South West Music School
SWMS_photo_Indigo_Hicks.jpg
Type: Concert
Date: Friday 17 June 2011


SOUTH WEST MUSIC SCHOOL
Programme introduced by Lisa Tregale, CEO and Artistic Director SWMS

Annabel Lainchbury Violin Freya Hicks Viola Indigo Hicks Cello
Divertimento in D major FRANZ JOSEPH HAYDN

Annabel Lainchbury Violin accompanied by Peter Hurst
Sonata for violin and piano in E minor K.304 WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART


Indigo Hicks Cello accompanied by Peter Hurst
Fantasiestücke ROBERT ALEXANDER SCHUMANN

Annabel Lainchbury Violin Freya Hicks Viola

Indigo Hicks Cello Edward Francis-Smith Double Bass
String Sonata No. 2 in A major GIOACHINO ROSSINI

Benjamin Comeau Piano
Ondine MAURICE RAVEL
My Favourite Things RICHARD RODGERS and OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN

Annabel Lainchbury Violin Freya Hicks Viola Indigo Hicks Cello
Edward Francis-Smith Double Bass Ben Comeau Piano

Piano Quintet No.1 Op.50 LOUISE FARRENC

Detail:

Following the long tradition of devoting the Friday evening Shaldon Festival performance to young musicians, for the first time in the Festival’s history, South West Music School was invited to play. SWMS is a virtual centre of advanced training working with exceptionally talented young musicians across the whole of the SW with young musicians aged 8 – 18. The performers at the Shaldon Festival on the 17th June all from Cornwall: St Just, Penzance and Truro were presented to the audience by Lisa Tregale, CEO and Artistic Director of SWMS. The performers comprised: Annabel Lainchbury - violin; Freya Hicks – viola; Indigo Hicks – cello; Edward Francis-Smith – double bass; Benjamin Comeau – piano.

The performance began with Haydn’s Divertimento in D major with Annabel Lainchbury - violin; Freya Hicks – viola; Indigo Hicks – cello; Edward Francis-Smith – double bass. This Divertimento is from an earlier period in Haydn's life and would undoubtedly have been written for a domestic group of players. Intimate in character, this piece demonstrates a charm, wit and elegance that is evident in all of Haydn's works and as with all Haydn, aims to put a smile on the listener’s face. This piece was originally for string trio. However, for this performance the double bass doubled the lower line. From the opening bars it was clear that the performers understood the nature of the work they were performing. The playing was light and elegant, well-timed and nicely phrased. This was truly an ensemble piece with the players listening carefully to each other determined to ensure the delicate balance of the writing was maintained.
This was followed by Mozart’s Sonata No. 21 in E minor K.304 for violin. The violinist was Annabel Lainchbury accompanied by Peter Hurst on piano. Mozart wrote his E minor violin sonata in 1778 shortly after the death of his mother, which might explain its more melancholy and reflective character; it is his only violin sonata written in a minor tonality. The second movement is marked at the speed of a Minuet but is not meant to be danced to, it is rather serious and wistful unlike other Symphonic Minuets which were altogether lighter and more good natured. Annabel played with great skill and sensitivity but the sound was somewhat overpowered by a too intrusive piano part and the overall balance of the piece was lost. This was also true in the third performance. This was Schumman’s Fantasiestucke. The Fantasiestucke were written in 1849 for clarinet and piano, with the option of violin or cello. They were originally named Soireestucke. The evocative and expressive opening piece, a song in all but name, is followed by the busy piano accompaniment of the second and the energetic third, with its cross-rhythms and relaxed central section. The cello was played by Indigo Hicks accompanied by Peter Hurst. However, even more obviously than in the Mozart, the piano playing was simply too overpowering for the cello and much of the beauty of the piece – and Indigo’s contribution with its glimpses of beautiful phrasing and warm tones – was lost.
The final piece before the interval was Rossini’s String Sonata no. 2 in A major. Rossini was not only younger than Mozart and Mendelssohn when he completed his set of six String Sonatas but was also far less musically educated. Keen, however, to have his fair share of challenges he included all the same soloistic material that is found in the first violin part. The cello and bass are truly independent of each other and each gets a chance to shine on occasions with the bass playing the part of the musical joker throughout the movement. The whole piece is full of the freshness and enthusiasm of youth and this made an excellent choice for the young players who comprised: Annabel Lainchbury - violin; Freya Hicks – viola; Indigo Hicks – cello; Edward Francis-Smith – double bass. The sparkle and wit of the writing shone through with the players clearly enjoying their playing and allowing each instrument to have its moment in the sun, as Rossini intended. The mysterious and mischievous opening to the second movement was very well sustained before the melody opened out into a more expressive mood. The ensemble managed to maintain necessary musical tension even in the slower passages when it could so easily have flagged. The ensemble was very well led by Annabel who gave clear direction to the ensemble throughout. Warm applause from an appreciative audience ended the first half.

