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News and Reviews

2017/2018 season

Our second concert on 5 November was given by the Rosamunde Trio - pianist Martino Tirimo, violinist Ben Sayevich and cellist Daniel Veis.  Word of their visit had travelled around the county and this swelled the numbers for this superb recital of music by Mozart, Brahms and Ravel. 

Our first concert in the Ivor Gurney Hall on 8 October proved to be a great success with the hall attracting many favourable comments,  as did the change to a Sunday afternoon.  We were honoured to have one of our Vice Presidents, the renowned pianist Angela Brownridge, as the performer for this concert and what a wonderful recital she gave us!  We are very fortunate to have amongst us an excellent reviewer in Julia Price and her review of the concert is below.

 

In recent times, Gloucester Music Society has been giving a platform to young, up-and-coming artists in the first flushes of their career who have since gone on to gain international renown, performing in prestigious concert halls and venues up and down the land. Yet while this is laudable in its own right, the downside is that older – some might say, veteran – performers get overlooked in the process. So, with the first three concerts of their 88th season, the Society seeks to address that with programmes from some more established artists.

Angela Brownridge is a pianist with a phenomenal technique and a redoubtable reputation, yet who has flown under the radar of far too many audiences and classical music critics. Her no-nonsense approach to Beethoven's early Sonata in C was stirring indeed. The tell-tale signs of Beethoven's mature style are all there: unexpected and accented dynamic contrasts; forays into weird and wonderful harmonic worlds; sudden bursts of frenzied activity followed by restless calm. It is a heady cocktail that never ceases to amaze, even to us enduring the torpor of 21st century living. The grand scale of the Sonata has been compared to Beethoven's concertos, and it's easy to hear precursors to the Emperor or No.4 at various points along the way.

The impact of Beethoven's Sonata was intensified by the liveliness of the new venue's acoustic – the brightness of the sound matching the multi-coloured roof beams and smart parquet floor.

Of no less intensity was Angela's reading of Chopin's Fantasy in F minor. The piece encompasses several moods from its sombre opening through to strident and assertive conclusion. As it goes, it weaves its way through impassioned heroic and virtuosic passages, never holding back as far as challenging the pianist's technique is concerned. 

Equally fearsome, though not perhaps as obviously showy, Debussy's 24 Preludes are nevertheless designed to test a keyboard player's mettle in every way. Feuilles Mortes (Dead Leaves) and Ce qu'a vu le vent de l'ouest (What the west wind saw) were prime examples, their turbulent atmosphere uncannily echoed by the backdrop of trees in autumn colours framed by the large stained glass window that held our attention as Angela played.

Beethoven's Sonata in F minor, the 'Apassionata', is regarded as a cornerstone of the pianistic repertoire for good reason. With it, Beethoven pushed the technical capabilities of the instrument  and its players to their limits. The results are even now, some 200 years later, breathtaking. And in the hands of a fine performer like Angela Brownridge, the work's 'waspish' intensity comes through.

Chopin's nocturne-like Andante Spianato was followed by the same composer's Grande Polonaise – allegedly an orchestral piece but which, in reality, is more of an ebullient showcase for the pianist.

Angela continued with three Gershwin arrangements: The Man I Love, I Got Rhythm and Fascinating Rhythm, and concluded with an improvisation in a barcarolle style – Gershwin a la Chopin!

©2017 Julia Price

 2016/2017 season 

The final concert of our season took place on Easter Saturday, 15 April, and in a departure from our usual programming we welcomed the early music group PIVA for a programme of Elizabethan music played on a whole host of fascinating and unfamiliar instruments including Rauschpfeife, Curtal, Bagpipes, Recorders, Crumhorns, Shawns, Hurdy Gurdies and Percussion.  The  performers were  Eric Moulder, Anne Wride, Jude Rees, Jane Moulder and Tony Millyard, whose virtuosity left us all breathless!This concludes our season at the Chapter House of Gloucester Cathedral,  which has not proved an ideal venue, so we will be moving to the Ivor Gurney Hall for our next season.

Our concert on 25 March saw tenor James Gilchrist replacing Nick Pritchard and this resulted in an amended programme with Louise Williams (viola) and Benjamin Frith (piano) built around the central work,  which was the new song cycle by Ian Venables entitled 'Through These Pale Cold Days' receiving its second UK performance.   Julia Price reviewed a very successful and hugely moving concert:

The early years of the 20th century saw a resurgence of interest in art-song, particularly amongst English composers. Perhaps spurred on by the plurality of Victorian and Edwardian popular songs, and perhaps encouraged by a wider appreciation of the English language that writers and poets enjoyed at that time. Whatever the reason, for many home-grown musical masters it proved especially fertile ground. That tradition has persisted until our own day, and there can none more accomplished in continuing to extol its virtues than Ian Venables – a composer both championed by, and an advocate for, Gloucester Music Society.

One of Venables' most recent works formed the centrepiece of today's concert. 'Through These Pale Cold Days' was written as centenary commemorations for World War I got under way, and today the  song cycle was receiving its second performance – something worth noting in itself, as world première's are all very well, but repeat performances are, sadly, harder to come by.

The words that Venables sets, despite their grim and often harrowing subject matter, come from the pens of the celebrated WWI poets, viz: Wilfrid Owen, Francis St Vincent Morris, Isaac Rosenberg, Seigfried Sassoon and Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy. Tenor James Gilchrist was charged with bringing the words to life, and he did so with great conviction and heaps of emotional power. The melodic arch of the vocal line was emphasised by the often stark piano accompaniment and understated interjections from the viola. Yet despite the bleak atmosphere that pervaded the songs, there was a moment of jaunty defiance in the scherzo-like setting of Sassoon's 'Suicide in the Trenches' – as if the narrator were smiling in the face of adversity. Taken together, the overall effect was of an immensely moving tribute to those who lost their lives, and those that survived, that deeply scarring conflict. But perhaps the most fitting testament would be for Ian Venables' piece to be taken into the repertoire for future generations to reflect upon...?

Britten's 'Canticle I' opened the concert, and the clarity of James Gilchrist's diction as well as his stylish delivery were apparent at the outset: he didn't just sing the songs, the performed them. Benjamin Frith's piano accompaniment was sympathetic throughout, even when he had his own fiendishly difficult part to attend to. And violist Louise Williams received several opportunities to shine during the afternoon, the first of which came with Herbert Howells' 'Elegy' for viola and piano – a poignant wordless 'song' written in tribute to the composer's fallen colleague.

Schubert's 'Auf dem Strom' is a late work in a Beethovenian style, and as such is a grand statement that deserves more frequent performances. Instrumentally, it was the most integrated piece presented today, with the viola taking the place of the horn in the score. Schumann's 'Marchenbilder' (four fairy tale 'pictures') for viola and piano served as an appetizer for the closing sequence of typically idiosyncratic English songs: from the pathos of Ivor Gurney, Vaughan Williams and Finzi, to the levity of W. Dennis Brown and Madeleine Dring.

The sequence also included two new songs from David Duberry – 'Visit' and 'Home is so Sad'. Their impressionistic flavour tinged with bluesy, jazzy hues made them very appealing. Let's hope they are awarded the same fate as Ian Venables' work and get to be heard again.

©2017 Julia Price

Our first concert in 2017 was an inspiring recital for violin and piano with the outstanding violinist Rupert Marshall-Luck and with Duncan Honeybourne replacing the advertised pianist. The recital showed the wide variety of English music and received the following review: 

To Ivor Gurney, musical composition was as essential an outlet for his creative muse as the written word. But as much as Gurney's poetry has been lauded, his music has been sidelined, if not damned by comparison. Critics have levelled accusations against it as being naïve and simplistic when set alongside the barbed sophistication of his outpouring of words upon the page. However, that is to reckon without the musical talent that Vaughan Williams saw fit to nurture in the young Gurney in the years following the end of the First World War.

The work that closed today's concert – the Sonata for Violin and Piano in E-flat major – was composed at that time. And it has all the emotional turbulence, bittersweet optimism and Edwardian grandeur that so much music of the period possesses. Indeed, the Sonata for Piano and Violin by Sir Arthur Bliss that opened the programme inhabits a similar emotional landscape, albeit within a tightly compressed form. This previously unpublished work is a genuine delight, giving us an insight into the composer's world well before he became the establish figure we know today.

