Monday, 31 January 2011

Classical Journey 1st February

Johannes Brahms 1833-97
Every Thursday for the next three weeks we will be able to hear a series of lectures by Christopher Redwood about the chamber music of Johannes Brahms.  We can hear the lectures (and music) in the Music Room at Exeter Central Library from 11.00-12.30am on the 3rd, 10th, and 17th of February.  Christopher will join the Classical Journey at around 11am on Tuesday to listen to the music of Brahms and to talk about Brahms, his music, and the forthcoming series of lectures.

Music Selection for this Week's Journey:

1527  Westminster       LUDFORD Nicholas  Missa Benedicta               Choir of New College Oxford
1720  Köthen              BACH J. S.                    Sonata in E-Adagio               Tasmin Little, Violin
                                                                            ma non troppo-Allegro          John Lenehan, Piano
1750  Covent Garden  HANDEL G. F.           Theodora-Overture                Concentus Musicus Wien
                                                                           'He saw the lovely youth'   Roberta Alexander, Soprano
1789  Vienna               MOZART W. A.         Sonata No. 17 in C                 Tamsin Little, Violin
1801  Vienna               HAYDN Joseph          Die Jahreszeiten-Der Winter  GewandhausKammerchor
                                                                            Overture-schnürre, Rädchen  Sibylla Rubens, Soprano
1854  Dusseldorf         BRAHMS Johannes     Piano Trio No. 1 in B            Julius Katchen, Piano
                                                                            Allegro con brio - Scherzo      Josef Suk, Janos Starker
1894  Paris                  MASSENET Jules       Thaïs-Méditation                     Yo Yo Ma, 'Cello
1936  Paris                  REINHARDT J-B         Swing Guitars                           Reinhardt/Grappelli
1973  Cambridge        GRAPPELLI S.             Let's do it (Cole Porter)          Stéphane Grappelli, Violin
1989  Roumania          ZAMFIR  G.                7 Taler und ein tiefes Tal     Gheorghe Zamfir, Pan-Flute
2008  London             O'SHEA Mary              Panthea Gris                             Mary O'Shea, Soprano
2010  Exeter               HENRY Philip               Lagan Love                       Phil Henry, Dobro Slide Guitar
                                                                           -Banish Misfortune

Concerts and events coming up:

Iain McDonald and Michèle Banting
Glenorchy United Reformed Church Exmouth Wednesday 2 February 12.30pm
Baritone and Piano
Admission free, retiring collection

Christopher Redwood
Exeter Central Library Music Room Thursdays 3,10 & 17 February 11am-12.30pm
'An Overview of the Music of Brahms'
£29 for three classes
Book on 01278 783678

Topsham Film Society
Matthews Hall, Topsham Friday 4 February 3pm & 7.30pm
"The Last Station" Story of Leo and Sofya Tolstoy
(Christopher Plumber and Helen Mirren)
Admission £4.50 (Matinée £3.50)

Exeter Recorded Concert Society
Exeter Central Library Music Room Saturday 5 February 1.30pm
Bring and Play
No charge for admission

Exmouth Choral Society (Director Laurence Blyth)
Holy Trinity Church, Exmouth Saturday 5 February 7.30pm
Duruflé's Requiem; Haydn's Nelson Mass
Tickets £13 Student £8 (advance: £10/£5)
More information: contact Kate on 01392 877537

Britten Sinfonia
Dartington Great Hall Sunday 6 February 3pm
English Song: Purcell, Britten, Walton, Tippett, Woolrich
Tickets £18/17 Student £5
Box: 01803 847070 12.30-7.30pm

Also coming up in February:

Hilary Boxer's 'Bells and Whistes', music for children to join in
Counterpoint at Buckfast Abbey with 'Tallis is Dead'!
Devon Baroque at St James, Exeter
Tasmin Little at Blundell's

Tune in for full listing and details!

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Jacqueline and Wensleigh Palmer at Glenorchy 26th January

