ALL SAINTS CHURCH HASTINGS ORGAN CONCERT SERIES IAIN QUINN 26TH July 2021

One of only four UK dates this year, US based British organist, Iain Quinn, gave this latest concert in the Hastings series bringing a programme of mostly lesser known organ music. The opening piece, JS Bach’s three movement Piece d’Orgue, BWV 572, most notable for the dramatically different final Lentement. The remainder of the first half consisted mostly of shorter pieces mostly from the romantic period. The second of two Preludes by Czerny was an interesting variation on God save the Queen. Other composers here were Mendelssohn (Andante) and Robert Papperitz (Schmucke dich, O liebe Seele). Iaian Quinn’s own arrangement of a piano piece, Barcarolle, by Rachmaninoff was very effective and like many of these pieces allowed opportunities for a range of softer registrations to be employed. The culmination of the first half was Sonata in D minor by J Frederick Bridge, a long-serving organist of Westminster Abbey.

Unusually for these concerts the second half also included two further Sonatas, making three in total. Whilst Bridge’s was unashamedly Romantic, CPE Bach’s A minor, opening the second half and complementing the opening of the concert by linking father and son, took us back to the Classical period. The final Sonata for Organ was the most interesting for me, written for this organist by Wilfred Josephs, often known for his film and television work. Taking us into a very different sound world where dissonance and dramatic rhythm are very much to the fore it also includes a quirkily beautiful Andante with a wide ranging angular melody that is at the same time surprising and haunting. A very dramatic Toccata on ‘Victimae Paschali Laudes’ composed by the performer brought proceedings to an end. I was very pleased that this concert featured these more modern pieces alongside much older works as I strongly believe that audiences should always be introduced (in sensible proportion) to newer works which can sometimes be a little challenging together with more traditional fare.

A mellow rendition of Florence Price’s Adoration provided a surprising and also very welcome encore concluding another enjoyable recital. This was Iain Quinn’s first time at All Saints. He already seemed very at home.

Further details of the remaining concerts in the series can be found at
www.oldtownparishhastings.org.uk

Stephen Page

ALL SAINTS CHURCH HASTINGS ORGAN CONCERT SERIES MATTHEW JORYSZ 12TH July 2021

The second concert in the series was given by Matthew Jorysz, assistant organist of Westminster Abbey. Matthew has performed here on the Willis before and seemed at ease to be here once again. He brought a programme of popular works and a few lesser known items delivered in a calm and assured manner, bringing out the best of the newly restored organ. He described the opening Toccata & Fugue in D minor as probably the most famous organ piece. Whilst it is often heard in a range of contexts I remarked afterwards to a fellow organist that it is some time since I have heard it in a concert and that it made for a very good opening to the programme.

The rest of the first half made links to the opening JS Bach with Mendelssohn’s Sonata IV, Langsam from Schumann’s 6 Fugues on B-A-C-H and ending with a Mozart Andante in F major for mechanical clock. It was particularly interesting to be able to observe via the screen the use of different registrations and the frequent changing of manual. This was a lovely performance, showing something of Matthew’s dexterity on the keyboard, his well prepared musical phrasing and good working knowledge of an instrument such as this.

The second half consisted of music written for or inspired by Westminster / London. Opening with a rousing rendition of Handel’s Overture from Music for the Royal Fireworks he concluded with Vierne’s Carillon de Westminster. In between we were treated to transcriptions of Eric Coates’ once well-known 3 movement London Suite. Perhaps now it is just the final movement that remains in the popular repertoire. Knightsbridge was used as a radio theme (‘In Town Tonight’) and is a wonderful March to round off the suite. The preceding movement Westminster gave an opportunity to utilise some softer combinations to great effect. A return to the rousing brought the evening to an exhilarating close with Matthew’s encore, a second offering from Vierne, Finale from Symphony No 1.

Details of forthcoming concerts can be found on the organ concerts section of the parish website

www.oldtownparishhastings.org.uk

Stephen Page

ALL SAINTS CHURCH HASTINGS ORGAN CONCERT SERIES GORDON STEWART 5th July 2021

All Saints Church, Old Town, Hastings was recently the setting for a double celebration. Not only did 5th July see the resumption of the long-running summer organ series after the cancelled previous season due to Covid but it also provided the first major platform for the organ since it has been restored by B C Shepherd & Sons. Throughout the evening, stalwart of the series, popular concert organist Gordon Stewart presented a programme that showed off many of the beautiful tonal colours of this instrument. He paid tribute to the Shepherd brothers, who carried out the restoration work, who together with other team members were present for the concert and Malcom Lock, Director of Music, who organises the concerts and spearheaded the restoration.

