Thursday, 28 April 2011

Josephine Pickering and Frances Waters together: Piano Duets at Glenorchy Wednesday 20 April

The first Glenorchy concert to make an appearance on these pages was a recital of flute and piano duets following closely after Ruth Avis and James Keefe's flute and piano concert in the Music Room on 25 October last year.
Only two days later, on Wednesday 27 October, Helen Organ gave us another wonderful flute recital, in duet with pianist Frances Waters.
The following month Frances returned to accompany soprano Val Howels in a blissful song recital on 24 November. Frances and Val gave another wonderful recital - with the addition of baritone John Brindley - on 6 April this year.
Another prolific pianist - and composer - who has appeared regularly at Glenorchy, is Josephine Pickering. Josephine performed with oboist Phil Henry and his wife, soprano Rosemary Henry, on 1 December last year.
On that occasion we heard the premiere of Josephine's own composition, the very wonderful 'Reverie for Cor Anglais and Piano'. After a performance like that there was a capacity audience for her next concert - a recital of piano duets with Glenorchy organist David Lee joining her at the piano on 19 January.
Josephine's next concert, which was billed to be with 'Clarion Quartet' clarinettist John Walthew, was nearly cancelled when John became too ill to perform. However, oboist Julia Hill stepped into the breach for an impressive impromptu recital of music for piano and oboe on 2 March.
The obvious next step was clearly going to be for Frances and Josephine to join forces for a really special recital of piano duets. The last time they played together was at the Budleigh Festival (25 July 2008). Another collaboration at Glenorchy, scheduled for 20 April, has generated a great deal of interest and has been eagerly awaited.
Mozart with four hands
a perfect collaboration between
Frances Waters and Josephine Pickering
When the day finally arrived a huge audience quickly took their places and Josephine and Frances began to play with minimal preamble. Josephine took charge of the bass - and the pedals - while Frances played treble in the wonderful Mozart Sonata for four hands, K497. The opening was soft and subtle - almost nothing - but quickly the complexity increased, with the two players' parts alternating, and Frances adding treble accent to each phrase. As twenty digits competed for space on the keyboard the resulting sound just got better and better, with each complex section being topped by something even more convoluted. As each phrase ended Frances would restart softly before the 'battle of the fingers' would recommence. Despite the rather final-sounding ending to the adagio the audience resisted the temptation to applaud too soon.

over and around . . .
After a short interlude the contrastingly melancholy and thoughtful andante built into a gentle dance with perfectly linked runs and trills passing between the two players. This was a perfect combination of styles between the treble and bass. It was quite astonishing to hear what can be achieved with just one piano. The allegro was started by Frances playing solo. She was quickly joined by Josephine in exquisite counterpoint, not as fast and furious as the adagio, but with impressively elaborate combined trills. As Frances' hands leapt over and around Josphine's bass figures the vivacity of the piece increased before slowing to a gentle exchange between the two players - and concluding with a perfect piece of duet playing.

All change
After such a wonderful piece of Mozart, there were even more wonders in store. Leaping forward in time from 1786 to 1926 Frances and Josephine, who had now swapped places, played all six of Peter Warlock's Capriol Suite of dances. Very loosely based on the renaissance dances of the great French dance manual of the late renaissance period, the Orchésographie, they were a very varied set.
Basse-Danse certainly has a renaissance feel to it but becomes quite aggressive towards its conclusion. Pavane is soft and stately with pondorous chords. Tordion (similar to a galliard) was light and lively with high notes picked out delicately by Josephine. Bransles had a rapid and repeated theme which was built in complication until you wondered how the dancers could take it. Pieds-en-l'air seems self-explanatory, a few high kicks in a galliard, but was actually a lilting melody with slow development with each phrase melting into the next and ending with a gentle chord phrase. Mattachins (sword dance) had a gentle but ominous start and built up to crazy discords which stop suddenly - the 'Bouffon' has come a cropper and his sword dance has come to a fatal conclusion!
Josephine Pickering and Frances Waters
A great team - and a great concert!
Swapping back to their original positions Josephine and Frances finished the concert with three movements selected from Antonín Dvořák's 1882 'Legends'. From the ten movements they chose the grand IV (molto maestoso), the delicate V (allegro guisto) and the energetic opening I (allegro non troppo, quasi andantino). In the maestoso Josephine played with one had in the bass, overlapping with Frances again and again, getting louder and louder. Frances meanwhile slowly unfolded the story in the tinkling treble, repeating from the beginning before ending very, very softly. The giusto was a great collaboration between the two players drawn together at its end for a carefully considered and deftly executed close. The allegro had a vigorous beginning which was reigned in and then set off again. Two great players played two very grandiose tunes simultaneously, ending softly, softly.
It is amazing what can be packed into three quarters of an hour. It seemed like much longer and that we had been on an immense musical journey. Josephine and Frances were somewhat exhausted by their efforts, but exultant - and quite rightly. Frances admitted that the prospect of such a complicated combined undertaking had been quite daunting, and very hard to achieve in practice. No worries Frances. You and Josephine made it all look effortless - and fantastically skilled! Many thanks for such an amazing concert.

After Alex West's organ and piano concert (details to appear above this post) there will be one additional concert taking the series into May. On Wednesday 4 May, Joyce Clarke, pianist with the Beacon Trio, will give a preparatory concert of piano pieces which she will be playing in Venice later in the month. Listen out for a recording of Joyce's playing on the 'Classical Journey' next Tuesday, 3 May - the day before the concert.

Glenorchy Lunchtime Concerts
Glenorchy Church Exmouth
Wednesday 4 May12.30pm
Piano: Joyce Clarke
Baldassare Galuppi: Sonata in B flat
(early 18th Century Venetian composer,
born on the island of Burano)
Brahms: Intermezzo in A op118 no 2
Chopin: Impromptu No. 1 Op. 29
Chopin: Fantaisie-Impromptu Op. 66
Harold Noble: Chanson d'Amour
Mendelssohn:Venetian Gondola Song
                      in F sharp minor Op. 30 No. 6
Mendelssohn: Rondo Capriccioso in E Op. 14
Admission Free

Joyce's concert at Glenorchy on 4 May is an EXCLUSIVE opportunity to hear a preview of her forthcoming concert in Venice - a very special event!

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