Friday, 7 June 2019

Stephen Beville Pilgrimage Opus 111 Southernhay United Reformed Church Friday 31 May 2019

Stephen Beville
Pilgrimage Opus 111
Southernhay Churh
Friday 31 May
On a balmy spring evening Stephen Beville held an audience at Southernhay Church spellbound for two hours with a simple and brilliant demonstration of pianistic skill. Without preamble Stephen emerged from the vestry, walked casually to the grand piano and began to play.

Without a word he embarked on Franz Liszt's première 'Année de Pèlerinage' - Suisse (first Year of Pilgrimage - Switzerland). Between them Stephen and Franz Liszt took the listeners on a quite extraordinary pilgrimage through the Swiss countryside. Although there wasn't time to visit the Vallée d'Obermann, the journey took in the 'Chapelle de Guillaume Tell', and travelled 'au Lac de Wallenstadt', before ambling 'au bord d'une source'.

Stephen did not need to introduce the music, as his detailed notes on the programme gave all the relevant information, including Liszt's choice of poetry (mostly Byron) to reflect the mood of each piece. The most exciting of all was 'Orage' (Storm), which was a mighty tempest indeed. The subsequent 'Eclogue' was a peaceful and pastoral as the storm was wild. Even gentler was 'Le Mal du Pays' (Homesickness), evoking Liszt's yearning for his homeland. Finally ' Les Cloches de Genève' (The Bells of Geneva) introduced the theme of tolling bells which would feature in the second half of the concert.

While Stephen retired to the vestry once more, the audience members marveled at the spectacular nature of the recital they had just heard and wondered where Stephen would be taking them next.

Very soon Stephen returned and embarked, without comment, on a very different and much more recent composition: Arvo Pärt's 'Fur Alina' (1976), which is a deceptively simple piece demanding very precise performance. Stephen's technical and emotional control of each delicate melodic phrase perfectly represented Pärt's longing to see his friend Alina who was travelling abroad. As Stephen explained in his notes, this was the 'alternative side' of Liszt's 'Mal du Pays'.

The theme of bells was also extended in Pärt's use of 'tintinabuli', a style he invented himself specifically for this piece - and used again in 'Spiegel im Spiegel' for piano and violin, which Stephen performed two years ago with Jonathan Storer, on 26 May 2017.

The 'main course' of Friday's concert was Stephen's reprise of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No 32, Opus 111, which can be heard on Stephen's album CD 'In Karlsruhe'. This powerful performance showed off Stephen's versatility and skill to the full. The opening 'Maestoso' was majestic and arresting, full of exciting and thrilling themes. The 'Arietta' is initially gentle and seductive. Stephen's incredible ability to draw out different moods from the piano held the listeners transfixed, waiting to hear where the music would take them next.

Almost imperceptibly, Stephen brought more and more life and passion to the original theme, which developed into a lively escapade with playful themes almost like twentieth century jazz. Stephen's performance of the Arietta was twenty minutes of sensational music, calming and invigorating in equal measure. From its opening tranquility to its equally gentle ending Stephen led the audience on one more exciting journey - a journey of pleasure and discovery.

After the concert audience members were generous in their praise of Stephen's playing, congratulating him and encouraging him to talk more about the wonderful music he had been playing. More importantly, when would Stephen be in concert again? Watch this space for details!

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Classical Duo Elegance & Friends Concert for Three Violins St Nicholas Priory Friday 31 May 2019

Classical Duo Elegance - & Friends
Piano: Ekaterina Shetliffe
Violin: Oxana Militsina
Violin: Yulia Northridge
Violin: Sergei Emelianov
St Nicholas Priory Friday 31 May

(photography: Lee Shetliffe)

Sergei Emelianov
Concert Master Tatarstan State Orchestra
Four very special musical visitors were in Exeter last Friday. The familiar Classical Duo Elegance of Ekaterina Shetliffe and Yulia Northridge (piano & violin) were joined by two superb violin virtuosi. Making a special visit from Russia was the Concert Master of the State Symphony Orchestra of Tatarstan, Sergei Emelianov, together with a former fellow student at the Kazan State Conservatory, Oxana Militsina.

