This was an evening with a difference!
Warmed by the presence of a near capacity audience including the Cockermouth Early Music group, the five musicians proceeded to give us a joyous view of medieval music, playing early instruments, gittern, castanets,dulcimer, bagpipes, tambourine, pipe, harp and singing along with them. The group’s instinct for ensemble work and clear sense of rhythm was there from the start and the general effect of music from a bygone age (much of which is still with us) wove a spell over the listeners who were caught up in the general feeling of brightness and beauty which emanated from the group. Belinda Sykes entertained the audience with knowledgeable and often humorousinformation before singing and playing, Angela Hicks’ pure voice produced some fine solomoments, Louise Duggan’s tambourine playingwas inspired, Lea Crowthorne’s castanets seemed to have a life of their own and his voiceadded some fine sound, and hearing May Robertson play the gittern certainly convinced us of her ability to play a stringed instrument, with power and beauty. It was a pleasure to see so many smiling facesamongst the audience, clearly indicating their approval of the proceedings. Does our DNA hold something of the rhythms of the past and respond to what we heard last night? I like to think it does!
Northern Chamber Orchestra returned to Cockermouth after a long absence to play for Cockermouth Music Society and Christchurch rang with the sound of their wonderful performance. Starting quite gently with a Haydn Symphony (La Passione), they then launched into a Mozart Piano Concerto (K414) with soloist Viv McLean, whose flying fingers and masterly articulation combined to produce a satisfying interpretation of this great music.
The second half began with Holst’s St Pauls Suite, one of the composer’s best known works, which embodies both infectious joy and fun. The orchestra clearly enjoyed this music , giving verve and brightness to the jigs and then producing meltingly beautiful sound in the Ostinato movement. Finally we were again reminded of the greatness of Mozart’s genius as his 29th Symphony was given an uplifting performance by an orchestra who can make the most of the beauty of the music with the commitment they show at all times, the command of dynamics and the precision of their playing being at all times admirable. This is a group of great players with a great Director, Nicholas Ward, and the enthusiastic response of the audience was rewarded with a charming encore, a Mozart Andante, which brought the concert to a successful close.
The audience at Cockermouth Music Society’s October piano recital will long remember the night when Anna Tsybuleva, winner of the Leeds International Piano Competition came all the way from Moscow to play for the town. A slight elegant figure with the poise and profile of a young ballerina, this pianist proceeded to exude incredible power, amazing dynamic control and superb understanding of the music. A Bach Largo arranged for piano gave us an introduction to what was to come with a beautifully managed account of Bach’s sonorities, followed by a breathtaking performance of Schumann’s First Sonata which did full justice to all the emotional nuances and ideas of the composer, spot on accuracy never compromised by the power with which it was played.
Baroque music from Rameau followed the interval, such a contrast in styles to which Anna switched with ease; clarity and beauty in every line, particularly in the piece which calls for tremendous cross-hand dexterity and aptly named Les Trois Mains.
The concert finished with a selection of Debussy Preludes and L’Isle Joyeuse, where there was enjoyment in every line. Anna has the ability to portray each piece in the way she moves to the music which adds to the picture she paints on the piano. General Lavine strutted convincingly, we could hear the wind in the plain and Feux d’Artifice (fireworks) shot dazzlingly across the sky in the most satisfactory and breathtaking way. No wonder the audience rose to their feet to applaud, which elicited an encore, La Campanella. Sparkling and joyful, this was the perfect ending to a brilliant performance which will long be remembered by all who were priveleged to be present.
Only superlatives are appropriate when describing the recital Cockermouth Music Society experienced recently. The young cellist Laura van der Heijden is already a remarkable musician, exceptionally mature in her approach and in the execution of the music she plays.
Her recital with pianist Martin Roscoe was a triumph in every way. It featured an interesting programme of varied music, beginning with a spirited rendering of Schubert’s D major Sonatina, written for violin, but working well for cello. This was followed by Chopin’s Cello Sonata Op.68, which was played with breathtaking beauty, exquisite sound from the cellist at all times, with the pianist expertly managing the difficult piano part.
The second half opened with some short pieces from Anton Webern, one set being in late romantic style and the other being atonal. Again Laura triumphed with great renderings of both, playing with superb control of touch and varying the nuances to give us an amazing few minutes of the type of music which most people would expect to find hard to appreciate .
Shostakovitch’s Cello Sonata, his last completed work, really set the seal on an evening of superb performance from both cellist and pianist. This is a valedictory work in the sense that one feels the composer is looking towards an end to life on the human plane, sometimes with foreboding ,sometimes with acceptance, but knowing that he has to face it (we don’t know what he sees-a void, an abyss, choirs of angels?) but we listened to Laura’s wonderful interpretation of the nuances of the music and felt we had learnt something we hadn’t known before.
The return of Nicholas Daniel,"formidable virtuoso" and promoter of the cause of classical music, with pianist Charles Owen, was welcomed by a delighted audience at Cockermouth Music Society’s December concert. Their programme opened and closed with Bach Sonatas, beautifully performed by both musicians, and also included some demanding music for both players and listeners. Thea Musgrave’s Night Windows is carefully crafted and remarkable for its intensity, Daniel and Owen well able to convey its moods, and the Pavel Haas Suite, mirroring the feelings of the Czech people during the Second World War, is not easy listening but nonetheless gripping. Schumann and York Bowen pieces in the hands of two master musicians contrasted well, with their beauty of expression well to the fore. Nicholas Daniel spoke well and amusingly between pieces. The audience appreciated the visit of these great players who gave an emotional encore of great beauty, "Gabriel's Oboe" by Ennio Morricone, to conclude the concert.