Graham Whettam's associations with Gloucester Music Society are well documented. Many of the  composer's pieces were commissioned by the Society and received their first performance at a Society concert. The Solo Violin Sonata dates from the late 1950s, yet has all the hallmarks of his mature style: small thematic cells that sprout tendrils this way and that, lending the material an organic sense of development within the constraints of traditional classical forms. Rupert Marshall-Luck's flawless technique and lustrous tone brought out the very essence of Whettam's craft.

Havergal Brian is another British composer who flew under the radar in his time, and probably still does. This, too, is a travesty because the cinematic character of much of his music should surely speak to a contemporary audience. The dramatic changes of mood in 'Legend for Violin and Piano', for example, are on a par with the jump cut techniques favoured by edgy film directors.

The Second Violin Sonata of Frederick Delius displays all the flamboyance and vigour one associates with his music. Yet for all its impassioned content, there is something deeply elusive and slippery about Delius's sound world. That is said more as an observation than a criticism: after all, impressions are harder to grasp and hold on to than definit(iv)e statements.

In such a context, Gustav Holst's Five Pieces for Violin and Piano come across as positively light relief, hinting as they do to Victorian parlour songs for their inspiration. In mostly strophic forms, these miniatures gave audience and performers alike something to smile about. 

So, to return to Gurney's sonata, the most substantial and expansive work in today's concert. As fiercely argued as the Bliss, Brian and Whettam, and yet more grounded than the Delius, Gurney's four-cum-three movement piece more than held its own in this company. From its emphatic opening through to its somewhat enigmatic closure, the music follows a contour akin to that of the composer's beloved Cotswold hills. The pizzicato writing in the scherzo was as a shaft of light on a stormy day, while the languid piano harmonies and wistful violin reveries in the lento came closest to the archetypal Gurney. No naïvete or simplicity here though: rather a demonstration of the composer's wish to be taken seriously. We should surely do him that honour.

©2017 Julia Price

 The season began on Saturday 1 October with a change of venue as well as continuing with Saturday afternoon concerts, details of which can be found on our forthcoming concerts page. This proved to be a most memorable concert with a superb performance by the Primrose Piano Quartet and a special celebration of Anthony Payne's recent 80th birthday. It received the following review from Julia Price:

Moving house is widely considered one of life's most stressful experiences, fraught with anxieties and potential traumas.  At the end of their last concert season, Gloucester Music Society was faced with leaving its 'home' at St Mary de Lode Church and relocating to the Chapter House in Gloucester Cathedral. But rather than feeling traumatised, the organisers - and the audience - settled into their new surroundings with ease. The main reason for this was the relaxed manner of the performers this afternoon - the Primrose Piano Quartet.

That said, their programme was burly and intense.  The Piano Quartet in One Movement of Arnold Bax that opened the concert arrested the attention immediately, with its self-assured musical gestures and unerring sense of forward momentum.  Despite being compressed in nature, the piece feels much grander in scale, almost orchestral in outlook and in the treatment of the instrumental parts. Most of the time this results in dense harmonies and cellular, fragmented phrases that butt up against each other creating an illusion of immovable edifice.  Quite an achievement for a piece of chamber music.

Anthony Payne's new Piano Quartet inhabits a similar soundworld, and is just as concise, though it feels less claustrophobic than the Bax work.  The veteran composer celebrated his 80th birthday this year, and before this afternoon's performance pianist John Thwaites conducted an informal chat with him by way of introduction. As well as giving us an insight into Anthony Payne's thought processes, it put some breathing space between it and the previous piece, and heightenened the audience's sense of anticipation.

The influential figures in Payne's composing life are all there, albeit in disguise.  Hence, the amorphous harmonies owe a debt to Delius while the stark, austere rhythms evoke the ghost of Bartok.  Payne's devotion to the music of Elgar is well-documented, and this emerged in the piano writing which was florid and confident. The Primrose's performance was heartfelt and convincing and drew lengthy applause from the appreciative audience.

Thereafter, Frank Bridge's Phantasy was by far the most accessible piece of the first half, tugging at the heartstrings with its bittersweet melodies and piquant harmonies.

Two Elgar miniatures arranged by Anthony Payne opened the second half: 'Mina', dedicated to the composer's dog; and 'Salut d'amour', a tune so familiar that one forgets it attribution.

No such doubts about the author of Piano Quintet in A minor, however - with its broad, sweeping vistas and overarching, memorable themes, it could only be Edward Elgar.  The extra violin made a perceptible difference, subtly thickening the string textures to counterbalance the piano writing.  And if, at times during the first half of the concert, some of the music felt rather 'bottom heavy' and overwrought, the Primrose's reading of this monumental work allowed in plenty of air.

This writer confesses to finding much of Elgar's music inflated and incomprehensible.  But today's performance had me hooked from the first note to last. Every musical argument was cogent and decipherable; every emotional twist and turn made sense; and the ensemble imbued everything they played with  conviction. In  short: it was gripping.

                                                      © Julia Price 2016 

This was followed by a concert on 5 November which was a joint event with the Piano Trio Society. It featured the first performance of a new piano trio commissioned by the Piano Trio Society from Adrian Williams to celebrate its 21st anniversary. The work is dedicated to Dr Christopher Wynn Parry MBE, a late Vice President of the society and received an inspired performance from the Fidelio Trio. Our regular audience was joined by guests from London and the Lake District and we were treated to a wonderful concert which included piano trios by Moeran and Stanford. Distinguished reviewer Christopher Morley attended and his review below also appeared in Musical Opinion.

Moeran's Piano Trio in D major and Stanford's in A framed the world première of the Piano Trio by Adrian Williams. Commissioned by the Piano Trio Society to celebrate that organisation's 21st anniversary and to mark the composer's 60th birthday, and dedicated to the memory of  Dr Christopher Wynn Parry, consultant rheumatologist who pioneered rehabilitation medicine, the work was given during this afternoon event forming part of Gloucester Music Society's 87th season.

The acoustic amplifies tone to the detriment of definition and busy textures, its relentless exaggeration allowing little dynamic respite; but for all these drawbacks the Fidelio Trio delivered a committed account of Williams' score which really penetrated to the heart of this deeply-felt composition.

Its 18 minutes grow out of a motif which couldn't be simpler (a rising minor ninth and major second), the music gradually struggling its way inch-by-inch out of crepuscular depths, and soon introducing string glissandi which combine well with Williams' often delicate use of the piano. We arrive at a wild dance somewhat eastern Mediterranean in flavour and gritty in harmonic language, and eventually a lengthy, complex, whirling fugato exploits dry col legno and huge piano chords.

Williams' Trio is concentrated and convincing in its long-term vision, and when he at last returns to his opening material the sense is now of quiet acceptance after so much tortured railing. Audience reaction was gratifyingly enthusiastic.

© Christopher Morley 2016 

Piano trios featured once more in our concert on 26 November when we welcomed the outstanding young Bedriska Trio,  who included the world première of a new trio by Christopher Brammeld. Julia Price was again present to review the concert.

Certain composers have an uncanny ability to tap into one's emotional core, no matter what musical form they are exploring. For this reviewer, Schubert is such a composer. One wonders whether he knew, intuitively, that his time on this planet would be tragically short, and it spurred him on to create a catalogue of works that still resonate with us today. His Notturno is a prime example. A single movement Adagio, its dark opening theme is laden with melancholy. However, when the second subject appears in a radiant E major just a page or so later, the mood transforms into one of hope and optimism. A simple semi-tonal modulation that is so typical of Schubert, is something that makes his music so irresistible. But the piece's posthumous title is something of a misnomer, because it is far from sleepy or soothing. Rather, it is an encapsulation of the composer's human condition, and all the more compelling for that.

Today's performers, the Bedriska Trio, are champions of new music. Similarly, Gloucester Music Society is keen to promote the work of contemporary composers. Christopher Brammeld's Piano Trio came about as a result of a happy collaboration between all the parties.

It opened with Stygian piano chords which are answered by sombre cello theme. The violin joined in, adding its angular counterpoint until all three instruments 'worried' their way towards a frenzied climax. Passages of consonance and dissonance struggled for supremacy, while quasi-improvisational piano writing contrasted with moments of stasis in the strings. Everything is closely argued, and it is evident that the composer is skilled at piecing together his very idiosyncratic musical jigsaw. Yet the sudden appearance of Bach's Two-Part Invention in the third movement seemed a strange intrusion indeed: perhaps a second hearing would render its context more clearly.

Overall though, Brammeld's Trio navigates an arduous journey through rugged landscape. There are  tranquil planes and rocky outcrops, scudding clouds and shafts of sunlight. Thanks to the commitment of the BedriskaTrio, it was a fascinating voyage.