Violin: Oxana Militsina
Ekaterina opened the concert in the upper room of St Nicholas Priory with Antonio Vivaldi's rousing Concerto for Two Violins in D minor. Sergei leapt into action with the violin opening, echoed at every turn by Oxana. Having perfectly set the scene, the two violinists were then joined by Ekaterina on the piano. It was a very special treat to hear these two great violinists from Russia playing such rousing and beautiful music, and in such an atmospheric setting.

St Nicholas Priory
Mint Lane, Exeter
The Priory is arguably the oldest existing building in Exeter. Founded in 1087 as a Benedictine monastery, the building became a tudor town house for Tudor merchants following the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1536. Now lovingly restored, with replica furnishings, it pre-dates by far the baroque music of Vivaldi. The sense of timelessness equally suited the rest of the programme which was all music composed in the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century.

Yulia and Oxana took turns to play music by modern composers including:

"Salut d'Amour" and "Chanson de Nuit" by Sir Edward Elgar
"Adagio and Allegro in Pugniani Style" by Fritz Kreizler
Musical Theme to "Schindler's List" by John Williams
"Montecci & Capuletti" from "Romeo & Juliet" by Sergei Prokofiev
Nocturne for "Olga Sergeevna" by Mikael Tariverdiev
Polka from "The Golden Age" by Alfred Schnittke
and finally a very popular and well-known show tune,
"Smoke Gets in your Eyes" from "Roberta" by Jerome Kern

The first half of the programme ended with two magnificent virtuoso pieces played by the wonderfully talented Yulia Northridge. First she played Pablo Sarasate's "Zigeunerweisen" (Gypsy Airs). Initially slow and deliberate, the tune switches to a wild csárdás reminiscent of Ekaterina and Yulia's signature tune by Vittorio Monti. How cleverly Ekaterina and Yulia lulled the audience in a sense of restful calm before launching into that spectacular cadenza. What a wild Hungarian dance they led us on. The liveliest music you could wish to hear.

That was not all. Yulia also brought back a piece she has played before at concerts which, if anything, is even more exhilarating than the Gypsy Airs. This 1950's hit by Florian Zabach is called simply "Hot Canary". Once that bird took flight, there was not stopping Yulia. Even though she gave a brief demonstration of how it was played before starting, when she got into full flow the incredible intricacies of Zabach's music were almost impossible to follow. Singing, fluttering its wings and swooping around the fingerboard of the violin, that canary amazed everyone - even Yulia who seemed equally captivated by its antics.

Roger Hendy &  Tirke Linnemann
Musical Director and Principal 'Cello
Isca Ensemble
Thank you to all four musicians for a wonderful evening of music. Sergei Emelianov will be Concert Master at next week's Isca Ensemble concert at Sidmouth Parish Church, where Luka Okros will play the Mozart Piano Concerto in C. Roger Hendy will be Musical Director and he and the Isca Principal 'Cello Tirke Linnemann were at Friday's concert to hear Sergei in action. They were not disappointed!

Classical Duo Elegance
Piano: Ekaterina Shetliffe
Violin: Yulia Northridge
Ekaterina and Yulia will return to St Nicholas Priory on Saturday 22 June for a performance involving the pupils of Creative Llama Music School at 5.30pm.  They will also be at St Stephen's Church in Exeter High Street on Friday 29 June at 6pm to perform "Vocal and Insturmental Masterpieces" by Mozart and Rossini with operatic mezzo soprano Iryna Ilnytska.

Later in the year the Classical Duo Elegance will be at St Mary's Church Totnes for a coffee morning concert on Saturday 12 October - with the promising title of "Baroque Delights"! Finally this year they will be at Lupton House in Churston Ferrers to play "Instrumental Music from The Movies" at 6.30pm on Sunday 15 December. Ekaterina would also like to find a suitable venue in Exeter to give a second performance of that concert. Any suggestions?

Isca Ensemble
Luka Okros
Sidmouth Parish Church
Saturday 8 June 7.30pm
Musical Director: Roger Hendy
Guest Concertmeister:
Sergei Emelyanov, violin
(State Symphony Orchestra of Tatarstan)
Ludwig van Beethoven: 'Coriolan' Overture
W A Mozart: Piano Concerto 21 in C K467
(Piano: Luka Okros)
P I Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 4
Tickets: Side Aisles £12 (student/U18 £6)
(Central Nave - Sold Out)
Paragon Books: 01395 514616
Online BookingTicketSource

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Polina Shifrina & Iryna Ilnytska House Concert Exwick Old Post Office Friday 24 May 2019

Piano: Polina Shifrina
Mezzo Soprano: Iryna Ilnytska

The guests arrive at an intriguing venue
Exwick Old Post Office
Building on the success of their first two sell-out house concerts, Polina Shifrina and Iryna Ilnytska joined forces again on Friday 24 May for another hour of music for piano and mezzo soprano voice. This time the featured artist was the early twentieth century Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov.