The Coull Quartet made their first visit to Cockermouth for the music society’s November concert. Their first item, Shostakovitch’s Eleventh String Quartet, sparkled with the composer’s inimitable exuberance but with contrasts of mood well handled, particularly in the Elegy where Shostakovitch mourned the passing of the first violinist of his beloved Beethoven Quartet. Mozart’s Quartet in Eflat (K428) brought a sudden contrast with music of an earlier age requiring delicacy of touch and including a particularly beautiful minuet. The first half of the programme finished with a Shostakovitch Polka as an early encore, beautifully realised by the musicians- quirky, anarchic as only this composer knows how to be, and great fun.
The second half consisted of Beethoven’s Op. 130 and 133 (Grosse Fuge) and here the musicians delivered a great account of some great music. Roger Coull and Philip Gallaway have violins that sound completely different and yet work together beautifully and Jonathan Barritt (viola) and Nicholas Roberts (cello) underpin the higher sound with deeply satisfying resonance and support. The Grosse Fuge is a difficult piece to take on board, so personal to the composer as to be almost incomprehensible to the uninitiated, but the fugal subject could at all times be clearly heard as each player took it up and there is a feeling of resolution in the closing minutes, which comes as welcome relief to the listener after the Sturm und Drang of the earlier wild excitement.
Manchester Camerata came to Christchurch Cockermouth for an orchestral concert which gripped from beginning to end. This orchestra communicated its love of music to a thrilled audience with its commitment, attack and constant attention to every detail of a wonderful programme, ranging from Deborah Pritchard’s commissioned piece “Seven Halts on the Somme”(featuring the amazing trumpet player, Norwegian Tine Thing Helseth) - a remarkable lament on the tragedy of war- to the well loved beauty of Grieg’s Holberg Suite, which sent us away comforted and inspired.
The financial support which comes to Cockermouth Music Society from the charity Orchestras Live has enabled the performance of many years of orchestral concerts in the town, for which the local music lovers (coming from the West coast to the Pennines) are clearly grateful, as there is always a good turnout for these concerts. Long may this source of support continue, in an age when classical music gets very little recognition from the powers-that-be compared to its magnificent and intrinsic value for all who listen.
The new season for Cockermouth Music Society opened with a superlative performance from one of Britain’s foremost pianists. Leon McCawley played with his accustomed brilliance of execution allied to a formidable musical intelligence. Haydn’s Variations in F minor were given stylish and elegant treatment and were followed by a remarkable rendering of Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy, ferociously difficult music which was brilliantly exciting in McCawley’s hands. Three Schubert Songs transcribed by Liszt and Six of Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words were sensitively performed with much dynamic contrast and then finally we had Chopin’s Ballade in G minor, a breathtaking ending to a recital which at all times demonstrated the instinctive musical cut and thrust that marks the performance of a truly great musician.
The Fujita Piano Trio have played for Cockermouth Music Society before, but never to greater effect than in their recent concert in the town.
This can only be described as a stunning performance by three Japanese sisters who play from memory which in itself is a feat, but it comes completely naturally from these three great musicians. The empathy which flows between them and their innate musicianship is woven together to produce a performance of the highest standard. Megumi Fujita is a formidable pianist whose power is quite extraordinary, but she can also play softly and with great sensitivity. The Haydn Trio in C sparkled and sang-joy personified in music. Then followed a memorable performance of Ravel’s great A minor Trio, with some tremendous moments of power contrasted with moving beauty. Arisa Fujita’s violin sang out with great clarity whenever needed, beautifully complemented by Honoka Fujita on the cello and always backed by Megumi’s incredible piano playing. A rarely heard but very fine Beethoven Trio Op 70, No 2 in E flat completed the evening, with a deeply satisfying performance in every sense from a world class trio who we were so lucky to hear at the height of their powers.
The Maggini Quartet gave a great performance for Cockermouth Music Society of three sharply contrasting pieces, which demonstrated to the full the extraordinary unity of purpose which emanates from this wonderful quartet of string players.
Mozart’s Quartet in F (K590) has all the assured beauty one always associates with this composer, bringing with it a sense of calm and wellbeing, admirably brought out by all players. Each player had solo moments, none more so than the cello, which sang in the hands of Michal Kaznowski, but all was woven into a satisfying whole.
Dramatic contrast was then supplied by Malcolm Arnold’s Second String Quartet which can never be easy listening, filled as it is with the sounds one can only associate with a tortured soul struggling to make sense of life. The players were spectacularly successful in the way they pursued the more furious areas between gentler but sublime musical statements, which seem to denote the composer’s efforts at normality amidst a welter of despair and passion. This was a gripping performance from a group of remarkable musicians and Julian Leaper’s magnificent violin solo at the beginning of the second movement, followed by Arnold’s take on an Irish reel (you could almost see the fumes of whisky rising!) was particularly moving. One could truthfully say the audience was both shaken AND stirred!
Brahms’ Third Quartet in B flat was very much a return to the classical world in all its satisfying form, the composer using the folk idiom to great advantage. David Angel (violin) and Martin Outram (viola) opened the first movement with all their consistent control, again demonstrating how every member of this quartet underlines the unquestionable strength of the Maggini Quartet as a musical force majeure.