Frank Bridge's Valse Russe was a delightful miniature, with a conspicuous cello melody reminiscent of Saint Saens' The Swan from Carnival of the Animals.

Rimsky-Korsakov is probably better known for orchestral music. His Piano Trio in C minor has all the breadth and scope of a symphonic score. That it sometimes threatens to outstay its welcome, and could have done witha bit of judicious pruning, is an observation not a criticism.

Rimsky's gift for melody was immediately apparent in the cello theme of first movement: rhapsodic, playful and imaginative. The instrumental interplay was as thrilling as it was expansive, and some of the virtuosic violin writing sounded as if it came straight out of Rimsky's score for Scheherezade.

The scherzo seemed slightly anachronistic, harking back to Mendelssohn in its form and substance. Another heartfelt cello melody dominated the adagio third movement, and it proved to be the affective heart of the work. Probing piano chords answered with declamatory outbursts on cello and piano launched the final movement. This had all the rustic flavour of Borodin, Rimsky's compatriot and fellow member of the 'Mighty Handful.'

Such a tour de force demanded an encore, and we were treated to Howard Blake's Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano: a charming little ditty that owed much to the impressionistic soundworld of Ravel.

©2016 Julia Price

Gloucester Heritage Open Days - Saturday 10 September

We continued our contribution to Gloucester Heritage Open Days at St Mary de Lode Church at 2.00pm when Wendy Hill, a former Elgar Society secretary and Guide and Lecturer at the Elgar Birthplace Museum was invited to talk to us about Edward Elgar.  This attracted a good audience and was illustrated by some unusual recordings of music by the great man as well as by photographs.  A truly memorable talk which was over far too quickly!

Annual General Meeting,  Thursday 27 May 2016

We were pleased to be joined by many members for our AGM which was followed by an engaging talk entitled "The Life and Music of Frederick Delius"  by Dr Lionel Carley, President and founding member of the Delius Society,  Adviser and honorary archivist for the Delius Trust.

 

Spring Season 2016

Saturday 16 April - 3.00pm

The final concert of the season took place on Saturday 16 April when we welcomed the Astaria Quartet with a programme which included Schubert's ever popular "Rosamunde" Quartet and Mendelssohn's A minor quartet plus four of the twelve Cypresses, arranged by Dvorak from one of his song cycles. This recital came to us as part of a new educational association with Michael Bochmann MBE and his wife Gina who offer intensive chamber music courses for young professional ensembles at their home in Gloucestershire.

Saturday 19 March - 3.00pm

For the second concert of the Spring Season we were treated to a fascinating recital on the historic Georgian organ at St Mary de Lode by Christopher Boodle, which included a number of the organist's own compositions and arrangements. 

Saturday 27 February - 3.00pm

Our Spring Season saw us change our concert day from Thursday to Saturday afternoon at the request of members, so we were pleased to have a good audience for the first of these concerts which featured an outstanding performance by the a cappella group OCTAVO.  We received the following review from Colin Burrow in the Gloucester Citizen and are pleased to acknowledge with gratitude their continued support for our Society.

English Landscape, Language and Love - St Mary De Lode Church, Gloucester

Hitherto, the meetings of Gloucester Music Society have been evening events. In deference to those patrons who are averse to turning out on winter evenings, the last three meetings of the 2015/16 seasons have moved. On this, the first of these meetings, though the chilly dark has been exchanged for the bitter blast of a late winter afternoon, the concert was well attended.

The performers were Octavo, a mixed choir of eight voices, two singers to each part. West Country based, the group came together fairly recently, but on this evidence, have established a fine ensemble, blend and balance. They come across as friends that enjoy making music together and this enjoyment communicated itself to the audience.

The landscape of England has long been a source of inspiration to native poets and composers. Here, the two came together in a collection of unaccompanied part songs and madrigals ranging from the sixteenth century to the contemporary – a hypnotic Howard Skempton setting of WB Yeats.

As in a democratic co-operative, the singers took turns to introduce and direct the music. Though perhaps invidious to single out one particular singer in such a well integrated group, Suzannah Chapple 'led the line' with her adroit, seemingly effortless high soprano.

Although it lacks the highest peaks and tracts of arid desert, English writers are surely fortunate to live where the terrain is so varied and changes in relatively short distances. This variety was reflected in Octavo's choice of no fewer than twenty-three songs. Staple items of the a cappella repertory such as Elgar's As Torrents in Summer and the madrigal The Silver Swan jostled with much the less familiar.

A review of all the songs could become just a catalogue, but mention should be made of the seamlessly interlaced lines of The Hill (Ireland) and Clear and Gentle Stream (Finzi), the expressive ebb and flow of the folk song I love my love (Holst), the colourful word-painting in The Shower (Elgar) and As Vesta was descending (Weelkes) and the sensual sliding harmonies of To be sung of a summer night on the water (Delius).

The four female voices delivered a rhythmic 'doop-do' arrangement of It was a lover and his lass, reminiscent of the Swingle Singers in their heyday. Let's hope that Octavo will return soon

Colin Burrow, Gloucester Citizen, 28 February 2016

 

5 November - Kodály Quartet

The long awaited visit from the Kodály Quartet from Hungary on 5 November again brought a good audience for a truly inspirational concert.  Indeed more than one member commented that this was the best concert  they had ever attended!  We were delighted that the Director of the Hungarian Cultural Centre and two colleagues attended as our honoured guests and witnessed a superb performance of the Second String Quartet and Intermezzo for String Trio of Kodály, plus dynamic performances of quartets by Haydn and Beethoven and a hugely moving Langsamer Satz by Webern. This was a concert which will live long in the memory as the following review illustrates. 

Amid all the whizz bangs and explosions going on outside the hall on November 5, the  Kodály Quartet maintained composure, confidence and calm throughout this concert. That's not to say the evening was without its sparkle, courtesy of the VIPs and Hungarian dignitaries in attendance.

Haydn's 'Sunrise' Quartet opened proceedings. And from the beginning, the two violins, viola and cello blended together so fluidly that one could easily have been listening to a single homogeneous instrument. The motif that gives the quartet its title appears in various guises in major and minor keys throughout the work, giving the four movements a delightful coherence. I'm convinced that the reason why Haydn's quartets still speak to us across the centuries is because one can hear him revelling in the potential of the string quartet as a medium even as he was laying down the foundations of its form.

 Kodály's Second Quartet in D was written in the heady, post-World War One-days, when the shadow of Debussy hung over much of the music composed at that time. Yet it's also possible to hear evocations of Delius, Ravel and even Frank Bridge seeping out of Kodály's score. Whilst not wildly dissonant or exceptionally avant-garde, the music is nevertheless tricky to grasp in a single sitting. One imagines that a second or third hearing would reveal more of its idiosyncratic charms.

The same composer's Intermezzo for String Trio that began the second half of the concert was much more easy on the ear. With its delicious melody and light pizzicato accompaniment it tasted even sweeter after the interval cuppa. As did Webern's Langsamer Satz, a rare example of the composer's pre-serialist works. Written in 1905, this single movement piece shares the Late Romantic musical language of Schoenberg's Verklate Nacht, and owes more than a little debt to Mahler and Wagner. That said, Webern's work features some exquisite writing for all four instruments, particularly cello.

Both of the above served as palate cleansers for Beethoven's Quartet No 16 in F, a mighty tour de force for the medium that some might say has never been equalled. Given that it was the last work that Beethoven composed before his death in 1827, it contains some of the most heart-rending and profound music he ever committed to manuscript. Yet the notes are also full of joy and exultation even as fear and trepidation must have been coursing through the composer's veins.

The  Kodály Quartet delved into the depths for this performance, ratcheting up the intensity with each successive movement until, at the last, the tension was almost unbearable. However, the joyously defiant second subject that attempts to counterbalance the mood leaves the listener with the impression that Beethoven refused to 'go gently into that dark night' which lay before him, and finds instead an affirmation of Life.

It was indeed a triumphant end to the  Kodály Quartet's programme.

© 2015 Julia Price©15 Julia Pri

15 October - Carducci Quartet

Our 86th season has made a wonderful start with two outstanding concerts by world famous string quartets.  The first took place on Thursday 15 October with the Carducci Quartet which featured works by Haydn, Beethoven and Shostakovich.  We were pleased to have a bigger audience than we have seen recently and were treated to fine performances of all three works, as the following review indicates:

From humble beginnings in Gloucestershire, the Carducci Quartet has matured to become one of the most successful string quartets of its generation. And it's not hard to see – or hear – why. I have had the privilege of attending many of the Carduccis' concerts over the years and have been blown away by their passion and commitment on every occasion. This evening was no exception.