Husband and Wife Team
Organist/Pianist Wensleigh Palmer
Mezzo Soprano Jacqueline Palmer
This week the lunchtime concert at Glenorchy United Reformed Church was billed as 'organ and soprano voice' (Wensleigh and Jacqueline Palmer).  In practice we heard 'piano and voice' alternating with solo organ pieces played by Wensleigh.
Wensleigh and Jacqueline are well known in Exeter where they are members of the Sidwell Street Methodist Church.  Wensleigh has been organist and choirmaster there for 34 years.  Jacqueline is a professional soprano regularly taking the solo part at concerts in Exeter and further afield.  Currently she is working with other soloists from Norway.  On Wednesday we enjoyed one of the many recitals Wensleigh and Jacqueline perform together.
They started with a poem written by the Bishop of Lincoln, William Fuller and set to music by Henry Purcell for inclusion in Henry Playford's 'Harmonia Sacra' ('Sacred Hymns') in 1693.  'Lord, what is Man?' expresses wonder at the Christian concept that human's, although little more than worms, should be ruled by a god who would 'give up his wondrous abode' and die for their benefit.  Initially Jacqueline expressed the the intense sadness of Man's lowly state. her voice was deep and rich and expressed the sentiment perfectly.  She sang the first verse mainly unaccompanied, with only occasional chords from Wensleigh on the paino.  Jacqueline then described the consolation of Christian belief in song in a very personal and engaging way, leading systematically to the final repeated cry of exultation, "Hallelujah!".
Wensleigh then played us J S Bach's 'Toccata and Fugue in D minor' or 'Dorian Tocccata' for organ.  (He's pictured holding the score above.)   The nickname for the piece refers to the absence of any sharps or flats in the key signature (where you would expect a B flat in D minor).  This would normally be associated with D Dorian mode.  (Dorian mode of notation was developed by the Dorian tribe of ancient Greece and would normally sound a little odd to a modern listener - imagine the scale of E major with f,g,c and d natural instead of sharp.)  Bach, however, provides the familiar modern D minor notation by adding flats as he goes along.  The historical issues of notation became irrelevant when Wensleigh played, of course.  The music was lively and full of joy from the outset.  The toccata and fugue involved wonderfully complicated triple couterpoint in three registers including, of course, the pedal keyboard which Wensleigh played with impressive skill.  Sadly, most of the audience would not have been able to see his fancy footwork, but they certainly enjoyed the resulting sound.
Having enjoyed two great baroque pieces, we were then transported to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for a selection of romantic and modern music.  Wensleigh was back at the piano to accompany Jacqueline in Gabriel Fauré's 'Chanson du Pêcheur' ('Ma belle amie est morte') from 1872.  This is Fauré's arrangement of a famous song from 1841 'Into the grave she takes with her my soul'.  Originally written by Théophile Gautier for his opera 'Les Wilis' (now called 'Giselle') it was reworked by  in the same year as 'Sur les Lagunes', the third mélodie in Hector Berlioz' sextet 'Les Nuits d'Été'.  The fisherman laments the death of his sweetheart and asks himself how he can return to sea without her love.  This song was written for mezzo soprano Pauline Viardot.  Ironically five year's later Pauline's daughter Marianne became engaged to Gabriel but then broke off the engagement leaving Gabriel as heart-broken as the poor Pêcheur.  Jacqueline's performance was extremely moving and her French very clear and easy for us English-speakers to understand.  ('Ma bell amie est morte, Je pleurerai toujours.')  Jacqueline was very convincing as a devastated and distracted lover.
Jacqueline's next song was from Camille Saint-Saëns' 1877 opera 'Samson and Delilah', one of the greatest mezzo-soprano arias, 'Mon Coeur s'Ouvre à ta Voix' ('My Heart Opens Itself to your Voice').  Samson battles through the storm to hear Delilah's seductive song.  Wensleigh evoked the storm very effectively on the piano while Jacqueline's singing was suitably seductive, bordering on tempestuous, but hinting at the underlying deceit of Delilah who hopes to discover the secret of Samson's strength.
Next Wensleigh provided some romantic music for organ, Gabriel Marie's 1887 'La Cinquantaine' ('The Golden Wedding').  This was originally written for 'cello and piano, with other later arrangements including one for octet.  The theme was familiar, and rather like a jolly hornpipe, played in a high register with a very French sound.  Meanwhile Wensleigh maintained a gentle soft rhythm in the bass - more fancy footwork!  Wensleigh made several deft changes of register even changing to full organ and back.  An organist truly has to be a multi-tasker!  At one point the score slipped off the stand and fell into two pieces.  I was sure disaster must be imminent, but Wensleigh calmly continued playing from memory using his feet and one hand while he made a very professional job of retrieving the fluttering pages with the other hand.
Wensleigh returned to the (relatively) less taxing task of piano accompaniment for one of Ralph Vaughan Williams' 'Four Last Songs'.  These were written during the last four years of Vaughan Williams' life (1954-58).  Although relatively modern the collection starts with two songs on classical themes.  We heard the first which is 'Procris', the story of the classical tragedy of the couple Cephalus and Procris.  The words were written by Vaughan Williams' wife, the poet Ursula Wood.  Her inspiration was the fifteenth century painting 'The Death of Procris' ('A Satyr Mourning Over a Nymph') by Italian renaissance painter Piero di Cosimo.  Procris, suspecting her husband of infidelity, follows him on the hunt and he accidentally kills her.  Ironically Ursula's life was quite the opposite.  Ralph and Ursula were only married in 1953, following the death of his first wife Adeline.  After Ralph's death Ursula lived another fifty years and became Ralph's biographer and president of the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society.  She completed her own biography in 2002 and lived until October 2007.  This song was in English, of course, and Jacqueline's descriptive powers were demonstrated magnificently.  Having set the scene, the description of Procris' fatal symptoms lead relentlessly and tragically to her sudden and terrible death.
Jacqueline knew not only how to take us to the depths of despair, but how to bring us back again as well.  She took us back in time slightly to 1941 for a Broadway number by Kurt Weil.  Weil is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Bertoit Brecht such as the 'Threepenny Opera' which we enjoyed at the Northcott Theatre on the Exeter University campus in October 2000.  'One Life to Live' is an aria from the first act of Weil's collaboration with lyricist Ira Gershwin, 'Lady in the Dark'.  Liza Elliott, editor of fashion magazine 'Allure' is undergoing the new treatment of 'psychoanalysis'.  Unlike the composer of the opening song of this concert, Henry Purcell, she does not believe in an afterlife and insists that every moment we have should be used to full benefit.  The emphasis is on having fun and that is reflected in the lyrics: a party? be the host of it! a haunted house? be the ghost of it! a town? be the toast of it!  Gershwin is really having fund with his rhymes, the best of which must be 'Send old man depression into obliv' . . .' (' . . . only one life to live!').  Wensleigh stayed very much in the background for this song while Jacqueline really enjoyed herself - and so did we!
How to finish such a wonderfully varied programme of songs and organ music?  Wensleigh had the perfect thing.  Felix Mendelssohn's Third Sonata for organ from his six sonatas Opus 65.  Mendelssohn was a great admirer of the music of J S Bach.  (He was the first to put on a performance of the Matthew Passion after Bach's death - 80 years after his Bach's death!)  The third sonata is based on Bach's Lutheran cantata 'Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu Dir' ('Out of deep distress I cry to you') which, having been written in 1724, took us back almost to our starting point.  Despite the rather tragic sounding title of Bach's original work, Mendelssohn's version was anything but.  The chorale was in the form of a complex and sometimes frenetic fugue which was equally fast and frantic in the pedal register.  Hands and feet in perfect synchrony.  Wensleigh was now also using yet another control.  One foot was needed to vary the swell for maximum effect.  The wild and raucous pedal line used the full range down to the very lowest note while Wensleigh calmly changed stops every few bars to bring different registers in and out of the music.  Between them Felix and Wensleigh showed us just about everything the organ could do.  Those who were too far away to see everything that was going on at the console just relaxed and enjoyed the extraordinary and wonderful music.
As the last triumphant notes died away David Lee, the organiser of these marvellous concerts, came forward to congratulate both performers on a thoroughly enjoyable programme.  Being an organist himself he had to say that he wished the organ could be raised up at least six feet so we could all have seen Wensleigh's incredible skill.  (The same could be said for the other organists, Robert Millington who was at Glenorchy on 12th January and David himself who gave us a recital of organ and piano on 3rd November last year.)
Very sincere thanks and congratulations to Jacqueline and Wensleigh Palmer for a wonderfully varied and enjoyable concert.

