Archive for March, 2016

Review of Ely Choral Society’s Concert in Ely Cathedral on Saturday

March 21, 2016

review Ely Choral Soc March 2016 soloists n Andrew Parnell Y

Ely Choral Society, Hertfordshire Chamber Orchestra and soloists under the baton of Andrew Parnell   presented music of a very high standard in Ely Cathedral on Saturday. These admirable soloists included soprano Elisabeth Rauch, mezzo soprano Chloe Latchmore, tenor Daniel Joy, and bass William Gaunt. Our own Assistant Organists, Edmund Aldhouse, provided assured accompaniment on the organ in this fine orchestra.

The pieces performed were Schubert’s ‘Mass no 3 in B flat Op. post. 14’ and ‘Stabat Mater’ by Rossini. These two works provided excellent balance to the programme, the composers’ styles being so different but effective in their own way. The Schubert contained many moments of reverence, joy, sadness and warmth. His lyrical beauty was very much in evidence. Choir, orchestra and soloists were splendid, bringing out the most expressive parts really effectively and under the conductor’s clear signals were able to work together extremely well to produce the type of sound that left us wanting more after the last notes of the ‘Dona nobis pacem’ faded away into the magnificent building of Ely Cathedral.

Rossini, known for his operatic approach to all things, contrasted the very pleasant tuneful style of Schubert, with something more varied, and more contrasted.  Although we may be used to more sedate constraints in church music, the sweeping gestures of the arias and the sudden dramatic changes of volume in this work were well placed – for how else to express emotional trauma at its highest? What the composer achieved here was to use his musical know- how to incorporate traditional elements, such as the beautifully sung unaccompanied sections, with his expertise in expressing reflective emotion in the arias.

There is no doubt that the phenomenal ability of the musicians and the superb conducting by Andrew Parnell made this concert was of their best. More of this please!

Their next event will be ‘Carmina Burana’ on Saturday 9th July 7.30pm at the Hayward Theatre contact: http://www.elychoralsociety.org

Review of Ely Sinfonia’s concert on Saturday 12th March 2016 in Ely Cathedral

March 21, 2016

Steve Bingham March 2016

Under the expert baton of Steve Bingham, Ely Sinfonia presented a concert of French music in Ely Cathedral on Saturday. The varied programme included ‘Danse Macabre’ by Saint-Saëns, ‘Chants d’Auvergne’ by Canteloube featuring soloists Tara Bungard and ‘Symphonie Fantastique’ by Berlioz.

The first work, ‘Danse Macabre’, contained all the ingredients of a vibrant emotional story of death as a symbolic figure. There was much swapping of instruments by these excellent performers during the evening and this was the first demonstration of this. The lead violinist coped magnificently with the demands of the composer to retune the top string of one of her instruments to bring out the sinister death-like interval of the triton (augmented fourth) that is so familiar and the dance of death that followed pulsated with rhythmic drive and vibrant, colourful orchestration.  The phenomenal technique of the conductor and instrumentalists was evident from the start and shaped this performance into something special.

Tara Bungard (soprano) has an excellent voice. Breath control, placement and projection of the sounds into the massive cathedral were perfect such that I could not help comment immediately afterwards – ‘Now THAT is how you sing!’ She coloured the songs from the Auvergne beautifully and when she reached the final one it became obvious why this work had been included in the porgramme. When the last song, Bailèro, began there was an intake of breath from the audience – this very popular song used by so many in different scenarios, floated through this huge building exquisitely – a real spine-chilling affair.  We are very fortunate to have this singer in our midst.

The evening culminated with another well-known work: ‘Symphonie Fantastique’ and all the eccentricities, heart-wrenching climaxes and extremely varied scenes from the glittering splendour of waltzing dancers to the sinister toll of the death knell were conveyed confidently and effectively by this now experienced orchestra. The fixed idea – a unique melody that regularly appeared in different guises – expressed perfectly the haunted composer’s unrequited love for the Irish actress Harriet Smithson.   This composition was not easy to play, for a number of times instrumentalists were taken well away from their normal comfort zones to create amazing effects and these performers rose to these challenges magnificently.

