Ashley Fripp an Emperor comes to Chiswick

Ashley Fripp- an Emperor comes to Chiswick
Ashley Fripp‘s first Emperor in Chiswick with the West London Sinfonia and Philip Hesketh conducting.
Singing in the rain indeed !
One of our first really typical summer days !
A little church just around the corner from my old Alma Marta in Chiswick and a stones throw from Sidney Harrison’s house on the river where I used to spend my teens in wonder at the marvels of music revealed to me under the magical guide of that extraordinary man.
Today in St Michael’s Church in Elmwood Road just around the corner from Radu Lupu’s old abode.
Handel used to have soirees in the little house that Lord Burlington in  his Chiswick  Grounds had copied from a villa that he rather liked in Vicenza:La Rotonda.
And now the “Emperor” had come to Chiswick.

Philip Hesketh and Ashley Fripp
The West London Sinfonia led by Iwona Boesche and conducted by Philip Hesketh turned an orchestra of amateur musicians into a body of people gathered together for the joy of making music together .
It was this passion and joy that combined to give a fine if not note perfect performance of the Beethoven Egmont Overture and the Concerto n.5 for piano and orchestra “Emperor”.
I have heard Ashley Fripp many times and followed his career from winner of the Gold Medal at the Guildhall to playing in the masterclasses of Elisso Virsaladze in Sermoneta near to my home town in Italy.
He is greatly esteemed by this great russian pianist and pedagogue.
Ashley Fripp arrived to play the Emperor today with his suitcase packed to rush off to Florence to play it for her the next day and to receive her invaluable suggestions in his search to delve ever more deeply into the score before his next performance in Germany.
A small Yamaha piano donated to the church with funds from a generous benefactor and local parishioner Ida Dodderidge to whom the concert was dedicated.
In Ashley’s hands it was truly an Emperors’ gift and sang out beautifully above the orchestra but also blended in so well with them when Beethoven deems it necessary.
The development section for example at bar 292 was played with the same rhythmic impulse as the opening flourish but gave such urgency and nobility leading to the great chordal interchange between piano and orchestra and the mighty imperial octaves that follow.
Played with superb command and clarity never allowing the sound to become hard but a full almost symphonic sound where each note was given its true weight.
Disolving into the espressivo interchange between piano and orchestra with some really beautiful cantabile playing which anticipates the sublime slow movement that is to follow.
These great contrasts between the nobility and the sublime were beautifully realised by Ashley Fripp and even inspired these musicians to heights they surely had not expected to reach.
The sheer beauty and stillness of the pianissimo leggiermente at bar 151 was quite magical and Ashleys way of caressing the keys so noticeable as it was also in the Adagio.
It was of true Matthay proportions.
So rare these days to see the beauty of the hand movement translated into sound.
It has been most noticeable in Andrea Gallo’s playing for the KCT recently in Tuscany.
As it was also with Sasha Grynyuk for the KCT at Steinway Hall this week.
It reminds me of Myra Hess or Moura Lympany who Uncle Tobbs had encouraged to listen and to feel the sound in the keys almost like squeezing the sound out of each key. With a loose and flexible wrist and arm movement just like a great artist painting or conductor shaping the sounds in the air- Giulini was perhaps the most beautiful to behold .
It is no coincidence that both Sasha and Ashley have been students of Ronan O’Hora,a disciple of Vlado Perlemuter, at the Guildhall where both had also been awarded the prestigious Gold Medal.
The very difficult triplets in double thirds were played with absolute authority and the marcato triplets in the left hand were played with exemplary clarity.
The pianissimo leggiermente chromatic scales beautifully shaped and leading to the final triumphant exchange between piano and full orchestra where the rhythm thanks to the understanding between pianist and conductor did not flag for a moment and swept us on to the triumphant coda.
A wrong turning taken by Ashley was concealed with the sang froid of a real professional and brought back into line with only those who really knew the score aware of what could have been a major mishap in lesser hands.
The Adagio played un poco mosso and allowed to sing even though pianissimo with a projection of sound that drew the audience into the magic world that Ashley was able to convey.
A magical transition to the Rondo where Beethoven’s scales and arpeggios took on a new meaning with a rhythmic drive and joy in the interchange between soloist and orchestra The poco ritard and staccato octaves most telling before the explosion and the joyous melody on the piano bustling into the most powerful broken octaves before the return of the rondo.
Some beautiful exchanges between piano and orchestra and some real magic at bar 189.
The final chords kept alive between conductor and pianist and not allowed to flag until the final cadence marked Adagio.
It made the explosion and piu allegro even more startling and brought this Emperor to a noble and exciting end that had the audience on their feet.