This week we can see another singer at Glenorchy.  Baritone Iain McDonald:

Wednesday 2nd February 12.30 pm
Michelle Banting and Iain McDonald
(piano and baritone voice)
Glenorchy United Reformed Church, Exmouth

Advance publicity suggested that we might hear Ruth Avis (flute) and Rebecca Willson (piano) supporting Iain but, sadly, we won't be able to hear Ruth or Rebecca on 2nd February.

However, for all those people who love the flute playing of Ruth Avis (as featured on Phonic FM) there is a concert on 5th March, also in Exmouth, where Ruth will appear.  The 'Piazzolla Duo' of Ruth Avis and guitarist Clive Betts will perform an evening of 'Tango and Celtic' music for flute and guitar:

Tango and Celtic Music for Flute and Guitar
Holy Trinity Church, Exmouth
Saturday 5th March 7.30pm

More details nearer the time on this site
and on Phonic FM's 'Classical Journey' programme
(10-12am every Tuesday).

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Josephine Pickering and David Lee in duet at Glenorchy 19th January

Many hands make light work
Josephine Pickering and David Lee
rehearsing on the Venables grand paino
at Glenorchy URC Exmouth
Apologies for the delay in reporting on this lovely lunchtime concert, which actually took place last week on Wednesday 19th January.  I blame influenza.  Also there was no camera at the concert, which was a pity because Josphine and David were in immaculate evening dress for the performance.  The picture on the left was taken this week when they were dressed rather more casually!
Josephine is not only a pianist but also a composer and recently played a selection of her compositions in her concert with Rosemary and Phil Henry (soprano and cor anglais) on 1st December.  David is also an organist and played a selection of pieces on the piano and organ alternately on 3rd November.  (Full details are available on earlier posts on this site.)
The auditorium was filled to capacity to hear these two great pianists play together.
They started straight in with two lively dances by British early twentieth century comic opera writer Edward German (actually Welsh, born in Shropshire, and christened German Edward Jones.) Both were written as incidental music to Anthony Hope's play 'English Nell' ('Nell Gwynn') first performed in 1900.  The 'Pastoral Dance' opened very delicately with Josephine playing the treble keys with one hand.  David brought in a gentle bass as Josephine developed the lively melody.  The 'Country Dance' was very muscular and reminiscent of the outdoor country life.  The two players were in perfect balance as the volume built up.  The treble tune became faster and faster with sweet tinkling semi-quavers in the left hand for Josephine.  Just as it seemed the piece couldn't get any more energetic it came to a crashing close.
The main feature of the programme was Franz Schubert's Allegro in A minor Opus 144 (D947), also known as 'Lebensstürme' ('Storms of Life').  Schubert died at the age of only 31 in November 1829.  'Lebensstürme' was composed shortly before his death in May of the same year.  (The published version may not be complete.)  Although he died of typhoid fever he was already very ill by the summer of 1828 with symptoms of poisoning with mercury, which was commonly used to try to treat syphilis.  Franz would have been very aware that his life was soon to come to a premature end.  This is very evident in the music.
The underlying recurring theme is very simple, as Josephine demonstrated before they started, but certainly not easy to pick out.  The page they were playing from was black with semi-quavers and the storm broke immediately with the opening notes.  A barrage of staccato chords was followed, after a pregnant pause, by a disconcertingly gentle legato, only to be succeeded by more violent chords.  The full effect required perfect synchronisation between the two players, and balance between the treble and bass.  Body movements had to be coordinated as well.  David controlled the pedal so, in order for Josephine to reach the bass keys, they both had to lean to the left together - a perfect piece of choreography!  Sometimes David provided an accompaniment in the form of soft bass chords, sometimes he took the melody.  Sometimes the melody was picked out in chords jumping between bass and treble - perfectly timed by both players.  Best of all was when the two players had to negotiate the use of the same set of keys, a perfect display of friendly (and well-rehearsed) cooperation.  What appeared to be the build-up to a finale gave way to a surprisingly gentle section where Josephine performed a series of light and airy runs in the treble.  The real final crescendo, when it came, was sudden and strident.  The build-up and final angry chords were delivered with perfect timing, and all the emotion Schubert intended.  A brilliant but very disturbing performance!
 Audience members might have been forgiven for thinking that the second half would start with the music of Modeste Mussorgsky.  Actually the first two dances were by the less well-known Moritz Moszkowski, a Prussian composer born in Breslau, in Silesia, in 1854.  At the end of the nineteenth century he moved permantly to Paris where he died in 1925 reduced to poverty by the privations of the Great War.  Moszkowski's Opus 23, 'Aus aller Herren Länder' ('From Foreign Parts' - literally 'In All Countries') was composed in happier times in 1879, when Moritz was only 25.  It features six dances representing six countries: Russia, Germany, Spain, Poland, Italy and Hungary.  David and Josephine swapped places at the piano and gave us dances number three and five, Spain and Italy.  David had a fast and joyful melody reminiscent of a barrel organ (or barrel piano I should say).  The four hands were used fully, allowing much more intricacy than one person could achieve.  The melody drove on, building quickly, and just as suddenly finished.  Italy was a more jerky composition, again making clever use of the four hands.  At some points Josephine played alternating chords in the same position, using one hand over the top of the other.  That and all the other complicated tricks, which went on non-stop, were a joy to watch.  Once again timing was important as the melody repeatedly stopped and restarted edging towards the perfectly timed finish.
The concert finished in 1892 with Tchaikovsky's familiar and popular ballet 'The Nutcracker Suite'.  The melody of the 'Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy' would normally be played on a celeste or similar ethereal sounding instrument.  Here David's bass continuo (they had swapped places again) supported Josephine's melody on the very highest keys of the piano.  On the superb Venables grand piano those top notes had such a good action and were so clear and sweet that the sound was almost better than any celeste.  The 'Arabian Dance' started with four hands in the bass.  David sustained a precise measured bass rhythm while Josephine built the theme beautifully.  At the conclusion the theme died away perfectly.  Finally we had the most popular dance of the ballet, the 'Russian Dance' (actually a Ukranian 'Trepak' dance).  All the insistent urgency and energy were there right up to the precise and sudden finish.  And the end to the concert.
No-one in the audience could say they had been disappointed by the range and the quality of the playing.  The most impressive and exciting way you could imagine spending your lunch hour!

