Posts Tagged ‘piano’

Comment: The value of music should never be underestimated.

April 2, 2019

Throughout the centuries, music has been an important part of people’s lives. There are few of us who would declare that it is completely unimportant and unnecessary.  Scores of research cases have indicated that music has an important influence on the way we think and feel, yet it is usually at the bottom of our list of priorities, be it a school curriculum or our own everyday lives.

An incident recently brought it home to me how effective music can be when all other means of communication fail. I run a weekly ‘choir practice’ for the residents in my husband’s care home. I ask that he attends even though he has long lost the power of speech. I knew, and know, that he has always liked music. As the weeks passed, I introduced new songs for us all to sing. I often try to communicate with my husband but it is usually not successful. I am not even sure he knows who I am anymore for he has suffered from dementia for over 20 years.

Then one week I decided to assume that I would get through to him. I went up close to him and stood so that he could see and hear me clearly and I sang with the residents, song after song. It was not long before his eyes met mine and they focused so that I knew he knew who I was. He grinned to show that he was really enjoying the music. Not only that, his facial expression changed to show that he was reacting emotionally to the event and to the music in a positive way. To me, this is proof indeed that music is one of the most powerful communicators.

Music has always been important in my life. As a child of non-musical parents it seemed a fluke that I was even interested. Fortunately I was allowed to follow my interest and even make it a career, even though many people thought that there is no future in it. In my case, I turned to teaching and although it had its moments, it certainly gave me a career, and helped to pay a mortgage and bring up a young family.

From personal experience I can testify that as a child learning the piano it not only gave me an outlet for my music, it taught me discipline (when I had to get up at 630 every morning to get my practice in before school), it gave me focus when I had to remember the notes, the fingering and the musical form of the pieces I played while it also gave me a very powerful means of expression to alleviate the teenage angst that I suffered as most people do. It taught me develop stamina and to relax for these are important parts of the technique. Finally, the concerts, performances and choirs I have been involved with provided a social life I would otherwise never have experienced.

So the next time you think music may be a waste of time, I urge you to think again.


Review of Guy Johnston ( ‘cello)  and Melvyn Tan (piano) in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 11th June 2016

June 20, 2016

After the inaugural event of the Isle of Ely Arts Festival this year, when they presented a workshop to budding young cellists, these highly talented musicians gave a concert in Ely Cathedral.

The programme was varied but the performance was constant: a performance that can only be described as outstanding. Their phenomenal technique was immediately apparent as they varied the sound and touch very effectively.

Guy produced some of the most musical and precise sounds I havereview Guy Johnston and Melvyn Tan June 16heard from a ‘cello. His prowess was exemplified by agility and clarity in the Bach, amazingly powerful and well balanced double-stopping in the Turnage, sheer beauty and sonority in the Mendelssohn, notable intensity and sensitivity in the Schubert, potent bowing in the Chopin and very moving expression in the Fauré.

His talent was well matched by Melvyn Tan’s piano playing. Melvyn accompanied with real empathy as the need arose and in the Chopin particularly, his fantastic flair and virtuosic agility were unforgettable.

This was an excellent concert, giving the Isle of Ely Arts Festival a tremendous start.


Review: Hannah Roberts (‘cello) and Simon Parkin (piano) at the Hayward Theatre in Ely on Friday night 20th June 2014.

June 22, 2014

ImageHannah Roberts (‘cello) and Simon Parkin (piano) gave a splendid concert on Friday night in the Hayward Theatre as part of the King’s School Ely Concert Series. They played works by Beethoven, Fauré, Debussy, Mendelssohn and Richard Strauss. Fauré ‘s ‘Elegie, op 24’, a very well-known piece, was played on an instrument made by Robin Aitchison who was in the audience.

This duo played with potency, verve and excellent syncopation. Hannah brought out most beautiful rich sounds from her instruments while Simon exhibited tremendous technique and timing. These two were particularly good at maintaining a sense of excitement and anticipation, never missing an opportunity to vary the expression and build up the climaxes to tremendous heights.

In the opening Beethoven sonata the musicians were masters of surprise, highlighted the contrasting louds and softs. In this work, Simon’s meticulous articulation became immediately apparent.

Fauré’s popular ‘Élégie’ was as sonorous and melodious as hoped for.

