Roseland Music Society

Reviews

 

The final concert of the 2016/17 season in June was in the hands of the exceptionally gifted Russian pianist Maria Razumovskaya. This was a return visit following her captivating performance two years previously when she became an immediate favourite with her relaxed dialogue with the audience and her powerful, emotional and lyrical playing.

 

The concert opened with a virtuoso display of the popular Beethoven’s Pathetique Piano sonata with its passions and emotions beautifully expressed. This was followed by a more gentle and relaxing Nocturne by Debussy and Prelude by Chopin.

 

The second half was devoted to the fiendishly difficult Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition, written in memory of an artist friend and featuring ten of his paintings on display and linked by a promenade theme as he progressed between them. This is written for piano but has been subject to orchestral arrangements by several composers.

 

Maria certainly brought the best out of the piano and her slender physique belied the power of her playing!

 

 

 

May saw a return visit by the Jacka Jazz Quintet. Ever popular locally it was great to welcome Mike Hitchings ‘home’. He was on our Committee for many years and he and Jeanne remain members regularly attending the concerts.

 

The audience, seated in ‘café style’, thoroughly enjoyed the evening’s selection of music lead by Mike in his usual inimitable style.

 

 

April featured the third visit of firm favourites, Piatti String Quartet. Widely acclaimed as a leading Quartet of their generation the audience was rewarded with an exciting and virtuoso performance. Earlier pupils at two local schools were thrilled with scintillating Workshops.

 

Music of the classical era predominated, opening with a Hayden Quartet ‘The Bird’, written in 1781, one of 68 String Quartets he composed. He is noted as the ‘Father of the String Quartet’ and lauded as principal developer of the classical style composing 104 Symphonies and a phenomenal number of further works including Chamber Music for varying ensembles, Piano Sonatas, Operas, Masses and Oratorios!

Austrian born in 1732 into a humble background Haydn’s early life was tough. In 1761 he was retained by the wealthy and influential Esterházy family, first as assistant conductor, then in 1766 as musical director. He remained in their service until his death in 1809.

During the 1760s Haydn’s fame began to spread throughout Europe. He frequently visited Vienna in the prince’s retinue, and a close friendship developed with Mozart.

In 1790 on the way via Germany to the first of his two London interludes he met the young Beethoven. Recognising his enormous potential a move to Vienna was arranged to receive instruction from Haydn.

Beethoven was a crucial figure during the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras and one of the most famous and influential of all composers. After the interval the concert was devoted to the remarkable Beethoven String Quartet Opus 130 written in 1825 when he was deaf and nearing death (in 1827). The original challenging last movement was misunderstood by critics being fiendishly difficult to play and an epic in its ‘tormented’ content. He wrote another more traditional finale, and the original – Grosse Fuge - was later published separately as Opus 133. It was accepted subsequently as a remarkable contemporary composition of its time – in the words of Stravinsky ‘an absolutely contemporary piece of music that will be contemporary forever’. The Quartet was played on this occasion with the original finale - breathtaking.

 

A restful composition by Spaniard Turina in 1925 – The Bullfighters Prayer – was also included in the programme.

 

March concert featured the highly rated Piano 4 Hands. The combined talents of Joseph Tong and Waka Hasegawa certainly tested our piano! This duo first visited us in 2006 impressing their skills and empathy. They then had been playing together for 4 years and were already hailed as a leading piano duo. Now 11 years later they have consolidated their position in the top echelon.

 

Early compositions in the main were written for ‘drawing room’ recitals in the large dwellings of rich patrons. Dedicated compositions for four hands are not plentiful with arrangements often featuring from works written with other instruments in mind. On this occasion all the pieces were written for 4 hands, and included five well known composers from the Classical and Romantic periods.

 

Mozart and Schubert were icons of the Classical period both sadly dying in their early 30’s. Compositions by both featured in the first half of the programme and set the scene demonstrating the enormous skills and interweaving of hands required for this special combination of performance.