Owing to tardiness this post is published after the subsequent Glenorchy concert: Wensleigh and Jackie Palmer (piano and soprano voice) which took place on Wednesday 26th January.  The next concert at Glenorchy will be:

Wednesday 2nd February 12.30 pm
Michelle Banting and Iain McDonald
(piano and baritone voice)
Glenorchy United Reformed Church, Exmouth

Advance publicity suggested that we might hear Ruth Avis (flute) and Rebecca Willson (piano) supporting Iain but, sadly, we won't be able to hear Ruth or Rebecca on 2nd February.

However, for all those people who love the flute playing of Ruth Avis (as featured on Phonic FM) there is a concert on 5th March, also in Exmouth, where Ruth will appear.  The 'Piazzolla Duo' of Ruth Avis and guitarist Clive Betts will perform an evening of 'Tango and Celtic' music for flute and guitar:

Tango and Celtic Music for Flute and Guitar
Holy Trinity Church, Exmouth
Saturday 5th March 7.30pm

More details nearer the time on this site
and on Phonic FM's 'Classical Journey' programme
(10-12am every Tuesday).

Monday, 17 January 2011

Classical Journey Tuesday 18th January

Tuesday's music will include:

1603 England            DOWLAND John                           Fairwell too Faire
1700 Italy                  DURANTE Francesco                    La Pazzia
1713 Weimar             BACH J S                                      Cantata 208
1739 Leipzig              BACH J S                                      Suite No 3 in D, Air
1786 Vienna              MOZART W A                              Horn Concerto in E flat
1798 Vienna              HAYDN Joseph                             Creation, Chaos
1834 Paris                 CHOPIN Frédéric                          Fantasie Impromptu
1862 Prague              DVOŘÁK Antonin                         String Quartet No 1
1894 Paris                 MASSENET Jules                          Thaïs: Meditation
1917 Petrograd         PROKOFIEV Sergei                       Vision Fugitive No 10
1917 New Orleans Original Dixieland Jass Band             Tiger Rag
1960 Spain               SAINZ DE LA MAZA Eduardo      Platero y yo / Il Loco
1964 America          MANCINI Henry                             Pink Panther Theme
1973 Cambridge      GRAPELLI Stéphane                       Let's Fall in Love (Porter)
1989 Roumania        ZAMFIR Gheorghe                          Sieben Täler und ein tiefes Tal
2008 London           O'SHEA Mary                                  Panthea Gris
2009 London           CALDWELL Christopher                 Mariner's Way: Shadows
2010 Exeter             HENRY Philip                                  Catharsis

Concerts in the next (two) weeks:

Josephine Pickering and David Lee
Glenorchy URC Exmouth Wednesday 19 January 12.30am
Piano Duet
Admission Free

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Exeter Cathedral Thursday 20 January 7.30pm
Conductor: Kirill Karabits  Soloist Sunwook Kim (piano)
Pure Brahms:
Dvořák: Carnival Overture
Chopin: Piano Concerto No 2
Brahms: Symphony No 4
Tickets start at £9.50
Exeter Visitor Information 665700

South West Music School
Ship Studio, Dartington Hall Saturday 29 January 7.30pm
Elanor Best: voice  Annabel Lainchbury: violin
Molly Lopresti-Richards: Marimba  Paul Fraser: Recorder
Tickets £5 (£3 concessions, students free)
01803 847070

Exeter Cathedral Choir
Exeter Cathedral Saturday 29 January 7.30pm
Candlelight Concert
Tickets £9

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Sally Kirby and John Scarfe at Broadclyst

Sally Kirby (clarinet) and John Scarfe (piano)
performing at Broadclyst
Regular listeners to the 'Classical Journey' on Tuesday mornings on Exeter's community radio station 'Phonic FM' will have heard the delightful live performance of duets for clarinet and piano by local performers Sally Kirby and John Scarfe on the programme this week.  That was just a sample of the gorgeous music they played at Broadclyst on Saturday.
Despite the grey overcast sky a huge audience turned out at the Church of St John the Baptist in Broadclyst to hear their concert.  As always at these 'Coffee and Music' events, tea and coffe and were served in the church rooms from 10.30am and everyone made their way to their seats by 11 o' clock.  John gave his usual welcoming introduction and apologised for the appalling weather.  Sally had been keeping her clarinet warm with a hot-water bottle!
The concert began with the slow 'Church Sonata', composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Salzburg in 1772, which we heard on Tuesday, sandwiched between two faster church sonatas to make what was effectively a sonata in three movements.  The opening notes on the clarinet were rich and clear with Sally and John balancing their sound levels very neatly - not like Luch's electronically mediated efforts on the Classical Journey!  After a rousing finish to the first sonata (No 2) the slow sonata (No 1) was delightfully delicate - even more so than on Tuesday.  The second fast sonata (No 10) was much more gentle than the first and John was clearly getting into his stride, looking increasingly relaxed even managing to recover without any fuss when two pages stuck together.  A great choice for a first piece and a great start to the concert.
The concert continued with three fantasy pieces from Robert Schumann's Opus 73 composed at the end of his time in Dresden in 1849.  While the Mozart we had just heard was an arrangement for clarinet and piano made some time after composition, these pieces were written specifically for the two instruments.  The first, in A minor, had a simple and sombre clarinet line with lovely legato accompaniment from John on the piano.  The second was more complex for the clarinet, but very smoothly executed by Sally, despite her keys getting blocked at one point.  The third had a very modern jazz sound with a languid end to each phrase.  The piano passages became increasingly complicated, even including complex phrases which continuing over the page turn - but John was well equal to the task.
Next came the music of early twentieth century  English composer Gerald Finzi (whom I must not confuse with German classical composer Franz Danzi who was a contemporary of Beethoven!)  Sally and John played two of Finzi's 'Five Bagatelles'.  The premiere of these bagatelles was at the National Gallery in London when Pianist Howard Ferguson accompanied Sally's clarinet tutor Pauline Juler.  'Carol' was just as beautiful as it was in the studio on Tuesday.  The long sustained clarinet note at the end was exquisite.  'Forlana', by contrast, was low and mysterious but again had a high long note to finish, perfectly sustained by Sally on her clarinet.
Sally receives her bouquet
To lift our spirits we then had 'Spring' and 'Summer' from Paul Reade's 'Victorian Kitchen Garden Suite' (Composed for the TV series of the same name.)  Both were quite short.  'Spring' started with a lovely scale on clarinet leading into the piano part while 'Summer' featured languorous clarinet over rippling piano notes.  I wasn't exactly thinking about cricket matches on the village green but it did take my mind off the grey winter weather for a few minutes.
Finally we were treated to 'Three Scottish Impressions' by Gordon Langford.  'Corn Riggs' was very light-hearted and 'jokey' but clearly very difficult to play especially for the clarinettist who has to manage both high and deep sections, while the pianist has equally complicated solo sections.  'My Love is like a Red Red Rose' was soft and sensuous and our last piece, 'Pot-Pourri', was a hopping dance number featuring themes from several familiar tunes - an amazing composition, done full justice by Sally and John.
The encore was rather familiar.  Gabriel Pierné's 'Serenade' was part of the musical sample we enjoyed on Tuesday.  Saturday's performance was even more seductive and finished off the concert in style.
Many thanks to Sally Kirby and John Scarfe for a very professional and enjoyable concert.  Also thanks to John's wife Jean for her invaluable work in set-up and page-turning.  We must always remember the Rector of St John the Baptist, Michael Partridge, who is responsible for Broadclyst Parish Church as part of his team ministry and is always willing to use his church building to share his love of music with all!