Debussy’s Sonate contained expressive long phrases with many reminders of his unique transparent style in the piano part – the Submerged Cathedral, for example. Hannah gave a very good impression of a passionate guitarist in the second movement while in the final ‘Finale’ the performers set our souls free with their uninhibited involvement.

After interval, Mendelssohn’s ‘Variations Concertantes, Op 17’ were wonderful, the phrases cleanly executed and movement between notes in the ‘cello was particularly smooth and seamless.

The final ‘Sonata in F, op.6’ by Richard Strauss opened strongly with the varied demands of articulation within the phrases beautifully managed. The second movement, ‘Andante ma non troppo’, contained meaningful pensive moments with Simon bringing out key notes on the piano particularly well. The final ‘Allegro vivo’, was, indeed, lively while the ‘cello positively sang at times and the timing between the performers was beautifully synchronised, no matter how tricky the parts.

This was a wonderful concert. The next in the series will feature Dan Curzon (horn) and Elliot Launn (Piano) and will be on Friday 19th September in the Recital Hall, 1930.

Contact : tel (01353) 653931



Review: of the concert featuring George Harliono and the Uttlesforde Orchestra at Saffron Hall on Saturday 8th February 2014

February 9, 2014

George Harliono and the Uttlesforde orchestra presented an impressive concert on Saturday. George, a teenager who attends the Perse School in Cambridge, played Piano Concerto No. 1 by Liszt with amazing strength, agility and accuracy. Somehow, this lad demonstrated maturity way beyond his years as he became fully engrossed in the essential musicality of the work. There was more than virtuosic prowess in this performance. It was awe-inspiring. His exquisitely shaped dynamics, moments of delicacy with substance, his scintillating flourishes and his talent for showmanship had us transfixed.  We were privileged indeed to witness the beginnings of what will undoubtedly be a highly successful career as a concert pianist. It was no surprise that he was given a standing ovation and we were delighted when he came back on the stage, sat at the grand piano and played ‘Suggestion Diabolique’ by Prokofiev as an encore.

The Uttlesforde Orchestra, conducted by Richard Hull, was in good form. It opened the evening with a worthy performance of the challenging Stravinsky Symphony in C. The instrumentalists mastered well the short emphatic rhythmic and melodic snatches shared by different sections of the orchestra in a largely discordant texture. In the first movement the oboe in particular was rich and expressive and the woodwind as a whole displayed phenomenal precision.  This orchestra captured the exotic flavour of the second movement and gave credence to the restless separated elements of the themes in the final movement.

The concert ended with the orchestra playing ‘Symphony no. 2’ by Brahms. This suited the orchestra particularly well and we were thoroughly engaged with the sweeping, extended melodies of this composer. There were great moments of heightened passion, sadness or rustic jollity as the movements required while the final movement was filled with energy and power. As we were reminded of the special quality of Brahms’ potent thematic material this splendid evening came to a fitting close.

The next event for the orchestra will be on Saturday 5th April 2014 at Rhodes Centre, Bishops Stortford, 7.30 pm and will feature works by Verdi, Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn.


To find out more about George:

Review of the piano recital given by Gabriel Escudero in the Palacio de la Musica de Torrevieja this Sunday night, 22nd December 2013

December 24, 2013

When I decided to attend a piano recital in the Palacio de la Musica in

Torrevieja because it was for a charity that is very close to my heart, I

was not expecting anything  out of the ordinary. When the , humble

figure of Spanish-born Gabriel Escudero arrived on stage, I was

still unprepared.

Then, as he confidently ran his fingers over the keys of the grand piano

to begin his first piece, I was amazed. This pianist really knew his stuff

and knew how to get the most from the instrument, no matter how

sensitive or how technical the demands.

The programme was well selected and included works by Mozart,

Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Chopin, Schumann and Liszt –

all favourites of best of pianists. He brought out such musicality in

the ‘Fantasia’ by Mozart, that I was questioning whether it was a

piece by Beethoven, so advanced and effective was the expression.

The contrasts this phenomenal pianist was able to display were

amazing. He played the Hayden sonata with strength, security

and clarity – exactly what is required for this popular composer.

In the second movement, Gabriel’s ability to incorporate lengthy

embellishments so seamlessly was awe-inspiring.

