Clara Sherratt at St Mary’s Clarity and maturity of a teenage artist

Tuesday 27 September 3.00 pm

Joint concert with the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe 

`An already accomplished young musician.’ Leslie Howard
Playing `so impressive in its dignity than one almost failed to observe that this young performer had negotiated celebrated technical problems with grace and ease.’ Leslie Howard.
`Extraordinary talent – do not stop playing’…`born to play piano’. Hilary Coates, Trinity Laban Conservatoire.

From the very opening notes there was a luminosity to Clara Sherratt’s sound and an infectious rhythmic energy with crystal clear ornaments.It was beautifully phrased with very subtle dynamic contrast and was a scintillating opening of enviable precision and clarity where she could now add a little more grace and charm to Haydn’s ‘Divertimento’The Adagio was gently flowing and contrasted so well with the exuberance and radiance of the exhilarating finale

No Haydn sonata is more indebted to Emanuel Bach’s brand of Empfindsamkeit—the language of heightened sensibility that had its literary roots in the works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the German poet Klopstock—than the Sonata in A flat, No 46, composed around 1767–8,like nearly all of Haydn’s other sonatas, bears the alternate title of “Divertimento.” Interestingly, each of the three movements is written in some variant of sonata form. Beyond any specific influence, this beautiful work reflects the striking intensification of Haydn’s musical idiom in the years immediately following his elevation to full Kapellmeister at the Esterházy court in 1766. Opening with a typically empfindsamer theme, irregularly phrased and characterized by delicate ornaments and sighing appoggiaturas, the first movement surpasses all its predecessors in scale, expressive richness and variety of rhythm and texture. For the Adagio, Haydn moves to the subdominant, D flat major, an outré key in the eighteenth century and one never used by Mozart. With the extreme tonality goes a peculiar intimacy of expression: from the delicate contrapuntal opening, with the bass descending passacaglia-style, this is one of the most subtle and poetic of all Haydn’s slow movements. With its catchy, quicksilver main theme, the compact sonata-form finale provides a glorious physical release. The darting semiquaver figuration always has a strong sense of direction, above all in the powerful chromatic sequences just before the recapitulation.

Some remarkably mature playing from this seventeen year old artist.A technical and musical control way above her years that allowed her to play one of the greatest works for piano with astonishing mastery and understanding.The Schumann Fantasy an outpouring of love for his beloved Clara is dedicated to Liszt and was Schumann’s contribution to the fund that Liszt had taken in hand to build a monument to his master Beethoven in Bonn.It is a very demanding work not least for the many musical problems that need to be resolved with simplicity and beauty.The first movement is prefaced by a verse from Friedrich Schlegel:Durch alle Töne tönetIm bunten ErdentraumEin leiser Ton gezogenFür den, der heimlich lauschet. – ‘Resounding through all the notes In the earth’s colorful dream There sounds a faint long-drawn note For the one who listens in secret.’There is also a quotation from Beethoven’s song cycle An die ferne Geliebte in the coda of the first movement:Accept then these songs [beloved, which I sang for you alone]. Schumann wrote to Clara: The first movement may well be the most passionate I have ever composed – a deep lament for you. They still had much suffering before they finally married four years later.

Clara for Clara you might say as this young lady played with great passion but also great intelligence.A true passionate outpouring with a luminous sound and an sense of balance that allowed always for a great clarity of line. It gave an overall architectural shape in a movement where Schumann is forever asking us to take more time without actually specifying where the join should start again .In the legendenton her very correct reading of staccato was rather too literal for my taste – there are many gradations of staccato – here it is a great outpouring of song and more of a weighty emotional staccato – but this is all a matter of taste from an artist who plays with remarkable maturity and scrupulous care of the composers markings.Her care of dynamics in the massig second movement gave great shape to a movement that can sound so disjointed if Schumann’s dotted rhythms are not shaped with real musicianship.Again her rather literal interpretation of Schumann’s ‘etwas langsamer’ robbed the music of its natural forward flow.But it was in the treacherous coda that she showed her true mastery with playing of such musical authority and as Schumann remarked of Chopin with ‘canons covered in flowers’.The sumptuous sounds and aristocratic rubato she brought to the ‘langsam getragen’ was ravishingly beautiful.Helped by her attention to the bass notes that gave great depth of sound to this sublime outpouring of love for Schumann’s Clara.Agosti (a pupil of Busoni) had written in my score over the opening A and G ‘Cla…….ra’.To Clara from Clara listening to each other in intimate secret which she shared so eloquently with us today.

An encore by great request was Rachmaninov’s own transcription of his song Lilacs from his 12 Romances op 21.A kaleidoscope of magic sounds spun from her fingers with such ease and style and confirmed what true artistry there is to her extraordinary mastery of the keyboard.

Clara Sherratt was awarded first prize in the prestigious Beethoven Piano Society of Europe Intercollegiate competition at age 16 – the youngest participant. She was already a prize-winning pianist, being at age 11 one of the youngest ever winners of the prestigious Two Moors Festival competition and Bristol Festival of Music. She has performed as a soloist at national and international events including Colston Hall, Bristol; Powderham Castle, Devon; The Royal College of Music; Bath Abbey; Bristol Music Club; Dulverton Church, Devon; Audley End, English Heritage; Pembroke College, Cambridge; Music Fest Perugia, Italy and the Festival Internacional de Piano Torre de Canyamel, Mallorca. Clara’s many recitals include concertos with local and international orchestras, Charity galas, festivals and she even played for the President of the Supreme Court, Baroness Hale of Richmond. Clara, now 17, is a pupil at the Royal College of Music Junior Department, where her teacher is Dina Parakhina. Previously she was a pupil of Pascal Nemirovski. 


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