Distinguished audience member
soprano Mary O'Shea
Before too long we hope to hear John Scarfe accompanying another local musician on the classical journey - Somerset soprano Mary O'Shea.  Mary was at Saturday's concert to hear Sally and John Play, and she is already in rehearsal with John.  Mary is regularly seen at Exeter Cathedral as a member of the St Peter's Singers.  The next big event she is involved in is the 'Sequence of Music for the Queen's Accession' which will be part of choral evensong in the Cathedral at 5pm on Sunday 6th February.  Mary has also joined the 'Jubilee Singers' and will be performing with them at Killerton on 14th May.

Another artist who has appeared with John, both at Broadclyst and in the studio at Phonic FM is baritone Gareth Keene.  Gareth will also appear on Radio 3 tonight (Sunday) as Aled Jones' guest on the programme 'Choir' at 6.30pm - also available on 'listen again'.

The next 'Coffee and Music' concert at Broadclyst Parish Church will be on Saturday 26th March.  Mezzo-soprano Rebecca Smith will sing Elgar's 'Sea Pictures' and Britten's 'A Charm of Lullabies'.

There is also a special recital planned for Saturday 11th June at 7.30pm when American virtuoso flautist Denise Deter will perform.
Denise studied as a post-graduate at Manchester University.  She currently works at the Woodlawn Arts Academy in Sterling, Illinois.

Organ Recital by Robert Millington

Robert Millington gives an organ recital
on the Bevington organ at Glenorchy
On Wednesday 12th January Robert Millington, organist at Sidmouth Parish Church, came to Glenorchy United Reformed Church in Exmouth to give a recital on the wonderful Bevington organ which was brought from Marylebone Presbyterian Church in 1898.
The programme was challenging from the outset.  Robert launched immediately into Bach's 'In Dulci Jubilo' (In Sweet Rejoicing' . . . now sing and be glad!) which Bach composed in Weimar in 1713 as he began to incorporate influences from Antonio Vivaldi into his compositions.  This involved rapid complex runs and demanded intense concentration from Robert.
Bach's  'In Dulci Jubilo' was closely followed by the same piece in an earlier arrangement by Friedrich Willhelm Zachow (or Zachau), teacher of Bach's contemporary George Frederick Handel.  Zachow must have been a good teacher as Handel was ready to take over from him as organist at the Church of Our Lady in Halle an der Saale at the age of only seventeen.  This earlier version was less complex and used the upper range of the organ for a high piping effect which was very pleasing.
Then came more Bach.  The prelude and Fugue in G was inspired by Bach's mentor, the Danish composer Dieterich Buxtehude.  Buxtehude developed the fugue and introduced the feature of repeated notes.  Bach extended this with his brilliant use of counterpoint.  Once again the full range of the organ rang out loudly.  Rapid arpeggios were augmented by counterpoint in the bass played on the pedal keyboard.  Robert was definitely having to concentrate hard now - and thoroughly enjoying himself.  The recurring theme of repeated notes was very restful and led us unsuspecting to the mighty final chord using the whole range of the organ.
The second half of the programme was much more modern.  First the music of Felix Mendelssohn (who revived interest in the music of Bach nearly eighty years after his death by conducting the first posthumous performance of the 'St Matthew Passion' in Berlin in 1829).  Robert played Mendelssohn's Organ Sonata No 3 (of six) from Opus 65 which was composed in Leipzig in 1845.  (Mendelssohn spent a lot of his time in Britain and the sonatas had a première here the following year.)  The sonata followed the traditional 'prelude and fugue' pattern, the prelude having been used for Fanny Mendelssohn's entrance at her wedding.  The music started on a grand scale and Robert was at full stretch from the outset.  One section involved a very beautiful bassoon line in one hand, but the general feature was the increasingly frenetic bass chords and there was a a deeply resonant part for pedal keyboard only.  As the finale approached David Lee (who was turning the pages) deftly 'pulled out all the stops' for a thunderous finish.
In contrast the next piece was gentle and romantic, Belgian organist Joseph Jongen's 'Chant de Mai' from his 1917 Opus 53 'Deux Pièces'.  (The second being 'Menuet-Scherzo'.)  This very gentle and wistful piece involved varying combinations of long bass notes on the pedal keyboard and very soft flute on the upper manual.  Robert controlled the combination beautifully throughout.
Robert's last piece took us back in time slightly to 1895 and French composer Léon Boëllmann's Opus 25, 'Suite Gothique'.  The suite is in four movements.  The opening chorale, played on full organ, has become familiar more recently as the hymn 'In deepest need we cry to Thee'.  Robert made this strident and forceful despite it's minor key before a gentler section led into the flighty and joyful C major Menuet .  Prière à Notre-Dame in A minor was slow and gentle and like a legato dream, skilfully controlled by Robert on the upper manual. Finally, the toccata with it's movie-style 'danger' theme, which Robert managed to keep just this side of Vaudeville.  Robert pulled out more and more stops before a repeat of the theme in the pedal led to the famous 'Tierce de Picardie' - C minor giving way to C major for a triumphant finish - and a sustained final chord!
After such an accomplished performance of the Suite Gothique there had to be an encore.  Robert took us back to a gentler mood with an organ arrangement of an English folk tune from the early twentieth century by Ralph Vaughan Williams' talented student Percy Whitlock.  The soft lyrical melody, with sustained bass notes and judicious use of swell, was just right to finish such a wonderful programme of organ music.
Many thanks to Robert Millington for coming to Exmouth to give us such a musical treat.  I hope we will see him in concert again soon.
(For those who may be wondering, Robert is not related to Exeter Cathedral organist Andrew Millington - but Robert's older brother is called Andrew, and Robert's brother Andrew is an organist as well!)

