Thursday, 12 July 2018

Nicola Howard returns to Devon - Live at Sidholme Wednesday 11 July On Air at Soundart Radio Friday 13 July 2018

Nicola Howard
Sidholme Music Room
Wednesday 11 July 11-12am
Soundart Radio Dartington Space
Friday 13 July 9-12am

1. Sheldon Harnick/David Baker: "Someone is sending me flowers"

2. Robert Louis Stevenson/Liza Lehmann: "The Swing"

3. William Shakespeare/Madelaine Dring: "It was a Lover and his Lass"

4. W H Auden/Benjamin Britten: "Johnny"

5. John Betjeman/Madeleine Dring: "Song of a Nightclub Proprietress"

6. Randy Newman: "When somebody loved me"

7. Robert Lopez/Jeff Marx: "There's a fine fine line"

8. Victor Hugo/Reynaldo Hahn: "Reverie"

9. Norman Gimbel/Michel Legrand: "I will wait for you"

10. Jacques Prevert/Joseph Kosma: "Autumn Leaves"

11. Ira Gershwin/George Gershwin: "They can't take that away from me"

Monday, 14 May 2018

East Devon Choral Society "Elijah" St Paul's Church Tiverton Saturday 12 May

East Devon Choral Society
Conductor: Andrew Daldorph
St Paul's Church Tiverton
Saturday 12 May

Elijah: Tim Mirfin
The performance of sacred choral works by the East Devon Choral Society are always wonderfully moving, and extremely popular with Tiverton audiences. On Saturday, despite many competing events in the town, St Paul's Church was filled for their performance of Felix Mendelssohn's glorious oratorio "Elijah".

Andrew Daldorph had prepared the choir with exceptional diligence, as always. Their massed voices rang out with the tempestuous force always associated with the dire prophesies of the Old Testament.

Bass Tim Mirfin was Elijah. Tim is well known for his work with the Cathedral Choir in Exeter, and also his many operatic performances around the world, for which he is in great demand. He opened the concert with the decree from God that Israel would suffer several years of drought.

Timpani: Steve Douglas
Right on cue, Fiona McLean-Buechel led the orchestra in a furious overture reflecting both the dire prospects for the people, and the terrible majesty of their Lord. The orchestra members only meet on the day of the concert. Despite only a day's preparation their performance was electrifying.

Brass and kettle drums brought the more explosive sections to glorious life, while the strings and woodwind were equally emotive in the many gentle airs and recitatives.

An Angel: Emily Moudiotis
As always there were also splendid visiting soloists. Tenor John Graham-Hall was both Elijah's ally Obadiah, and his adversary King Ahab. Soprano Claire Surman was the temporarily bereaved Widow of Zarephath. Mezzosoprano Louise Mott was King Ahab's Queen Jezebel.

A very special moment in the performance went to a member of the choir. Soprano Emily Moudiotis sang beautifully as an angel from the back row, framed by spectacular stained glass images from the New Testament in the East Window. Emily also sang in recitative duet with Tim Mirfin from the pulpit - another very moving scene.

Throughout, the choir provided the backbone and life of the story with their rousing choruses and narratives. From their opening cry of supplication, to their closing exaltation, their discipline and emotional energy kept the audience inspired and engaged.

Once more Andrew Daldoph has brought together the combined forces of his choir and orchestra to astound and entertain with spectacular classical repertoire. Many thanks to all the performers, and everyone who works so hard behind the scenes, for making these splendid events possible.

Orchestra & Choir
Violins: Carina Vince, Emma Welton
Pippa Cotterill, Fiona McLean-Buechel
Conductor: Andrew Daldorph
Clarinets: Steve Smith, Chris Gradwell
On Saturday 24 November this year we come full-circle as Andrew Daldorph revisits with the choir 'a very major choral work', Sir Edward Elgar's 'Dream of Gerontius'. This was performed seven years ago at the same venue by not only the East Devon Choral Society, but also the Exeter Chamber Choir - which is also regularly directed by Andrew Daldorph. 'Gerontius' was the first demonstration of Andrew Daldorph's mastery of choral conducting on the Classical Journey. (Read review.)

In the meantime, there will also be a Summer Charity Concert by the East Devon Choral Society in aid of the League of Friends and Tiverton Hospital - on Friday 13 July.

A miraculous outpouring of indigenous vocal and instrumental talent.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Nina Leonard Savićević Lunchtime Piano Recital Saint Margaret's Church Topsham Saturday 24 March 2018

Nina Leonard Savićević

Nina Leonard Savićević has been recognised as a precocious piano virtuoso for most of her life (Details in Classical Journey Blog 21 March). Now, at 17, she is working towards A-Levels, while applying to musical conservatories, auditioning for piano competitions, and preparing live concerts for the general public.

Claude Monet
La Cathédrale de Rouen.
Le portail, soleil matinal;
harmonie bleue
(Musée d'Orsay, Paris)
Her latest series of concerts showcase six very emotive romantic pieces for the piano. Each one provides Nina with an opportunity to express herself in flamboyant flights of fancy. At her first outing in St Margaret's Church in Topsham Nina was able to demonstrate her skills on the new Yamaha grand piano.