Iryna opened the recital with her now famous signature piece, "Lilacs", the fifth of Rachmaninov's 12 Romances, Opus 21. As Iryna explained, he dedicated the music to a mysterious Mme Fekle Rousseau, who referred to herself at 'The White Lilac Lady' and sent fresh lilacs to all Sergei's performances. She hoped he would return to Russia, which sadly he did not.

Sergei Rachmaninov & Natalia Satina
Iryna also sang "The Dream", fifth of Rachmaninov's 6 Romances, Opus 38. As Iryna pointed out not at all simple to perform, but very restful for the listener. The dream was that he might one day return to Russia and the dear friends of his youth, in particular the three Skalon sisters Natalia, Lyudmila and Vera to whom he dedicated his dream - friends of Natalia Satina who married Sergei in May 1902.

With Polina's emotive accompaniment on the piano, Iryna's rich operatic voice was a dream in the intimate setting of Polina's living room - with its own built in stage. There was also an opportunity to enjoy Polina's solo piano playing, from Rachmaninov's 6 Musical Moments, Opus 16. A beautiful and pleasing moment indeed.

Alexander Pushkin
(portrait by Vasili Tropinin)
The poem "Morning" by Mariya Yanova was the second of Rachmaninov's 6 Songs, Opus 4. The opening section based on the four syllable theme "Люблю тебя!" (I love you!) was in a feminine mood representing dawn, while the later words were more masculine in tone, representing the day. An arresting and delightful contrast.

Polina had more solo piano music too, Prelude No 12 in G sharp minor, Opus 32. This sparkling composition featured the tinkling of the treble keys reminiscent of Ravel's "Jeux d'Eau" which Polina played at the first house concert. This delicate and thoughtful piece was a lively but restful interlude.

Iryna especially wanted to include Alexander Pushkin's "Do not Sing my Beauty" (Your Sad Songs of Georgia), dedicated to one of Mikhail Glinka's operatic students.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
With Polina's portentous introduction Iryna's song of yearning for a far off land reminded us of the deep sadness of Rachmaninov's own exile from his homeland. How effectively Iryna evokes the very deepest emotions in song!

Polina also included piano music by Rachmaninov's predecessor and inspiration,
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

"Dumka" (Little Thought) is one of many compositions by various composers in a folk style known as 'dumky'. Simple but affecting, the little tune was cleverly woven by Polina and a very intriguing little thought it was.

Iryna's most moving performance was a fragment from 'Nuits' by Alfred the Musset (1835). Translated in advance by Iryna, the song briefly, but powerfully exposes the devastating emotional turmoil of Alfred's nights of isolation and loneliness.

Alfred de Musset
(portrait by Faustin Besson)
To lighten the mood and introduce the music which will feature in the next house concert, Polina introduced a last song by Franz Schubert, which was later reset by Franz Liszt. Based on Sir Walter Scott's "Lady of the Lake", Ellen's Third Song, opens with the words of the Catholic prayer "Ave Maria". How very different from the music up to that point in the concert. The next (and sadly last) concert in this series will be dedicated to works by those two giants of the Romantic period - Schubert and Liszt!

Once again Polina and Iryna created a very special musical world for an hour. They provided a wealth of pleasure and emotional diversity for their devoted audience. These house concerts are very special, full of extraordinary music spectacularly performed. Many thanks to Iryna and Polina for all their work - and not forgetting Polina's husband Eros who provides food and his very special mojitos and piña coladas (alcoholic or non-alcholic) which make the concerts into a super party for everyone.

The Schubert and Liszt recital will be on Saturday 22 June - still at 6pm and still in Exwick Old Post Office. A musical treat not to be missed!

House Concerts at EX4 2AA
Exwick Post Office
Saturday 22 June 6pm
Piano: Polina Shifrina
Mezzo Soprano: Iryna Ilnytska
Tickets: £10
(includes buffet & drinks)
Booking: 07570 040173