 

Following the interval 6 ‘Pictures from the East’ by Schumann featured. Schumann had been assured of a great career as a virtuoso pianist but a hand injury prevented this maturing causing him to concentrate on composing. His career spanned into the early Romantic period and amongst his many compositions he produced memorable and lyrical pieces for the piano.

 

Proceeding with the Romantic period two pieces composed by Brahms were played – his Homage to Schumann followed by four expressive and spectacular Hungarian Dances.

 

As an encore En Bateau from Impressionist Debussy’s Petit Suite for 4 hands – was a calming and sensitive influence after the excitement of the preceding Dances!

 

February featured a return visit of local multi skilled artist Paul Drayton. His interesting talks and musical illustrations are ever popular – a chance to enjoy a blend of educational commentary with virtuoso piano playing. This time his theme was “Singing with Hammers – a Brief History of the Piano”.

 

In the Renaissance and Baroque periods, the harpsichord and clavichord were representative of the two major types of keyboard instruments requiring vibrating strings to produce sound. One major difference existed: the harpsichord plucked the string, producing a rich tone but fixed volume, whereas the clavichord ‘hammered’ the strings, offering more dynamic control from the performer but with less overall tone. Circa 1700 these two varied styles were combined by a harpsichord builder in Italy, Bartolomeo Cristofori, who began to experiment with a keyboard mechanism that would strike the strings with leather covered hammers which were able to move away even if the key was still depressed, thus allowing the strings to vibrate for a longer period. This single change was a remarkable achievement creating a new musical instrument known as the pianoforte from which the modern piano developed progressively.

 

Changes since the Cristofori ‘invention’ include the typical smaller keyboards of Elizabethan instruments with circa 40 keys increasing to the present usual standard of 88. Hammers are covered with felt. Pedals have been introduced. Frames are strengthened using metal instead of wood to accommodate the much greater string tensions required for the sound to fill large concert halls.

 

Late 18th/early 19th century French instrument maker Erard was a major influence (both piano and harp) virtually all of whose innovations are retained in modern piano design. John Broadwood started work in 1761. Other famous brands include Bosendorfer (1825) and Steinway 1828. A top of the range Steinway can now cost £180,000! Bechstein and Bluthner both date from 1853

 

The range of music illustrations played by Paul were thoroughly enjoyed and included some incredibly fast pieces displaying the highest skills of performance.

 

The January Recital featured the eagerly anticipated return of the internationally renowned Guitarist Craig Ogden and included his usual interesting and educational comments, enjoyed by the audience which exceeded 100.

 

Compositions for the modern classical guitar were rare until later in the 19th century, much of the earlier music performed being arrangements of pre Romantic compositions. Perhaps the two most influential guitarists to have improved the perception and repertoire of the classical guitar are Andres Segovia (1893 – 1987) and Julian Bream (1933), both numbered amongst the finest guitarists of all time. The former in particular undertook many transcriptions of classical and baroque compositions, and both commissioned works and collaborated with non guitar playing contemporary composers.

 

There were interesting comments on playing techniques including the hours of practice required to develop tremolo playing, as featured in the encore - the famous composition Recuerdos de Alhambra by Tarrega.

 

Recognisable forms of the guitar had evolved during the baroque era – particularly emanating from Italian influence. However the modern 6 string format did not mature until the end of Classical era, first made in Spain mid 19th century.

 

Top guitars, unlike traditional string instruments, deteriorate with age, and the leading professional players tend to buy new every 10 – 20 years. Hence reliance on a small number of craftsmen able to make the best instruments is much in demand with lengthy waiting lists. Craig’s instruments are made by Australian Greg Smallman, known worldwide for his innovative design. (World renowned classical guitarist John Williams also uses Smallman guitars).

 

The chosen programme started with the Renaissance period, an arrangement of Lachrymae Pavane Fantasia no. 7 by lutenist, singer and composer John Dowland. Subsequent classical music eras were represented by composers J S Bach, Mauro Giuliani (a guitar player!), Isaac Albeniz, Lennon/McCartney, George Harrison (considered by many as a top 20 guitarist) and William Walton. It ended with the beautiful and haunting Lough Caragh by a current world leading exponent of the guitar and composer of contemporary music, Gary Ryan.