Lunchtime concerts at Glenorchy take place every Wednesday.  They are free to attend, with the option to contribute to church funds after the concert.  Next week (19th Jan) we can hear two veterans of the Glenorchy concert series.  David Lee and local composer Josephine Pickering will play a programme of duets on the Venables grand piano.  (See earlier posts for details of their previous appearances.)
In two weeks time, on Wednesday 26th January there is a very interesting combination: Wensleigh and Jackie Palmer have prepared a programme of pieces for organ and soprano voice!

Lunchtime Concert Series
Glenorchy United Reformed Church
Exeter Road, Exmouth
Every Wednesday 12.30-1.30pm
Admission free

Friday, 14 January 2011

Devon Baroque Press Release

Margaret Faultless will lead Devon Baroque
at Dartington Great Hall on Sunday 20th February
Devon Baroque returns with a new concert series for 2011 entitled `Europe in Transition’. Under the charismatic direction of Margaret Faultless, the orchestra will be performing selected works by Mozart, Haydn, Boccherini and Boyce. This is an unusual opportunity to experience works in the pre-classical style or `Style gallant’ of the mid- 18th Century, which developed as the baroque went out of fashion.

Featured artists are:
cellist Sebastian Comberti, who will be performing Boccherini’s Concerto in G major,
and Margaret Faultless who will play as soloist in the demanding Haydn Violin Concerto in C major.

Mozart was born in 1756 at Salzburg. He was a child prodigy and a prolific composer. He began performing at the age of six. The orchestra will perform his Divertimento in D major and that in Bb.

A composer who had a great influence on Mozart was Haydn. He was born in lower Austria to a music-loving wheelwright and trained as a choirboy. He later served as composer-conductor on the estate of Prince Esterhazyin Hungary for thirty years where he wore the livery of an upper servant. He was a violinist himself. He became known as `Father of the Symphony’ and Wagner described him as a `most divine genius’.

Another musical prodigy, who made his debut as a cellist at the age of thirteen, was Boccherini. He was also a prolific composer of chamber music and wrote several virtuosic cello concertos. The finest English composer of this time was William Boyce who was Master of the King’s Music from 1757. We shall hear the Symphony in F major performed by Devon Baroque.

Margaret Faultless is co-leader of The Orchestra of The Age of Enlightenment and an internationally renowned baroque violinist. Devon Baroque has built a reputation for its exhilarating and polished performances under her inspiring leadership.

Concerts will be at:

St. James’s Church, Mount Pleasant, Exeter EX4 7AH on Friday 18th February at 7.30 pm,
(Contact the Exeter Phoenix 01392 667080 or for the ticket information)

Oldway Mansion, Torquay Road, Paignton, TQ3 2TE on Saturday 19th February at 7.30 pm,
(The English Riviera Tourist Information Centre 01803 21121

The Great Hall, Dartington, TQ9 6DE on Sunday 20th February at 3pm.
(Dartington Box Office 01803 847070

Tickets are £18 (concessions £17 at Dartington) and £5 for students and juniors.

Further Information: website or contact Jasper on 01803 868883

Monday, 10 January 2011

Classical Journey Tuesday 11th January

Broadclyst Church
where pianist John Scarfe
and clarinettist Sally Kirby
will perform as part of the
'Coffee and Music' concert series
This Saturday the 'Music and Coffee' series will recommence at the Church of St John the Baptist in Broadclyst.  Concerts are preceded at 10.30am by coffee and tea in the Church followed by a concert at 11am.  This week the music will be provided by pianist John Scarfe and Clarinettist Sally Kirby playing in Duet.
To whet our appetites John and Sally will be joining the 'Classical Journey' at 11am this Tuesday to play us a selection from their repertoire over the airwaves.
First some music from Salzburg - Mozart's 1772 Church Sonatas.
On Saturday John and Sally will play all three.  Each is only one movement, and played together they effectively amount to a sonata in three movements.  On Tuesday's show John and Sally will play just the second, slow, sonata, which is very beautiful.
They also have a twentieth century Serenade (Opus 7) by French Composer Gabriel Pierné, a very lively piece that is played with many different combinations of instruments.  Piano and Clarinet will be an exciting new variation.
Clarinettist Sally Kirby and Pianist John Scarfe
in the Phonic FM studio on Tuesday

Next they have something even more modern: Paul Reade's piece 'Victorian Kitchen Garden Suite' which won the 1991 TV theme for the best TV theme tune.This piece was composed specifically for piano and clarinet, but other combinations have been tried including harp and clarinet which we heard over the changing seasons at the beginning of the Kitchen Garden programme - with violin accompaniment.  This piece is actually quite long and John and Sally will play just one movement on air tomorrow, and the other two on Saturday.

Finally they will play us one of Gerald Finzi's two carols from the early twentieth century.  On Saturday we can hear both together.