The opening piece was Claude Debussy's deceptively gentle 1910 poetic representation of the lost city of Kêr-Is, the mythical, formerly thriving, Breton community on the west coast of Finisterre, imagined to have been created in the fifth century by Gradlon Meur, king of Kernev. According to legend the city, having been built on reclaimed land, was subsequently inundated again by the sea.

In "La Cathédrale Engloutie" (The Sunken Cathedral) Claude Debussy describes in music the reported sightings of the lost city in the early morning light, as the sun's rays penetrate the clear waters of the Baie de Douarnenez. In perfectly comprehensible but illogical metaphor, the sacred sounds of the city's cathedral become increasingly audible as the light penetrates the waters. The bells, monastic chanting, and organ music, become increasingly strident - represented in the exotic pentatonic scale of Javanese gamelan - before fading again as the sun approaches its zenith.

From impressionism, Nina moved back in time to 1895 and turned to the symbolism of Russian composer Alexander Scriabin. Following in the romantic tradition of Frédéric Chopin, Scriabin developed his own atonal style inspired by his own mystical ideas, and demonstrating his principle of synesthesia, where notes and chords correspond to colours.

Alexander Scriabin
with his second wife Tatiana Schloezer
Brussels 1909
Nina played the second of Scriabin's "Deux Impromptus pour Piano" Opus 12.  The choice was inspired. In a perfect echo of Debussy's tone poem, Scriabin's 'Impropmptu' starts gently before taking a thousand delightfully twisted detours around the piano keyboard with increasing emotional intensity, before quickly and neatly resolving in a few short chords, just as it started.

As Nina points out, this slightly challenging composition might be uncomfortable to the unaccustomed ear, but in performance the piece is perfect for Nina to demonstrate her expressive and controlled technique.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
with his mother Anna Maria
Versailles 1778
Nina introduced each piece with as much enthusiasm as she played them, and added much enriching detail. Retrospectively, she invited the audience to conjure up the colours Scriabin had been evoking, before introducing a piece with a very different inspiration, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "Sonata in A Minor" (number 310 in the Köchel-Verzeichnis). In a rare departure from form, Mozart used the minor key - possibly reflecting the mournful passing of his mother in the same year, 1778.

Despite the minor key, the sonata is remorselessly buoyant and full of lively and inventive quirks. Nina brought every passage to life with unrelenting vivacity and vigour. In contrast to the picturesque impressionism of her opening choices, the classical ingenuity of Mozart's work, in Nina's capable hands, was a joy to hear.

Deftly caulking the junction between classical form and romantic impressionism, Nina turned to Scriabin's inspiration - Frédéric Chopin. His Nocturne in C sharp minor is a favourite of Nina's, and one which she is constantly refining and polishing. The precise intonation satisfies the classically conditioned ear, while creating delightful romantic images.

Frédéric Chopin
attended at his deathbed by sister
Ludwika Jędrzejewicz
Paris 1849
This arresting nocturne (lento con gran espressione) was composed for Chopin's sister Ludwika in 1830 and, since Chopin's premature death from tuberculosis in 1849 has been employed to emotive effect in various contexts during the ensuing century and a half. Most notably, concert pianist Natalia Karp, owes her life to a performance for Amon Göth at the Kraków-Płaszów camp - in return for which she was spared and survived.

Nina drew on that impressive legacy in her own expressive performance, leaping from one cascade of notes to the next with nimble agility. A spectacular signature piece.

Nina's final two pieces related to the equally tragic life and death of Chopin's contemporary, Robert Schumann. In Leipzig in 1841, one year after their long-awaited marriage, Clara Schumann played the première of Robert's 'Fantasy' which was to become the opening Allegro Affettuoso of his three movement Piano Concerto in A minor - with Clara playing the première in Dresden.

Robert Schumann
Nina played a solo arrangement of the affettuoso which was a delight to hear in itself, reflecting a very uplifting period in Robert's life. At the Mannamead concert on 7 April (details below) Nina will be performing the whole concerto, with the orchestral parts recreated by Dorothy Raven on the organ at St Emmanuel's Church.

Schumann died prematurely just seven years after Chopin, in the Franz Richarz Sanatorium in Bonn. It is suspected that he had contracted syphilis as a student and that either the disease, or the cumulative effects of crude interventions with mercury salts, led to his debilitating mental health problems and final demise.

Clara Wieck
Clara was with him to the end and, apparently unscathed by the disease herself, continued to compose
and work as a piano accompanist for a further forty years. Supporting her in an ambiguous rôle as family friend and romantic admirer, was Robert's protégé Johannes Brahms. Despite being fourteen years her junior, Johannes only outlived her by one year.

In 1893, just a few years before they died, Johannes composed his final piano suite, four 'Klavierstücke' for performance in London. The final piece, the 'Rhapsody' (or Caprice) is as full of life and variety as anything Brahms created in his long and productive life. With Clara's encouragement his musical talent found an exhilarating outlet right to the very end.

Johannes Brahms
This piece was the perfect choice to end Nina's recital, and she played with all the energy and excitement that Johannes would have wanted. What a lovely way to gently close this brief tour of musical history. Nina not only astounded and fascinated her audience with her musical selection, but also demonstrated her wonderful and still developing talent as a pianist.

