Hartlepool Music Society
22nd Season 2006-7
International Recital Series
(Registered Charity No 1071293)

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Reviews from our 2006/7 Season


Review of Colin Stone Piano Recital, Monday 16th October 2006, Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre.

By Laurie Giles


It is surprising how long it takes members of local music societies to  actually wake up and realise that their season has started.

Well! Those who missed the opening concert of Hartlepool Music Society's new season on Monday evening really lost out.  The solo pianist was Colin Stone, both virtuoso soloist and Professor of piano at the Royal Academy of Music in London. His CD recordings have produced critical acclaim, and hearing these performances one understands why.

He gave a nicely varied programme of music by Beethoven, Shostakovich (for the centenary) and Chopin. The Beethoven “Farewell” Sonata in E flat Op.81a was given a steady tempo and a  bold character.  Many play this sonata faster, but none with more thought and polish, even though the old Bluthner grand piano did not  help in its responses and its limited, worn out, tone range. He worked minor miracles to produce a performance as sure and as individual as  he did.  Crisp clear  inner lines in the development section and neatly  controlled dynamics throughout, were features and he gave a lovely  lyrical treatment to the finale.

More recently, to celebrate the centenary, Colin has worked hard on
those pianistically difficult 24 Preludes and Fugues by Shostakovich.  He gave us simply glorious performances which will stagger London
audiences when he plays all 24 down there later in the year. He  brought out the sheer contrapuntal bravado of the composer as well
as highlighting his sense of humour. Colin chose four of them of varied characters.  The Hartlepool audience enjoyed these and applauded
warmly. The performances were simply distinguished in musicality and
clarity of line, and I , for  one, look forward to him making a CD of this  complete Op.87 work.

The second half of the recital was built entirely of works by Chopin,  that Polish piano magician, which was a total delight because Colin  Stone has always loved the work of Chopin as an enthusiastic
specialist.  This love came across wonderfully well in the Op.27/2
Nocturne, the Ballade No.1 in G minor Op.23 which was given a fine
performance of great stature, and the Ballade No.4 in F minor Op.52,
which again had the Hartlepool audience enthralled.  All the brilliant
finger work and his overall virtuosity were devoted entirely to Chopin's musical arguments, and he is clearly not a pianist who shows off technical brilliance for its own sake. Again, I look forward to a wonderful CD collection of Chopin's works.

One would not expect three Chopin Mazurkas to be highlights of a
recital, but the Op.59 works, the last Mazurkas published in Chopin's
lifetime, were sheer magic.  This advanced and subtle Chopin writing
came across with a thoughtfulness and clarity that the audience  loved.

Then,  to cap all the wonders, after rapturous applause, Colin gave us the magnificent Polonaise in A flat, as a generous encore, in a
thunderous and brilliantly conceived interpretation.  What a magical night, making me look forward to Hartlepool Music Society's next concert (8th November, same venue, at 7.30p.m) with the Martinu  String Quartet and clarinettist Angus Meryon.  We've heard them  before; I know we will not be disappointed!


Review of Elizabeth Watts Song Recital, Saturday 23 December 2006, Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre.

By Jo Norman

 


The Christmas Season began with sparkle and panache for all of us
attending the Hartlepool Music Society's Christmas Concert on 23rd December. Here we met and were bowled over by Elizabeth Watts, a young and ascending star soprano, currently singing with English National Opera,  who was partnered by Paul Plummer, a simply superb accompanist.

Both artistes come, trailing a string of honours and acclamations. Elizabeth held nothing back and showed us every facet of her prodigious talent. She is not afraid of the tiniest of sustained pianissimos or of a blast of high Noels sounding like a peal of bells.

Every song was coaxed and moulded and every aspect of light and shade explored; each song enhanced by the warmth and
variety of her facial expressions. Elizabeth's lower register is soft and warm, but sometimes a little hard in the higher register, however her operatic upper register at full blast is brilliant.

The programme began with an unaccompanied processional entry to Benjamin Britten's “Hodie” from “A Ceremony of Carols”, which lead to ten Hermit Songs by Samuel Barber, an American Composer, contemporary with Britten, and sounding rather like his musical twin.

Perhaps the first half of the programme was a little heavily intellectual, including songs from Wolf's Spanish Leiderbuch,
beautifully sung but of a tortured nature. However, Elizabeth then
introduced a little French section amongst which were two children's thank you letters, which amusingly lifted the end of the first half.

The second part of the concert was perhaps more relaxing for the Christmas audience. Bach/Gounod's Ave Maria opened this section. Following this a group of Purcell songs showed another precision bel canto side to Elizabeth's range. A group of songs by some much-loved British composers, who seemed to share a deep religious feeling, followed and Elizabeth, with great depth sang “The Little Road to Bethlehem” by Michael Head and Herbert Hughes' “O Men from the
Fields”. Mozart's “Alleluia” was the triumphant finale to this truly wonderful evening.

 


Review of The Jean Paul Trio, Wednesday 14th February 2007, Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre.

By Laurie Giles

 


It is still a wonder, to me, that we can hear musicians who have recently been acclaimed at the world's great music festivals, actually LIVE in Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre. What a fantastic job the Hartlepool Music Society is doing flying the flag of serious music in an area which has been spurned by many as a “cultural desert”!

The Jean Paul Trio (Piano, Violin and ‘Cello), from Germany, gave deeply involved and stunning performances of Trios by Haydn, Vasks and Schubert.  The Haydn was No.12 in E minor of his 31 Piano Trios, which they played with wide dynamics and thoughtfully. Their superb “ensemble” quality was apparent from the first bars. All three movements caught the attention of the Hartlepool audience because of the Trio's total commitment to musicality.

Their version of the Rondo-Finale was full of well-pointed rhythms and wit. Haydn's complex contrapuntal writing was handled with attack, excitement and clarity.

The late Schubert Trio in B flat D.898 filled the second half of the
concert and was sheer magic and poetry.  This is one of the greatest works of the chamber music repertoire and from the maestoso treatment of the opening, through the Schubertian grace of the Andante's melodies, the neatly pointed playing of the Scherzo, to the wonders of the Rondo-finale, this was an example to us all of
what ensemble playing can be. It is perhaps best described as deep musical conversations amongst equal friends expressed in notes.

The biggest surprise of the evening was the piece by Latvian composer Peteris Vasks: “Episodia e cantu perpetuo” - a title he chose to explain the piece. “Episodia” because it is built in eight sections and “cantu perpetuo” because the constant lyrical elements suggest perpetual song. The work, played without breaks, was a brilliant use, in many varied moods, of just about every technique
available to the three instruments.  Pizzicato and strummed harmonics on the inside strings of the piano; pizzicato, harmonics, sliding tremulandi and virtuoso double-stopping on both of the stringed instruments. Furiously difficult rhythmic sections and sudden returns to legato playing enhanced the impact of the piece, which had a truly amazing dynamic range.  An amazing demonstration of techniques producing an exciting whole.

The audience was clearly appreciative of this new work. Throughout the evening these three musicians played like the polished soloists they are, yet collectively they achieved that tightly-knit balance of expression to which they each contribute and yet to which each becomes subordinate.

A truly impressive evening of the finest music making. We can look forward to another in less than a month's time on 6th March (same time, same place) the pianist Mark Bebbington brings a fascinating range of music in his recital. This is a young man who has already made his mark in international circles in recitals and concerto work. I have heard him three times recently, and I guarantee - not one
to miss!!

 
 
   

 

 


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