Posts Tagged ‘Bach’

Review of a concert in the Cambridge Bachfest 2016 in St Columba’s United Reformed Church on Saturday 26th March 2016

April 2, 2016

Ian de Massini Aug 15 emailIan de Massini and the Cambridge Voices are well known to Ely Cathedral for when they come their concert is quickly a sell-out and it is easy to see why. There is no doubt that Ian is a musical genius and it was he who inspired the Cambridge Bachfest last weekend.

The concert on Saturday featured Ian and the Cambridge Voices and with their customary exquisite style they performed a work they had premièred in Ely Cathedral last year: Ian’s arrangement for voices of the slow movement from Bach’s ‘Double Violin Concerto’. The words chosen to be sung to this usually instrumental work were from John Milton’s paraphrase of Psalm 55: ‘Oh Lord, had I the wings of a dove’. They were indeed most fitting for the familiar musical lines and the amazing skill of composer, arranger and singers left the audience in awe.

This work was an excellent example to represent the whole concert. Each member of the vocal ensemble was proficient as a soloist and together they formed a formidable group. Their tone, projection, expressive intuition and empathy for the needs of the works they sang made this a rare event. The works often astutely and sensitively arranged by Ian included motets and chorales by Bach and songs by Schemelli. Interspersed between the vocal numbers were short delights played on a prized century old piano by Ian including a two-part invention, preludes and number seven of  ‘The Goldberg Variations’. Ian’s informed enthusiasm brought the whole concert alive for not only did he perform with real musical spirit and awareness and gave us a fascinating commentary, he set himself astounding challenges, filling in a part that was missing after the singer had had to retire through ill health and playing his interpretation of the great Chaconne in D minor using his right hand only.  Amazing!

This was indeed a highly uplifting and inspired concert and if you ever notice that Ian is presenting an event in the future you are advised to book your tickets early for we are very fortunate to have such a talented genius and his exquisite choir in our midst.


Review of Cambridge Voices  in Ely Cathedral on 31st August, 2015

September 1, 2015

Ian de Massini Aug 15 emailAdeC’s annual presentation of ‘Cambridge Voices’ in Ely Cathedral is always a major event of amazing quality and musicality. Last Monday night’s performance in the Lady Chapel was certainly no exception.  These highly accomplished singers gave a breath-taking, inspired performance under the direction of our Cambridge musical genius, Ian de Massini.  Ian has an incredible intuitive understanding of the essence of ‘real’ music, so much so, that he has the know-how and assurance to reach inside the thinking of great composers like Johann Sebastian Bach and Mahler and arrange their instrumental works for this fantastic choir to sing unaccompanied.

In quiet, unassuming confidence, the choir not only sang superbly,  holding a phenomenal number of  different parts together from different areas in the Lady Chapel, but they reshaped their groups constantly and effectively, presenting  works of considerable diversity. The listeners were spellbound and there was hardly a movement or sound from them as the programme flowed meaningfully from one work to another.

Highlights for me were Ian’s own composition ‘I sing of a maiden’ and his arrangements of: Robert Wylkynson’s ‘Jesus autem transiens/Credo in Deum’ , Gibbon’s ‘Drop, drop slow tears’ and Ian’s arrangement of the finale from Mahler’s Third symphony.

’ I sing of a maiden’ was a beautiful, soft and contemplative piece, with exquisitely sustained melodies and harmonies that simply melted the heart. In the Mahler’s composition, with the orchestral version still in mind, I couldn’t help marvelling at how Ian was able to capture exactly the same emotional potency in Mahler’s soul-wrenching climaxes.  With this work and his arrangements of instrumental works by Bach, Ian not only caught the nature and style of the compositions but he also took advantage of how voices can express more personal, subtle nuances that many of their instrumental counterparts cannot.