They began with Haydn's String Quartet in Eb Major, Op 33 No 2, which – according to this evening's programme notes – was written in a “new and special manner” in its time (1781), and so impressed Mozart that he went on to cast six of his own quartets in a similar mould. Haydn's penchant for the element of surprise pervades the work: hence the unexpected modulations, changes of tempi and dynamics, and the inclusion of an Austrian peasant dance during the Trio section. But Haydn saves his biggest surprise for the final movement which, through a series of false endings, has earned the quartet the nickname of 'The Joke'.

Shostakovich's Fourth Quartet was written in 1949, and it contains all the post-war angst we have come to associate with his music: biting dissonances, bittersweet melodies, driving rhythms and satirical sideswipes at the powers-that-be. It makes listening to his pieces intensely powerful and moving. Yet this is one of the composer's more concise works in the quartet medium, so many of the aforementioned elements butt against each other in an almost alarming fashion. However, the Carduccis carry it off with characteristic aplomb, the con sordino passages even evoking echoes of the quartet at the heart of Vaughan Williams' Tallis Fantasia.

But it was with Beethoven's Quartet in C minor Op 18 No 4 that the Carducci Quartet had their greatest triumph. The four of them have no time for dry and dusty manuscripts, and their reading of this quartet restored it to life and vitality. Few composers employ dynamic contrast as effectively as Beethoven, but bringing it out takes great skill and musicianship – something the Carduccis have in abundance. They also have the knack of illuminating every rhythmic nuance, whether it be subtle or  more pronounced, whilst imbuing the whole with energy and enthusiasm.

The Carducci Quartet are clearly blossoming – long may it continue.

©2015 Julia Price

 

A note from the Chairman,  Christine Talbot-Cooper, as we end our 85th Anniversary Season.

We ended our 85th anniversary season on Saturday 18 April with two concerts of English music,  which attracted a number of distinguished visitors in addition to our regular faithful members.  The two concerts required great concentration from performers and audience alike but many of those attending commented on the huge amount of variety within English music of the period which was revealed during the course of the day. The evening concert ended with a well-deserved standing ovation - the first I can remember in my long assocation with the Society.

Many of those attending took advantage of the delicious tea provided by the ladies at the church,  to whom we extend a huge thank you.  Our thanks go also to Christopher Boodle for his new work and to Ian Venables, who gave us such an insightful talk. Concerts would not take place without the huge amount of help given at the church by Richard Lane,  to whom we continue to be hugely grateful.  The concerts received three reviews,  which can be found below, and we are grateful to Roger Jones, Christopher Morley and Colin Burrow for the continued support they have shown, as well as to the Gloucester Citizen which has previewed our concerts and has also published a number of reviews. 

I think I will leave the final word to Nicola Goldscheider who responded to my email of thanks:
"It was a lovely occasion for us too last Saturday. There's no denying it I was fairly shattered,but elated at the same time! Such a gorgeous mixture of music,with so much variation! Y
ou made us feel extremely welcome and the audience response was heart-warming and much appreciated." 

And the three reviews:

Vibrant, wistful and full of commitment

Undaunted by their parlous financial situation, Gloucester Music Society concluded their 85th season with their remarkable double-headed marathon.  Not only did their afternoon concert feature a world premiere, it was followed by tea and another concert in the evening, and they also included a pre-concert talk by local composer Ian Venables, introducing his Canzonetta.

The new work was substantial, by Gloucestershire’s Christopher Boodle.  His Piano Quartet is sharply etched rhythmically with bold statements, pregnant pauses and characteristic piano ostinatos. To the surprise of the audience, it ended in a Latin American samba.

Extremely impressive in both concerts of British chamber music, the playing of The Goldfield Ensemble was vibrant, full of concentration and commitment.  The Clarinet Quintet by Arthur Bliss, intricate, capricious and at times hectically zestful, is typical of its composer and of English instrumental music between the wars. Clarinettist Vicky Wright has clearly relished its robust gestures and dialogue with the strings.

Composer two decades later, Edmund Rubbra’s Piano Trio is also a creature of its time, of post-war Cheltenham Festival commissions.  Spiritually nourishing music of intense soul-searching gravity, it is now ridiculously unfashionable.  John Ireland’s arresting, terse single movement Second Piano Trio was first performed at the end of the First World War.  It bears its composer’s fingerprints, though much of it is stark and sombre.  It is haunted by elusive march themes, as if killing fields are being recollected in semi-tranquillity. Frank Bridge’s grandiose Piano Quintet hails from a very different, world, an Edwardian world of comfort and opulence, before Europe was torn apart.  Here the piano vies with the string players as if in a concerto. There are, nevertheless, interludes of delicacy and the second movement has an electrifying central section.  James Sherlock scintillated at the keyboard.

In his essentially wistful Canzonetta, the clarinet plays with a gently rocking 6/8 theme of some distinction.  The programmes were completed by two works from Lydney-born composer Herbert Howells.  Both the Rhapsodic Quintet and the Piano Quartet display the rich chordal progressions that have made his choral music so popular.  The large-scale Quartet is dedicated to “the hill at Chosen”.  With its moments of ethereal beauty and sweeping lyricism, it palpably evokes a sense of peace.

Colin Burrow, Gloucester Citizen 21 April 2015

GOLDFIELD ENSEMBLE - St Mary de Lode Church, Gloucester

Gloucester Music Society celebrated the end of its 85th anniversary season with a blockbuster double-bill of English chamber music, with afternoon and evening concerts on April 18, the hardworking Goldfield Ensemble taking us through works by Howells,  Bliss, Rubbra, Ireland , Bridge and Ian Venables, as well as giving the world premiere of the Piano Quartet by Christopher Boodle.

I was there for the evening concert in this atmospheric old church whose flooring goes back to Roman times. An interesting talk by Ian Venables, dovetailing his own music into an overview of how English chamber music derived out of the Germanic tradition, preceded the performances, but how indigestible these proved to be!

One example of an English composer battling out piano against strings might be fine as a single item in a programme (what better than the Elgar Piano Quintet?), but to listen to several in sequence invites discomfort. I only heard two such offerings.

Ireland's Piano Trio no.2 was eloquently delivered, its anger and grief well-conveyed by the enthusiastic Goldfields, but then we came to the Piano Quintet in D minor by Frank Bridge. There are some huge, quasi-orchestral climaxes in this piece, and a piquant sense of engagement with Bridge's contemporaries across the Channel (this is almost a telepathic version of Schoenberg's Verklarte Nacht -- though that is a miraculous work, this isn't). And there are presages of film music in the glutinous material; I even heard Glenn Miller's Moonlight Serenade.

And the piece is uncomfortably too long, despite Bridge's edgy prunings and fusings. The Goldfields gave it with smiling dedication and immense concentration; full marks to them traversing this bridge too far.

But then came balm, with Ian Venables' poignant little Canzonetta for clarinet and string quartet. During its short length this treasurable piece moves from lonely desolation through lilting melancholy surely redolent of the Brahms Clarinet Quintet to an ending of tintinnabulatory celebration. The Goldfields, featuring the fabulously-controlled clarinettism (new word?) of Vicky Wright did it proud.

Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post, 23 April 2015

 

Goldfield Ensemble Uncovers Forgotten English Musical Gems

Nicola Goldscheider, Alexandra Reid (violins),
Bridget Carey (viola), Toby Turton (cello),
Vicky Wright (clarinet), James Sherlock (piano)]

Gloucester Music Society, St Mary de Lode Church, Gloucester

One feature that sets Gloucester Music Society apart from many of its peers is its determination to champion the music of British composers. This commendable trait was much in evidence in the culmination of its 85th season which presented eight English chamber works written between 1900 and the present day.

It was particularly fitting that works by Herbert Howells should start and round off the two sessions, for he was a local lad and Gloucestershire was his territory. His Rhapsodic Quintet from 1919 proved an excellent appetiser for the menu to follow with the the lush harmonies of its introduction, elements of folk song, allusions to English Renaissance church music and its mood of mysticism, well captured by Vicky Wright and the string players.

Fast forward nearly a century to a brand new work by Christopher Boodle whose oeuvre encompasses symphonies, an oratorio, a cantata, and a mass  as well as numerous chamber and organ works. The opening to his Piano Quartet was stern and acerbic in tone with the violin and viola often in dialogue above a piano accompaniment. The scherzo was highly rhythmic with a percussive piano contribution while there was an air of mystery about the Larghetto which included a rhythmically interesting trio. Much of the darkness was dissipated in the finale – a theme with variations which included a waltz, pizzicato movement, a very dark lento, and a boisterous ending with hints of South American music.

