Monday, 21 March 2011

More Piano - Jill Govier at Glenorchy, 16 March

Pianist Jill Govier at Glenorchy
Following the outstanding lunchtime concert of modern piano music in the Music Room at Exeter Library on Monday, it was possible to hear more excellent piano music only two days later in another lunchtime concert at Glenorchy United Reformed Church in Exmouth.  Although not restricted to modern music (the concert covered three centuries of European music in fact) there was a very special modern piece by Norfolk composer Patrick Hawes to bring us up to the present day.
Jill called her programme 'A Season for Everything' - a reference to the opening line of the third chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes in Hebrew Scripture:

".לַכֹּל, זְמָן; וְעֵת לְכָל-חֵפֶץ, תַּחַת הַשָּׁמָיִם"

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven"
And the heavens smiled on Jill's endeavours on Wednesday afternoon.
She opened with two pieces from 1722, Preludes 1 and 21 from 'The Well Tempered Clavier'.  The first, in C major, is well known to all piano students, deceptively simple but delightfully flexible.  Jill delivered it beautifully and continued with the very different Prelude 21 in B flat major.  No beginner would want to be given this to study.  The melody hops about the keyboard with sudden chords and long and exhilarating runs up and down.  For all its complexity, number 21 complemented number 1 perfectly, especially with Jill's consistent playing.
Leaping ahead in time to the nineteenth century, Jill continued with Chopin's Mazurka No 13.  Although in a doleful minor key, this dance was gently uplifting.  The very gentle start lead into beautiful legato phrases - and a sudden ending, characteristic of Chopin, which leaves the listeners uncertain about what they have heard.
Slipping back to the closing years of the eighteenth century, Beethoven's Seventh Piano Sonata was a much larger work in four movements.  The opening presto was cheerful with fun rhythms which carried the listener along.  Lovely.  The largo was actually quite fast too, a lovely fluid sound which led to a surprisingly staccato ending.  The minuet and rondo returned to the jokey tune of the opening but built to an impressive finish.
Two more short mazurkas by Chopin followed (29 and 43).  Both were short but sweet, the first a piece of fun and the second more serious and ponderous.
Then it was time for the wonderful 'Sleep Song' by Patrick Hawes.  Jill met Patrick in Exeter during his 2007 'Towards the Light' tour, in which he played the 'Sleep Song'.  This was Jill's first public performance of the personalised score she received from Patrick at that meeting.  With a key signature of six flats, changing to six sharps this wsa not too restful for the player, but it was certainly restful for the audience - but by no means sleep-inducing!
Jill finished with Edvard Grieg's 'Lyric Piece for Piano', 'Wedding Day At Troldhaugen'.  The wedding was his own - to his cousin Nina Hagerup at his home, Troldhaugen in Bergen in Norway.  She dedicated it to the impending wedding of Prince William (Friday 29 April, by the way).
The long and complex development of the theme brought an unfortunate problem - the page turn.  Rebecca's laptop would have been invaluable.  After turning the page halfway through a fantastically complicated crescendo it is necessary to turn back again for the repeat.  Jill seemed to have tried to overcome this by making a photocopy to use for the repeat.  Despite having practiced the turn in advance with her husband in charge of the music, something seemed to go wrong in practice.  Apparently Howard, thinking Jill had been playing from the photocopy removed it!  All was not lost, however.  Jill simply began the offending section again and played it from memory - for us to enjoy all over again.
Despite the little technical hitch, the audience were delighted with the Grieg and hoped there might be a little something extra for an encore.  Jillhad just the thing: 'Quanta Qualia', composed by Patrick Hawes in 2005 and included in his 'Towards the Light' concert tour.  With a pronounced sense of longing, this lovely piece was beautifully played,  every new harmony a delight.  A very sweet conclusion to another very enjoyable concert.

This Wednesday at Glenorchy we can hear the singing of soprano Janet McDonald, accompanied by clarinettist Phil Bonser.   This intriguing duo will be brought together again a week from Saturday, when they will take part in Schubert's 'Shepherd on the Rock' at St Margaret's Church in Topsham.

Janet McDonald (Soprano) 
Glenorchy United Reformed Church Exmouth 
Wednesday 23 March 12.30pm
Clarinet and Song (with clarinettist Philip Bonser)
Admission Free

St Margaret's Church Topsham Saturday 2 April 7.30pm
Franz Schubert: 'Shepherd on the Rock'
Soprano: Janet McDonald
Clarinet: Philip Bonser
Piano: Margaret Chave, Mary Pickard
Tartini: Concertino
Mozart: Clarinet Concerto
and songs by Finzi, Fauré and Mozart
Admission Free - but all donations go to 'Shelter Box'
to provide relief to disaster victims around the world

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