Martin Roscoe, one of the UK’s best-loved pianists, played for Cockermouth Music Society in January and began with a Beethoven Sonata (Op 14, No 2); a beautiful performance of a piece which is uncharacteristically gentle for this composer. Schubert’s Sonata in D (D 580) which followed, however, is typically Schubertian in its contrasts of great bursts of excitement mixed with lyrical passages. The second half was a revelation for anyone who did not know the music of Polish composer Szymanowski, here contrasted with that of the earlier great Polish musician, Chopin. Szymanowski’s Three Preludes from Opus 1 were set next to Chopin’s Prelude Op 45 and mazurkas and polonaises by each composer followed. Roscoe’s interpretation of all this wonderful music showed it to be full of tonal colour and beauty and certainly seemed to indicate a progression and development in musical thought from the earlier composer to the later which was fascinating to contemplate. Roscoe’s performance of Chopin’s Heroic Polonaise Op 53 was particularly gripping and explosive. It felt as if the Polish cavalry were thundering through the United Reformed Church at full gallop! The evening was also enlivened by the pianist’s informative and amusing introductions to the music, which were much appreciated by a large audience.
Cockermouth Music Society’s Christmas concert went ahead in the United Reformed Church as usual, in spite of the return of floods in Cockermouth, as the upper floor where the concerts are held (and where the lovely Steinway grand piano lives) was still able to be heated and well lit and was untouched by water. A parade of brocade coated and bewigged musicians entered in a procession behind the stately candlemaster and to the joy of the audience proceeded to play tuneful baroque music, string and woodwind players circling a full size harpsichord. The Eighteenth Century Orchestra has played in many more prestigious venues but all players agreed that the URC provided the intimate and friendly atmosphere in which such an orchestra with its mellow sounds would have played two hundred years ago. A Prelleur Interlude was followed by a lively Purcell Trumpet Sonata , the solo trumpet being played with impressive vigour by Adrian Woodward, and a Telemann Concerto for Oboe d’Amore displayed the versatility of oboists Mark Baigent and Cait Walker. Corelli’s Christmas Concerto gave the violinists David Lewis and Judith van Ingen a chance to shine, ably accompanied by violist Lewis King, cellist Rachel Grey and double bass player Mike Escreet. A Handel Concerto Grosso, a Graupner Overture and John Stanley’s spirited Trumpet Voluntary followed after the interval. Lalande’s Noels-en-trio celebrating the Nativity and a Handel Suite completed a programme which at all times featured confident continuo playing from harpsichordist Katharine May.
A large audience attended the orchestral concert at Christchurch given by the London Mozart Players, an event promoted by Cockermouth Music Society and generously supported by Orchestras Live, a charitable organization now in its fiftieth year of operation. Elgar’s serene Serenade for Strings began the evening, followed by two pieces from the music William Walton wrote for the film Henry V - very appropriate as the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt was last week! A new trumpet concerto by Anna Segal, who attended the concert, proved to be both interesting and attractive and the solo part was beautifully realised by trumpeter Paul Archibald with much technical virtuosity and big sound.
After the interval the music jumped back a couple of centuries to a Chaconne by Purcell and Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Suite, again given superlative treatment by Paul Archibald, and then came a wonderful finale with Britten’s Simple Symphony being played with verve and vigour by an orchestra who brought out all the colourful themes, particularly the pizzicato movement, quite splendidly. Sparks flew in the encore, a fizzing rendering of LeRoy Anderson’s appropriately named Plink Plank Plunk, strings being plucked throughout by an orchestra throwing themselves into enjoying a great tune.
Musical magic was in the air when Laura van der Heijden (cello) and Alison Rhind (piano) gave a recital for Cockermouth Music Society. These two great musicians worked together in such harmony that the whole evening was one of the best musical experiences I have ever had.
Schnittke’s Suite in Old Style proved to be a good opener with an attractively baroque feel and here Laura’s instinctive shaping of phrases matched Alison’s sensitive accompaniment perfectly. A thrilling account of Beethoven’s Sonata in A (Op. 58) followed, with Laura’s formidable technique and bow arm power combining for a soaring cello line of great beauty. Glinka’s Allegro Moderato in D minor from an incomplete sonata requires considerable input from the pianist, but Alison managed it all with great manual dexterity and admirable musicianship. Rachmaninov’s great Cello Sonata in G minor was at once a fitting end and climax to the whole recital. Here both players gave such a wonderful account of beautiful music, so demanding and yet so satisfying in every way, that it brought tears to my eyes. Laura is a consummate artist who makes the cello sing as soon as she touches it, encompasses every twist and turn of the music with apparent ease and when matched by an accompanist of the calibre of Alison Rhind, produced a night of music-making long to remain in the memory.