Nina will be in audition soon for next year's 'Young Musician of the Year' competition. What a treat it would be for television viewers, if she were to be chosen to appear. On Good Friday (30 March) between 9 and 12am Nina can be heard on Soundart Radio in an interview recorded at St Margaret's Church after the concert. The following Friday (6 April) between 2 and 4pm Nina will visit the Phonic FM studio in person, immediately after her recital at St Stephen's Church in Exeter High Street.

Nina Leonard Savicevic
Nina Leonard Savicevic
1. St Margaret's Church Topsham
    Saturday 24 March 1pm
2. St Stephen's Church Exeter
    Friday 6 April 1pm
3. St Emmanuel Church
    Mannamead Plymouth
    Saturday 7 April 7.30pm
4. Bath Abbey
    Friday 13 April 1pm
W A Mozart: Sonata in Am K310
Johannes Brahms: Rhapsody in E♭ Op 19.4
Claude Debussy: "La Cathedral Egloutie"
Alexander Scriabin: Improptu in B♭m Op 12
Frédéric Chopin: Nocturne No 20 in C#m
Sergei Rachmaninov: Prelude in C#m Op 3.2
Frédéric Chopin: Étude Opus 25.1
(plus Variations Brillantes Op 12)
Robert Schumann: Concerto in Am

Joseph Haydn: Minuet in Gm

Future Dates:

Fowey Festival of Arts - Sunday 13 May 12.30pm
Southernhay Church Exeter - Saturday 26 May 1pm
Lympstone Parish Church - Sunday 22 July 4pm

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Delta Saxophone Quartet New Album for April 2018 "Bowie, Berlin & Beyond" Press Release from Chris Caldwell

Delta Saxophone Quartet
Tenor: Tim Holmes - Alto: Pete Wyman
Soprano: Graeme Blevins - Baritone: Chris Caldwell

"Bowie, Berlin & Beyond"
for release on FMR Records April 2018

This album is the result of the collective work of one saxophone quartet, two composers, an artist, and a sound designer.. all inspired by the iconic pop actor/artist/musician, David Bowie and what he continually pointed towards . . . the unknown.

 The Delta Saxophone Quartet was formed in 1984 and held its first rehearsals in SE London not far from Bowie’s Beckenham roots and his Experimental Arts Lab Project.

 The quartet has always looked to merge the boundaries of its sound world, often combining contemporary jazz, progressive rock and the avant-garde. A constant mission to surprise and experiment, looking to re-invent itself but being respectful to the ‘art form’, very much like Bowie.

Delta Saxophone Quartet
Tenor: Tim Holmes - Soprano: Graeme Blevins
Baritone: Chris Caldwell - Alto: Pete Wyman
This album is a ‘sonic’ and ‘ambient’ stroll through Bowie’s Berlin years and beyond. An Englishman’s ‘doffing the cap’ to the echoes of a European cultural history, a reflection on time past combined with the constant of moving forwards. A recognition of an innate sense of belonging but striving to be independent and creative too.

 This recording was made at a time when the U.K. has been polarised by Brexit and a breaking away from Europe. Hopefully when the political dust settles there will be a realisation that it’s our shared fragility and not short term power which unites every one of us. Something Bowie intrinsically recognised.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Nina Leonoard Savicevic Classical & Romantic Piano Recitals St Margaret's Church Topsham Saturday 24 March St Stephen's Church Exeter (with Phonic FM interview) Friday 6 April 2018

Piano: Nina Leonard Savicevic

Nina Leonard Savicevic
Nina Savicevic began her piano studies at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatoire in St Petersburg at the age of four. Galina Kulish was Nina's personal piano tutor. After just three months Nina performed in her first live piano concert.

Just a year later Nina moved to Exeter with her parents, as her father was a full time PhD student at the University. Nina's piano tuition continued with Caroline Diffley, who was working in the University Music Department - and also at Wells Cathedral School.

Nina participated in many local and national music competitions, winning several prizes, while also successfully completing her grade studies up to Grade VIII, which she was awarded in 2014. Nina also developed her skills on the viola and trained as a singer - while also playing tennis at county level.

When she was thirteen years old, Nina was awarded a scholarship to the Maynard School, and has since received a fully funded place as a Piano Specialist at Wells Cathedral School - where her academic and sporting abilities can also flourish.

Following a very successful GCSE year at Wells, Nina is now studying for A Levels and pursuing opportunities with Universities and Music Conservatories in the United Kingdom and Europe.

Last year Nina appeared on BBC Radio Devon with David Fitzgerald, and they plan to make another programme where Nina will perform piano pieces live for the listeners. Nina has also joined Victoria Graham and Justin Leigh on BBC South West, taking part in a live interview on BBC Spotlight.

Nina was also interviewed for an article by Deputy Head of Content for the "DevonLive" website Colleen Smith. Articles about Nina have also appeared in "Devon Life" and "Exeter Life" magazines.

Nina has competed in the BBC "Young Musician of the Year", and is in audition for the 2018 competition. We shall be seeing and hearing a lot more of Nina in the near future. Here in Devon (and further afield in the South West) there are several opportunities to hear Nina playing live piano recitals. Details are below.

After the lunchtime concert at St Stephen's Church on Friday 6 April, Nina will be strolling across Exeter High Street to the Phonic FM studios for a live discussion of her musical career on the "Classical Journey" programme. Listen out for a brief discussion by telephone with Nina at Wells Catherdral School on this Friday's 'Journey' (2pm Friday 23 March).