Coffee and Music - Broadclyst Church Saturday 15th January 10.30am

Piano: John Scarfe - Clarinet: Sally Kirby

1. Mozart's Church Sonata
2. Pierné's   Serenade
3. Reade's   Victorian Kitchen Garden Suite
4. Finzi's      Carol

Hear a live preview on 'Classical Journey' on Phonic FM this Tuesday 11th January at 11am.


More amazing duets
in Newton Abbot
Glenorchy United Reformed Church, Exmouth
Wednesday 12 January at 12.30pm
Robert Millington will be giving a recital on the Bevington organ.
No charge for admission
Programme and refreshments available in the foyer from 12 noon.

Sunwook Kim
Exeter Cathedral
Thursday 20th January at 7.30pm
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Kirill Karabits
Piano soloist: Sunwook Kim
"Pure Brahms": Dvorak Carnival Overture, Chopin Piano concerto No 2, Brahms Symphony No 4
BSO website:
Exeter Visitor Information 01392 665700

Recorded Music for Tuesday:
Spain, 16th century: Francisco Guerrera - Congratulamini Mihi
France, 1670s: Marc Antoine Charpentier - Magnificat a Trois Voix
Chelsea, 1688: Henry Purcell - Dido and Aeneas
Vienna, late 18th century: Johann Georg Albrechtsburger - Partita for Harp and Orchestra
Salzburg, 1783: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Piano Sonata No 11
Milan, 1820: Niccolo Paganini - Caprice No 24
Spain, 1841: Gioacchino Rossini - Stabat Mater
St Petersburg, 1888: Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov - Scheherezade
New Orleans, 1917: Original Dixieland Jass Band - Tiger Rag

Tune in at Ten!  106.8 FM -

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at Dartington

South West Music School students are joined by six members of
the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment for a concert in Studio 31
Following their wonderful 'Mozart Unwrapped' at Kings  Place in London six members of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment came to Dartington this weekend to provide masterclass training for the talented young musicians of the South West School of Music.
The young players spent two days on campus enjoying the supervision of the very best orchestral musicians and having great fun too.  At the end of it all they gave a public performance of their work.  The audience were not charged for admission and the auditorium of Studio 31 was filled to capacity for the concert.
Anyone who has been to Dartington and explored the campus will know that Studio 31 is on 'Park Place' a very odd 'street' of widely spaced wood-shingled houses leading to the studio.  Despite the unlikely and isolated location several hundred people made there way to Studio 31 to hear the musicians, and they were well rewarded for making the effort.
Young musicians of the future
Alfie (double bass) Annabel (violin)
with OAE Education Manager
Cherry Forbes
Several players had prepared solo pieces, with or without basso continuo.  First there was a Bach Sarabande followed by a Bach Chaconne - very tricky!  A young boy, whose jersey helped us remember that he was called Angus, gave a perfect recital of Bach's two-part invention for harpsichord - which he had seen for the first time the day before.  Double-bassist Alfie played us his own (more baroque) arrangement of the Ellis Violin Sonata with basso continuo provided by - another double bass, all under the expert supervision of seasoned bassist Cecelia Bruggemeyer.  An arrangement of Telemann's Overture for recorder and harpsichord was so thrilling that one little girl in the audience leapt to her feet and began a spontaneous continuo of her own on 'air harpsichord'.
There were also several ensemble pieces involving the younger students and professional musicians as well.  The overture to Corelli's Christmas Concerto was played beautifully, but trumped by the incredible improvisation the students had prepared on Purcell's 'Dido and Aeneas'.  Over a 'cello ground the students, and teachers, sang apocryphal comments they imagined Dido might have made about Aeneas - in perfect counterpoint.  Instruments were added in typical baroque embelishment, including inspired beatboxing by Alfie.
The recital piece was Rachel Stott's modern arrangement 'Resolution' which incorporated elements from Bach's Christmas Oratorio and the Coventry Carol.  This piece was very popular with the audience and most were able to recognise the original music (and not confuse it with 'God Save the Queen'!)  The piece was so well-received that it seemed only natural for players to perform the whole thing again as an encore.
Everyone enjoyed the concert immensely - audience as well as players.  Audience members gave generously to the retiring collection which will help ensure the continued success of the South West Music School and collaborations of this kind.  Special thanks must go to the SWMC CEO and Artistic Director, Lisa Tengale, for co-ordinating the whole event, and to the OAE Education Manager, Cherry Forbes, for bringing the orchestra members to Devon and supervising such a superb event.

Follow the links below for more information:

Events at Dartington     South West Music School     Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

Don't forget the SWMS Young Artist Showcase, in the Ship Studio this time, on Saturday 27th January.
The Britten Sinfonia will be in the Great Hall for an afternoon concert on Sunday 6th February.
Devon Baroque will be in the Great Hall for an afternoon concert on Sunday 20th February
(after St James Church Exeter 18th February and Oldway Mansion Paignton 19th February).

Devon Baroque

An Evening of Poetry and Song at Pullabrook

'Sally Scrumptious' (Lily Neal)
Dresses up to meet

Johnny Depp and Kevin Spacey
(in her dreams!)

'Mitzi Maybe'
(soprano Nicola Howard)
sings a solo number- ably

accompanied by Patrick Taylor

On 5th January music-lovers from all over Devon converged on the small village of Pullabrook for a concert by local singers.  The 'Good Time Girls' were reformed - 'Mitzi Maybe' (soprano Nicola Howard) had come home from Zambia and was joined by 'Sally Scrumptious' (former Phonic FM presenter Lily Neal).  Accompanied on the Piano by Patrick Taylor they performed a selection of comic songs and poems including the premiére of a popular show song with a new theme (chiropody) - 'Toe Business'.