Sasha Grynyuk and the Max Grunebaum Foundation,Cottbus

Sasha Grynyuk and the Grunebaum Foundation,Cottbus.

                                Sasha Grynyuk with John Leech
A very special celebration as John Leech the founder of the Keyboard Trust outlined in his welcoming speech to the Trustees of the Max Grunbaum Foundation Cottbus.
“The Keyboard Trust in London owes as much of its existence to the hard work and generosity of Marion and Ellen Frank,as the creation of the magnificent Theatre in Cottbus, that you help to sustain, did to their grandfather Max Grunebaum.”

                     John Gumbel of the Max Grunebaum Foundation
Their son John Gumbel explained that the family Foundation was established with restitution funds in 1997 to celebrate and nurture young talent in both theatre and technical university by awarding annual prizes and travel bursaries to outstanding students.
Also to foster close cultural links between the City of Cottbus and the United Kingdom.

                            Sasha Grynyuk with Noretta Conci- Leech
Hence the first collective visit of the Foundation Trustees to London for a concert likewise showcasing exceptional young talent,supported and nurtured by a UK charity.
What better way to cement a consolidated friendship than with music.
And what music!
In John Gumbel’s own words: “May it herald a bright future of collaboration.

                Noretta Conci- Leech with Bryce Morrison and Lisa Peacock
A magnificent recital by an established Keyboard Trust Artist Sasha Grynyuk already winner a few years ago of the KCT Annual Prizewinner Wigmore Recital and whose mentor is the founder of the Keyboard Trust Noretta Conci-Leech
Now in her late eighties she was excited and delighted to discuss afterwards about Sasha’s artistry in the concert we had just heard.
An extraordinary sense of colour in this small hall with a magnificent but what can so often seem an overpowering Steinway “D”.
We have heard many recitals in this hall which is a true trial for the many very talented musicians who are invited to give recitals here for the KCT.
It takes a true musician who really listens intently to be able to adapt this concert instrument to such a confined space.
Not only was Sasha able to adapt but the layers of sound that he produced were quite remarkable.

                                Fervid discussions about the recital
“Layers” thats it exclaimed Noretta .
I wonder if anyone else had noticed!
We were both so excited by what we had heard that the magnificent reception offered was put to one side in an explosion of enthusiasm and of the excitement of discovery to describe something so beautiful.
We not only noticed but he held our attention playing with a clarity where every note spoke with extraordinary musicality.
Occasionally one could see in a gesture or the facial expression of the story that he was telling but in a very refined a restrained way not at all the exhibitionism that we are sometimes used to seeing on the concert platform these days.

                    Sasha with John Gumbel at the end of the recital
It was all in the music.
A very careful use of the pedal which of course Noretta Conci had passed on from her master Benedetti Michelangeli of whom she was not only a disciple but also assistant for many years.
She had just told me that the soft pedal should rarely be used in the classics and the gradations of sound should all be found by a subtle control and digital sensitivity which requires a truly virtuoso technique and it does not hurt to also have a magnificent instrument.
How many times I had queued to hear Michelangeli in London who would cancel his concerts because the piano had suffered too much humidity and would not allow him to even strive for his keyboard perfection!

Sasha Grynyuk with the distinguished authoress Claire Packenham
Sasha Grynyuk was born in Kiev and after his early studies he moved to London to study with Ronan O’Hora at the Guildhall where he graduated with the prestigious Gold Medal
He has since been helped by the KCT and has gone on to win many International prizes and awards.
His CD of Gould and Gulda was chosen as record of the month by Piano News.
His recent performance of the original piano score by Shostakovich for the 1929 silent film The New Babylon by Kozintsev and Trauberg was hailed as a tour de force by the critics.
Today’s works included Bach ,Mozart,Beethoven ,Prokoviev and Gulda.
A short lunchtime programme that nevertheless showed off many of the remarkable facets of his considerable artistry.