Nina Leonard Savicevic
Nina Leonard Savicevic
1. St Margaret's Church Topsham
    Saturday 24 March 1pm
2. St Stephen's Church Exeter
    Friday 6 April 1pm
3. St Emmanuel Church
    Mannamead Plymouth
    Saturday 7 April 7.30pm
4. Bath Abbey
    Friday 13 April 1pm
W A Mozart: Sonata in Am K310
Johannes Brahms: Rhapsody in E♭ Op 19.4
Claude Debussy: "La Cathedral Egloutie"
Alexander Scriabin: Improptu in B♭m Op 12
Frédéric Chopin: Nocturne No 20 in C#m
Sergei Rachmaninov: Prelude in C#m Op 3.2
Frédéric Chopin: Étude Opus 25.1
(plus Variations Brillantes Op 12)
Robert Schumann: Concerto in Am

Joseph Haydn: Minuet in Gm

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Andrew Wilson & Elizabeth Holman Première "À La Ronde" Glenorchy Church Wednesday 4 April 2018

Andrew Wilson & Elizabeth Holman
Glenorchy United Reformed Church Exmouth
Wednesday 4 April 12.30pm
The Lunchtime Concert at Glenorchy Church on 4th April will feature the premier of Andrew Wilson's composition for violin and piano called “À La Ronde” The artists will be Elizabeth Holman (violin) and Andrew Wilson (piano).

Andrew wrote À La Ronde for Elizabeth's wedding to Ian last summer in Truro Cathedral and it was presented to her on that occasion. The piece is inspired by the whimsical National Trust house of the same name, which is just outside Exmouth.

There are many reflections of the famous polygonal building in the music, which pictures in sound the wonder the visitor has on first casting their eyes around the astonishing decorative panels made of shells and other materials collected by the original occupants - unmarried cousins Jane and Mary Parminter.

It is appropriate that the premier should take place in Glenorchy Church as Jane and Mary Parminter, for whom À La Ronde was built by John Lowder in 1796, were worshippers there before building their own chapel at Point in View in 1813.

The Concert starts at 12.30 and will feature other music as well.

Admission is free with a retiring collection.

Piano: Andrew Wilson
Violin: Elizabeth Holman
Glenorchy Lunchtime Concerts
Glenorchy Church Exmouth
Wednesday 4 April 12.30pm
Piano: Andrew Wilson
Violin: Elizabeth Holman
Archangelo Corelli: Sonata No 1 Op 5
W A Mozart: Violin Sonata in Em K304
Andrew Wilson: "À La Ronde" (première)
Sir Edward Elgar: "Salut d'Amour"
Nigel Hess: "Ladies in Lavender"
John Williams: "Schlindler's List"
Admission FREE - retiring collection

[See also - the OU Graduates' visit to À La Ronde on 29 June 2012]

Thursday, 22 February 2018

"Happy Valentine's Day" Stella Maris Trio Glenorchy Church Exmouth Wednesday 14 February 2018

Stella Maris Trio
Piano: Sam Baker  Soprano: Hannah Coleman
Mezzo Soprano: Iryna Ilnytska

Pianist & Compère:
Sam Baker
Following her sensational recital with Sam Baker at Glenorchy in January, Victoria Armillotta has returned to the Royal Northern College of Music to continue her studies. The Stella Maris Trio continue as before, however, with Victoria's place taken by another talented soprano Hannah Coleman.

On Wednesday 14 February, the trio - Sam, Hannah, and mezzo soprano Iryna Ilnytska - returned to Glenorchy for a lunchtime recital of romantic song, and piano pieces.

Sam introduced the trio, and his first solo piece, 'La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin' (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair) by Claude Debussy. The music, intended for harp, is gently flowing - like golden coils of hair, but also suggests a story of love and longing.

Sam's playing was certainly very loving, and created a very romantic mood to start a special concert for Valentine's Day.

Ellen's Aria from 'Peter Grimes':
Hannah Coleman
Hannah continued the imagery of luxury fabric with the character Ellen Orford's sad aria from Benjamin Brittens opera 'Peter Grimes'.

This tragic song describes Ellen's realisation that the orphan boy John, sold into apprenticeship to the over-ambitious and foolhardy Grimes, has probably died on a dangerous fishing  trip organised by his master.

The evidence, found on the cliff path, is a torn fishing smock which Ellen embroidered herself, out of love for the unfortunate boy.

As realisation dawns, Ellen's love turns to despair - while the audience and male characters become enraged at the inconsiderate actions of the irresponsible Grimes.

Sam's piano part was disjointed and disconcerting, reflecting the terrible uncertainty about the boy's fate. Hannah's singing perfectly evoked the desperate cries of the distraught Ellen carried away on the relentless wind after a terrible storm.

"Dopo L'Oscuro Nembo":
Iryna Ilnytska
Iryna's first aria was from Vincenzo Bellini's opera 'Adelson e Salvini'.

The two men compete for the affections of Nelly, who is somehow deceived into thinking she has been deceived. (This is opera, let's not forget.)

Nelly's aria returns to the theme of uncertain calm after a storm, 'Dopo l'Oscuro Nembo, il Ciel Sperai Sereno' (After the dark clouds, I had hoped for clear skies - and that I might enjoy the calm in my lover's arms).