Carolyn Harries Sings 'Habanera'
from Bizet's Carmen
The Good Time Girls provide

the translation (and commentary)
Peter Whittle adds
comic jazz to the mix
Also performing were soprano Christine Marsden and mezzo-soprano Carolyn Harries.  We also enjoyed opera extracts. Christine and Carolyn sang 'The Flower Duet' from Act I of Leo Delibes' opera 'Lakmé', and later Carolyn sang 'Habanera' from Georges Bizet's 'Carmen' - with English translation provided by the Good Time Girls.  Local composer Peter Whittle from Chudleigh then took over at the piano for two comedy jazz songs. Lily also recited several of her legendary poems including her unforgettable 'Dream of Johnny Depp and Kevin Spacey' and 'Metal Flowers'.  All this took place in the 30's setting of Pullabrook House, former hotel and home of Patrick and Meish Taylor.  Food and drink were in plentiful supply and, as twelfth night approached, everyone was still very much in the party spirit!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Clasical Journey 4 January 2011

A quick note on what we heard this morning:

1725 Bach ‘Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt’
1743-6 Bach ‘Sinfonia in D’
1746 Handel ‘Father of Heaven’ (Judas Maccabaeus)
1749 Handel ‘Gentle Morpheus’(Alceste)
1779 Mozart ‘Kyrie/Gloria’ (Coronation Mass)
1791 Mozart ‘Vengeance/Worship’ (The Magic Flute)
1817 Paganini ‘ Rondo’ (Violin Concerto 1)
1845 Lortzing ‘Ballet Suite’ (Undine)
1868 Brahms ‘Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit’ (German Requiem)
1921 Barrios ‘La Catedral’ (Sorry not enough time this week!)
1980 Zhu ‘Love in Spring’ (Especially for Denise!)
1999 Pärt ‘Cantique des Degrés’ (Courtesy of Dave Treharne)

Denise called at the end of this morning's programme to ask for more information about our Chinese classical music, both today and on 21 December.  Here's what we heard Denise:

Tuesday 21 Dec:
Piece: Street Musician (San Bang Gu)
Composer: Gang Chen and Zhanhao He (arranged by Huichang Yan)
Place: Shanghai Conservatory of Music
Year: 1959
Orchestra: Shanghai Conservatory Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Cheng-wu Fan 
Soloist: Takako Nishizaki (violin)

San Bang Gu (drum with three sticks), popular in Hunan and Tianmen, is a kind of traditional folk art form.  The theme of Street Musician is based on the melody of San Bang Gu, depicting the bitter life of folk musicians.  The introduction provides a background of misery and the sad tune played by the 'cello expresses the wretched fate of the musicians.  The technically demanding violin cadenza is followed by a cry of anguish at the unfairness of life.  In a quicker section the main theme re-appears, in different speed and rhythm, as the music reaches a climax. (Notes by Keith Anderson)

Tuesday 4 Jan:
Piece: Love in Spring
Composer: Xiaogu Zhu
Place: Shanghai Conservatory of Music
Year: 1980
Orchestra: Shanghai Conservatory Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Cheng-wu Fan 
Soloist: Takako Nishizaki (violin)

Love in Spring was specially written for the Japanese violinist Takako Nishizaki.  By using various folk-songs and operatic themes from the North and South of China, the composer attempts to show the great beauty of Chinese melodies transcribed fro the solo violin.  The orchestral introduction, its shifting harmonies recalling the changing colours of spring, leads to a tender and sensuous theme fro the solo violin.  The melody suggests the transience of spring or perhaps a dream of the past, the dialogue of soloist and orchestra like that of spring breezes and the willow.  In conclusion the theme appears in fragmented and poignant form.  There is an orchestral crescendo, leading to a climax, in a work that conveys the character of spring, something beyond words, a love that embraces the whole earth.  (Notes by Keith Anderson)

Both recorded on the Naxos label in Shanghai in October 1992.  Producer Kovan Goh.

Available from Amazon as MP3 download or CD.  Details here.

Here's details of the Dartington Concerts coming up:


1. South West Music School & The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

Sunday 9 January
4.30pm Studio 31
Join members of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and SWMS students for an informal concert of baroque solo and orchestral works plus a specially commissioned piece for our young performers and OAE players by composer Rachel Stott.
Students will have spent the weekend working intensively on period style inspired by Bach’s masterpiece the Christmas Oratorio.
FREE Concert
Please reserve in advance at the Box Office

Box Office | 01803 847070

2. Young Artist Showcase: Classical Music

Saturday 29 January
7.30pm Ship Studio, Dartington Hall
An intimate evening in the wonderful Ship Studio presented by four students from the prestigious South West Music School.
This classical programme will contain repertoire ranging from Bach to the present day. An opportunity to experience these exceptionally talented musicians at the start of their careers up close and personal.
“The best £3 I’ve spent in a long while!” – audience member
Elanor Best Voice
Annabel Lainchbury Violin
Molly Lopresti-Richards Marimba
Henry Tozer Piano
Box Office | 01803 847070
Opening Hours
12.30 - 19.00 Monday - Sunday
and 1 hour prior to events.

For any keen singers, here's the Exeter Bach Society press release. (Rehearsals start on Thursday!)

EXETER BACH SOCIETY (Honorary Patron: Peter Hurford, OBE, DMus, FRCO)                                                                               
Media Release, 3 January 2011
Sing for your Life!

It is now an accepted fact that singing is good for your health, not only physically, but also emotionally – in fact,  it is just what the doctor ordered after the Christmas and New Year over-indulgences! So why not consider joining the Exeter Bach Society Choir for its next concert and get fit too?

The Exeter Bach Society, known for its friendliness, invites good singers to join them for their next concert – Bach’s magnificent Mass in B Minor - to be performed at St David’s Church on Saturday 2 April.  The rehearsals, directed by Nicholas Marshall, begin this Thursday (6 January) at 7pm in Kalendar Hall, South Street, Exeter (opposite Kentucky Fried Chicken). All voice parts will be very welcome, including sopranos, as they divide into two different choruses.

Interested singers can telephone the Hon. Secretary, Gill Manning, on 01392-255177 or email her on  More details are on the EBS website:

A second exciting opportunity for singers is the Society’s annual choral workshop – this year studying Haydn’s Harmoniemesse with popular conductor and former King’s Singer, Brian Kay, on Saturday 12 February at St Sidwell’s Methodist Church.

Another regular EBS event is a Bach Cantata sung with St Peter’s Singers as part of Exeter Cathedral’s occasional evening service, after which the Society often holds a recital or a talk by well-known musicians in the Cathedral Chapter House. The next such event is a piano recital by Lara Melda (formerly Omeroglou), outright winner of the BBC Young Musician 2010 Competition, at 6pm on Sunday 6 March.
Media contact: Juliet Meadowcroft, EBS Publicity Officer – 01392-490963