In his offerings by Tchaikovsky, the character of the pieces were

wonderfully well displayed while his Rachmaninov and Chopin

reflected these composer’s psyches perfectly. Rachmaninov’s

underlying sense of anguish  was never lost amid amazing bouts

of virtuosic display. Chopin’s melancholic reflection was beautifully

integrated with more technical wizardry in the composer’s own

inimitable style.

It was hard to believe that things could get any better, but the final

pieces of Schumann and Liszt were wonderful and Gabriel  maintained

perfect control while the music flowed from exquisitely clear melodic

developments to incredible gymnastics that only the most accomplished

of performers would dare consider playing. For Gabriel, this was obviously

his delight to master and exhibit. He had the audience transfixed.

His encore, an arrangement of Bach’s ‘Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring’, was

very well deserved and the audience rose to their feet as they applauded

in appreciation.

The charity was very ably organized by president, Matilde, of the AFA

(Asociación Alzheimer de Familiares y Amigos de Torrevieja).

For more information about the association, contact

Review of Anthony Brown (saxophone) and Leo Nicholson (piano) presenting a concert at the Hayward Theatre Ely on Friday 29th November 2013

November 30, 2013

It is impossible to get 100% in a music exam. After all it is so subjective. However, after tonight’s performance by these two amazing musicians, I had to agree that it is indeed feasible. All credit must go to Anthony Brown who demonstrated a phenomenal technique and highly musical approach to the saxophone, a much maligned instrument. He was accompanied by an equally talented pianist, Leo Nicholson and between them, they produced music that transfixed the listeners – it was so good. The synchronism they achieved was out of this world – no matter how tricky the run or the rests, they were always spot on.

The varied programme was action-packed and included works by Singelee, Piazzolla, Richard Rodney Bennett, Ibert, Maurice, Gershwin Debussy, Heath and Dubois. When the first saxophone flourish sounded we knew we were going to experience a wonderful concert. These two knew how to master the trickiest passages, the exacting articulation and the most sonorous  of passages. Highlights for me were Piazzolla’s ‘Histoire du Tango’: ‘Bordel 1900’ and ‘Cafe 1930’, Paule Maurice’s ‘Song for my Love’ and the ‘Flight of the Bumble Bee’ and ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’ by Dubois.

‘Bordel 1900’ was the first of many pieces that exuded magical rhythms brilliantly synchronised by these two highly talented performers. The tonal beauty of the saxophone was fully explored in ‘Cafe 1930’. We were soon transported into the dreamy, relaxed coffee haze of a well frequented cafe.

The tonal beauty of the saxophone was again brought to the fore in ‘Song for my Love’ while the frenetic buzz of a very busy bumble bee in ‘The Flight of the Bumble Bee’ was noticeable as these amazing performers whizzed through the demanding passages.

Dubois’ clever composing in ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’ was enhanced further by these musicians’ intense musical understanding. The languorous Tortoise, confident with his victory was well contrasted with the frantic energy of the fickle hare.

This was a wonderful concert and the encore was well deserved.

These two may be heard again in the Purcell room in London on the 9th January 2014. For more information contact

The next King’s School Ely Concert Society event will feature Tom Coulson (trumpet) and Christopher Baxter (piano) in the Recital Hall on Friday 17th January at 730 pm contact Lisa Bushell (01353 653931) email:

Review of George Harliono and Adelaide Harlionos playing in St. Peter and St. Paul Church, Chatteris for the Chatteris Music Society on Saturday 29th June 2013

July 8, 2013

At the age of 12, George Harliono is undoubtedly one of UK’s child prodigies. The phenomenal technique and maturity of expression he demonstrated in some of the pieces in this concert were on a par with adult professional performers. He also showed skill as an accompanist, adjusting his touch on the piano perfectly to support his 8-year old sister playing the ‘cello.

George began with a magic performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Fantasia and Fugue in A minor BWV904. Expecting a rather mechanical performance because of his age, I was overwhelmed with the maturity of understanding in George’s playing. Although some may insist that the crescendo should not be used because it did not exist in Bach’s time, nor in fact did the piano, George was quite right to greatly increase or diminish the volume, alter his touch significantly and use all the expressive devices of the piano he could. As a result Bach’s interwoven fabric of interplaying and overlapping voices came to life. While appearing perfectly at ease, George transfixed the audience with that special tension that is created in such a phenomenal performance as this.