Iryna had been touring Devon and Somerset only a few days before, singing moving arias by Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov with the 'Duo Elegance' (A Celebration of Russian Heritage in Music).

Iryna was able to make the shift from intense Russian romanticism to Italian classical opera with ease, bringing equally convincing passion and feeling to both. A versatile and impressive performer.

Cristoph Willibald Gluck: 'Orfeo ed Euridice'
"Vieni Appaga il guo Consorte"
"No, piu cara a me la morte"

Orfeo: Iryna Ilnytska
Euridice: Hannah Coleman
Classical tragedy continued with a duet from the opera 'Orfeo ed Euridice' by Cristoph Willibald Gluck.

Iryna is Orfeo, who has ventured into the underworld to bring back his beloved Euridice (Hannah) from the dead. In a strange twist, his rescue attempt will fail if he so much as looks at her.

Euridice resists his entreaties to follow him back to the world of the living because of his apparent coldness and indifference.

  Orfeo -
(Iryna Ilnytska)
ed Euridice
(Hannah Coleman)
Tragically, Orfeo's plea, "Vieni Appaga il guo Consorte" (Come, follow your husband) elicits the extraordinary response from Euridice, "No, piu cara a me la morte" (No, I'd rather die!)

Reluctantly Orfeo relents and, knowing the consequences, trades all hope of saving Euridice for one last moment together.

A very loving scene by two masterful performers.

     Albéniz, Gounod, Elgar . . .
Piano: Sam Baker
Sam and Hannah then took our romantic journey to Catalonia, Paris and London. Sam played the 'Capricho Catalan' from the suite 'España' by Isaac Albéniz, and the 'Salut D'Amour' (Ode to Love) written by Sir Edward Elgar for his beloved Caroline Alice Roberts - either side of the most effusively romantic piece of the afternoon.

Hannah, as Juliette, sang the most famous aria from the opera 'Roméo et Juliette' by Charles Gounod, "Je veux vivre dans le rêve qui m'enivre. - Ce jour encor!" (I want to live in the dream that exhilarates me. I want this day again!) The feeling of excitement and delight that Hannah brought to the part made the audience feel just as Juliette did - that the joyful experience should never end!

However, a very different lover was about to take the stage. Just a few years after Gounod brought Roméo et Juliette to the Paris stage, Georges Bizet presented his most memorable character to Paris audiences . . .

Carmen! - Iryna Ilnytska

"L’amour est un oiseau rebelle
Que nul ne peut apprivoiser!"
Sam Baker & Iryna Ilnytska
Iryna's performance of Carmen's famous 'Habanera' is intoxicating, and not a little terrifying. "If you don't love me, I love you. But, if I love you - be careful!"

No male audience member is safe, as Iryna's Carmen stalks the aisles serenading each in turn with disconcerting intensity. Suffused with blushes, the victims look forward to Carmen's attention moving on to another hapless mark - when they can sit back and enjoy the someone else's hilarious squirming embarrassment.

Carmen is relentless, working the whole room. It is a testimony to Iryna's incredible ability as a character actor and her vocal talent that, regardless of her predatory peregrinations, every word of this spectacular aria was clearly audible to everyone in the audience.

Iryna has performed this marvellous piece many times, always with electrifying effect. Every performance is a joy to experience.

"Si je t’aime, prends garde à toi!"

Jacques Offenbach: Tales of Hoffmann

Soprano: Hannah Coleman
Mezzo Soprano: Iryna Ilnytska
To draw the concert to a gentle conclusion, Sam played "Abschied" (Farewell) from the Waldszenen by Robert Schumann, followed by the restful caress of Jacques Offenbach's 'Berceuse' from 'The Tales of Hoffmann' - "Belle Nuit, ô Nuit d'Amour".

This was a spectacular closing duet for Hannah and Iryna, gently throwing the lilting sound back and forth, as Sam provided a gentle and loving accompaniment on the piano.

Good night - with love.

"Belle Nuit, ô Nuit d'Amour"
Soprano: Hannah Coleman - Mezzo Soprano: Iryna Ilnytska

Una Gatta: Hannah Coleman
The audience were so delighted by all the love-songs they had heard that there was clearly plenty of demand for something more. Incredibly the trio had prepared something so intricate and skilled as an encore that it must have taken more preparation than any other part of the programme.

The 'Duetto Buffo di due Gatti'  by Lucas de Pearsall (often wrongly attributed to Gioachino Rossini) is always enormous fun - the entire dialogue between the two singers being in the forms of "Meeow!" exchanged in mock recitative.

For this concert Hannah and Iryna (Sam's 'kittens') created an entire mobile phone interaction, complete with picture messages and selfies - all acted out perfectly, demonstrating their wonderful stage skills, and each "Meeow!" delivered with such conviction it was possible to follow the crazy mock-conversation with ease.

'Duetti di due Gatti'
Hannah Coleman & Iryna Ilnytska
Hannah Coleman & Iryna Ilnytska

What a special treat for a special day. Sam, Hannah and Iryna provided a loving helping of romantic musical delights for Valentine's Day and made a perfect spring morning that much brighter. Many thanks for all their work, and for the pleasure they bring.