The other works enjoyed were a prayer of King Henry V1 sung in the Cathedral at first and then repeated in the Lady Chapel as an encore, a number of plainsong settings that helped bridge items in this thoughtfully- produced programme and a work of considerable dramatic impact:  Herbert Howell’s ‘Gloria Patri’ .  There were also John Harvey’s ‘The Angels’, Knut Nysted’s ‘Immortal Bach’ and Rutti’s ‘Psalm 150’. Carl Rutti was present in the audience and gave a delightful performance of  Bach’s ‘Sinfonia no. 11 in G minor’ on the chamber organ before Ian’s vocal arrangement of the same piece – an intriguing effect.  Other gems included Ian’s vocal arrangement of Bach’s ‘Perpetual Canon for 4 Instruments’ and Bach’s compilation of orchestral accompaniment to  Kuhnau’s ‘Triste est anima mea’.  Ian also expertly arranged ‘Crucifixus’ from Bach’s ‘Mass in B minor’, and the joyful third movement from Bach’s first Brandenburg Concerto (sung to one word: ‘Hallelujah’!).

This was indeed a highly captivating and enjoyable evening. It was a privilege to witness such musical genius!

Review of the piano recital by Cristina Cámara Rovira at the Palacio de la Música, Torrevieja on the 23rd May 2013

May 24, 2013

The piano recital by Cristina Cámara Rovira at the Palacio de la Música, Torrevieja on the 23rd May 2013 was enthusiastically received by a large audience. Cristina played a challenging programme that included works by Back, Schumann and De Falla.

Bach Prelude and Fugue X11, BWV 881 and his Italian Concerto BWV 971 were played confidently and securely with judicious use of the sustaining pedal. Key melodic material was well marked and phrased. The highlight was the Andante of the Italian Concerto. In the opening of this movement, especially, Cristina created that unique tension that accompanies the best of performances of Bach.

Schumann’s Carnival op.9 was a mammoth undertaking and Cristina demonstrated a phenomenal technique. The different character and expressiveness of the separate movements were clearly apparent and on a number of occasions her rhythmic awareness and agility were particularly impressive.

The final work, Fantasia Baetica by de Falla was a very good choice to end this worthy event. Her keen sense of touch, her ability to punctuate de Falla’s challenging multi-faceted episodes as well as her astute understanding of the underlying musicality of this piece held the audience transfixed.

This was indeed a most enjoyable concert.

Review: Robbie Stern (violin) and Philippa Naylor (piano) at the Hayward Theatre in Ely On Friday 11th November 2011 for The King’s School Ely’s nineteenth season

November 16, 2011

Review: Robbie Stern (violin) and Philippa Naylor (piano) at the Hayward Theatre in Ely On Friday 11th November 2011 for The King’s School Ely’s nineteenth season

Robbie Stern (violin) and Philippa Naylor (piano) captured the hearts and minds of the audience in the Hayward Theatre, Ely on Friday night. The regular supporters of the King’s School Ely Concert Society series have come expect an event of the highest quality and they were not disappointed.

Robbie and Philippa, two students in their final year at Cambridge University, knew their stuff. Robbie demonstrated an assured command of his instrument. No matter which techniques the pieces demanded, he executed them effectively every time. Philippa also displayed a tremendous technique and shaped her contributions expertly to match Robbie’s well.

The programme consisted of pieces that were Robbie’s favourites and the decision to include such demanding compositions for performers and listeners certainly paid off. The instrumentalists’ empathy with the composers’ intentions made their playing credible and captivating.

Such was the homely atmosphere that these concerts have come to engender, the audience was more than happy to wait a little before the concert began so that Robbie’s parents had a chance to get to the concert hall from Ely station.

Robbie chose to open the concert with a charming movement from J S Bach’s PartitA No.1 in B minor for solo violin: Allemande – double. It became immediately apparent that Robbie has a most endearing capacity for bringing out the musicality of a piece while at the same time maintaining a sense of tension and restraint that creates that special bond between composer, performer and audience.

Philippa then joined Robbie on stage and they performed Sonata for Violin and Piano in G Major by Maurice Ravel. Robbie introduced the item and mentioned how Ravel had said he believed the violin and the piano had little in common and could never enjoy complete equilibrium. This piece certainly displayed this attitude by the composer. However, just as I have difficulty in accepting Ravel’s apparent boast that he could describe anything in music – even a chair, it is difficult to accept that these two instruments were entirely incompatible. Whatever the intension of the composer, these skilled performers did have rapport, their music although seemingly ‘at odds’ at one level, was nevertheless cohesive with effective communication and understanding between the instruments. The opening Allegro contained moments of mutual understanding, effective dialogue and intriguing juxtapositions that nevertheless ‘matched’.