Of his other solo performances, Maurice Ravel’s Alborada del Gracioso, a complex and technically demanding work, was another highlight of the evening. His fingers flew over the keys or paused potently on important notes creating an exhilarating feeling of Spanish flamboyance and character. He integrated the variety of challenging rhythms, rapid flourishes, and punctuated episodes into one amazing whole experience.

His other excellent offerings were Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No.21 in C major ‘Waldstein’ Op.53, Liszt’s La Campanella and a much deserved encore Chopin’s Scherzo No.1.

8-year old Adelaide, his sister, was another very talented performer who played her ‘cello very well. Her tone and expression mesmerised the audience with her performances of Massenet’s Elegie Op10.no5, Mendelssohn’s Song without Words Op. 109, Schumann’s Fantasiestuck No.1 Op 73 and Faure’s Elegie Op24.

This was indeed a wonderful evening.

The next concert will feature Charles Owen (pianist) with Hertfordshire Chamber Orchestra on Saturday 7th September in the Parish Church Chatteris at 7 pm (phone 01354 669104/692009).

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 of Warren Mailley-Smith’s Valentine Concert (Piano) in Ely Cathedral on 11th February 2012.

February 12, 2012

In spite of the freezing weather outside, Warren Mailley-Smith’s Valentine Concert mesmerized the audience with much warmth, vigour and excitement. Warm lyrical melodies, brilliant showmanship and treasured moments of heart- stopping reflection pervaded the excellent programme he chose to mark this romantic period of the year.

There is no doubt that Warren is one of the finest pianists in the country and his unique technique, astute musical awareness and phenomenal expressive touch combined to provide a wonderful night’s entertainment.

The programme included a host of romantic favourites including composers Beethoven, Debussy, Liszt, Grief, Prokofiev, Horowitz, Chopin and Gershwin.

The crashing chords of the opening movement of Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata contrasted expertly the suddenly soft responses. In the first and last movements, rapid scales and flowing arpeggios were fused into expressive, meaningful phrases that integrated perfectly into Beethoven’s unique sense of the dramatic. In Warren’s hands, the simplicity and charm of the second movement was enhanced with his impressive ability to bring out the varied moods and characters of the harmonic changes while the leading familiar melody never lost any of its strength and appeal.

Debussy’s ‘Clair de Lune’ was played with such skilled fluency that one could easily imagine the moonlight’s reflective play. Rippling runs and sweeping open chords contrasted well with the subtle quiet moments that caught the breath as though suspended for one precious moment in time immemorial.

Warren is a born virtuoso. His technical superiority and his innate empathy with the nature of the virtuosic pianists of previous times made the works by Liszt, Chopin and Gershwin ideal for him and for the audience. Liszt’s ‘Un Sospiro’ (‘The Sigh’) exuded romanticism with its strong, lyrical themes. His Hungarian Rhapsody No 2 was gorgeously gutsy with whirling gymnastics and cheeky interpolations.

After interval Grieg’s ‘Wedding Day at Troldhaugen’ provided moments of joyful respite and tenderness. Then we were taken into the dark world of Russian intensity with a powerful driving bass and moments of soft sudden lightness infused with a sense of foreboding.

A foray into the world of opera followed with Liszt’s ‘Rigoletto Paraphrase’ and Bizet-Horowitzs’ ‘Carmen Fantasy’.  In these the voices and characters of the participants were clearly defined by Warren’s phenomenal three dimensional effects.

One of the most effective performances of the evening was undoubtedly ‘Fantasy Imrpompty Op 66’ by Chopin. Warren met the challenging technical demands with ease while at the same time he brought out every romantic nuance with meaningful pauses and gentleness in the strong heart-tugging themes.

Chopin’s ‘Polonaise in A flat Op 53’ was manfully entertaining and as the strong chords filled the cathedral vaults we were reminded that we were made aware of a pianist and composer of considerable stature.

The evening ended appropriately with the amazing ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ by Gershwin. Warren played an arrangement specifically for piano by Gershwin. Warren was at ease with the complicated syncopated rhythms, the virtuosic interplay and the playful episodes that were soon engulfed in what Warren and Gershwin possessed – a phenomenal sense of joyful abandonment and the thrill of captivating an audience with a display of unbridled showmanship worthy of the highest praise.

Rosemary Westwell  

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