               Sasha with Bryce Morrison and Noretta Conci -Leech
I have heard Sasha many times and much admired his Mozart K 331 at his Wigmore Prizewinners concert.
A programme that was notable for how it had been conceived as a whole.
Starting and finishing with an atmospheric piece by Arvo Part.
It was as though he was preparing the listener and trying to draw them into his own very particular sound world.
I was even on stage with him for the marathon Shostakovich but nothing had prepared me for the musical and technical perfection that was in store today.
The same framework though this time of Bach.
Starting and ending with two very evocative transcriptions .
Not the usual bombastic ones we are used to hearing in the concert hall but a very subtle Siciliano from a flute sonata transcribed by that other pianistic magician/musician Wilhelm Kempff.
Finishing his programme with the magical Prelude in B minor in the transcription by Alexander Siloti that framed so perfectly the whole picture on display.
From the very outset the liquidity of the melody in the Siciliano was complimented by a very subtle staccato accompaniment and also very deep bass notes that gave a sumptuousness that Bach could only have imagined .
It was Idil Biret,a student of Kempff that used to play it as an encore for us on her many visits to Rome.
My wife remembered it and incorporated it into her performance in the last heartrending moments of “Whose afraid of Virginia Wolff”.
Idil never knew this as my wife died shortly after and when I told her recently at a recital in London for the Chopin Society she played it as an encore in memory of a dear friend. We were both in tears …only we knew why!
Both the Mozart little D major Sonata K331 and Beethoven’s unjustly neglected partner to the so called “Moonlight” Sonata from op 27,were played with exemplary intelligence and respect for the score.
A true sense of layers of colours and sounds joined inexorably together.
Sudden pianos and legato and staccato phrasing interpreted as he brought exactly what he saw in the score to vivid life.
Truly recreating these works as is rarely heard these days in our thirst to either ignore completely what the composer wrote in the style of the so called “Golden Age” of piano playing or to reproduce dryly without imagination or colour.
To interpret exactly the intentions of what the composer wrote and bring the notes to life is the realm of a true artist of the calibre of Annie Fischer,Artur Schnabel ,Murray Perahia or Krystian Zimmerman .
The sense of balance too was notable and gave a wonderful singing sound to the Andante con espressione of Mozart and the Adagio con espressione of Beethoven.
Some things had me searching in the score afterwards to see if the sometimes revolutionary phrasing was actually there.
For example in the Allegro molto e vivace of the Beethoven.
Rarely have I heard the phrasing in three so tellingly interpreted.
Or Beethoven’s pianissimo indications in the first movement especially in the coda.
The sudden piano after the forte outbursts was especially surprising.
This precise attention to the minutest detail allowed us to appreciate the layers of sound almost as if for the first time.
A magical orchestra in the hands of a Kleiber.

                   John Leech ,Sasha Grynyuk and German colleague
Six of the Visions Fugitives by Prokofiev ,not quite the ones that Rubinstein plays from Carnegie Hall where each one as today was made to speak and shine like the true gems they are.
The 3rd and 11th deliciously playful with just that sense of charm that even Prokofiev was capable of once all the barnstorming virtuosity was out of the way.
Could n.11 have been ever more ridiculous – ridicolosamente the composer truly asks for?
The beautiful sense of line and cantabile of n.8 was contrasted with the full blooded Dolente of n.16.
So much pedal and played with a really heavy legato touch brought the pathos of this remarkable piece to life as I have never before been aware.
Choosing the same final as Rubinstein n.14 played with all the ferocity and rhythmic energy of that young man that Rubinstein always was.
Leading without a break into the jazz idioms of Friedrich Gulda.
Played with all that nonchalant charm and chameleon type rubber rubato that is so much part of this idiom .
I well remember the last recital of Friedrich Gulda in my theatre.
A Mozart recital announced that in fact was a rock show with Mozart personified in a wig and playing a synthesizer.
Not much Mozart but when all the public had left in dismay he sat down and played one of his Play piano so beautifully I just wished he had done that earlier.
He left way after midnight and I took him to the Alexanderplatz jazz club where he stayed all night.
A remarkable man whose only student was Martha Argerich both known not only as the greatest of pianists but also two of the most individual and seemingly capricious people that refuse to be labelled and marketed.
Much to talk about then with our distinguished guests over the canapes and drinks that were offered to celebrate this collaboration.
Bryce Morrison and Lisa Peacock two beacons on the London concert scene were celebrating with us together with the founders of the Keyboard Charitable Trust and our German friends of the Grunebaum Foundation.