Sir Arthur Bliss’s Clarinet Quintet from 1931 was perhaps the best known of all the works performed during the afternoon session. The first movement (Moderato) was very much as he described it – “ a conversation” between the five instruments – and  euphonious, in which each instrument was able to  express its own character. The audience were then shaken out of their torpor by a wild and dramatic extended scherzo and then soothed by a lovely soothing Romance in which Vicky Wright exploited the sinuous clarinet part to excellent effectl. The final Allergo energico was played exactly as stated in the instructions with the violins in a particularly excitable mood.

The predominantly secular Bliss was followed by the most spriitual of the works to be performed by the Goldfield Ensemble. The Rubbra Piano Trio (premiered at the Cheltenham Festival in 1950) was religious in tone,  its seriousness and intensity relieved only momentarily by a playful scherzo. Then followed a meditation of some profundity introduced by pianist James Sherlock and finally a bell-like peal.

John Ireland achieved considerable success with his Violin Sonata No 2 in 1917 which clearly captured the mood of the time when news of the Battle of the Somme was causing utter desperation. He followed this up with his Piano Trio No 2 which shares its sense of doom.  A gloomy introduction on cello and piano creates a sense of emptiness and loss and the attempt of the violin to soar above the gloom and offer a ray of hope is quickly snuffed out. Ireland compared a march-like passage  with “the boys going over the top”; and as the tread of boots ebbs away the violin issues a heartfelt lament. This was a tremendously moving performance by Goldscheider, Turton and Sherlock.

Nowadays we tend to associate Frank Bridge with the music he wrote after the Great War, so it was a great surprise to hear his Piano Quintet begun in 1904, the heyday of the Edwardian era, when hardly a cloud sullied the horizon. This work is essentially romantic in the best sense of the word with sensuous harmonies and plenty of passion. Yet I felt in the first movement that the musicians had not yet shaken off the starkness of Ireland’s trio and that the pace needed to be faster. The Adagio non troppo worked much better with James Sherlock’s sensitive piano playing setting the tone of this second movement, and the central scherzo section (inserted by the composer in 1912) provided a witty antidote to the overall seriousness to the music. The Allegro energico opened dramatically and provided plenty of endearing melodies and vitality.

The other recent  work on the day’s programme was Ian Venable’s Canonzetta commissioned by the enterprising Bromsgrove and Droitwich Concert Clubs. (Other concert clubs in Britain please note!). The canzonetta was a musical piece popular in the 16th and 17th centuries, but Venables’ inspiration was Samuel Barber’s Canzonetta for Oboe and String Orchestra Op 48. It is a well crafted work which introduces material from his setting of Tennyson’s poem Break, break, break plus other ideas. Despite its ten minutes there is a wealth of emotion in this work – wistfulness, desolation, and eventually excitement and jubilation.

One had reason to expect the final work of the day, Howell’s Piano Quartet to be profoundly depressing. After all, it was composed in the middle of the First World War and doctors had warned that his days on earth were numbered owing to a heart condition. However, he proceeded with this magnifient piece undeterred. There was a strong pastoral feel to the first movement with its abundance of   folk melodies, yet one could discern elements of anger and war-weariness  bursting through. By contrast the Lento provided a mood of serenity gently introduced by the piano and taken up by the strings, although the sorrows and wretchedness of war hovered over the calm and the movement developed into an elegy for the fallen. The final movement – the third Allegro energico of the day – conjured up images of Merrie England on this unusually balmy April evening with people dancing on the villager green. Clearly Howells was far more optimistic than the doctors were and proved them wrong: instead of meeting an early end as they had predicted, he lived on for another 67 years!

I hope the same holds true for the indefatigable members of the Goldfield Ensemble whose marathon labour of love produced several distinguished performances. Leader Nicola Goldscheider and cellist Toby Turton deserve  particular praise (and perhaps a holiday?), since they were involved in every work performed. Their combined efforts provided ample proof, if any were needed, that the English musical tradition is something to be proud of and worth cherishing.

Roger Jones, Seen and Heard International, 19 April 2015

 

We were pleased to receive the following review of our concert on Thursday 12 March,which saw the world première of Susie Self's song cycle Dymock Dreams, and   which was published in the Gloucester Citizen.

Society pulls out the stops for lively concert

Gloucester Music Society has been celebrating its 85th Anniversary Season in style with ear-catching concerts.  Here, the society pulled out all the stops for a culminating event, all the more remarkable in that the society is currently cash-strapped and in imminent peril of dissolution. Its demise would be a sad day for the county’s musical life: in recent years, it has been innovative, never content endlessly to recycle the limited repertoire that has been staple winter fare in the area.

One of the society’s aims is to combine music, pictorial art and literature. Another is to foster and, whenever possible, commission new music.  On this occasion, both were admirably fulfilled. New portraits, by Annabel Carey, associated with the Dymock poet F W Harvey and the poet-composer Ivor Gurney were unveiled in the beautiful church where the latter has a memorial window.

The Dymock connection continued in the music.  Centre of attraction was the multitasking Susie Self, cousin of Will.  Mezzo soprano Susie runs an opera company, and composes. She was also the soloist in the first performance of her song cycle for voice and trio, (flute, oboe and piano), Dymock Dreams. This set words by her grandfather, John Drinkwater. The poet, steeped in the bucolic idyll, was matched in Self’s music, flute (with flutter tonguing) imitative of the blackbird and oboe, the shepherd’s pipe.

Susie Self gave rather operatic accounts of gaunt Blake songs by Vaughan Williams and again in songs by Quilter, Howells and Gurney.  Her singing was enhanced by Susanna Stranders’ finely moulded piano accompaniments.

The trio, Ellipsis, proved highly accomplished in a wide and varied musical spectrum. Melanie Ragge, oboe, was powerfully and dramatically expressive in Schumann’s Romance,  Robert Manasse, flute, liquid in Philippe Gaubert’s Madrigal.

The trio came together to perform Susie Self’s engaging pseudo-oriental The Cosmic Lion Goddess. Sounding more original that the song cycle, this paraded intricate cross-rhythms and clashing seconds, some resolved, some not.  To conclude a novel concert, Susie Self, with Ellipsis, was in sultry mode for her own tricksy arrangements of Kern and Gershwin.

Colin Burrow

 

John Drinkwater’s Granddaughter Breathes New Life into His Poems - a review of our concert on Thursday 12 March

In the years before the First World War a coterie of poets were attracted to the village of Dymock on the Gloucestershire-Herefordshire border, among them John Drinkwater who was later to forge a reputation as a dramatist and manager of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Nowadays his poetry is less well known than that of other Dymock poets, such as Edward Thomas and Rupert Brooke, although some of it is of very high quality and surely due for a reappraisal? Perhaps Susie Self’s settings (for mezzo-soprano, flute, oboe and piano) of four atmospheric poems of his will stimulate a revival of interest in Drinkwater and his work.

The first poem, Blackbird, is set, not in the countryside. but in an urban landscape, and the song of the bird, portrayed in Robert Manasse’s immaculate flute playing, seems to offer the prospect of hope and release among the “celestial chimney pots”. The cycle leads without a break into Out of the Moon which starts innocently and then assumes a darker hue recalling the art of the troubadours of old and their preoccupation with affairs of the heart.  There was an icy chill in the accompaniment to The Plough depicting the snow falling on the ploughman in the desolate landscape where death seems all around. The mood takes on a more positive note in On a Lake with the reed warblers’ gentle sounds – “the music that hushes / the life of the lake”. 

This was an absorbing song cycle which captured eloquently Drinkwater’s lyricism and affinity with the natural world by a composer whose oeuvre ranges from opera to symphonies.  I was even more impressed by Susie Self’s purely instrumental offering in the recital, The Cosmic Lion Goddess, inspired by a north Indian print depicting a goddess riding a lion and holding the sun. The work takes the form of variations divided into three connected movements: Procession of the Lion Goddess, The Moon Rises, The orange sun returns at dawn. Through the use of Indian musical forms, such as the Bhairav scale in various geometric inversions and rhythmic scales known as talas the composer has created an intriguing blend of Oriental and Western sound-scapes. This is a fascinating piece, imaginative and complex, which works on a number of levels – and was given a committed and persuasive performance by Ellipsis.

