Posts Tagged ‘Cambridge’

Review of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra in Cambridge Corn Exchange on Tuesday 15th November 2016

November 17, 2016

The concert given by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra in Cambridge Corn Exchange on Tuesday was splendid. The conductors Heiko Mathias Förster and Libor Pešek and the soloist Natalie Clein worked with this highly competent orchestra to present a most entertaining programme.

Musicologist Jonathan James began the evening with an enthusiastic and informative talk in Cambridge University Bookshop, explaining the highlights of the composers and their works in preparation for the event.

Schubert’s delightful  ‘Unfinished Symphony’ conducted by the orchestra’s principal guest conductor Heiko Mathias Förster opened the concert in the Corn Exchange. The performers brought out Schubert’s lyrical mastery beautifully, shaping the phrasing colourfully with moods transforming clearly from sweetness and light to sudden dramatic darkness.

In Shostakovich’s ‘Cello Concerto No 1’ the solo cellist Natalie Clein performed with passion, infusing her performance with the essence of the pain and urgency of Shostakovich’s style. There were some stirring moments in the orchestra which played with immaculate precision even in the trickiest places. The demonic woodwind were amazing.

The cellist’s encore was an enchanting extra.

After interval under the baton of Libor Pešek we were treated to a lovely performance of Dvořák’s ‘Symphony no. 8 in G major’. It was melodious from the start, the sonority of the cellos and the bird-like flurries from the flute fully explored. This work provided a much lighter contrast to the previous composition and moved easily with momentum from moments of fluffy joy or calm to flashes of anxiety.  The conductor’s management of the pauses was exquisite.

Their encore provided yet another delightful contrast. Latin rhythms and sensuous turns in ‘Tango Siempre’ by Piazzolla allowed the trumpet soloist to demonstrate his capacity for genuinely intoxicating showmanship. This was real entertainment.

The next concert in the Cambridge Classical Series at the Corn Exchange will feature the Zürich Chamber Orchestra on Saturday 3rd December.



Review of Elgar’s ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ in Ely Cathedral on 12th November 2016

November 13, 2016

Elgar’s ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ in Ely Cathedral on Saturday was magnificent. Under the baton of Mark Williams, choirs from Jesus, Clare, Gonville and Caius, and Selwyn colleges, Cambridge University Chamber Choir, choristers of Jesus College and Girls’ Choirs of St. Catharine’s College and Ely Cathedral and Britten Sinfonia gave a most moving performance.

Every nuance of Elgar’s style was explored. The anguish and wide-ranging emotions of a dying man’s soul were beautifully and effectively revealed, the choirs harmonizing with a full rich tone, creating well-balanced, complex textures in the more intense sections. The singers filled the cathedral with demonic fire, strong Parry-like angelic praise, or gentle serenity as the mood of the work changed.

The soloists: Ben Johnson (tenor), Allison Cook (mezzo soprano) and Duncan Ross (bass) were splendid, colouring vital words with drama and characterizing their different roles wonderfully. The single word ‘Alleulia’ was exquisitely expressed by Allison as the Angel, a typical example of her expertise that was equally matched by that of Ben and Duncan. Ben gave an especially credible sonorous performance.

Britten Sinfonia is an excellent orchestra, all sections responding skilfully to create a wonderful effect, moving through a wide range of expressions from dramatic urgency and intensity, poignancy, and despair to sheer joy and serenity. Elgar’s leitmotifs, such as ‘judgement’, ‘fear’, ‘prayer’, ‘sleep’, and ‘miserere’ were seamlessly interwoven in a meaningful way throughout the work from the beginning.

It was no wonder the whole performance had the packed cathedral transfixed.

The next event for the Cambridge Music Festival will feature Philip Higham (cello) in Trinity Chapel on Tuesday 15th November at 8 pm.


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 The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert featuring conductor Charles Dutoit and ‘cello soloist Gautier Capuçon in the Cambridge Corn Exchange on the first of April 2016

April 2, 2016

review Camb cellist Capucon, Gautier1 16This ‘Cambridge Live’ first birthday celebration concert can be summarized in two words: ‘positively exquisite’. Under the baton of favoured conductor, Charles Dutoit, the orchestra shone. Such beautiful resonant sound, such fine precision: – in musicality, rhythm, articulation and emotional intensity is rarely heard. It was no wonder the packed audience was transfixed.