In the second half, we saw pianist Benjamin Comeau in two solo pieces: Ravel’s Ondine (a movement from Gaspard de la Nuit: Trois poèmes pour piano d'après Aloysius Bertrand) and Basin Street Blues written by Spencer Williams and made famous by Louis Armstrong. Because of its technical challenges and profound musical structure, it is considered one of the most-difficult solo piano pieces in the standard repertoire. The amazing thing is that Benjamin made the playing of this fiendishly difficult work appear effortless. Completely at ease at the keyboard and playing without music, he mastered this extraordinary work and brought gasps of admiration from the audience. He negotiated the bear traps of the rapid changes of dynamics and unusual harmonics with consummate skill. But for me the revelation of the evening was his improvisation of Basin Street Blues. Opening with the simple melody line, he then simply took off on a fascinating journey that became more and more interesting and creative as it unrolled. Improvisation of this kind from someone so young is truly rare and it takes an exceptional musical ability – and confidence – to pull it off. Ben did.

We heard Ben again in the final work of the evening the Louise Farrenc Piano Quintet no.1 op.50 performed by Annabel Lainchbury, Freya Hicks, Indigo Hicks, Edward Francis-Smith and Ben Comeau. Paris in the nineteenth century was a flamboyant world dominated by opera, dramatics, stage works and notable men. Louise Farrenc differed from the French norm in many ways, not least the fact she was a woman. Her compositions were more intimate than most, drawing influence from the Germanic recent past rather than the contemporary salon music that was common in France which left her with a reputation of being behind the times. Farrenc demonstrated huge technical proficiency at the piano and in later life gained the honour of being the only woman to hold a professorship at the Paris Conservatoire. Her technical ability is demonstrated in the virtuosity of the piano part to this quintet. This piece demonstrates some beautiful melodic writing in the strings and interweaving counterpoint makes it both challenging to play and pleasing on the ear. It was a bold choice as the final piece of the evening, being probably unknown to almost everyone in the audience. What we experienced was the very best of the ensemble playing the musicians were capable of. They played with great commitment and purpose, clearly determined to give the work its deserved full credit. The piano holds this composition together and it was a further mark of Ben’s talents that he did not overplay the piano’s role in the piece, providing instead an intelligent sustaining core and visibly giving confidence to the other players to play their best, which to a player they did. Well led by violinist Annabel, they gave a warm and expressive performance of a work they believed in and wanted their audience to enjoy. Well done SWMS!

Roger Kirk


Parking Map for St Peter's Church, Shaldon



VENUE

St Peter’s Church, Bridge Road, Shaldon, TQ14 0DB

CAR PARKING ADVICE

1. Long Stay Public Carpark ½ mile from the church, reached through the village or off the A379 coast road to Torquay, postcode TQ14 0HP – 381 spaces, “pay & display” during the day but free after 6.00pm. Allow 15 minutes for the blue walking route shown.
2. Short Stay Public Carpark, opposite the church, postcode TQ14 0BP – 48 spaces, “pay & display” subject to a short stay 4 hour limit during the day but free after 6.00pm.
3. Extra parking – limited space adjoining the recreation ground reached from Ringmore Road but with easy pedestrian access to the Church along the estuary embankment. If using this area, please park “tidily” to maximise the usable space; this area is only available for parking as a special arrangement for the Festival.

PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

Please telephone Malcolm Watson on 01626 873492 if you need help with letting someone alight at the church and/or need seating space for a wheelchair. In addition, there are a very few parking spaces close to the church which we can reserve for those with mobility difficulties on a first come, first served, basis.