What a joy it was to hear Vaughan Williams’ settings of Blake’s Infant Joy and The Piper with Melanie Ragge providing the perfect oboe accompaniment!  Quilter’s wonderfully evocative Now sleeps the crimson petal continued the exploration of 20th century English song and was followed by settings from composers with Gloucester connections. Howells’ King David, from a poem by Walter de la Mare, opens austerely but the mood is later lightened as a nightingale relieves the monarch of his sorrow. The setting of John Fletcher’s Sleep is surely Ivor Gurney’s masterpiece with its gently rocking accompaniment culminating in a heartfelt prayer – “O let my joys have some abiding”.  Mezzo-soprano Susannah (aka Susie) Self imbued her performances with an engaging intimacy keeping her natural ebullience in reserve until the end of the recital when she regaled her audience with Kern and Gershwin.

This was a well planned programme abounding in musical gems, not least of which was the opening work, Quantz’s Trio Sonata for flute, oboe and keyboard. The sonata is full of character and variety, and Ellipsis gave a fresh and invigorating performance of it which set the standard for a very enjoyable evening.

The enterprising Gloucester Music Society will be championing more English music in two recitals on Saturday 18 April. These feature works by Howell, Bliss, Rubbra, Ireland, Bridge, Venables and the premiere of Christopher Boodle’s Piano Quartet, performed by the Goldfield Ensemble.  For details see www.gloucestermusicsociety.org.uk.

 

© Roger Jones - Seen and Heard International 14 March 2015

 

John McCabe CBE

John McCabe

It is with great regret we record the death on Friday 13 February of one of our Vice Presidents,  John McCabe.  John was widely respected as both pianist and composer and died peacefully after suffering for many years with a brain tumour.  We will treasure the message of congratulation he sent to us on the occasion of our 85th anniversary  which appeared in our programme on 6 November, 2014 when Baker Street Brass performed his Rounds for Brass:

"It is a tremendous and remarkable thing to have reached an 85th season, and in these difficult times particularly it speaks volumes for the tenacity and courage of the organisers, and also of the audience.

May I wish you the very best for what looks like a Season of fascinating spread and vision of what music has to offer.

I am so sorry that illness prevents me from being with you."

John McCabe CBE

John will be greatly missed, especially by his devoted wife Monica, to whom we send our condolences.

 

Review - Jubilee String Quartet - St Mary de Lode Church - Thursday 12 February

Unlike many comparable chamber music organisations, Gloucester Music Society is not afraid to push the boat out when it comes to repertoire. This leads it to set a wide range of adventurous and often challenging programmes before an audience. However, from time to time it is good to revisit music by the shapers of the classical canon to be reminded of why they are considered masters of their art.

Of course, it helps if the performers are able to bring something new to work that is known and loved: a 'safe' interpretation is all well and good, but it makes for a much more satisfying listen to hear musicians delving a little deeper. And that is precisely what the Jubilee String Quartet do. Not for them a conservative approach to Haydn, Mozart or Mendelssohn. Instead, the pieces that made up this evening's concert were placed in their historical context rather than as if they stood alone.

Thus, the turbulence and dynamic contrast that was Beethoven's metier was prefigured, albeit less obviously, in Haydn's Quartet in B minor opus 33 no.1. Similarly, the parlous circumstances surrounding the composition of Mozart's Quartet in Bb major, K589, imbued the piece with an emotional intensity lacking from some of Wolfgang Amadeus's earlier work. The Jubilee played both quartets deftly and imaginatively, illuminating details that could easily have been overlooked. For instance, the subtle, imitative figures and restrained decoration in the Haydn, or complex interweaving counter-melodies and jovial gestures in the Mozart.

But it was with Felix Mendelssohn's Quartet in A minor, op 13 that the Jubilee Quartet really came into their own. This is a work that traverses the landscape mapped out by Beethoven in his late string quartets, and as such is one of Mendelssohn's most powerful pieces of chamber music. The Jubilee mined the work's depths to the full, clearly relishing the composer's mastery of his musical language. Hence, the dynamic contrasts, changing tempi and rhythmic rubato inherent in the score were highlighted by this performance. All the while, there was no let up in the intensity levels – bubbling below the surface and bursting into life by turn. By the end, one felt as if one had accompanied the quartet on an exhausting but invigorating journey.  

©2015 Julia Price

 

Gloucester Music Society's final concert of 2014 was something really rather special: an entire concert of chamber music written by Howard Blake, better known as a composer for stage and screen - most notably for Raymond Briggs' animated tale of  'The Snowman.'

But any thoughts that we might be in for an evening of lightweight easy listening were quickly put to bed by the opening piece: the UK première of his Piano Trio No 2 Elegia Stravagante, a terse but ultimately amiable discourse for piano and strings in one continuous movement of seven interlinked sections. It also set out Blake's territory, clearly and unambiguously: resolutely diatonic, rhythmically vital and lyrical beyond belief.

Howard Blake's gift for melody is second to none, and was evident in each piece in tonight's concert. Pennillion for cello and piano, a set of variations upon an imaginary Welsh song, was a case in point. But there's much more to Blake's music than a 'good tune' or two. The Violin Sonata of 2007 is a study in virtuosity, even in the central Lento which has an air of requiem about it, and was played with aplomb by Madeleine Mitchell. And the Prelude for Solo Viola, adapted from a large- scale choral work Benedictus, has already found its way into the curriculum for music academies. It is easy to see why as it is a test of any violist's sensitivity as well as technique – and Rosalind Ventris was equal to it tonight. 

Howard himself was in the spotlight for the Impromptu piano solo of 1975, during which he displayed his formidable technique as well as compositional facility. But the piece de resistance was the Piano Quartet of 1974: a work of intellectual and emotional rigour that left one aghast at its composers' staggering level of invention. This four-movement piece encapsulates the essence of Howard Blake's craft – sensibility and logic within an accessible medium. It is a winning formula without ever being – or sounding – formulaic.

The four musicians then rounded off the evening with an arrangement of Walking In The Air for piano quartet, the first time the piece had been performed for this particular combination of instruments. It was a wonderfully seasonal way to end what had been a truly magical evening of stunning music. Such a pity there weren't a few more Gloucesterians there to savour it.

©2014 Julia Price

 Our second concert of the season featured the dynamic Baker Street Brass in a concert which received the following review.  Our thanks to Colin Burrow and to Gloucester Citzen for their continued support of the Society.  The only regret was that this performance deserved a much larger audience.  We have some splendid concerts yet to come so please tell your friends - we cannot exist on the audience numbers experienced for this concert!

Sensational brass work

Review: Baker Street Brass, St Mary de Lode Church, Gloucester * * * * *

Ever enterprising and adventurous in its concerts, Gloucester Music Society welcomed five lively, unassuming and good-humoured young men from London.Their programme, almost entirely of British origin, was mainly from the present day, but did hard back to the late Renaissance. The brass quintet - two trumpets, horn, trombone and tuba - is a comparatively new musical phenomenon. Consequently, its repertoire, often because of the activities of renowned groups such as the Philip Jones Ensemble, increased mainly only in the 20th century. The repertoire is still not extensive and includes much that has been arranged from other instrumental combinations. Here, Baker Street Brass did well to field six original compositions, including a world premiere. Chamber music for brass is perhaps an acquired taste and this may have accounted for an audience which seemed less numerous than usual. Any monotony was held at bay, however, by a programme of wide expressive range. Short but informative introductions by the players bound the items together. Arrangements of John Dowland’s Lachrymae for lute-and-strings provided the only pre-20th century music on offer. They allowed the Brass to display sustained smooth melodic lines.  The interspersed galliards showed that Dowland knew a thing or two about captivating rhythms. There was music from Poland, A Philip Jones commission, Lutoslawski’s nervy demanding Mini Overture thrived on the watertight ensemble that it received. Throughout the concert, the ensemble was extremely precise, all the more remarkable as one of the trumpet players was a deputy, ‘standing in’. Virtuosity was again to the fore in John McCabe’s Rounds, a timely reminder of the Society’s Vice President, sadly stricken with a brain tumour. The world premiere, Knots and Mirrors by Caitlin Rowley, explored arresting spatial effects using fanfare motifs, with the players widely separated to the front and sides. The brass then put down their instruments for Mnemonyx by Dan Jenkins.This consisted of rhythmic clappings, slapping and stampings together with conversations in counterpoint and other human-generated sounds. Novel, and it stopped just in time. Malcolm Arnold’s substantial Brass Quintet, a benchmark for the medium, received a powerful performance of some considerable emotional depth. Chris Hazell’s Three Brass Cats was inventive, vivacious, irresistible big band swing for small ensemble. As an encore, Leroy Anderson’s Buglers Holiday, was little short of sensational.