The concert included a vibrant performance of ‘Eugene Onegin: Polonaise’ by Tchaikovsky, a very moving interpretation of Dvořák’s ‘Cello Concerto in B minor op 104’ and a most tasteful, eloquent and potent presentation of the very familiar ‘Symphony No.9, ‘From the New World’’ by Dvořák.

The ‘cello soloist, Gautier Capuçon, was wonderful, playing the concerto with profound passion and unswerving technique. He, the conductor and orchestra played as ‘one’. Every subtle nuance within the varied musical texture was fully explored, developed and clarified by these magnificent performers. The concert ended with the expected rousing applause and frequent curtain calls. You are advised to book early for future events featuring these talented 1 Apr 16 Camb Charles Dutoit June 2010 cmyk (c) Robert Taylor website_0

Review: review of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Corn Exchange on Thursday 13th March 2014.

March 14, 2014

After a splendid talk given by James Day, the concert in the Corn Exchange opened with a large combined orchestra playing a new composition from an educational project headed by Paul Griffiths.  The work was inspired by the second movement of Beethoven’s seventh symphony and indeed there were many patterns that mimicked Beethoven’s rhythmic style along with some magical combinations of sounds, especially in the third movement.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra then took the stage to play the ‘Fidelio Overture’. Conductor Paul Daniel inspired great energy, drama and expressive contrasts in the performance.

John Lill was undoubtedly the star of the evening with his wonderfully authoritative and accurate performance of the ‘Emperor’ Concerto. His power, musicality and ability to play the smoothest, rapid scale passages I have ever heard, gave substance and authenticity to the composition.  

Beethoven’s seventh symphony, the final work of the evening, was in grand style and the emphatic opening led into great moments of rhythmical excitement, whimsical delicacy or suspense. The constant throb of the pavane rhythm in the second movement was heightened with a variety of effects: sorrowful themes, impassioned climaxes and moments of sweetness and precision. The break-neck scherzo with its very familiar theme followed and the work ended in grand style with a movement that reinforced the potency, strength and rhythmic exhilaration of the whole composition.  

There was no doubt why the packed audience was so enthusiastic. This was a magnificent evening.       

The next major event for the Royal Philharmonic will be on 22nd May at 730 pm at the Corn Exchange featuring Nicholos Collon (conductor), Julian Lloyd Webber (cello) and Lucy Hall (soprano) performing the Four Sea Interludes by Britten, Elgar’s Cello Concerto and Symphony no. 3 by Vaughan Williams.

Contact: 01223 357851



Review of ‘An Evening of Julian Lloyd Webber and Friends’ at Cambridge Corn Exchange on Wednesday 30th October 2013

November 6, 2013

Julian Lloyd Webber’s penultimate concert as Cambridge Corn Exchange’s Artist in Residence was highly successful. The three performers, all well-renowned musicians of the era, played with exquisite technical and musical expertise. There was no flamboyant gesture, delicate whisper or rhythmic complexity that they could not master with ease.

The programme was well designed with much variety and included works by Beethoven, Weber, Chopin, Prokofiev, William Lloyd Webber, Fauré and Brahms.  

Julian’s highly expressive, sonorous technique certainly won the day. This was especially evident in the Fauré. Emma Johnson, well-known since winning the BBC Young Musician of the Year in 1984, produced beautiful sounds from her clarinet. Even the highest notes had that special rich tone that only the best clarinet players can create. John Lill (piano) demonstrated a keen understanding of the effectiveness of subtle changes in touch while effortlessly mastering amazing feats of virtuosic strength and embellishment.

 The three performers worked very well together, synchronising wide-ranging dynamics perfectly, first demonstrated by Beethoven’s ‘Trio no. 4 in B flat, Op 11’. The second movement was charm itself, while in the third their huge talent showed us glimpses of Beethoven’s humour that is rarely seen.

‘Grand Duo Concertant in E flat, op 48’ by Weber played by Emma and John, moved up the complexity a notch. One of the highlights of the evening was the sheer beauty and phenomenal control of the extremely soft, gentle melody in the second movement.  

John opened the second part of the concert with a wonderful performance of ‘Nocturne in C major op 48 no.1’ by Chopin which featured delicious timing. Every note was expressed carefully and purposefully.  John followed with a most challenging ‘Toccata in D Minor op. 11’ by Prokofiev.  There was no doubt that this was a real ‘toccata’ and the rapid complex mass of sound in John’s hands was always faultless and clearly delineated.