The opening of Cockermouth Music Society’s 2015-2016 season brought a wonderful young pianist, Riyad Nicolas, to the town. Sponsored by the Countess of Munster Musical Trust, the programme began with a Bach Prelude and Fugue (Book 2 No 1) , followed by one of Beethoven’s greatest Sonatas (No 31 in A flat, Op 110), in which the pianist’s beautiful touch produced some magical effects at times , even if his usual comprehensive control of technique wavered slightly at one point. The final section tempi alternating in the Arioso and Fugue were excellently managed. Chopin’s brilliant Study in A minor (Op.25. No 11) was powerfully played and Liszt’s Paganini Etude provided a good contrast. After the interval Scarlatti Sonatas were well handled, technically and musically secure, and Gaspard de la Nuit gave us some of the best playing of the evening, technically formidable and the repeated sounding note with echo effect in Le Gibet standing out in my mind as a really dramatic musical moment. Riyad is a powerful player, his sound being almost thunderous at times (“ gave the new piano a good workout!” commented many), but technically and musically he has so much to offer that he showed all the attributes of a pianist with a great future. This was an evening of great contrast and continual interest and we sincerely wish him well.
We’ve long been acquainted with Sue and Malcolm’s musicianship, but which of us guessed that there are so many gifted Allisons? On 24th July they gave a most moving, fitting and accomplished concert, at which we were all privileged to share in their celebration of Arthur’s life. Together with his partner Catherine (and accompanied by Sue) Malcolm gave a marvellous account of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto. Their daughter Georgina, at 10 an already confident cellist, appeared both in ensembles and as soloist. Catriona’s oboe and piano playing and Barbara’s flute enriched the programme in all kinds of combinations. Featuring eleven composers in all, the programme can’t even be summarised here. But particular mention must be made of the piece commissioned for Sue and Arthur’s Golden Wedding Anniversary (2013), a set of delightful and affecting variations by Simon Parkin on a theme from the New World Symphony. - David Lindley.
This concert, an annual fixture in our calendar, provides young people with an opportunity to perform in public to an audience willing them to succeed. All the chairs in the URC were put out in order to accommodate over 40 performers drawn from local schools plus an audience of supporters and Music Society members. Cockermouth School were very well represented and there were musicians from several primaries, All Saints’, Brigham, Fairfield and Paddle, as well as other secondaries, namely St Benedict’s, Whitehaven, and Keswick. 16 of the 40 items involved male and female singers, either as soloists or in small choirs. On the instrumental side there were saxophones, a trombone, clarinet, cornet, flutes, guitar, violins and piano. Classical, Jazz, Blues, Ragtime and songs from the shows made up a rich and varied programme. Special mention has to be made of Meghan Avery’s flute playing; her interpretations of Tambourin by Gossec, accompanied on the piano, and Synrinx by Debussy for solo flute were superb. From 8 to 18 years of age, everyone gave of their best and we could not have asked for a more entertaining evening. Perhaps we could draw in more Music Society members at next year’s concert on March 22, 2016.
This year’s masterclass was conducted by pianist Kathryn Stott, who you will remember did a lovely recital for us some years ago. Kathryn proved to be asuper instructor of the ten young pianists who played for us, kind, non judgemental, humorous and full of good advice and encouragement. It was a fascinating afternoon. We heard a wide range of music , starting with Pam Wedgwood’s Spider in the Bath and ending with Chopin’s Polonaise in C sharp minor. All had been carefully prepared by the players so we were thoroughly entertained throughout. What was particularly fascinating was hearing the instant improvement which followed Kathryn’s suggestions to each player, demonstrating how a good teacher can guide a musician to greater things. The two young sisters, Mahathi(11) and Medhini Varma(9), were jointly awarded the bursary.
Elen Hydref is a great interpreter and ambassador for her instrument. The sound is warm, melodious and resonant and Elen is a gifted performer who produced great power and beauty from her harp. The programme was well chosen to show the changes of mood the harp can encompass and began with an engaging rendering of a C.P.E. Bach Sonata, followed by a complete contrast with Caroline Lizotte’s Suite Galactique, full of ethereal sonorities not usually associated with the harp. Mathias’ Santa Fe Suite ended with a Sun Dance full of toe tapping energy, which contrasted well with Britten’s Suite for harp which followed after the interval. Elen gave this a sensitive performance, full of the colour and light which Britten did so well. The Hindemith Sonata was more austere but full of interesting ideas and Walter-Kuhne’s Fantasy on themes from Tchaikowsky’s Eugene Onegin was a wonderful ending to the programme, with the well known tunes given the sort of brilliance and virtuosity which a harp in the hands of a great performer can do so well.
This concert was supported by the Countess of Munster Musical Trust, which helps so many music societies around the country to promote good concerts.
The power of music to express the well nigh inexpressible was never more clearly demonstrated than in the performance of the Dante Quartet with pianist Michael Dussek for Cockermouth Music Society in February.
The evening opened with the fizzing excitement of Schubert’s Quartettsatz Movement in C minor, a gorgeous piece of shining sound from a group of musicians on top form. Then came Shostakovitch’s Piano Quintet, a unique composition which is heartwrenching in the extreme, not to everyone’s taste perhaps, as it seems to plumb the depths of every deep emotion, but at all times of an amazing strength which can be both profoundly disturbing and thrilling. Words cannot really do it justice but a fair attempt was made in the words of one of the musicians who played in the premiere of the piece, here movingly read by first violinist Krysia Osostowicz. The audience’s attention was instantly gripped as the passionate opening chords from the pianist heralded a very special musical experience.
Krysia’s pure and beautiful violin sound was complemented by the obvious enthusiasm and expertise of second violinist Oscar Perks (wonderful to see a musician’s joy in the music so openly displayed, reminding me so much of cellist Paul Watkins). Yuko Inoue’s viola playing is of a particularly high quality and her solo moments were quite superb. The sound of Richard Jenkinson’s cello was always there to give that satisfying mellow bass resonance which only a great cellist can produce.