The audience were enthusiastic and despite current restrictions it was good to be able to gather once more for a concert such as this. The programme included the big and brash – WT Best’s arrangement of Handel’s Overture to the Occasional Oratorio, Bach’s Fantasia & Fugue in G minor and Widor’s Toccata. The chance to show off individual stops and quieter combinations came with Toccata for the flutes, an arrangement of John Stanley by Harry Wall, Harrison Oxley’s beautiful Clarinet Tune and Basse et Dessus de Trompette by Clerambault. The 2nd half opener Dance Suite by Noel Rawsthorne combined both with the beautiful shimmering flutes to the fore in Danse des Papillons and the opening and closing March and Line Dance romping away with popular tunes including Ilkley Moor baht’at, The Sailors’ Hornpipe and Old MacDonald!

Of particular interest was the inclusion of Four Short Pieces by Reginald Goss-Custard. Rarely heard and with the family connection to the area this was a lovely element of a programme that provided something for everyone – the known, the unknown, the old and the new, the reflective and toe-tapping. A beautifully restrained encore brought to an end this concert which heralds the beginning of another promising summer series with the instrument sounding better than it has done for many years and with an audience eager for more.

Details of forthcoming concerts can be found on the organ concerts section of the parish website

www.oldtownparishhastings.org.uk

Stephen Page

Two Sisters Gypsy Music People’s String Foundation Hever Castle, 29 May 2021

Anyone who reads my music reviews regularly will spot that this concert is not the sort of thing I usually cover. Actually, it’s back to my roots: my father was a ceilidh band leader and from my early teens I often sat in on fiddle or guitar when they were short for a dance, festival or other event. I therefore feel pretty comfortable with anything folky and sometimes it even overlaps with the early, baroque, classical and Romantic music I usually favour.

And this concert – where we sat under an awning, and well wrapped up in Hever Castle’s idyllic grounds as part of its festival – did not disappoint. I was pleasantly surprised by the eclecticism and the creativity of a whole evening of original compositions.

Ben Sutcliffe (violin, vocals and keyboard) and Zaid Al Rikabi (guitar and vocals), who are based in Cornwall, have been composing songs together since 2008. Gradually they began to work with other players and from that has emerged the 32 piece orchestra which they call The People’s String Foundation – although some woodwind and brass players are included. As a group they have worked on various projects and collaborations and Sutcliffe and Al Rikabi are regular composers for the Minnack Theatre.

This concert – their first live gig for nearly a year, they told the audience – gave us Sutcliffe and Al Rikabi playing acoustically in the first half. Then, after the interval, we got an audio/video projection of the whole orchestra recorded in Truro last year with the two men silhouetted in front of it and playing as part of the ensemble.

The music is very repetitive but compelling and often beautiful. The opening number, for example, consists of a fairly simple 16 bar melody which repeats to become, effectively, a folk-style take on theme and variations with a pretty exciting foot-tapping accelerando and crescendo passage. The whole concert is characterised by minor keys, close harmony and syncopation. Romanian Gypsy and Klezmer influences are very clear. I especially liked the col legno effect with very percussive guitar in, for example a number called “Solidarity” Both men are virtuoso players and several times stunned me with their techniques – Sutcliffe’s upward glissandi are really something.

My problem with the first half was the lighting. There wasn’t any. The temporary theatre in the Hever Castle grounds is effectively an awning for the audience and a forward-pointing canopy over the stage so it’s in shadow. It is equipped with stage lights and there’s a lighting box at the back of the auditorium but none of it was in use for this show. Whether that was for artistic or budgetary reasons it was a mistake because I could hardly see the two men on stage.

The second half was visually better because dusk had arrived and the main focus was the lit screen behind the two men. The production, called Res Publica, was a collaboration with Kneehigh, a Cornish theatre company and we saw a wooden marionette climb out of an old wooden violin case in a wood and then explore – as we listened to and watched the orchestra which makes rather a good sound. I was interested to see that, although Sutcliffe and Al Rikabi play entirely from memory with a great deal of visual signalling, orchestra members use conventional sheet music.

It was certainly a concert with a difference and an enjoyable two hours in a very pleasant venue.

Susan Elkin

HASTINGS INTERNATIONAL PIANO – Claire Martin OBE and Nikki Iles – 28th May – Rye Creative Centre

Alongside the well established Concerto Competition Hastings International Piano organises a variety of events throughout the year to promote the piano in different settings with a number of prestigious performers. In this concert of songs in jazz arrangements the pianist had an equal billing with the singer. She had two roles – providing accompaniment and, as with much jazz, sometimes taking the lead and becoming the soloist for a while.