Don't forget that the Stella Maris Trio are in concert again at the Teignmouth Classical Music Festival on Saturday 10 March, giving an afternoon concert in The Church of St Michael the Archangel at 2.30pm. (And the Classical Duo Elegance will be there sharing a bill with the Force Five Wind Quintet from 10am to 1pm in the morning.)

The essential ingredient
Piano: Sam Baker

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Classical Duo Elegance 'A Celebration of Russian Heritage in Music' Central Church Torquay Saturday 10 February 2018

Classical Duo 'Elegance' & Friends
Jazz Vocals: Maria Nicol Mezzo Soprano: Iryna Ilnytska
Violin: Yulia Northridge Balalaika: Sergei Kosov
Piano: Ekaterina Shetliffe Piano Assistant: Cerys Smith

Balalaika: Sergei Kosov
Following a sell-out performance at the Cygnet New Theatre in Exeter on Friday 9 February, the Classical Duo Elegance (pianist Ekaterina Shetliffe and violinist Yulia Northridge, with compère Lee Shetliffe) took their 'Celebration of Russian Heritage in Music' concert to the Central Church in Torquay for a further performance on Saturday 10 February.

The concert opened in style with a very exciting and unfamiliar musical sound. Ekaterina's father, Sergei Kosov, is an award-winning international exponent; of that most iconic of Russian instruments, the balalaika!

Ably accompanied by his daughter on the grand piano, Sergei played a scintillating mazurka composed by the man who revived and reinvented the balalaika repertoire in the late nineteenth century (after hearing his servant Antip playing this 'humble' instrument) - Vasily Andreev.

Mezzo Soprano: Iryna Ilnytska
The Russian theme continued with classical vocal performance by special guest, Ukrainian mezzo soprano Iryna Ilnytska.

Iryna introduced herself, and the first of her five selections for the evening, 'Lilacs' from Sergei Rachmaninov's Opus 21 'Twelve Romances'.

Rachmaninov had recently married his beloved Natalia Satina, after an enforced delay imposed by the Russian Orthodox Church. In the preceding years he had been receiving bouquets of lilacs at every performance, all from an anonymous admirer. Natalia, surely.

The words Rachmaninov chose for his fifth romance had been written by Ekaterina Beketova some two decades earlier:

"В жизни счастье одно Мне найти суждено, И то счастье в сирени живёт" (Life holds only one happiness for me - Lilacs!)

Accompanist & Raconteur:
Ekaterina Shetliffe
Our illustrious accompanist, Ekaterina Shetliffe, accompanied all the performances in the programme, but also had prepared very entertaining and witty synopses of some of the pieces to be played - which she delivered with great energy and enthusiasm.

Ekaterina and Yulia started their 'Duo Elegance' contribution with Georgy Sviridov's excruciatingly sad and heartbreaking 'Romance' from his Suite 'Метель' (The Blizzard) written for the film of the same name in 1975.

The inspiration for Sviridov's suite was a short story by Alexander Pushkin from his collection 'The Tales of the Late Ivan Petrovich Belkin' published in 1830.

What a tragic tale - and how eloquently Ekaterina related it. The protagonists, confused and exhausted by the storm, marry each other in error - but finally find love twenty years later.

Georgy Svidirov: 'The Blizzard'
Violin: Yulia Northridge
Switching from words to piano keys, Ekaterina continued her introduction with portentous chords on the piano which led directly into a poignant but delightful violin cadenza by Yulia Northridge.

Yulia, like Ekaterina, trained at the Dargomizsky Conservatoire in their home town of Tula in the Moscow Oblast, and also achieved the title 'The Young Talent of Russia' for her post-graduate work at the Petrosavodsk Music Academy (The State Glazunov Conservatoire).

Her dedication and expertise shine out in every note, when she plays any music - but particularly the very emotional music of the Russian canon. Even without Ekaterina's explanation, Yulia and Ekaterina's playing conveyed a sense of nostalgia and yearning that was overpowering.

A spectacular foretaste of the evening's wonders to come.

Virtuoso Balalaika: Sergei Kosov
The theme of sadness and regret was skilfully and sensitively picked up by Sergei, who continued the recital with a traditional Russian folk song for balalaika and piano, 'винят меня' meaning literally 'Blame Me', but with the English title 'It's all my Fault'.

The balalaika has only three strings. The lower two are identical Es and the upper an A. From this apparently limited resource Sergei was able to draw forth an unbelievably complex variety of sounds and moods. The performance was also utterly entrancing to watch. Sergei's fingers move with uncanny dexterity over the diminutive frets - much closer and narrower than those of a guitar - finding a thousand perfect notes with absolute precision.

In addition to the emotional intensity of the music, it was also wonderful to see and hear the very special musical understanding and cooperation between father and daughter, as Sergei and Ekaterina complemented each other's musical excellence so naturally.

A stylish pianist:
Ekaterina Shetliffe
For the concert Sergei had traded his beautiful multicoloured 'kosovorotka' (the impressive traditional Russian skew-collared shirt) for a more conventional western European waistcoat and bow tie. Meanwhile Ekaterina was radiant in red, and had a very special hairstyle for the evening - courtesy of her personal hairdresser (your name here!).