Colin Burrow, Gloucester Citizen, 10 November 2014

 

What a wonderful start we had to our 85th season with a stunning recital by Benjamin Appl and James Cheung.  We were delighted that Christopher Morley made room in his busy schedule to join us and the following five-star review sums up the audience reaction to a truly memorable concert.

Birmingham Post review, 9 October 2014

Apologies for playing the age card, but in approaching half-a-century of reviewing for the Birmingham Post I have rarely encountered as exciting a duo of young artists as I did last Thursday at Gloucester Music Society.

Having been tipped the wink that this was going to be something very special, I ventured to the edge of our region, and it would be an understatement to say I was far from disappointed in this all-Schumann Lieder recital from baritone Benjamin Appl and accompanist James Cheung.

Appl was the last-ever student of the great Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and didn’t his mentoring show, with fabulously intelligent and probing colouring of words, a clarity of diction which projected so grippingly in this difficult acoustic, a wonderfully -timbred range of compass. And a body-lanquage which both chilled through the eyes (never looking at any of us, but embracing us all) and thrilled with limb-movement.

And Cheung brought both resonance and delicacy to Schumann’s piano-writing, as vital to the success of each song as the vocal part, his postludes to so many of the offerings compelling frozen acquiescence from the vocalist.

A generous first half (including the gruesomely macabre Hans Christina Andersen settings - this man was no cosy spinner of fireside talks) preceded a Dichterliebe so unified in narration and delivery, both in its musical texts and in its emotional disintegration.

Stephen Johnson’s pre-concert talk (GMS’ first-ever) had prepared us for this,  but Appl and Cheung turned it all into a startling, disturbing, never quite consoling listening experience.

***** review by Christopher Morley 

 
Stop Press!  It has been announced that Benjamin Appl, the baritone soloist in our concert on Thursday 2 October,  has  now joined the roster of BBC Young Generation Artists. 
 
Booking for Series Tickets at a saving of over £30 has now ended but individual tickets can still be purchased via our website or on the door.  Please support us and bring your friends to this special, but expensive, series of concerts - there is something for everyone! You can also help us by donating here.
 
 
 
Annual General Meeting - Thursday 15 May,  St Mary de Lode Church,  GL1 2QT, 7.30pm
 
Ms Julia Price was appointed as our new secretary at this meeting and we also welcomed Mr David James and Ms Jill Davies as new committee members to join the existing committee of Mrs Mair Shankster,  Mrs Judy Bailey, Mr John Talbot-Cooper (Treasurer) and Mrs Christine Talbot-Cooper (Chairman).
 
The meeting was well attended and was followed by a fascinating illustrated talk on the Gloucestershire poet Will Harvey by Roger Deeks,  Chairman of the F.W. Harvey Society, entitled "F.W.Harvey - a Musical Life". 
 
 
Thursday 27 March - the London Conchord Ensemble with James Gilchrist
 
This was a superb concert and was summed up by the following review from Colin Burrow.

THIS season, Gloucester Music Society has been commemorating the outbreak of the First World War. Here, a group of songs sandwiched between chamber music for strings and piano formed a perhaps rather speculative concert that worked better in practice than might have seemed likely on paper.

That it worked so well was at least in part because two works, a Piano Trio by John Ireland and Elgar’s Violin Sonata were replaced by the latter’s monumental Piano Quintet.

Arthur Bliss’s connection with the war was close and traumatic. His brother was killed in action and he, serving in the army, was wounded and gassed.

Bliss would later become Master of the Queen’s Music an important figure in British musical life. His dramatic and colourfully orchestrated ballet scores should be in every orchestra’s repertory, but his music has suffered unjust neglect since his death.

The early Piano Quartet was composed and first performed during the War and hints briefly at conflict. The London Conchord Ensemble made an excellent case for it, their deft and incisive treatment unfolding lucid, transparent textures.

The art of Ivor Gurney is inextricably linked to the War. Tenor James Gilchrist was unfailingly partnered by pianist Julian Milford of the Ensemble in exploring Gurney’s talents, first as composer and then as poet.

Gilchrist’s insightful and heartfelt performance penetrated to the core of four of Gurney’s most famed songs, his breath control more than equal to the excessive demands of Severn Meadows.

These were followed by a recent setting of four less familiar Gurney poems with the title War’s Embers. Perhaps with a nod towards Peter Warlock’s treatment of Yeates in The Curlew, composer Nicholas Korth added the distinctive sound of the oboe d’amore. Superbly played by Emily Pailthorpe, its plangent tone added poignancy in an electrifying performance.

Elgar’s Quintet was performed with fine attention to detail. Expressive range was enhanced, for example, with the strings playing some passages sul tasto, that is, on the fingerboard, and others nearer the bridge.

The Conchord Ensemble had evidently done their homework, probing deeply, it seemed, into  every bar. But the wood was not lost for the trees. Their preparation allowed an account of engrossing impact and intensity.                                                     

 
Thursday 27 February- a wonderful tribute to Ivor Gurney - Only the Wanderer Knows
 
We felt very honoured to be joined by the renowned international baritone Mattijs van de Woerd and pianist Shuann Chai for what turned out to be a very memorable concert.  This was a musical journey exploring the interface between a landscape and the mood of the person walking through it - inspired by the wanderings of Ivor Gurney. In addition to music by  Schubert and Schumann we heard songs by many English song composers including Gurney himself.  The evening concluded with the world première of Walking into Clarity,  a semi-dramatised work exploring the life of Ivor Gurney in letters and poems by René Samson which revealed Mattijs van de Woerd as a talented actor.  Professional lighting by Antony White made full use of the beautiful Norman arch at the church and enhanced the variety of moods expressed in the work.  Another world première to be proud of!  A review of the concert by Colin Burrow is below and we continue to value the support he gives to our Society.

‘ONLY THE WANDERER KNOWS’

St Mary de Lode Church, Gloucester

THIS intriguing concert was presented by Gloucester Music Society. It was partly an ‘In Memoriam’, an acknowledgement that 2014 is a centenary year, marking the outbreak of World War I.

Three of the composers represented - George Butterworth, Ivor Gurney and Vaughan Williams actually served in the armed forces. Gurney, Gloucestershire poet and composer, was deeply traumatised by the experience and Butterworth was killed on active service. Vaughan Williams survived to a ripe old age, but the war left its mark on his music.

There were two performers: Mattijs van de Woerd (voice) and Shuann Chai (piano). And in keeping with the Society’s tradition of enterprising programmes, a world premiere.

Shuann Chai was allowed a brief solo spot and gave a neat account of three pieces of idiosyncratic Janáèek from his suite On an overgrown path. Van de Woerde joined the pianist for the rest of the concert, bringing his lyric baritone to a selection of British, German and French songs.

Butterworth’s On the idle hill of summer is not the most frequently performed of his songs. An intense setting of one of Housman’s most angry poems, although it refers to the Boer War, there is irony in its forecast of Butterworth’s fate.

Other highlights included the singer’s splendid head voice in Schubert’s Der Kreuzzug, his fine control of line in Herbert Howells’s Wanderers,  Schumann’s  Die Flüchtlinge as a spoken monologue, and the potent sensuality of Duparc’s L’invitation au voyage.

The concert’s climax was the world premiere of René Samson’s Walking into Clarity, given in the presence of the composer. Less of a song cycle and more of a poignant dramatic scena, it was part-sung (with some recitative), part-spoken, and part-acted.

In its exploration of the psyche of the traumatised Gurney, changes of mood were complimented by changed lighting effects. It was a tour de force for both performers.

                                                                    Colin Burrow

 
 
A Happy New Year to all our members and friends!
 
 
We start the year with the sad news that our Secretary,  Geoffrey Johnston,  died unexpectedly on 13 December.  He will be very sadly missed.
 
 
Thursday 14 November - A stunning concert by the Fitzwilliam Quartet
 
 
We were delighted to have a larger audience than usual to welcome the distinguished Fitzwilliam Quartet as we continued our tribute to Benjamin Britten with a performance of his String Quartet no 3.  The programme opened with Vaughan Williams' String Quartet no 2 and ended with the 3rd String Quartet by Shostakovich and also included the intriguing Canon in Memoriam Igor Stravinsky by Schnittke. 