Julian’s appeal is his down-to-earth homeliness and his performance of two works by his father, William Lloyd Webber were a pleasant interlude with many moments of poignancy and nostalgia.

The final work by Brahms ‘Trio in A minor, op. 114’, brought this delightful evening to a powerful and fulfilled close.

Julian will feature next at the Corn Exchange (, tel: 01223 357851.) on 22nd May 2014 at 7.30 pm with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The programme includes Elgar’s Cello Concerto.

Review Cambridge Philharmonic Society Ely Cathedral Saturday 10th July 2010

July 11, 2010

 This review is for “Local Secrets” who are willing to allow you to post it on your website, provided you provide a link to “Local Secrets” –

 (Local Secrets is an online guide to eating out, going out and shopping based in Cambridge. It covers Cambridgeshire and Bury St Edmunds. My reviews will go on their website and in their Monday magazine email which they email to 25k readers each week.)

Cambridgeshire is very rightly known as a centre of some of the most talented musicians worldwide. Steve Bingham, leader of Cambridge Philharmonic, is undoubtedly one of these and I last saw him performing with Jeremy Harmer at a conference of IATEFL (the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) in Harrogate early this year. I was very pleased to see that both of them were engaged to perform in this concert: Jeremy as a viola player. Their presence indicated that the evening was going to be a success.

And indeed it was. Under the baton of Timothy Redmond, the orchestra and choir were magnificent.   In the Overture I Vespri Siciliani by Giuseppe Verdi, Timothy’s charismatic and intuitive control brought the work to life, every change of mood and thrilling development seamlessly aroused.   

In the ever-popular Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis by Vaughan William the strings immediately created an intense, awe-inspiring atmosphere. They gelled superbly with impressive tonal strength and agility. The three groups of instrumentalists evoked a mesmerizing internal tension as they revelled in the rich harmonies, potent elongated phrases and creative modulations.

Verdi’s operatic style was given good measure in his Stabat Mater and Te Deum and his emotional response to the texts was fully explored. Choir and orchestra highlighted significant words while moving as one between contrasting moments that ranged from dramatic climax or angelic reflection to reverend calm.  

The concert ended with more from the unique style of Ralph Vaughan Williams in his Dona Nobis Pacem. His portrayal of the worst that war brings was well reflected by these highly accomplished performers and the renowned soprano, Joan Rodgers, with her bell-like and beautiful tones, provided a central focus of the work with her moving call to ‘grant us peace’.

Baritone, Roderick Williams, added a sense of alarm and potency to John Bright’s words of the Angel of Death while Roderick’s full strong voice gave conviction to the exhortation to ‘fear not’ and ‘be strong’.

One of the most effective episodes in this work was the sinister, repetitive drum call in the Dirge for Two Veterans (words by Walt Whitman). With effective exploration of a variety of textures by chorus and orchestra, this was one of the most spine-chilling moments of this wonderful evening.


Review of HMS Pinafore in Ely Cathedral 1st May 2010

May 3, 2010

This was definitely a night for Gilbert and Sullivan addicts. After fun-packed workshops during the day the performance in the evening opened with more opportunities for the chorus (the audience) to get it right. Then, after interval, director Ian McMillan rallied chorus, orchestra, organist and a group of fine soloists from English National opera, D’Oyly Carte and London Operetta to produce a rollicking performance of H.M.S. Pinafore – what we were all waiting for.

Local talented individuals, Nina Jellicoe (from Cambridge Operatic Society) and Graham Diss (from Ely Choral Society) found themselves important roles as Hebe and the Boatswain respectively. Then our renowned orchestra, Ely Sinfonia led by Steve Bingham, and key characters Ralph Rackstraw (Oliver White), Josephine (Deborah Crowe), Little Buttercup (Jill Pert), Deadeye (Bruce Graham), Captain (John Lofthouse) and Sir Joseph Porter (Barry Clarke) unravelled the tale of mistaken identity, thwarted lovers and the hypocrisy of rank in the navy.

We were enthralled with the antics of Deadeye, his labored movements and non-attractive personality, the upright nobleness of the much troubled Ralph, the beauty and determination of Josephine, Little Buttercup’s jolly humour, the Captain’s snobbery and the utter pomposity of Sir Joseph. The strength of their characterization was matched perfectly with their rich tones, powerful voices and excellent diction that made light of Gilbert and Sullivan’s renowned rapid patter.