The Schumann Piano Quintet was a complete contrast, with the musicians switching styles effortlessly. Lyrical, exuberant, passionate by turns and with tranquillity contrasting with tremendous momentum, this is a great quintet and one of Schumann’s finest masterpieces. Michael Dussek’s complete command of his instrument thoughout was impressive and his playing was a guiding force in the performance of both quintets.
The London Haydn Quartet who played for Cockermouth Music Society in January gave us a sparkling demonstration of how string quartets sound at their best. This is a group who play in baroque mode, using gut strings and baroque bows and the result is a mellow warm sound, not too loud, but perfectly attuned to an intimate atmosphere which was here so beautifully provided by the United Reformed Church. The players, Catherine Manson and Michael Gurevich, violins, James Boyd, viola, and Jonathan Manson, cello, play with precision, wonderful unanimity of tuning and above all with a positive confidence which comes from long association and understanding of the music they play. Two Haydn quartets (No 6 Op 33 and No 4 Op 76) were great examples of a composer who could take the spirit of the dance, courtly or rustic, and present it in ingenious ways so that it was always fresh and fascinating. The first quartet was very much in formal classical mode but gave us a feeling of how spellbinding this sort of music can be and how it would have been heard nearly three hundred years ago. The second, nicknamed the “Sunrise”, shows a development of the composer’s genius in taking old forms and weaving them into music with excitement and colour and here the Quartet brought out all the sonorities and musical ideas the stringed instruments are capable of. Then came music by Beethoven, a true successor and developer of the Haydn classical tradition. The quartet in E flat, Op 127, has four contrasting movements which the group treated with great understanding of what the music requires, now building tension, now expressing tenderness, and at all times producing richness of sound and great energy, all so wonderfully put across by musicians who work as a single glorious unit which was clearly appreciated by a large audience.
A memorable evening in December was the occasion for one of the best concerts Cockermouth Music Society has ever promoted in its 21 year history. Jennifer Pike, violinist and Martin Roscoe, pianist, who have both given great concerts for the Society in the past, played with a passion and commitment which had everyone on the edge of their seats. They started with a Beethoven Sonata (Op.12, No 3 in E flat) which requires an equal partnership from both players, big music in every sense. Then came a stunning performance of Vaughan Williams’ Lark Ascending, a moment in musical history when the composer was at his most inspired. Jennifer’s innate musical sense was heard in every note of this wonderful piece, so evocative of the soaring bird as it rises to the heavens. I have heard this piece played well many times but Jennifer’s musicianship, superb technique and ability to imbue the music with an ethereal and heart felt quality made it something so special that this for me was the best performance I can remember hearing. The violinist then went on to give Kreisler’s Praeludium and Allegro a gripping performance, the excitement maintained throughout, seemingly effortless in every difficult technical passage and with a grasp of tempo which seemed just right, aided by the sterling qualities of Martin Roscoe’s great piano accompanying which matched Jennifer in every detail. Dvorak’s Four Romantic Pieces were given wonderful treatment, soaring cantabile singing through each one, and then we had a complete contrast with Rozsa’s Variations on a Hungarian Peasant Song (Op.4). The variations test the violinist’s technique to the full, but Jennifer’s control never faltered and the tone quality and general musical content from both performers were at all times all that could be desired. Jennifer’s poise and grace are all part of her charm and her ability to speak about each piece in a succinct and clear way is also to be applauded. When Jennifer won the Young Musician of the Year competition at the age of twelve the judges certainly made the right choice and to hear that musical ability coming to fruition in such a wonderful way was a privilege for the audience in Cockermouth which we shall all long remember.
A large audience greeted the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at Christchurch, Cockermouth, when they played for Cockermouth Music Society (in association with Orchestras Live assisted by Arts Council England). Richard Tognetti directed the string orchestra who responded with a will to his inspirational leadership and quite exceptional violin playing. Mozart’s Divertimento in F was a graceful and charming opening to the proceedings, immediately showing the wonderful unified sound these musicians produce, with deeply satisfying attention to dynamics and control of tempo. Mendelssohn’s String Symphony No 10, written at the age of fourteen, was given a rousing and exhilarating performance which it richly deserves (providing a foretaste of the great Octet written two years later). Tognetti then played the solo violin part in Haydn’s Concerto in C with crystal clear intonation and great control, eagerly seconded by the orchestra, who at all times give off a positive and infectious excitement, immensely attractive to the listener.
The second half brought lyrical treatment of Grieg (Erotique) and Elgar (Sospiri) and concluded with Dvorak’s Serenade for Strings, as the orchestra continued to excel, with their near perfect interpretation of the different moods of each movement and demonstrating an amazing ability to play very fast without ever losing cohesion or clarity. A heartfelt response from the audience provoked an encore, the Adagio from a Mahler Symphony, quite beautifully put across, with the added bonus of lovely harp playing from Tanya Houghton. What a joy it is for a music lover to experience an orchestra like this, who showed their love of what they do by looking pleased and happy as everyone applauded vociferously.