For more information about this phenomenal orchestra see: http://www.elysinfonia.co.uk

 

Review of Viva’s ‘Evita’ at The Brook in Soham on Thursday 10th March 2016

March 21, 2016

For all its popularity, ‘Evita’, lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, is no easy musical to produce but knowing Viva was presenting it, success was assured and indeed it was a very powerful and effective show. However, this success was  not only due to the expertise of the young people performing, Viva had the ghastly calamity that all amateur shows must fear – the lead singer, Evita (Becky Bush), developed laryngitis a few nights before the opening night.  Did they panic or even cancel the show? Not a bit of it and with all the panache of a professional theatrical company,’ the show must go on’, the clichéd cry of all thespians, was fulfilled. The hero of the day – the director / producer and the founder of Viva – Dan Schumann – came to the rescue and at only a few day’s notice rang round his contacts in London and discovered Katie Shearman, who stepped in at the breech. She stood in with the band and sang the part perfectly, while Becky showed real talent as an actress and played her role faultlessly, miming the words while Katie sang. You would hardly have known that there had been a problem.

The band accompaniment, acting, singing, dancing, choreography, sound, lights, set, costumes, videos – you name it, were spot on. Ben Clarke, with a phenomenal singing voice, was a believable cynic ‘Che’ commenting on the rise of Eva Perón. Lee Sherwood was the epitome of the strong dictator Perón, Zara Minns gave a moving performance of a heart-broken mistress while Daniel Lane was the swathe seductive but callous singer Magaldi, Eva’s first ‘love’.

The depth of feeling, the brilliant colour and grace of chic upper class Buenos Aires, the upright tenor of the generals, the potency of the ensembles and the wow factor of the little children all helped shape a memorable show. An undercurrent of intrigue and struggle for political power and the determination of Eva to reach the dizzy heights of world fame were ever-present. They all integrated seamlessly into the whirlwind action on stage that swept us off our feet and into the realms of political Argentina.

This was indeed a highly powerful and mesmerising show worthy of any professional group. It was hard to believe that this was an ‘amateur’ show.

For more information about this amazing group see: http://www.viva-group.org.uk

Review of ‘Electra’ and ‘The Electra Project’ by the King’s School Ely on Wednesday 9th March 2016 in the Hayward Theatre

March 21, 2016

The King’s School Ely has a reputation for producing plays that are well worth seeing and ‘Electra’ and ‘The Electra Project’ were no exception. Presenting two different plays with this connecting theme was an ingenious idea and it worked perfectly. The contrast between the two items was very effective and each presentation was of a considerably high standard.

‘Electra’ by Sophocles, an ancient Greek born 496 BC, contained all the emotional twists of motivation and family tension relevant today, although in this play it is extended, in the ancient Greek tradition, to include rather gory matricide.  This version by Frank McGuinness included many statements of wisdom such as ‘the dead do not mourn’ and the young students that spoke the lines clearly and emotively, transfixed the audience with the heightened  drama that made us think of the nature of forgiveness, revenge, and justice. The cast was particularly strong including the credible commenting chorus. Especially strong and dominant were the main characters: Electra (played by Paige Collier), Orestes (Freddy Flack), Clytemnestra (Roseanna Mackenzie), Aegisthus (Chris Robe) and servant (Jacob Gamble). The music was as effective as it was eclectic – that is, excellent and entirely in keeping.

After interval we left the tension of Electra to be highly entertained by the efforts of a supposed group of A level students trying to stage an updated version of this play with dire consequences that kept the audience laughing – even the Headmistress of the school was seen to be laughing at the Headmaster on stage suffering from humiliation by these unruly students. The script by Dave Jackson, written after two drama teachers were sacked for allowing their students to present play based on a father’s abuse of his daughter, was highly engaging and it explored current problems of adolescents coping with the tensions created by their varied personalities and talents as they came to terms with their lives and with the looming examination. This clever script also explored the flaws of our education system, the difficulties schools have with eccentric staff and the stringent constraints of the school and the curriculum and with the disastrous effects of interfering, pushy mothers. This cast was also strong and believable. Supported by a credible ‘chorus’, the characters included ‘director’ Alfie (Alex Layfield), Ellie (Eloise George), Malachi (JP Gilbey), Martin (Maark Spofforth), Elaine (Rosie Johnson), Ms Pew (Theo Taylor), Mark (Laurence Carolan) and Kane (Ethan Morley).

Laura Dixon, Nick Huntingdon, Peter North and the large crew are to be congratulated for such an impressive and entertaining evening.

Review of The European Chamber Orchestra playing at the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Chatteris last Friday, 18th March 2016

March 21, 2016

review European Chamber Orch 2016Chatteris Music Society presented an excellent concert by the European Chamber Orchestra at the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Chatteris last Friday. This orchestra was led by a phenomenal violinist and person: Pawel  Zuzanski who not only stepped in the play the solo violin part when the planned soloists, Michel Gershwin (descendant of the famous George Gershwin) became ill, but also spoke several languages to  communicate with this eclectic group of instrumentalists from all over the world.  Members came from far away as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Germany,  Russia and Moldavia. Under Pawel’s guidance, this orchestra thrived. Reverting to the traditional way of leading, Pawel was one of the instrumentalists performing while he was also ‘conducting’. This produced the expected cohesive, intuitive effect.