The strains of ‘we sail the ocean blue’, ‘I am the captain of the Pinafore’, ‘his sisters and his cousins and his aunts’, ‘when I was a lad …the ruler of the Queen’s navee’ ‘dear little buttercup’, and ‘he is an English man’ brought it all back to us and we were soon rising to our feet, waving our Union Jacks and singing to the top of our voices.

With prizes for the best costumes in the audience, this was definitely a night to remember and it is no wonder so many came from far afield to revel in this celebration of Gilbert and Sullivan. Next year it will be The Pirates of Penzance from scratch.

Before then you might like to see the performance recommended by Nina:  ‘The Mikado’ by Cambridge Operatic Society in the last week of November (tickets available from the Arts Box Office). Tickets for the ‘Pirates of Penzance from scratch’ in the Cathedral next year will be available from the Cathedral box office nearer the time.

 Rosemary Westwell

review: Cambridge Music Festival 09 Still Falls the Rain

November 26, 2009

Still Falls the Rain was an ideal title for an evening of high quality music in Robinson College Chapel on Thursday 12th November as part of the Cambridge Music Festival. The work of the same name by Benjamin Britten was undoubtedly one of the highlights. Tenor John McMunn drew every nuance of suffering, anguish and desolation from Britten’s score while Alec Frank Gemmill (horn) and pianist Matthew Schellhorn synthesized perfectly. 

This eclectic programme included a fine performance of Schubert’s Auf dem Strom and Britten’s Now sleeps the crimson petal. The evening also celebrated the anniversaries of two composers: Haydn and Mendelssohn. Matthew Schellhorn’s phenomenal technique was evident in his performance of Haydn’s Andante con varizaioni in F minor and  John and Matthew performed Mendelssohn’s songs Neue Liebe 19a no 4, Auf Flugen des Gesanges Op. 34 no 2, and Pagenlied Op posth. with much grace and beauty and  Reisenlied Op 34 no 6 with rare vitality and momentum. 

A set of six miniature compositions commissioned by Matthew Schellhorn was a major event.  Jeremy Hurlow’s graphic portrayal in Butterfly was  perceptively unified (while his earlier composition, Unbidden Visions, was noticeably potent and succinct). Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s Stolen Rhythm burst with captivating energy and Michael Zev Gordon’s Innocente indulged in delicious Debussy-like reverie. The other composers, Tim Watts, Colin Riley, Cecilia McDowall provided very interesting and varied works even though each miniature was based on the same recurring theme: the letters to H-A-Y-D-N. 

This was indeed a fitting contribution to the Festival.

Review: Cambridge Music Festival: Come Tango

November 26, 2009

Cambridge, one of the country’s pinnacles of academic endeavour, showed another side of its multifaceted character in Come Tango, a concert for the Cambridge Music Festival . This event celebrated rare rhythmic abandonment that only the most joyous of Latin rhythms can stimulate.

Conductor Darrell Davison, gyrating with mesmerizing authority, inspired Cambridge Orchestra to moments of flamboyant ecstasy (exemplified by Braziliana by Ricardo de Pandeiros), sophistication (exemplified by Gerswin’s Rumba) or potent tensions that are integral characteristics of the Tango (exemplified by the works of Piazzolla).

The evening was filled with varied expressions of that magnetic dance that has universal appeal. Works included Le Grand Tango, Libergano and Soledad  (Piazzolla), Three Tangos (Mátyás Seiber), Tomo y Obligo and Por una Cabeza (Carlos Gardel), and Malambo (Alberto Ginastera).

Dancers added colour and vitality to the experience with carefully choreographed movements ranging from the mesmerizing minimalism and potent interaction of Ivan Arandia and Rachel Greenberg to the empathetic flurries and swift manoeuvres of the other dancers: Richard Manuel , Jenny Sayer, Hilmar Gudmundsoon, Natalia Safianbowicz, Costa Rocos and Floridia Ferrara. The highly accomplished solo cellist Liubov Ulybysheva also enhanced the performances considerably.

With abundant percussion pulsating infectious rhythms, this highly energized evening culminated with a splendid performance of Ravel’s Boléro. Although this familiar work is based on the constant repetition of that famous snare drum rhythm and the gradual developing melodic phrases, this performance thrived on variety and breathed life into the music as the dancers interwove their unforgettable interpretations.