        Elena Vorotko one of the artistic directors and trustee of the KCT
But the real celebration had been the hour of music to which we had all been treated to .…/the-keyboard-charitable-trust/

Jayson Gillham with the RPO

Jayson Gillham and Alexander Shelley with the RPO at Cadogan Hall
Jayson Gillham at Cadogan Hall in Chopin F minor concerto with the RPO under Alexander Shelley.
Some magnificent playing from Jayson Gillham much appreciated by Noretta Conci-Leech who had come with me to applaud “Sunny “Jayson who she has supported since his student days.
Wonderful to see the son of Howard Shelley contemporary of mine whose Chopin Preludes at his Wigmore debut 45 years ago are still talked about.

Jayson Gillham with Noretta Conci Leech
I had heard great things about Alexander Shelley from Filippo Juvarra of the Amici della Musica di Padua all amply confirmed tonight .
A very robust unsentimental Chopin with a Maestoso rather on the fast side soon to be calmed by the soothing balm of Chopin’s filigree figurations on the piano so beautifully spun by Jayson.
No sentimentality but with heartfelt sentiment and even some robust passion as befits a young man on the crest a wave as was Chopin and is proving Jayson.
“The Angel” op 1 n.1 by Medtner was the thank you from Jayson for the ovation he received
I have heard Jayson over many years ,he even gave a memorable recital in my theatre in Rome for the Keyboard Trust as he did his extraordinary recital debut in the Wigmore Hall a few years ago.
Prevailed on by Leslie Howard to learn the original version of Rachmaninov’s Fourth Piano Concerto for the KCT series in collaboration with the Amici della Musica di Ancona of the complete works for piano and orchestra .
He performed it superbly three times in Ancona.Fabriano and the famous Teatro Rossini in Pesaro.
Since then he has gone on to win the Montreal International Piano Competition and his playing has matured and deepened to reveal not only a real thinking musician but a profound artistic personality
Signing his new CD’s of the Medtner Ist Piano Concerto and Rachmaninoff 2nd  with the Melborne Symphony Orchestra ( which includes tonights encore and also Rachmaninoff Prelude in D  op 23 n.4) and Beethoven 4th Piano Concerto with Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra .Noretta’s “Sunny” Jayson has certainly come a long way since he was spotted by the founder of the KCT .

Jayson Gillham with Noretta Conci Leech and admirer

Jayson Gillham with Alexander Shelley

Victor Maslov – Eileen Rowe Trust Holder

Victor Maslov at St Mary’s The Eileen Rowe Musical Award Holder
Victor Maslov at Perivale