The second movement reflected the kind of blues music Ravel probably heard in the streets of Paris. …

The concert ended with another challenge for the performers: Serge Prokofiev’s Sonata for Violin and Piano no. 2 in D, Op. 94. This work offered Prokofiev’s attractive melodies and classical structures and these made the unusual intervals of his day all the more acceptable to the unaccustomed ear. The first movement, Moderato, had a most tuneful opening, and Robbie’s exquisite restraint was again particularly noticeable.  The second movement, the traditional Scherzo, was indeed playful and jolly at times, the third movement, Andante, created an overall sense of suspended quiet and calmness with occasional more thrilling developments. The fourth movement, Allegro con brio, opened with a flourish and the piece certainly added fiery liveliness to the proceedings.  In this movement the amazing technique of the performers was particularly apparent. The potency and strength of Rebecca was never in any doubt even though she performed as ‘accompanist’ throughout the evening. As expected, Robbie rose to the occasion and filled the hall with sounds of dramatic intensity, providing an admirable ending to this most enjoyable concert.

Forthcoming events:

Wednesday 16th to Friday 17th November King’s Company Play ‘Improbable Fiction’ by Alan Ayckbourn 7.30 in the Hayward Theatre admission free

Sunday 20th November ‘Christ the King’ Choral Concert King’s Chapel Choir, Prime Brass and Jonathan Lilley (organist) 8 p.m. Ely Cathedral

Thursday 24th November Lunchtime Live Concert 1.10 Ely Cathedral

Friday 2nd December, King’s Charity Concert 7.30 p.m. Hayward Theatre

Friday 20th January King’s Ely Concert Society, Richard Uttley (piano) 7.30 Recital Hall

Thursday 26th January lunchtime Live Concert 1.10 St. Mary’s Church Admission free

Contact: Lisa Bushell at King’s Ely Music School (01353 653931) email: (for the entire review)

Rosemary Westwell

review: Peace Child

February 3, 2010

Ely Cathedral was the ideal venue for Peace Child International to present “Peace Child – Alpha Omega”: a musical journey through faith by David Gordon.  

The combined forces of Ely Choral Society, choirs from Southfields Junior School, Witchford Village College, representatives from Turkey and Estonia and the Ely Festival Orchestra produced a very moving and powerful  sound.  This large gathering of musicians was inspired by the Musical Directorship of the renowned Andrew Parnell.

An excellent script by David Woollcombe and members of the cast brought into focus those unanswerable questions about religion, faith and the purpose of our existence that man has raised since time began.  Director Abdul Shayek and Producer Rosey Simonds should be well pleased with the fine acting of the cast: Gemma Craven (Storyteller), Cecilia Garcia (Maryam), Elizabeth Marnie (Charlotte), Regé Page (Christopher) and Joseph Vacher (Aaron). Notable representatives of different backgrounds and perspectives, chaired by Canon Peter Challen, were on hand to continue a discussion of the issues raised after the interval.

Choirs and soloists were splendid and the singing of soprano Lili Kirikal from Estonia and Regé Page were particularly impressive. The orchestra gelled superbly and the quality of the performance was unquestionable. There were many impressive displays by highly skilled instrumentalists. Other notable performers were solo treble James Farmer, organist Jonathan Lilley and pianist and Musical Associate Richard Sharpey .

Fascinating orchestration created a tremendous feeling of awe and suspense at the beginning and one of the most moving items of the evening was the opening song “Who am I?”. Other highlights were the compelling “I believe” and the final triumphant song: “Reach Out” which ended the performance with a rousing flourish.

Ely Choral Society’s next concerts will be Bach’s St. Matthew Passion on Saturday 27th March and on Summer Concert and the launch of Ely Youth Choir on Friday 18th June. Contact:

Peace Child International may be contacted on tel: 01763274459 or email: