Tuesday 24 November 4.00 pm
Streamed concert in an empty church
Hugh Mather (piano)
to celebrate 1000 concerts at St Mary’s Perivale since 2004
Beethoven: Sonata in F minor Op 57 ‘Appassionata’
Allegro assai -Andante con moto -Allegro ma non troppo
Schumann: Fantasie Op 17
- Durchaus fantastisch und leidenschaftlich vorzutragen; Im Legenden-Ton – Fantastic and passionate throughout;in a story telling way.
- Mäßig. Durchaus energisch – Moderate .Energetic throughout.
- Langsam getragen. Durchweg leise zu halten. – A slow and quiet pace throughout .
Comments from two distinguished musicians :
Jonathan Orr-Ewing:Hugh. It was fabulous to see and hear you. Your playing was terrific and it’s no surprise all of your musicians are inspired by your great example
A typical modest aside from our much loved master of Ceremonies:
‘An eventful afternoon at St Mary’s Perivale for my 1000th concert recital with a programme of Beethoven Appassionata and Schumann Fantasie. I get bad nerves before solo performances, and became paranoid about having a memory lapse in a live concert so I recorded the recital a few days ago. By Murphy’s law the machine playing back the recording today broke down at 40 mins – at the end of the Schumann 1st movt. Sincere apologies to everyone who was watching the recital. I have now uploaded the Schumann as a separate file. The whole episode will teach me to stay away from solo performances in future.’
There is indeed no business like show business and the show must go on as Dr Mather and his team have shown us in these difficult times.Three concerts a week and now even melologues and learned talks and all professional engagements offered mostly to young talented musicians.A whole generation of superb musicians who find themselves in great difficulty with one foot on a ladder that has been taken away by a cunning little chinese virus.
What to do?Actions speak louder than words and music takes over where words are just not enough.
Dr Mather and his team of volontary helpers includes a retired consultant physician,an expert BBC technician,a Government official and even a GP who makes tea and cakes and keeps this beautiful redundant church in order.All done for passion and the belief that culture replenishes the soul and that in being useful to young musicians who have sacrificed their youth for their art they are providing a much needed platform from which they can still weave their all important magic thread between artist and public.
Public recognition is growing rapidly, due to their superb streaming facilities.A true oasis that is fast being discovered in these barren times.Official recognition is long overdue.Hardly surprising as Barbara Hosking the 92 year old PR to Edward Heath said on BBC Private Passions:’ culture is what is sadly missing in Government today and we are paying dearly and daily the consequencies in our lives and expectations’
Few would have expected such masterly performances as we were offered today by our Master of Cermonies.
Schumann wrote his Fantasie as a contribution to Liszt’s monument for his master Beethoven, in Bonn. It was written as an outpouring of love for his future wife Clara Wieck and even contains a quote from Beethoven’s song ‘An die Ferne Geliebte- To the distant beloved.’It is dedicated to Liszt who later dedicated his Sonata in B minor to Schumann.Pinnacles of the Romantic piano repertoire.
The ‘Appassionata’ is one of the last works of Beethoven from his middle period before the final glorious outpouring of his later Sonatas.It is one of his greatest and most technically challenging and was considered by Beethoven to be his most tempestuous piano sonata until the arrival of the ‘Hammerklavier.'(A work that Dr Mather played just a few years ago at St Mary’s and can still be enjoyed on their you tube archive channel).It was written around 1804 just a year after Beethoven had come to grips with the irreversibility of his incroaching deafness.
Hugh Mather studied the piano and organ from an early age, gaining the FRCO and the ARCM piano performers diplomas. He then pursued a medical career and was Consultant Physician at Ealing Hospital from 1982 to 2006, before retiring to pursue his musical interests. He continued his piano studies with James Gibb for many years, and gave countless concerts at St Mary’s Perivale, St Barnabas and elsewhere, as concerto soloist, recitalist, accompanist and chamber musician. More recently he has effectively retired from public performances and concentrated on organizing concerts. He has been Chairman of the Friends of St Mary’s Perivale since 2005, and has organised 1000 concerts there, as well as a further 600 at St Barnabas Church.
The Appassionata showed an enviable clarity and sense of line.There were no short cuts for Dr Mather as with Arrau like authority he took Beethoven’s word as sacrosanct with the solid musicianship of someone who has also played the organ for years.The opening flourish was thrown off with a youthful agility and sense of dynamic purpose that Beethoven himself is reported to have done.The whispered opening motif played with a rhythmic forward drive that is the key to this rather menacing precursor of the fifth symphony written only a few years later (op 67).There were beautiful contrasts too between the rhythmic outbursts and the lyrical second subject.Even the left hand repeated notes were played in an unusually mellifluous way and it made Beethoven’s furious outbursts even more astonishing.Here in this surprising first movement Beethoven’s not easy temperament is laid bare.Not the introspection of Schumann’s Florestan and Eusebius but the’ sturm and drang’ of an unquiet soul of a revolutionary.All this was brought to the fore in Dr Mather’s jewel like simplicity and clarity .One could almost see his scientific mind at work with his head down as he studied in minute detail the specimen.This was no cold hearted performance though but one where his love,respect and intelligence shone through in every phrase.The slight jiggery pockery in the explosive arpeggios before the coda was of a true professional musician who had no intention of being tripped up by Beethoven at the last hurdle!
A beautiful flowing ‘Andante con moto’ where every note sang with such loving understanding.Not the clinical precision of youth but a mature understanding of someone who has lived with this music for a lifetime. A beautiful slow transition from the Andante to the tempestuous ‘Allegro ma non troppo.’One could not help but admire the precision of Dr Mather’s fingerfertigkeit especially as his fourth and fifth fingers were not allowed to ride on the backseat as is often the case with this extremely busy movement.No slacking but a unrelenting rhythmic drive always with a wish to find the utmost lyricism and sense of line hidden in Beethoven’s knotty twine!The coda Presto could have been more frantic though- oh for one’s youth!- and the two long chords more legato to contrast with the frenetic rhythmic fervour that Beethoven demands afterwards.
As Hugh said he was worried about having a memory lapse in such a long and important recital but little did he count of the machine stopping during a replay.Human resiliance is so much more accomodating than a machine’s soulessness!Q.E.D.
A virtuoso performance even here as Dr Mather and his team downloaded the performance and had it on line before the end of the evening!Hats off indeed – I am sure Schumann would have approved as he did when the young Chopin appeared on the scene with his op 2 Variations!
The Schumann Fantasie is prefaced by some lines by the poet Schlegel where: “Resounding through all the notes ,In the earth’s colourful dream,There sounds a faint long-drawn note,For the one who listens in secret.”
I remember Agosti writing in my copy ‘cla…..ra’ over the first melodic notes of the sublime ‘Constellation’ last movement to give it the original title.
Agosti was a leggendary musician who held court during the summer months in Siena.All those that had heard him (the most renowned musicians of the day flocked to his studio)have never forgotten the intensity,power and beauty of his playing.It was created by never playing too loud too soon and his famous words are still ringing in my ears :’troppo forte ,troppo forte.’
It was exactly this sense of balance that Dr Mather realised today as the very opening ‘G’ marked ‘sfp’ is nothing more than an opening up of the sound within the piano giving reverberations on which Schumann’s passionate outpourings could float undisturbed.Some pianists play this opening G with such a bang that Agosti likened it ,rather cruelly, to Schumann giving his beloved Clara a clout on the jaw!
In Dr Mather’s hands it was a glorious outpouring of melody.The meandering triplets before the second subject was slightly slower and more carefully phrased than I was expecting and just demonstrated his continuous search for the not alway apparent song within the notes.I got the impression though that Dr Mather was a little intimidated by the silences that Schumann often indicates and rather liked to join the strands with his right foot.It was a beautiful performance that was infact the original ‘Ruins’ movement that Schumann had written for his as yet distant Clara.
The ‘Triumphal Arch’ of the second movement was played with great architectural sense of line .The poco meno and scherzando middle section was played with great sensitivity and the infamous coda was thrown off with great courage and the enviable precision of a mature thinking musician.The last movement was played as a great song from the first to the last note.Not disturbing the atmosphere at the end where Schumann marks poco a poco accelerando and many also add crescendo, playing only the final three chords piano.But Dr Hugh is obviously aware of the original edition where Schumann repeated the first movement coda to his distant beloved, and was content for us to bask in the extreme beauty of his performance.It comes with the loving care in maturity of he who has understood the real meaning of passion.
The same passion with which he has dedicated himself as he reaches his one thousandth concert in this beautiful unsuspecting church.
‘If music be the food of love play on’
Rudundant no longer!
Many congratulations and to the next millennio! Thanks are just not enough.