                                   Dr Mather with Victor Maslov
Some beautiful words from our host of ceremonies Dr Hugh Mather to present this twenty one year old russian pianist to his faithful public at St Mary’s for the second time. He is the recipient of many distinguished awards but the most significant one is that he is supported in his studies with Dmitri Alexeev by the Eileen Rowe Musical Trust.
That Queen of Piano Teachers in Ealing for over 60 years who left her worldly goods to set up this Trust that helps talented young pianists to continue their training.
I was reminded to look back to my thoughts a year ago when I heard this young man play Brahms and Rachmaninov.
It was also nice to hear Victor Maslov talk with such affection and thanks to the people of Ealing who are supporting him in his long journey to become a professional musician.
His teacher Dmitri Alexeev, since winning the 1966 Leeds Piano Competition has been a long time resident in Ealing.
Some very astute comments of presentation too.
He pointed out that the two works in programme: Beethoven Sonata op 109 and Schubert Sonata in C minor D958 were both written at the end of the composers lives and were the first of their last trilogy of Sonatas for piano.
Already his performances of the Russian virtuoso repertoire are much appreciated and he was chosen at the age of only 19 to play with the RCM Philharmonic the Tchaikowsky Concerto n.1 as winner of their prestigeous concerto competition.
So today was it was interesting to see him venturing into the world of the German classics.
It is only in this enlightened series devised by Dr Hugh Mather and his faithful followers that we are able to chart and appreciate week after week the progress and talent of some of the most remarkable young musicians who have come to London to perfect their skills.
Concerts four times a week divided between St Mary’s and St Barnabas in Ealing give the opportunity to these young musicians not only to share their music with a discerning audience but also to receive a well needed fee to keep the wolves from the door whilst preparing for their first ventures into the vast professional world that awaits.
Dr Hugh Mather is not content with just these already established series but at the end of each year on these beautiful balmy nights he devises a weekend series which incorporates all the sonatas of Beethoven or this year all the major works of Chopin.
The Festival from 15-17 June will hear 21 pianists,many of whom have already appeared in the normal series ,playing over 12 hours of music over 5 sessions.
The remarkable Dr Mather may be a retired physician but as he shows there is no such thing as retirement for a musician .
Explaining that his children too were taught by the remarkable Eileen Rowe whereas whilst training to become a distinguished physician he was being coached by the distinguished pianist James Gibb.
With all this activity in helping young musicians he even has time to play Chamber music and will include a recital at St Barnabas on Friday 18th May with Yume Fujise in a difficult programme that includes the Brahms D minor Sonata and Ravel’s strepitoso Tzigane !
Some fine playing from Victor Maskov even considering that this was an entirely new programme of a new world that he is exploring of the great German classics.
Beethoven op 109 is together with its partners op 110 and op 111 a monument of the piano repertoire.
I had just come from a morning Masterclass at the RAM by the distinguished pianist Richard Goode in which he had been explaining and demonstrating this very sonata to another fine pianist Inna Montesclaros.
A stimulating exchange of ideas that made it even more refreshing to now hear a complete performance of this masterpiece.
Some beautiful playing especially good in the busier parts of the sonatas.
An exhilarating performance of great clarity and rhythmic propulsion of the Prestissimo.
Also the scintillating third variation of the theme and variations that makes up the last movement.
A beautifully shaped theme especially in the almost whispered repeat.
Beethoven’s magical trills that are so much part of his last trilogy were very well performed but could have had more magic as they descend into the final moving statement.
In fact this was a young man’s Beethoven where the underlying propulsion was not deeply enough felt in his effort to shape the individual melodic lines.
Forgetting that this is above all symphonic music that must have a definite structure. Like a Greek Temple where the base and columns are absolutely fundamental even though the freeze and individual ornaments may be of sublime beauty.
They are of a classical beauty .
Not that of the great romantic works where feelings and atmospheres are paramount and sometimes the actual structure is of secondary importance.
The first movement of the Beethoven suffered from this lack of overall architectural shape and became a series of sometimes exquisite episodes interrupted by Beethoven’s explosive temperament.

                             Richard Goode Masterclass on op 109
It was Richard Goode that showed us the way of producing a sound that would amalgamate this seemingly episodical first movement and make it even more astonishingly into one overall shape.
Strangely enough it was to eliminate the individual bar lines and to feel the energy and growth in big lines and phrases.
That one chain would link to another as Moura Lympany used to say.
The great Schubert C minor was felt so well.
The dramatic opening giving way to the meltingly beautiful second subject but again loosing on the way the inner propulsion that would have given more power and shape to the whole.
The Allegro last movement was beautifully shaped as a real dance instead of the usually dramatic tarantella.
The sublime middle section again divorced from its surroundings.
These are just some pointers to this very talented young musician who is venturing into new territory.
They were nevertheless very professional performances much appreciated by the audience that instead of the promised Etudes Tableaux op 39 by Rachmaninov had been treated to one of the great monuments of the German piano literature.
A little piece from Visions Fugitives – N.10 was strangely played at half tempo but it worked so well and was made to talk directly to this enthusiastic audience.
It is more fun like that exclaimed Victor who was now ready to let his hair down and return to home territory!
Victor is supported by another remarkable lady Canan Maxton who has created Talent Unlimited that helps very talented young musicians to give concerts and study in London.