Both performers are acclaimed musicians in their own right. Claire Martin led us through a well constructed tribute of songs mostly associated with Tony Bennett and Bill Evans. Brilliantly accompanied at the piano throughout by Nikki Iles the programme included songs from Rodgers and Hammerstein, Bernstein & Gershwin.

Claire Martin’s voice sometimes declaimed with great force and at other times teased and whispered. At times there was humour and playfulness and at other times a broader straighter sound. In a similar way Nikki Isles sometimes gently supported and at other times extended and highlighted melodies, with adventurous harmony and rhythmic dexterity.

The venue for this concert was new. The recently renovated old gym now forms a versatile auditorium for performance at the heart of Rye Creative Centre. Much thought had gone into making the audience welcome and comfortable as well as necessarily socially distanced. It is encouraging that at a time when performers and audiences have been severely restricted this new venue has been developed so successfully.

A very enjoyable evening.

Further events will take place here as well as at Fairlight Hall and White Rock Theatre.

hastingsinternationalpiano.org

Stephen Page

Isata Kanneh-Mason Brighton Dome, 25 May 2021

Isata Kanneh-Mason plays with poise, panache and maturity. She begins each piece with a moment’s silence and stillness – and then does the same between movements – which presumably allows her to focus and reset. It also has the effect of making the audience, as one, hold its breath and concentrate. What then follows are performances of technical excellence and intelligence. Hand movements are fluidly eloquent but she’s a visually unshowy (glitzy silver dress notwithstanding) performer. The magic is all in the sound.

Her sixty minute recital for the Brighton Festival was bookended by two very different, substantial sonatas with shorter pieces between. And in the course of that she managed to traverse three centuries and two continents.

Isata Kanneh-Mason’s account of Mozart K457, with its three contrasting movements was warmly compelling, especially in the Allegro assai in which she really made the most of the evocative pauses.

Then came Chopin (Ballade No 2 in F Major Op 38) whose impassioned A minor central section may, just possibly, be inspired by Polish national suffering in the late 1830s when it was written. Well, programmatic or not, it revealed plenty of drama in Kanneh-Mason’s hands.

Next she hopped across the Atlantic and moved on to three Gershwin preludes, all connotative of Rhapsody in Blue by which time I found myself wondering if there’s anything this talented young woman can’t do. She strode, tiptoed and danced through the jazzy syncopation with such sensitivity that, for a few moments we were effortlessly spirited off to a completely different world.

Still in the US, the concert ended with Samuel Barber’s 1950 piano sonata Op 36 which was new to me. I liked the way Kanneh-Mason played the charming second movement – allegro vivace e leggiero – which has the feel of Saint-Saens’s Aquarium about it and was delivered here with ethereal lightness of touch. She played the adagio with lots of weight on the grandiloquent left hand chords and then, with a well managed diminuendo, let it die away echoing like Holst’s Neptune.

The challenging fugue which completes the Barber sonata was played at terrifying speed which turned it into a real show piece – a resounding finale to a splendid recital.

Susan Elkin

La Nuova Musica Monteverdi Vespers Brighton Dome -Brighton Festival 23 May

It was a real joy to be back in an indoor space listening to live music again for the first time since before Christmas. And I have to say that distanced seating in Brighton Dome had an interesting effect on the acoustic which suited the ethereal Monteverdi sound very well as conductor David Bates carefully allowed every echo and harmonic to die away in the lofty cathedral-like space.

This, however, was not quite the Vespro della Beata Vergine as we know them. Rather it was a concert based around most of the Vespers – no plain chant between movements – with other contemporary pieces which deliberately blurred the sacred/secular divide and gave us a mix of Latin and Italian. Thus we got Pur ti miro from L’incoronazione di Poppea tucked in after Laetutus Sum and, sung with warm passion by Julia Doyle and Joanne Lunn, it was an electrifying, show stopping moment.

One of the strengths of this performance is the authencity of its small size. Ten singers stood, distanced at music stands around the back of the stage behind the eight piece band. They reconfigured their postions for each number so that the sound varied rather effectively. Sololists sang with the ensemble. High spots included the precision and colour of Dixit Dominus with an immaculately controlled amen, the jolly folksy theatricality of the madrigal Vogilo di vita uscir and the otherworldly echoes in Audi coelum.