There was a strong sense of anticipation in the air when an audience containing many wind players assembled for Cockermouth Music Society’s October concert given by Souza Winds. The wind repertoire is mainly very modern so that some of its music might not be to everyone’s taste, but there was no doubting the quality of the performance given by these five wonderful wind musicians. Three Pieces by Ibert opened the proceedings, showing the composer’s sure understanding of how to write engaging wind music and using the clear tones of the flute (Carla Sousa) clarinet (Lucy Rugman) and oboe (David Benfield) to contrast with the sonorities of bassoon (Lucy Keyes) and horn (Jonathan Harris). Holst’s Quintet was performed with impressive control of what is difficult music and was followed by Berio’s Opus Number Zoo, a curious mixture of music and words which the group managed admirably. Richard Rodney Bennett’s Travel Notes 2, contrasting means of transport, were charming and then came Malcolm Arnold’s Three Sea Shanties with their bursts of manic excitement centred on well known sea songs which seem to fly off the page from the pen of an anarchic whisky-fuelled genius. Nielsen’s Wind Quintet is one of the highlights of the wind repertoire, giving all players solo moments in which to shine. Happiness was in the air as joyful chatting broke out amongst the departing audience, showing their appreciation of a good evening’s entertainment.
Cockermouth Music Society’s September concert could not fail to be a crowd-puller for music lovers, given that it was the first time the new Steinway B Grand Piano had been unveiled to an enthusiastic public, and played by a wonderful pianist, Leon McCawley, who is no stranger to the town. Thanks to the generosity of local people, organizations and the Arts Council, the piano arrived without mishap in August and proved instantly to be superior in every way to the previous piano, good as that had always seemed to listeners. The new piano’s power and tone quality were exploited to the full by McCawley who performed a programme with an Italian flavour. Beginning with a set of Beethoven variations based on an Italian tune, a Beethoven Sonata followed, each movement contrasting well, particularly the sparkling Presto finale. Three of Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words were played with wonderful cantabile feeling, the sound of the gondola in the second being admirably conveyed with gentle and generous tone. Chopin’s Scherzo in B flat minor had all the excitement one could wish for, but with that easy control of tempo and fireworks which McCawley always manages so beautifully. Rachmaninov’s Four Preludes from Op 23 were typical of the composer’s usual outpourings of notes but McCawley’s understanding of the pieces ensured melody lines were always clear and satisfying. Liszt’s homage to Italy, starting with the Petrarch Sonata ,was the pianist’s final choice and the clarity of the playing was allied with enormous virtuosity, the power of the piano at all times fully displayed. The enraptured audience showed their appreciation, requiring the pianist to add an appropriately beautiful encore to end a great evening.
Dr Philip Wood conducted a memorable concert given by the Papcastle Community Orchestra in Christchurch, Cockermouth,which featured Wood’s new composition, Postcards, written for piano and orchestra and commissioned by Cockermouth Music Society. After only a few years of existence the orchestra is developing strong roots in the area, playing great music and bringing much pleasure to local audiences.
A remarkable piano recital was given by Oliver She, a postgraduate student from Royal Northern College of Music in aid of Cockermouth Music Society. Worthy of a far larger audience, Oliver displayed amazing technical assurance, virtuosity and musicianship in abundance in a performance in which he was always in total and confident command of the music and of which any professional solo pianist could have been proud.
Beginning with a performance of Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata, Oliver produced dynamic contrasts at will and the romantic cantabile of much of this music was beautifully realised. Following a serene slow movement the final movement grew into a virtuosic masterpiece which was most enjoyable. Liszt’s Rhapsodie Espagnole was exciting and rhythmic, with all the Spanish character well to the fore. Oliver’s choice of a contemporary Sonata by Carl Vine proved to be a wonderful contrast, which the player and the audience thoroughly enjoyed. Rachmaninov’s B flat minor Sonata was managed with great confidence, all virtuosic passages being performed with an ease which left the audience marvelling at the way the music came through such extravagances of notes. Hopefully Cockermouth audiences will be able to enjoy such wonderful playing again.
A sizable attendance at the Members’ Concert was good to see, particularly in view of the difficulties attached to getting into the URC at the moment. A group of young people from our twinned town of Marvejols were also present to enjoy the proceedings, which began with composer Philip Wood's latest piece, a sextet for woodwind and piano, with Angela Turner (flute) Gaby Sanders(oboe) Graham Frudd (clarinet) Kate Parry (bassoon) Andrew Jones (horn) and Bridget Hilton (piano) boldly going where no man had gone before, and after only four short rehearsals too! Angela then followed this with a flute solo, Prelude from Rutter's Suite Antique. Allan Holmes followed with two Vaughan Williams songs, Silent Noon and Whither Shall I Wander. Then came a piano solo from Sue Allison, Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu in C sharp minor, and the first half finished with a charming and beautifully pitched collection of songs from the Eaglesfield Singers, directed by Fiona Weakley. David Lindley began the second half with piano music by Rameau and was followed by Anne Marie Kerr singing unaccompanied. Gaby Sanders then gave us a Madeleine Dring Romance on the oboe and Sue Johnson played Tchaikowsky's Im Herbst on the violin. Finally came a Nocturne and Waltz by Cui, a trio with David Lindley (piano) Angela Turner (flute) and Sue Johnson (violin) rounding off a thoroughly enjoyable evening
On Saturday 15 March international pianist Martin Roscoe gave a master-class on behalf of Cockermouth Music Society at the United Reformed Church. Out of nineteen applicants, nine young pianists, ranging in age from 10 to 17, were asked to play. Martin was very impressed by their standard of performance. So were the audience, who were fascinated to hear them make remarkable progress in the space of the fifteen minutes which each of them had under Martin's sensitive and inspiring guidance. The event was non-competitive, but the most promising pianist received a bursary of £100, thanks to support from Cumbria County Council.
