulous technique. However, the dramatic mood changes, eerie harmonics, melodious emotional themes and sonorous and strongly sustained episodes were all expressed with human emotional involvement. There were no technical automatons here. Some of the highlights amongst the pieces included the haunting sounds of Sakura Sakura, the excitement of Yagi Melody that featured a rhythmically prominent drum, and the final surprise – an arrangement of the popular English song ‘Greensleeves’. The concert was introduced by Professor Malcolm Benson and the ensemble included instrumentalists from the Hiroshima University, Hiroshima Bunka Gakuen University, Shimane Universtiy, the Yamaha Music School in Hiroshima, Mushashino Academia Musicae and the London Royal Academy of Music. After their performance in Ely Cathedral this group will perform in the Kaetsu Educational and Cultural Centre, Cambridge, and then in Prague and Písek in the Czech Republic. Contacts: Malcolm Benson: benson488@btinternel.com Ely Cathedral: http://www.elycathedral.org Rosemary Westwell

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