Iryna complemented Ekaterina's sophisticated style with her own silver lamé evening gown with black fur tippet. They also performed perfectly together musically in Iryna's second vocal piece, 'Средь шумного бала' (Amid the Din of the Ball), Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's fabulous exploration of love and deep emotion in the form of a traditional waltz.

Ekaterina and Iryna are not regularly collaborators, but their teamwork is startlingly impressive. Tchaikovsky's original emotional aim was brilliantly brought to fruition in the magnificent performance by these two talented musicians.

Jazz Vocals: Maria Nicol
Sergei and Ekaterina amazed everyone again with their loving treatment of traditional Russian folk music, by performing 'Вниз по Волге-реке' (A Trip Down the Volga River), and the 'Duo Elegance' (Yulia and Ekaterina) played a maginifence interpretation of Tchaikovsky's Chant sans Paroles (Song without Words) - 'Mélodie', from 'Воспоминание о дорогом месте' (Souvenir d'un Lieu Cher - Memories of a Lovely Place), before our special guest for the evening (not performing at Exeter, or Taunton) took the stage.

Soprano Maria Nicol originates much further East than the other performers. She comes from Yekaterineburg, adminstrative centre of the Sverdlovsk Oblast. Like Sergei, Maria learned her craft at the Mikhail Gnesin State Musical College in Moscow.

Her speciality is Russian traditional songs with a jazz theme. Her first choice was perfect, 'Майский вальс' (May Waltz). A touching story of a Soviet soldier playing his balalaika in Vienna's central square to celebrate victory on the Eastern Front - with live balalaika provided by Sergei Victorovich!

Sergei Kosov
Maria's introduction (in an intriguing eastern accent), and magical performance, were a delightful addition to the programme. Combined with Sergei's sensational playing, the effect was an absolute joy.

How lucky the people of Torquay were to have two such talented Russian performers under one roof - and working together so splendidly - not forgetting that most important third component, the wonderful piano accompaniment of Ekaterina Shetliffe.

Lee then introduced something very unexpected. A piece demonstrating the potential for the balalaika to reproduce the sound of unrelated instruments.

For this performance, Sergei donned an American fisherman's bucket hat, reminiscent of John Voight and Ned Beatty's titfers in the performance of Arthur Smith's 'Feudin' Banjos' by Billy Redden and Ronny Cox in John Boorman's 1972 classic movie 'Deliverance'.

Imitating Banjo: Sergei Kosov
(In reality it was Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell who played the backing track, with Mike Addis on set reaching in to provide hand movements for Billy, who is not actually a musician.)

Sergei Victorovich proceeded to recreate the exquisite sound of a southern US banjo, in Sergei Kachalin's 'Старое банджо' (Old Banjo) accompanied again by his daughter Ekaterina.

Anyone (appropriately) impressed by Weissberg and Mandel in the screen soundtrack, would be infinitely more impressed by  Sergei's performance on Saturday night. What sounds he produced from that deceptively simple instrument!

Segei not only mimicked the four (or five) strings of the traditional banjo on his three stringed instrument, but also went well beyond the already spectacular repertoire of most professional banjo players.

The Gnesin clearly takes the balalaika very seriously, and graduates like Sergei Victorovich are more than sufficiently prepared for any music that comes their way - even from the opposite side of the Atlantic!

During the interval there was a chance to see traditional Russian costumes, both on mannequins and modeled by Ekaterina's own children. Also there was a deliciously salty traditional Russian bread on offer in the bar (already more than half consumed by the time the photograph opposite was taken!)

Plus many other delicious Russian treats were provided (and very soon demolished!), and mementos of Russia - in particular from Ekaterina & Yulia's home town of Tula.

The musicians, and their master of ceremonies for evening, Lee Shetliffe, were on hand to discuss the music and the cultural significance of the treats and trinkets.

A convivial time was had by all, including many Russian nationals who were enjoying a fabulous panoply of musical entertainment from the motherland.

A lovely interlude for Russian music aficionados to exchange notes before the evening's entertainment recommenced.

After the break Ekaterina's daughter, in a charming traditional Russian costume, had a special prize for the winner of the evening's raffle, a beautiful Russian matryoshka doll.

Lee Shetliffe was on hand to interview the lucky winner - who turned out to be visitor from Moscow. Definitely a case of coals to Newcastle, but a lovely moment anyway.

No one was left out however. There were plenty more matryoshki on sale back-stage.

The Snow Maiden
Iryna Ilnytska
Sergei and Ekaterina opened the second half with a very appropriate Russian folk song for a cold winter evening, arranged by Alexander Shalov, 'валенки' (Felt Boots). Sergei's shivering tremolo was also infused with warmth - evoking the delicious coziness of being properly dressed for a frosty day in Moscow.

Iryna's next song was by a contemporary of Tchaikovsky, but belonging to a different school of music - The Mighty Handful. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov incorporated the seasonal moods into his music, especially in his opera 'Снегурочка' (The Snow Maiden), also known as 'Весенняя сказка' (A Spring Fairy Tale).

The original story by Alexander Ostrovsky had been set to music by Tchaikovsky eight years earlier, but Rimsky-Korsakov created a very different and lasting masterpiece.

