Vice President -
Concert Reviews 2016 -
This second concert of the season was a worthy follow-
The Mathias Piano Trio is formed by three very talented young men: Thomas Mathias on violin, James Heathcote on ‘cello and Matthew Lam on piano. Their programme began with three Miniatures composed by Frank Bridge (1879 – 1941). The first, ‘Romance’, was lyrical and played with a beautiful tone; the second, ‘Intermezzo’ was livelier, even skittish and the third, ‘Saltarello’ has a difficult rhythm and really tested the players’ ability to work together. These pieces quickly demonstrated that this is a well balance group of musicians with no one instrument dominating.
Beethoven’s Trio in C minor, Opus 1, No 3 followed. The first movement, ‘Allegro con brio’ alternating dramatic and lyrical sections in quick succession with some exciting fast passages on the piano which Matthew Lam was well able to achieve. The second movement, ‘Andante cantabile’ includes a passage of ‘conversation’ between violin and ‘cello; the Minuet was demanding on the pianist and the Finale again alternated dramatic and lyrical passages. The three musicians played throughout with energy, co-
The second half of the programme began with ‘Adagio, Adagio’ by Hans Werner Henze (1926 – 2012). This was a challenging piece for both performers and audience and the trio should be congratulated on introducing a modern composition so successfully to an audience which is largely unfamiliar with such works.
Safer ground was reached with the final piece; Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in D minor Opus 49, No 1. By this time the youthful performers were visibly relaxed and evidently enjoying their playing together. They performed with energy, vigour and momentum in the movements marked ‘allegro’ and ‘scherzo’ and seemed to take pleasure in the beautiful harmonies of the slow movement. The performance came to a flourishing conclusion in the final ‘allegro assai appassionato’.
For a well deserved encore, the audience was treated to a second rendering of Frank Bridges’s ‘Romance’.
Throughout the concert these three young musicians played with tremendous skill, enthusiasm and perfect co-
The Mathias Trio
Tom Mathias violin
James Heathcote cello
Matthew Lam piano
28th November 2016
"As You Like It"
23rd October 2016
On Sunday 23rd October, the 2016 -
Graham was joined by two colleagues, Rosemund Shelley and Gavin Roberts and together they treated the audience to a lively performance of Shakespeare’s poetry, extracts from his plays and music that has been inspired by the Bard’s words and works.
The performance was seamless as it flowed from song to recitation, solo to duet and trio, encompassing no fewer than eleven of Shakespeare’s plays and two of his sonnets. They provoked laughter, admiration, melancholy and a range of emotions reflecting the playwright’s unparalleled skill with words.
Rosamund and Graham delivered the poetry and songs with a keen sense of drama, while Gavin Roberts gave a sensitive and unobtrusive accompaniment. Gavin also played two solo pieces, one of them Prokofiev’s dramatic score for the ball scene from his ballet music for Romeo and Juliet. When introducing the second musical offering from this play, Graham reminded the audience of Zeffirelli’s film before singing the theme; many of us sighed with remembered delight!
The final fling was an entertaining rendering of Cole Porter’s ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’: advice that would surely be universally taken if it could always be in as palatable form as today’s performance.
The afternoon was, indeed, ‘As We Liked It’!
“An Afternoon at the Opera"
Nicholas Shipman -
Stefan Hofkes -
22nd January 2017
A very cold January day did not stop our faithful supporters from arriving to hear Nicholas Shipman on clarinet and Stefan Hofkes on piano give a superb recital which they had entitled “An Afternoon at the Opera”.
They opened with what is commonly known as Handel’s Largo, but is in fact the aria “Ombra mai fu” from his opera “Xerxes”. Having seen this opera performed by English National Opera at the Coliseum in London a few years back I can honestly say that coming near the very beginning of a long opera this was the only memorable piece. Apparently the opera closed after only five performances! Choosing to begin with this was a lovely way of easing us gently into a wonderful afternoon. The melody was well known and we could relax into listening to the glorious tone and technique of our soloist, Nicholas Shipman, sympathetically accompanied on the piano by Stefan Hofkes.
Then straight into Introduction, theme and variations by Rossini, a prolific composer of operas most of which are rarely, if ever, performed now. The soprano roles often demanded a coloratura technique, melodies embellished with fast runs and tremendous breath control. Nicholas certainly gave us a coloratura performance on the clarinet, his fingers often a blur. His absolute command of the demands made on him were accomplished with stunning accuracy. No wonder the audience gave him a worthy ovation at the end.