It's hoped that the master-class will become an annual event. At the next one, participants will be able to play on the Society's new Steinway B
piano, due to be delivered in early September. The buying of this has been possible thanks to a generous grant from the Arts Council of Great Britain, fundraising by the Society, and grants from local donors, including the Times and Star.
OH, WHAT A GLORIOUS EVENING!
The Frith Piano Quartet has played before in Cockermouth, but never with more panache and effect than when they presented three piano quintets for Cockermouth Music Society with the help of top double bass player Chi chi Nwanoku.
Ben Frith , piano, with string players Robert Heard, violin, Louise Williams,viola, Richard Jenkinson, cello, and Chi chi Nwanoku, double bass, began with an exciting performance of Hummel’s Piano quintet, which had plenty of verve and exuberance to carry it along and this was followed by a rare performance of a wonderful quintet by Vaughan Williams which has hardly ever been played. This is a great pity as it proved to be a wonderful composition with some Brahmsian overtones at first, but then developing true romantic beauty, very much in the style we associate with this composer. Piano and string interludes were alternated in an unusual way and the piece ends with a truly emotional but peaceful tranquillity which was impressive. The audience appropriately held its breath before according it some heartfelt applause.
The final piece was Schubert’s great Trout Quintet where every player excelled, Ben Frith instinctively controlling tempi and playing in his inimitably gripping style, Robert Heard playing with assurance, Louise Williams always controlled and coming out when required for solos, Richard Jenkinson producing rich bass sound and
Chi chi Nwanoku giving us that satisfying deep bass resonance, never overdone, but without which these quintets would not be the great works they are. Such joyous playing was a wonderful end to the Society’s professional season and was much enjoyed by the large and enthusiastic audience.
Fifty young musicians performed in front of a large audience of their teachers, parents, supporters and society members at the annual Young People’s Concert organised by Cockermouth Music Society. Performers were mainly drawn from all year groups at Cockermouth Secondary School. The concert was held at the United Reformed Church, Cockermouth, on Tuesday, 25 February. Altogether about 30 pieces were performed during 80-90 minutes of music.
Part of the Society’s work is to provide a platform for young musicians to experience performing in front of an audience. We work with local music teachers and schools to put the programme together.
Singers were well represented in a varied and interesting programme which included music of different styles from traditional and popular song, through Jazz to the classical repertoire. There were violin, saxophone, trumpet, French horn, oboe, flute and piano solos.
Three choirs from the school took part and one of them, the over 16 choir, provided an encore from the musical being staged at the school at the time.
Students commented on the relaxed, friendly and supportive concert atmosphere. They liked the experience of being able to listen to other people’s performances and would come back to perform at next year’s event.
Many people play the clarinet but few attain the solo standard of Kimon Parry who played for Cockermouth Music Society in February, accompanied by pianist Tony Ingham. Young in years but with the sparkling musicality of a seasoned professional, Kimon performed a wonderful programme featuring the old and the new.
Finzi’s Bagatelles, which the composer considered mere trifles, were given the skilful treatment they thoroughly deserve, the contrast between each one being well displayed. Francaix’s Theme with Variations showed off the qualities of the clarinet well, with much lively and supportive accompaniment from a skilled pianist. Brahms’ Sonata in F minor came across with passion, beauty and grace, with all its contrasts to charm the ear.
Penderecki’s Three Miniatures, the contemporary work of the evening, proved to be amazingly approachable, driving rhythm complementing
much original thought. The finale was Weber’s Grand Duo Concertant, one of the great pieces of the repertoire. Both Kimon and Tony produced a brilliant performance of this exciting music, which provoked much applause and a lovely encore in the shape of Rachmaninov’s sublime Vocalise, simple but spellbinding.
To experience the performance of musicians who combine the sparkle and vigour of youth with exceptional ability makes for a special occasion and Cockermouth Music Society’s recent concert, supported by the Countess of Munster Musical Trust, was remarkable by any standards. Adelia Myslov is a violinist who exudes confidence and poise combined with a natural musicianship which is impressive. Here she was joined by Craig White, an accompanist who knows how to accompany, in the best sense of the word. Adelia began with a solo Passacaglia by Biber which displayed the qualities of her violin beautifully. The Franck Sonata in A major for violin & piano which followed was a bravura performance by both players of a piece which can be played in many different ways - here it had conviction and power, although some might prefer to savour the beauties of the last movement at a slightly slower pace. The Devil’s Trill Sonata by Tartini was played with great panache, bringing out all the bright innovation of one of the composer’s best works. Adelia’s ability to switch from one style to another was well demonstrated in her playing of Debussy’s Sonata in G minor for violin and piano (the accompanist being particularly sensitive to the gorgeous harmonies given to the two instruments). The final work, Bizet’s Carmen Fantasy (arranged by Sarasate) with all the virtuoso intricacies of the music taken at breakneck speed and with apparent ease, was an exciting tour de force and a fitting end to a great evening of music making.