Iryna, as Ljel, sang the famous third song, "Снегурочка–Весенняя сказка Ты греми, гром, а я дождь разолью" (A cloud said to the thunderstorm, "You rumble, and I shall shed the rain.") The imagery is clear, and the mood perfectly created by Iryna's deep emotive voice - with accompaniment by Ekaterina on the piano and Sergei's balalaika. A Russian classic.

Yulia Northridge
introduces the Russian Dance from Swan Lake
Not to be outdone by the other performers, Yulia stepped forward to give her own introduction to her pièce de résistance for the evening, the Russian Dance from Tchaikovsky's 'Swan Lake', a virtuoso cadenza written specifically for violin.

Sergei began to set up her music stand as she spoke and, determined to show her mastery of English she explained to him that this time, for the first time, she would play from memory. Sadly, Sergei does not speak English so her words fell on deaf ears.

Russian Dance: Yulia Northridge
Fortunately Ekaterina was on hand to sort out the confusion, and Yulia introduced the music in Russian as well as English, for the benefit of the Russian speakers in the audience.

The performance itself was spectacular. With total focus Yulia explored the entire range of her instrument. Ekaterina added the barest accompaniment to this tour de force, as Yulia demonstrated her impressive skill and emotional connection with the music.

Despite the difficulty, playing from memory is always an especially enjoyable treat for the audience, as there is no barrier of notes on a manuscript. The player can concentrate on communicating through their instrument.

The story Yulia related was exhilarating and intoxicating. A uniquely memorable journey of excitement and beauty.

"White Blizzard": Maria Nicol
Balalaika: Sergei Kosov  Piano Ekaterina Shetliffe
As the audience assimilated the amazing performance they had just experienced, Sergei returned and joined Ekaterina to accompany Maria in another traditional Russian folk song, continuing the wintery theme. Alexander Varlamov's 'Вдоль по улице метелица метёт' (A blizzard sweeps along the street) is, as Maria explained, "A song about a random Russian beauty."

Glimpsed in the snowstorm, the passing beauty so intrigued the poet Dmitry Glebov that he wrote these words of yearning, "Ты постой, постой, красавица моя, Дозволь наглядеться, радость, на тебя!" (Stop! Wait for just a moment, and let me enjoy the sight of you!)

Maria returned to these words over and over, each time with an ever greater sense of urgency and desperation.

It was such a treat to hear and see the traditional Russian song sung as it was intended - and by a master of the craft.

Maria's performance added something very special to an already special evening.

Alexander Tsygankov: 'Introduction & Csárdás'
Violin: Yulia Northridge  Balalaika: Sergei Kosov
To allow for a special encore the programme order was then changed, and Yulia and Sergei joined Ekaterina for an explosive rendition of Alexander Tsygankov's 'Introduction & Csárdás'.

This recent composition builds on the Hungarian dance theme made popular by Johannes Brahms. Tsygankov scored the music for orchestra and three balalaika players (including himself).

Amazingly, just three players in total were able to recreate this masterpiece in all its original glory.

Maria astounded the audience again with Mikael Tariverdiev's 'Песня о далёкой Родине' (Song of the Motherland), and Iryna had one last intensely moving opera aria, 'Господ тэбя осудит' (God will judge you) from Rimsky-Korsakov's 'Tzar's Bride', the distressing story of Ljubasha's self-destructive attempt to revenge unrequited love.

Vittorio Monti: 'Csárdás'
Violin: Yulia Northridge  Piano Ekaterina Shetliffe
Sergei completed the official programme with the Russian classic 'калинка' (My little snowball berry) by Ivan Larionov. Frenzied appeals to 'Kalinka' are interspersed with languid requests to be allowed to rest under the pines. A spellbinding contrast.

Finally, by popular request, Yulia played the piece for which she is rightly famous, 'Csárdás' by Vittorio Monti. Not remotely Russian, but no one cared. Monti's many variations on the Hungarian dance are perfect for the violin, and Yulia has mastered them all. Not only that, at very short notice, so has Sergei. His balalaika solos were equally unique and impressive.

Masters of the Csárdás
Yulia Northridge, Sergei Kosov, Ekaterina Shetliffe
Compère: Lee Shetliffe  Piano Assistant: Cerys Smith

Ekaterina Shetliffe
& award-winning balalaikist
Sergei Kosov
The 'Celebration of Russian Heritage in Music' by the Classical Duo Elegance and their fellow musicians was a resounding success. The music was 'sans pareil', and the choice of programme a delight from start to finish.

It is not often that Yulia is able to come to Devon to entertain us and even rarer for Maria and Sergei to be able to join us. To have all these musicians together, not to mention Iryna, was a red-letter day indeed. We must all be deeply grateful to Ekaterina for organising such a special evening and making it such a success.

PS Only days later Sergei was in London with Ekaterina for an international music competition. He took first place in the instrumental section, and also won the Maslennitsa Award for the best performance of a folk song. Who could possibly be surprised at that? Sergei's mastery of Russia's traditional instrument confirmed!

Here's hoping Ekaterina can persuade Sergei to return and amaze us all with his musicianship again in the very near future.

Appreciation from the next generation
A carnation for each performer:
Jazz Vocalist: Maria Nicol  Mezzo Soprano: Iryna Ilnytska
Violin: Yulia Northridge  Balalaika: Sergei Kosov
Piano: Ekaterina Shetliffe  Piano Assistant: Cerys Smith