The renowned trumpet soloist, Kirill Gusarov, also featured in this splendid concert.

The works performed included pieces by Glière, Hummel, , Albinoni, and Nielson.

A fine string octet by Glière opened the concert and these players played with assurance, their secure technique and clear understanding of the construction of the piece giving the music momentum. The melodic imitations within the piece were clearly marked; the cello was particularly sonorous.

The trumpet soloist for Hummel’s ‘Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra in E flat major’ made his instrument sing like no other trumpet I have heard. His notes were secure, resonant and beautiful without any of the brassiness we associate with the instrument.  Even in the rapid tongued passages this performer demonstrated real precision and beauty of sound.

After interval came Schubert’s ‘Rondo for Violin and Orchestra in A major D438’ featuring the leader as solo violin player and together with the orchestra he brought out the joyfulness of Schubert’s melodies and created real depth in the differences of light and shade in the work.

With continental flair, the orchestra then played the well-known ‘Adagio in G minor for Strings’ by Albinoni and the final work of the programme was by the Danish composer Nielsen, featuring his ‘Little Suite for Strings op.1’ which was a delight, all its varied elements combined into one effective little group.  The middle waltz was particularly impressive.

The concert ended with two well-deserved encores: ‘Romanza’ by Mendez and a joyfully uninhibited, jazzy piece: ‘Musical Souvenir’ by Poltoratsky.

The next event will be the Pasadena Roof Orchestra on the 14th May.  contact: http://www.chatteris music society.org.uk.

 

Review of the Philharmonia Orchestra’s concert on 2nd March 2016 at Cambridge Corn Exchange.

March 3, 2016

review Cambridge concert Esther Yoo playing000 - credit Marco Borggreve website_0The Philharmonia Orchestra is undoubtedly one of the world’s finest orchestras and the depth of corporate knowledge and understanding this orchestra has developed over its 50 years of experience was amazing. The rich sounds, intuitive precision and expressive musicality these fine musicians engendered made the music come alive. They were inspired by a wonderful conductor, Vladimir Ashkenazy, who had lost nothing of the energetic vivacity and artistic flair I witnessed when he performed as a concert pianist in Peterborough Cathedral over thirty years ago.

The concert also featured the renowned violin soloists, Esther Yoo, and her phenomenal technique and empathy for the inner soul of the music were breath-taking.

In addition, a young composer and a number of young players were introduced, as part of the orchestra’s education programme. Jay Richardon’s composition ‘Laulan’ (I sing) added spice to an already fascinating series of compositions.

The concert opened with Rachmaninov’s ‘The Rock’, and it was soon clear that the musicians were encouraged to luxuriate over the delicious sounds of this work under the influence of the conductor fellow Russian, Vladimir Askenazy. The emotional pull of grand sweeping episodes contrasted seamlessly and effectively with thinner lines that gave the composition its appeal.

Then Esther Yoo played the Violin Concerto in D minor op. 47 by Sibelius and the effect was electrifying. Esther’s stamina, intuition and amazing virtuosic technique made every phrase of this familiar concerto meaningful. The cohesive flow of rapid notes over all ranges of the violin, the depth of tone in the second movement and the pulsating impact of the marked rhythms of the final movement infused the work with rare vivacity.

Jay’s composition kept us in the realms of Finland and its magical qualities and the siren-like singing of the eerie sounds these performers produced under the guidance of this up and coming composer, brought wonderful images of stretches of Finnish lakes to mind. Also, the way in which slides were naturally incorporated in its haunting, sparse texture was most effective.

The final work of the programme was Rachmaninov’s Third Symphony no. 3 in A minor and this full and wholesome work incorporated only a little of Rachmaninov’s melancholic intervals that I had always associated with him. This work was packed with the goodie-goodie feel of Hollywood Americanism that conductor and orchestra revelled in wonderfully. Their expertise was able to juxtapose perfectly many delightful quirky Americanisms with sweeping heart-warming harmonies, occasional moments of complex tightly overlapping melodies and tremendous climaxes.

This was indeed a wonderful concert of the best there is in music.

The next event in Cambridge Classical Concert Series will be on Tuesday 26th April 2016 with Dame Evelyn Glennie in conversation with Libby Purves. Tickets from http://www.cornex.co.uk tel: (01223) 357851