A remarkable young pianist came to play for Cockermouth Music Society in December and was greeted by an enthusiastic audience whose expectations were handsomely fulfilled. Jayson Gillham, who was a Finalist in last year’s Leeds International Piano Competition, proved to be a phenomenal player in every way, having a totally amazing technique allied to a confident musicianship which was most impressive. Coping admirably with a grand piano which has seen better days and is not in any case the hoped-for Steinway (owing to lack of funding from the Arts Council to achieve the Piano Fund’s objective, the acquisition of a Steinway B Grand Piano), Jayson played a thrilling programme of music, beginning with Beethoven’s Sonata No 30 in E (Opus 109), in which he showed a clear understanding of one of the composer’s finest sonatas.
The rest of his programme was devoted to studies by Scriabin, Debussy, Liszt and Chopin. Each piece was handled with a breathtaking and virtuosic technique which made light of all difficulties and the musical side came through so clearly that each one showed itself to be not just an exercise in finger agility but a tone poem of infinite delight. Jayson’s choice of Scriabin studies showed this clearly and the contrast with the delicate tracery of the Debussy which followed was profound. I have never heard Liszt’s Transcendental Studies, Nos. 5 and 10, better played and the Chopin Nocturne and Twelve Studies of Opus 10 had all the excitement and exuberance one could possibly hope for. The intense concentration of the audience then erupted in a standing ovation for a young man who is clearly destined to become one of the finest pianists of his generation and his encore, Chopin’s A flat Study, was a fitting end to a breathtaking evening.
“Sweet Swan of Avon” came to Cockermouth’s Christchurch for a concert promoted by Cockermouth Music Society in association with Orchestras Live, a charitable organization who give much valuable support for the performance of classical music in concerts all over the country. The Orchestra of the Swan (Stratford’s own orchestra) with their Artistic Director David Curtis gave a much appreciated performance for a large audience, who were much intrigued on discovering that the concert was being broadcast live on Radio 3.Led by violinist David Le Page, the concert began with Britten’s Young Apollo, where we were introduced to composer and pianist Huw Watkins, who is currently the orchestra’s Composer in the House. Indeed you could say it was Huw ‘s night, as this unassuming and gifted musician not only played twice in the first half, but also had his Little Symphony played in the second. Young Apollo was full of brilliant piano sound ably backed up by the orchestra’s strings and the Mozart Piano Concerto No 19 K459 which followed was full of joyous interpretation from soloist and orchestra alike. Huw’s Little Symphony (2013) proved to be a lyrical and expansive piece, very “English” in sound, and beautifully handled by the orchestra, all sections having a chance to shine. Schubert’s Symphony No 5 was a wonderful finale, great music allied with the full rich sound this orchestra can produce seemingly at will. This was a great occasion for the music lovers of Cumbria and beyond and thanks are due to everyone who helped to make it a memorable evening.
Joseph Haydn has always been regarded as a happy man who wrote joyful music, so to hear his String Quartet Op.20 No 5 in F minor is to experience the darker side of his work. The Carducci Quartet, (playing for Cockermouth Music Society) who anchor one’s attention instantly with the cohesiveness of their playing which demonstrates unity of purpose, execution and total commitment at all times, played with all the seriousness the piece demands. The Adagio was lit with beauty and the Finale Fugue was full of lightness of touch contrasted with bursts of glorious sound. All four musicians are clearly at one in musical understanding and they then went on to perform contemporary composer Huw Watkins’ String Quartet (2013) in a way which made it extraordinarily compelling. Watkins is clearly a happy man, positive joy glows throughout this piece, and how fortunate he is to have such great interpreters to do the music proud. Not only was it fascinating music but it was also wonderfully well played, and I look forward to hearing more of his work in the orchestral concert on 19 November in Cockermouth’s Christ Church . The last piece in the concert was Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 59, No 2 in E minor. This composer was not a happy man, but he was a musical genius and this shows through in a piece he wrote for “the musicians of the future” (his contemporaries finding it pretty difficult!). Here we had the musicians of the future handling this great work with apparent ease, all players so certain in their interpretation, beautiful sound at all times, finishing with a final movement (Presto) which maintained a thrilling speed without ever stepping over into a mad rush. This was quartet playing of the very highest order and those who heard Matthew Denton and Michelle Fleming (violins), Eoin Schmidt (viola) and Emma Denton (cello) were fortunate indeed.
String quintets were the order of the day at Cockermouth Music Society’s September concert which began the new season of classical music. The Fibonacci Sequence is a group of brilliant musicians who have appeared many times in Cumbria as string, wind or mixed ensembles covering a broad repertoire. This time it was a string quintet whose performance proved to be of an impressively high standard. Jack Liebeck and Yuri Zhislin, (violins) Yuko Inoue (viola), Benjamin Hughes and Alexei Sarkissov (cellos) are all top class players who united for a stunning display of wonderful musicianship. Boccherini’s String Quintet in E, famous for its beautiful minuet, was led by Yuri Zhislin with a sure and masterful touch and the music really shone in a way of which the composer would have been proud. Dvorak’s Four Romantic Pieces for violins and viola, led by Jack Liebeck, was charming, with the violist’s sound clearly contributing much to the ensemble. But it was Schubert’s famous String Quintet in C which was the highlight of the evening. When you have a combination of outstanding players - led by a great violinist like Jack Liebeck, (and more than ably assisted by the other artists) - and wonderful music the effect is all one can hope for – here was an interpretation of a piece of music which made one feel it doesn’t come much better than this.