Ot course all this was accompanied on original instruments with all the drama of two fetching theorbos and organ as well as David Bates conducting from the harpsichord. It’s quite an education too to see a period harp played standing up (Joy Smith – her opening Toccata seconda was arresting) and double bass (Judith Evans) played seated.

Perhaps this wasn’t the Vespers for the purists as you might hear it in, say, an Italian cathedral but full marks for highlighting the eroticism of this music and for drawing attention to the way in which musical boundaries were rather less absolute in the seventeenth century. And the sound was terrific.

Susan Elkin

HASTINGS PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA, CHRISTCHURCH, ST LEONARDS-ON-SEA. 22nd May 2021 MARCIO DA SILVA, conductor, YUANFAN YANG, piano

A playful elbow bump between conductor and orchestra leader started the proceedings in what was an evening of many firsts associated with live performances, in-person audiences and emerging out of lockdown. There was certainly a buzz from the capacity (distanced and masked) audience, able to enjoy live music once more and the performers rose admirably to the occasion.

The programme began with Grieg’s very familiar Peer Gynt Suite No 1. Lyrical moments contrasted with rhythm and excitement. This was followed by Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No 3 with Scottish soloist, Yuanfan Yang. Orchestra and pianist gave a wonderfully committed performance of this exciting music. The piano part demands some very forceful repetitive chordal playing alongside virtuoso scales and glissandi. There are also more expansive tender moments. Yuanfan Yang certainly did not disappoint. As an encore he gave a lovely and surprising improvisation on ‘random notes’ supplied by a member of the audience together with a suggested style. This was a really nice touch.

Symphony No 4 in F minor by Tchaikovsky was a substantial final work for the evening. The whole work gave opportunities for hearing the orchestra in full force as well as times when the various sections could be heard in dialogue with each other. A delightful pizzicato string section came in the third movement. Further thrilling sounds at the culmination of the final movement brought the evening to a very satisfying conclusion.

It is often difficult to achieve a perfect balance in an acoustic not primarily designed as a concert hall and there were a few times when certain instruments were overpowered by others. However, this is a small criticism in the context of a very enjoyable evening of music.

In normal circumstances this would have been a wonderful concert. It was even more remarkable and a testament to so many who are determined to bring back live music at a time when we are still living with the effects of the pandemic – organisers, technicians, musicians and audience.

For details of forthcoming concerts www.hastingsphilorchestra.co.uk

Stephen Page

HPO PASTORAL -HASTINGS PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA

Premiered online on 24th April this concert was recorded the previous weekend in the beautiful setting of Christ Church, St Leonards-on-Sea. Throughout the performance the orchestra and soloist were in fine form under the enthusiastic baton of Marcio da Silva.

Setting the scene for the programme was Beethoven’s Overture:Leonore. This gave an opportunity for the orchestra to be heard together before being joined by the soloist for Tchaikovsky’s well loved Piano Concerto No 1. Maxim Kinasov gave a very committed performance alongside the orchestra. Since winning prizes at the 2019 Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition he has given a number of performances around the area as well as establishing himself further afield including concerts in Europe and the United States.

The final music gave the title to this concert. Beethoven’s Symphony No 6 “Pastoral” is another popular work and it was good to see and hear it here in St Leonards being played with appropriate energy or lyricism as the piece demands.

A thoroughly polished performance and presentation giving a taste of what is hopefully to come when Covid restrictions are lifted to allow for more “normal” conditions will allow audiences to return in person. For now, though, these online presentations are to be commended and enjoyed.

A socially distanced concert is planned at Christ Church on 22nd May 7.30pm.

Details at www.hastingsphilorchestra.co.uk

Stephen Page

 

Hastings International Piano Concerts – Celebration Series – Tzu-Ying Huang

Part of an online series of performances this concert featured the 2016 Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition winner. Tzu-Ying Huang played two substantial and lesser known works linked by their both being inspired by literature.

Lizst’s Vallee d’Obermann and Schumann’s Kreisleriana both contain passages of intensity and force alongside more lyrical movements. Naturally there was more opportunity for contrast in the second, the longer of the two works. Throughout the programme Tzu-Ying Huang gave fully of herself as she played this music with conviction and panache. A benefit of the online experience is the ability to see her dexterity and control up close on the keyboard. Opinions divide over the issue but, as a general rule, I like to experience an introduction to the music from the performer at the start of a concert and it was good to get that on this occasion.

Previous concerts from other performers are available on line. The next concert in the series premieres on 11th May. A newly recorded concert with Maxim Kinasov and the Hastings Philharmonic Orchestra will be available from 24th April.

Full details are available from hastingsphilorchestra.co.uk

Stephen Page