        Christopher Axworthy with Hugh Mather taken by Roger Nellist

      The beautiful surrounds of St Mary’s in Ealing Golf Course

Mark Viner with the Camerata

Mark Viner with the Camerata in Manchester
Every time I return to Manchester there is always something exciting and vibrant to discover.
Thanks to the adventurous programming of the Manchester Camerata every concert in their series “Up Close – The Next generation” in collaboration with the Keyboard Charitable Trust, we discover a new venue.
This close collaboration now in its second year was welded with great passion by Geoffrey Shindler with the wish to share the expertise of one of the finest Chamber Orchestras in Europe of which he is Honorary Chairman with the young musicians of the Keyboard Charitable Trust whose aim is to help the very finest young pianists to bridge that gap between completing their early studies and embarking on a major career in the music profession.
The artists presented so far have included : Alexander Ullman at the award winning Whitworth Art Gallery;Emanuel Rimoldi at “Home” a new exciting arts and meeting venue built where once there was a leather factory;Iyad I. Sughayer in Manchester Cathedral, so cruelly bombed during the war but reborn magnificently thanks to the resilience of these hardy warmhearted folk from the North;Ilya Kondratiev in the newly opened Stoller Hall ,part of the famous Chethams Music School in the centre of Manchester.
Now it was the turn of Mark Viner in the Anthony Burgess Foundation in the old industrial part of the city.
Follow that big red chimney I was told by one of the very friendly locals here.
And there it was just a stones throw from the centre in what was formerly one of the oldest mills in the country.
A rubber warehouse opposite that still displays the sign of Dunlop. Another sign proudly displays “The Burgess Foundation.”
Created by his widow Liana Burgess in 2003, ten years after the death of her husband, to celebrate the man who is most famously remembered for “A clockwork orange”.
John Anthony Burgess Wilson was born into a poor working class family in Manchester in 1917 and studied at The Victoria University. Simplifying his name to Anthony Burgess on the publication of his first book in 1956 “Time for a Tiger “.
The Foundation contains much of the furniture that was in his house in Bracciano near Rome in Italy and also houses his archive of writings as well as his 250 compositions.
For he considered himself a composer rather than a writer and I remember discussions with Anthony Burgess and Mario Maranzana one of the most important actors in our theatre company at the Ghione Theatre in Rome, about performing a musical of his.
Small world …..having just flown in myself from Rome to Manchester’s superb international airport.
The flight incidentally from Rome to Manchester was much cheaper than the return train fare would have been from London to Manchester!
Importantly the foundation houses his two pianos :one a Steinway K and the other a magnificent Bosendorfer that was used for the concert tonight.
Mark Viner recently made his Wigmore Hall debut as prize winner of the KCT and whose recording of Alkan Studies has been greeted with five star reviews from the press.
Hardly surprising for the programme to include some rarely if ever performed works by Charles – Valentin Alkan,that elusive french contemporary of Chopin and Liszt who became a recluse and is rumoured to have been killed when the bookcase fell on him whilst reaching for the Talmud that he was translating.
His son Elie – Miriam Delaborde taught the daughter of an America General:Lucy Hickenlooper who under the name of Olga Samaroff (wife of Leonard Stokes alias Leopold Stokowski)was the teacher of many distinguished pianists that included William Kapell,Alexis Weisenberg,Rosalyn Tureck and more interestingly Raymond Lewenthal.
It was he who was the first pianist in modern times to champion Alkan’s music.
Taking the concert world by storm as indeed Mark Viner is on the verge of doing now.

                                Mark Viner with Geoffrey Shindler
Still under thirty he is rapidly becoming a world expert on Alkan and that period and is already Chairman of the Alkan Society in England.
It was thanks to him that Manchester was treated to the first performance in modern times of the Andante avec Sourdines op 13 n.3 for solo piano and strings as it was originally conceived as the central movement of The Deuxieme Concerto da Camera op 10.
Eva Thorarinsdottir,violin and Dan Storer,double bass joined forces with Catherine Pether,Kay Stephen and Hannah Roberts in the evocative performances of these long forgotten works.
Originally performed in Paris with Alkan himself ,there were reports in the press of the day of a magical piece with string accompaniment.
The piece had remained as a solo piano work since that period as the parts had mysteriously disappeared only to be found a few years ago in a music cellar in the Netherlands.
It was this performance that we were treated to today.
Together with the Concerto op 10 with the slow movement that “Field of Bath” had premiered in 1834 on Alkan’s first visit to England. The concerto is dedicated to the English virtuoso of the day Henry Ibbot Field.
Fascinating stories that Mark Viner is happy to recount to the audience before embarking on some memorable performances.
Music speaks louder than words but the few very succinct words of introduction certainly added to the atmosphere that was created in this intimate space .
Some wonderfully atmospheric playing of great beauty.
The sound of Burgess’s own Bosendorfer was the ideal instrument that blended in so well with the string players who in turn were visibly entranced by the sounds that were resounding around this space as the daylight gently turned to dusk and the gentle candle like lighting allowed the players just enough light to maintain the spell that had been created.

