Tuesday 30 May 2017

Stephen Beville & Jonathan Storer Duet Concert "Mirrors & Meditations" Recital for Piano & Violin Church of the Sacred Heart Friday 26 May 2017

Violin: Jonathan Storer
Piano: Stephen Beville

Frédéric Chopin: Two Nocturnes Opus 27
Piano: Stephen Beville
Following his debut solo concert at the Cathedral Chapter House, Stephen Beville returned to the stage on Friday evening for a second piano concert - but this time with a new and exciting feature. Violinist Jonathan Storer joined him to play duets and solo violin.

The concert at The Church of the Sacred Heart in South Street opened with two extremely moving nocturnes, and a thrilling ballade, by Frédéric Chopin, played by Stephen on a the church's delightful baby grand. Stephen's concentration was intense. Without music he played all three pieces from memory with a wealth of style and interpretive elegance.

Then special guest, violinist Jonathan Storer, took over to play the première of a piece for solo violin - composed by Stephen.

Introducing Violin
Jonathan Storer
Both musicians trained at the Royal Academy of Music and continued their studies at the Royal Northern College of Music before moving to Germany to follow their careers - in neighbouring towns. However, they studied at different times, and never met - until Stephen stumbled upon a music project that Jonathan was running in Fore Street here in Exeter.

Stephen and Jonathan began to work together, and Jonathan was very enthusiastic about Stephen's composition for solo violin, "Monodrama". In the style of a Thespian Greek Drama, the dialogue and action are all presented by a single actor, in this case a violinist with just his violin and bow with which to communicate with the audience.

Stephen's hand-written score was fabulously complicated. In fact, the photocopy of the original was well covered by revisions and detailed instructions. The 'voices' were endlessly fascinating. Some were strident and emotional, while others whispered in the harmonic range. Plucking and using the back of the bow introduced what appeared to be quite distinct characters and at one point the bow was abandoned completely - a chair had been placed ready.

Stephen Beville: "Monodrama"
Jonathan had prepared thoroughly, and allowed a week or more before the concert for 'reminiscence' to enhance his grasp and feeling for the piece. Nevertheless, it was necessary to line up the whole piece on seven or eight music stands - with a chair placed under just the right page for his pizzicato passage. As Jonathan slowly made his way along the huge display of music, the audience followed with rapt attention to every detail. An unforgettable classical tale, beautifully performed.

Extremely Complex
As the beauty of 'Monodrama' sank in, Stephen joined Jonathan at the piano for two more pieces by Arvo Pärt. These Estonian minimalist pieces were the perfect complement to Stephen's composition "Monodrama". "Fratres" involved deliciously lively arpeggios for the Violin, with harmonic top notes evoking a deep sense of tenderness. Interrupted by a deep chord on the piano, the violin enters into a soft and tentative dialogue, incredibly sensitive, and only slowly building in tempo and energy, before the piano introduces a return to the fevered arpeggios - this time with a soft underpinning of piano chords. The interaction between Stephen and Jonathan was amazing to see and hear as they played out another moving drama. A sensational piece.

Arvo Pärt"Spiegel im Spiegel"
"Spiegel im Spiegel" (Mirror in a Mirror) tested Jonathan in a different way. For Stephen's many pages of piano score, there was just one page for the violin - showing a series of single notes  Each was drawn out almost inexorably, and with ecstatic sweetness, while Stephen maintained a slow, and painstakingly precise accompaniment of piano arpeggios. The most disciplined pieces so far (and that really is saying something), this simple but overwhelmingly expressive piece demonstrated both the great skill of both musicians and their perfect coordination and cooperation - after only a few months collaboration.

During the interval, the incumbent at Sacred Heart, Father John Deany - who was thrilled to have such a special performance as his very first recital in the church - provided free wine and food. While enjoying this spread, the audience members were able to study Stephen's manuscript in details (still on its many music stands), an experience as fascinating as hearing Jonathan's performance.

Ludwig van Beethoven:
"Kreutzer" Sonata - Andante
The second part of the concert was somewhat shorter. Stephen and Jonathan played just one work - Beethoven's "Kreutzer" Sonata. Although much more 'classical' in style, Beethoven's masterpiece suited the mood of the evening perfectly. Both performers delighted and astounded their audience all over again with a brilliant tour de force of virtuoso playing. Two fabulous prestos are interspersed by an equally outrageous andante.

Listeners had heard the final presto on Soundart Radio's 'Classical Journey Redux' earlier in the day, which gave some indication of what to expect. In the flesh, the "Kreutzer" was even more exhilarating. The unassuming looking baby grand has a quite magnificent tone (especially in Stephen's hands) and the combined sound of piano and violin carries perfectly in the intimate and inspiring setting of the nave of the Sacred Heart, with its lavish ornamentation and long spiritual history.

Many thanks to Father Deany for opening up his church to the general public for a concert in a such a spectacular venue. And congratulations on such a spectacular choice of performers. Father Deany is keen to continue with more concerts at the church - a sentiment which I very much endorse.

Stephen Beville and Jonathan Storer have plans to continue their work together, and we can look forward to further concerts in the near future. Most important, Jonathan has suggested that he would like to give another public performance of "Monodrama" - a unique experience not to be missed!

Jonathan Storer & Stephen Beville
A sensational partnership

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