To give him a chance to get his breath back Stefan then gave a solo piano performance of a short piano piece by Wagner, “Albumblatt”, as in the previous piece not from an opera, but written by another prolific composer of operas. As Stefan explained in his introduction you could almost hear the orchestral writing coming through, the harmonies, the fingerprints that we hear in his other works.
To finish the first half Nicholas came back to play Fantasy from Tosca, melodies from Puccini’s opera, arranged by Della Giacoma. A chance for us opera lovers to briefly revisit some of the best arias, including “E lucevan le stelle” (And the stars shone).
After the interval Nicholas played the second movement of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. This achingly beautiful piece is always a great favourite and can become too familiar, but not in the safe hands of Nicholas. It was played with great delicacy of tone and depth of feeling that at the end there were several seconds of silence before the deserved applause began.
This was followed by another arrangement of themes from the opera “La Traviata” by Verdi, I think by Donato Lovreglio. Once more we were able to visit the many wonderful tunes written for this masterpiece including the Brindisi (Drinking song at the party).
Nicholas and Stefan followed this with the slow Intermezzo from “Carmen” by Bizet. This opera, although written by a Frenchman and sung in French is suffused with the sights and smells of old Spain. The playing of this by Nicholas captured all the atmosphere, and even on a cold afternoon I could almost feel the Spanish heat.
To finish the afternoon we were treated to arrangements of three songs by Gershwin, “The Man I Love”, then an amazing arrangement for solo clarinet of “It ain’t necessarily so”. The tune was often hidden amongst cascades of notes, but never lost. There were exciting jazz elements, languid slow sections and through it all sang the glorious technique of a maestro, a master of his instrument. Once again this was received with rapturous applause from a very appreciative audience. The last song was “Embraceable You” which ended a lovely afternoon.
Alice Kirwan -
Holly Melia -
This latest performance in the 2016-
Alice and Holly are to be commended for taking turns to introduce and explain each piece which enabled the audience both to understand the music and also to engage with the performers.
The opening piece, which immediately demonstrated the performers’ skill was ‘Folk Memories in Autumn’ by a modern Scottish composer, Edward McGuire. This was followed by a Sonata for Flute and Harp by Donizetti in which the two movements gave first one instrument and then the other the melody and then the harmony, demonstrating how these two instruments complemented each other so well.
Next came two Entr’actes by two different French composers, Bizet and Ibert. Then four sections entitled ‘Algues’ composed by a contemporary French harpist, Bernard Andres. Massenet’s ‘Meditation from Thais’ followed; this piece is normally played on a violin but the flute proved to be just as suitable. The first half concluded with three sections of a Sonata for Flute and Harp composed by the saxophonist, Andy Scott. The alternating fast and slow movements each had the members of the audience tapping their feet in response to dance rhythms from Europe and the jazz rhythms of the saxophonist.
After the interval, during which Holly and Alice were happy to chat to members of the audience, two sections of ‘Histoire du Tango’ by Piazolla demonstrated how the tango has travelled from the dance hall to the concert hall and feet were tapping once again. This was followed by another composition by Andres; ‘Narthex’ depicted images from church architecture and included some intriguing playing on both instruments. The flute was shortened to less than half its size and what looked like a nail brush drummed on the harp. In honour of St David’s Day and the performance venue being in Wales, Alice and Holly played an arrangement of ‘The Ash Grove’ and the programme was completed with ‘Naiades’ by William Alwyn, which as the title suggests depicts water nymphs in their natural surroundings. This concluding piece enabled both instruments and players to show their fine qualities -
This concert was a judicious mix of modern and familiar music which left the audience swept away by the sumptuous sounds of these two instruments and the charm of the performers.
26th February 2017
26th March 2017
The final concert of the 2016/2017 season saw pianist Francis Goodwin from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama perform to a very appreciative audience.
The first half of the recital consisted of all twelve Preludes, which make up Book 1, by Claude Debussy. These are in fact twelve miniature impressionist paintings in sound, starting with "Dancers at Delphi" and ending with "Minstrels". For many, me included, it was probably the first time we had heard the complete set -
The two most well-
After the interval we returned to the Classical Romantic era with a fine performance of Beethoven's Sonata Op. 27 No. 2, known as "Moonlight". This sonata is so well known, especially the first movement, that it could be almost unexciting and 'old hat'. Not this time though -
Finally we were treated to another technical feast with Chopin's Polonaise-
Francis was awarded a well deserved ovation from a delighted audience.
Peter Clements Chairman