                           Mark Viner talking about Alkan
There is nothing so beautiful as the magical sounds of the piano with gentle string accompaniment as Chopin in his Krakoviak or even mighty Beethoven in the slow movement of the Emperor had long realised.
Here tonight we were treated to a lesson in chamber music with the musicians listening intently to each other.
Caroline Pether visibly transported as the hawk like eyes of Hannah Roberts sought out the nooks and crannies that could be filled by her passionate cello playing.
Some amazing feats of dexterity from Mark Viner in sounds that sounded almost like soft glissandi but infact was the same most transcendentally delicate virtuosity that made Alkan so much admired in his day by Chopin and Liszt.
The short Chamber Concerto that followed allowed the string players more scope to add their own stamp on the proceedings in what is truly a concerto for piano and string orchestra.
All the drama fully realised by Hannah Roberts with the low opening vibrations that open the concerto leading to a passionate tutti where all the players were totally convinced by this until now unknown composer.
Great octave flourishes from Mark Viner always blended in with the string sounds in what was very much a “chamber” concerto.
The concert had opened with a piece that the eighteen year old Schubert had written three years before the Trout Quintet that made up the second half of this evening of real music making.
The Adagio and Rondo Concertante in F major D.487 was the ideal opening piece that immediately set the seal for the entire evening.
The Mendelssohnian type writing that the young Schubert had penned completely integrated into the overall sound created.
I would think that in the repeat performance that will take place in Adbaston tomorrow the musicians will be able to have even more fun in their assurance now that each player is listening intently to each other and ready to change direction and inflection in the true spirit for which this music was conceived
A fascinating musical conversation between equals.
The piano part not as pianistically well written as with Alkan and falls somewhat awkwardly under the hand. We were never made aware of that in Mark’s expert hands and the notes just seemed to cascade so easily from his fingers as did the passionate sounds from Caroline Pether,Kay Stephen and Hannah Roberts.
Greeted now with glee by Geoffrey Shindler who admitted that like Neville Cardus he had spent the afternoon at “Old Trafford” and in the evening in the company of “real” music.
Geoffrey who has for so many years been a pioneer of culture in his adored city.Happy to see that yet another of his projects was bringing such lustre to his city. He recounted that Neville Cardus had once written a marvellous piece in the Guardian about a cricket match in which he had poetically talked about the beauty of the surroundings and also of a cricket match that he was alarmed to realise too late had never actually taken place. When confronted by one of his readers in his typical Mancunian down to earth manner merely answered that if the match had actually taken place that is exactly what would have happened!
After the interval a much loved work written when Schubert was only twenty two for the wealthy music patron and amateur cellist Sylvester Paumgartner.
He had specifically asked that it should include variations on the lied ” Die Forelle”.
In fact it is the “Trout” that makes up the fourth movement :Andantino,Allegretto and where the cello is given such an important part to play.
Some really stylish playing from Hannah Roberts where she made the music bubble over with just the joy that is so much part of the original song.The sounds from the other instruments answering her in turn.The high ornaments from Caroline and Kay exactly depicting the bubbling brook that this lucky trout was allowed to wallow in.
The piano and double bass bringing us back to earth with the same warmth and beauty of sound that had been the hallmark of the evenings music making.
An Allegro vivace of great rhythmic drive and interplay between the instruments where the opening flourish of the piano was beautifully answered by the stillness of the strings.
The Andante played with all the poetic cantabile that had been so apparent in the Alkan slow movements.
Great sense of energy in the Scherzo made for a fine contrast with the sublime opening statement of “The Trout” from Caroline Pether visibly moved by this performance.
The Allegro giusto played with a subtle charm by Mark Viner that was answered by some passionate playing from Hannah Roberts and the mellifluous double bass of Dan Storer.

                                         Alkan in rehearsal
What a memorable evening thanks to teamwork not only of the musicians but of their young enthusiastic organisers James Thomas.Jo Ponsillo and the indispensable Emma Wigley.
Future projects voiced between the General Manager Bob Riley and the KCT insures that this is only the beginning of a fruitful relationship as hoped for by Geoffrey Shindler.
The next concert on 22nd June in a Hungarian Festival in which Vitaly Pisarenko will perform the “Ghost ” trio with members of the Camerata .
Many more projects in view for the autumn that makes for a very exciting prospect for all concerned.

             Bob Riley General Manager and Jo Ponsillo Orchestra Manager

James Thomas ,Head of Artistic Development and Programming with Emma Wigley Concerts Officer

                                                Luke Jones with Mark Viner

The artists after the performance of Alkan