 

 
Thursday 24 October - Duo Karadys open the new season
 
The new season opened with a superb recital by Duo Karadys - Carol Hubel-Allan (viola) and Alan MacLean (piano) which received the following review in The Citizen on 25 October by Colin Burrow :
 

THE composer Benjamin Britten was born on 22 November 1913 and, throughout this year, there have been many concerts to celebrate his centenary. In Gloucester, these celebrations will reach a climax in the month of his birth with several concerts entitled ‘A Festival of Britten’.

Gloucester Music Society here pre-emptied these with its first concert of the new season - a performance by the Duo Karadys. Carol Hubel-Allen and Alan Maclean play viola and piano respectively, a repertory that includes a fine piece by the birthday boy.

The first part of their concert was entirely home made and began with the Britten. ‘Lachrymae’ draws on music by one of Britten’s favourite song composers, John Dowland whose own ‘Lachrymae’ was written in 1605. The music is unmistakably Britten. Uncompromising, at times diaphanous and elusive, it was played with bite and no little finesse.

Arthur Bliss was once Master of the Queen’s Music, but sadly, his music, often colourful and highly dramatic, is no longer in fashion. With trenchant and vibrant playing, the Duo made a persuasive case for his capricious and rhetorical, if rather nomadic, large-scale Viola Sonata.

Vaughan Williams evidently was fond of the viola and he writes very sympathetically for it. His short Romance was performed with affection and sensitivity.

Shostakovich’s Sonata, composed in his last year, 1975, is strongly valedictory. It looks back, with self-quotations, on a life’s work. Inhabiting the sound world of the string quartets, although there are ferocious moments, their disquiet is absent here. The mood is of resignation, ending in lamentation. The account was powerfully projected, penetrating to the Sonata’s core.

The Music Society’s next concert is also part of this Britten Festival and includes his stunningly original Third String Quartet. For Britten fans, then, there is much to look forward to over the next few weeks.

 
Saturday 14 September, St Mary de Lode Church, 2.00pm
 
We were invited to take part again in the Gloucester Heritage Open Days in September and were delighted that the distinguished composer, pianist and conductor Howard Blake OBE agreed to be interviewed by our Chairman, Christine Talbot-Cooper on his life and work.  Howard Blake has recently become a Vice President of Gloucester Music Society and is perhaps best known as the composer of the music for "The Snowman" and other film music.  However he has a huge output of other work, some of which has been performed at the Three Choirs Festival, and a selection was included in the fascinating interview he gave to a very appreciative audience, at the end of which he signed many autographs. 
 
Annual General Meeting

Our AGM which was held on Thursday 16 May at St Mary de Lode Church and was followed by a fascinating talk by Eleanor Rawling MBE, who spoke about “Walking Gloucestershire with Ivor Gurney.”  Eleanor is a Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, Department of Education and her recent book ‘Ivor Gurney’s Gloucestershire; exploring poetry and place’ reflects her interest in geography,  poetry and walking.  Ivor Gurney has special links to this church and his music will feature in our forthcoming season so this talk was of great interest.

 

On 11 April we were delighted to welcome the Absolute Zero Viola Quartet after the postponement because of inclement weather of their January date.  Their programme featured much English music as well as music by the mysterious composer Engaño and the pieces were interspersed with anecdotes from the quartet, proving a suitably uplifting end to the season.

Our recital by the Kaunas String Quartet on 14 March was held in the presence of the Cultural Attaché from the Lithuanian Embassy and proved to be a very memorable evening which resulted in the following review:
 

Kaunas String Quartet at St Mary de Lode church Gloucester, Thursday 14 March 2013

GLOUCESTER Music Society has an enviable and commendable record as sponsors of new music and musicians. In recent seasons, it has commissioned new compositions, given first performances and provided a showcase for young and up-and-coming performing talents.

Some of these have been home grown, but the Society casts its net wide - in this case, as far as the Baltic. The Kaunas Quartet, who hail from Lithuania, were making only their second appearance in Britain

They take their name from the second city, an important centre for the country's academic and cultural life. On the evidence of this concert, they are not content to keep mining the same seams: one, perhaps two, of their chosen works has surely never been played here before.

The Quartet is a smoothly blended tightly cohesive unit. They brought music from their homeland. In Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis, the arts of painting and music are very intimately allied.

Many of his paintings, most of which are housed in the National Art Museum at Kaunas, bear titles such as 'sonata', and 'fugue'. Perhaps of greater interest to the musician, Ciurlionis was a synesthete – he perceived colours and music simultaneously.

Grieg failed to complete his Second Quartet and it is rarely programmed. Beautifully laid out for the four instruments, it was a revelatory, its folk elements transmuted into compelling art. The powerful, incisive account created a desire to hear it again soon.

Ciurlionis had a profound influence on Lithuanian culture. Pronunciation difficulties apart, his name might be better known had he not died of pneumonia at the age of 35.

His Quartet in C minor dates from 1901. No colours, except perhaps purple, came to mind: instead, there were arresting contrasts, striking string textures and rhythmic felicities. The Quartet evidently has this music in their blood – their committed advocacy suggested that further hearings would prove rewarding.

Rooted in Schubert song, the A minor Quartet is the least anguished of Schubert's late chamber music. Its first two movements sometimes have an almost sunny disposition that was reflected in a balmy performance, the first violin on occasion soaring to the blue yonder.

For the third movement, the Quartet darkened the mood with their evocative excursion into the cafes of late evening Vienna. They then sailed through the technical demands of the last movement with apparent ease.

Colin Burrow

Review: Gloucester Citizen Friday 15 March

              Gloucestershire Echo Saturday 16 March

 
Gloomy February days were brightened when we had a splendid recital of English music on 21 February from the Cappella Singers under their conductor Philip Colls. The evening was enhanced by readings of poems by Laurie Lee and Frank Mansell.  Frances March was the reader and included one of her own poems and also a poem by Kathryn Alderman,  who was also present.
 
 
2012 ended with a splendid organ recital by Ian Ball on Thursday  22 Novembe which received the following review:
 
 
Monday, November 26, 2012

Regular worshippers at St Mary de Lode are familiar with the sound and capabilities of its Georgian organ. For the rest of us, who visit for the concerts, the organ is a towering presence at the right end of the nave, nothing more. Stately, venerable, it silently attends these occasions, part of the furnishings, part of the decor, even, of this lovely church. Here, it was on expedition from church service to concert hall.

Moving to centre stage, it became the sole star performer in this recital for Gloucester Music Society. Organist and composer, erstwhile acting director of music at Gloucester Cathedral and fellow of the Royal College of Organists, Ian Ball records and broadcasts. He was at the console to put the untethered beast through its paces. The programme, eclectic and diverse, with examples from various European cultures, provided a sort of potted history of the organ. It covered more than four centuries, from the late Renaissance to the last century. Each of the composers represented was celebrating an anniversary in 2012. Roughly chronological, it gave a taster of the evolution of organ repertory, as the instrument moved from the confines of the church into secular arenas.

Ian Bell's spoken introductions were didactic, but engaging. In some places, the church was far from confining. Giovanni Gabrieli composed for the spatial splendours of St Mark's, Venice. With Ian Ball's judicious choice of registration, his Ricercar downsized very well. Less successful, Edward German's Shepherd's Dance lost some of its lilt in transcription from orchestra to organ. The German-born Johann Rinck was plucked from obscurity for this event. His virtuoso Variations on Ah vous dirai-je Maman had its imaginative moments, but did insufficient to suggest that he should not be returned there. Throughout, Ian Ball proved a versatile interpreter. He fully explored and exploited the organ's two manuals, producing a different instrumental colouration for each variation in Sweelinck's Mein Junges Leben hat ein End and arresting echo effects in John Stanley's Voluntary. John Ireland's Miniature Suite, instantly memorable, received a beautifully-judged performance. Jean Francaix's piece showed that the organ can produce a big sound and brought a fascinating concert to a close.

Colin Burrow

 
Our concert on 25 October was a piano recital by Mark Bebbington,   which was previewed in an article in the Birmingham Post in which Christopher Morley reviewed the work of composer Ian Venables:
 
"As I write this article, Ian Venables is at Wyastone Leys in Monmouthshire, busy supervising a recording for the Naxos label of his piano music,  his genial and constantly supportive partner Graham Lloyd the soloist.  Immediately afterwards,  they move on to the enterprising Gloucester Music Society (what amazing programmes chairman Christine Talbot-Cooper arranges there), for a recital of British piano music performed by Mark Bebbington, including Venables' Dyson's Caprice".
 
The following review from Christopher Morley appeared in the Birmingham Post:
 
Mark Bebbington has built a reputation as one of the greatest  exponents of Birtish piano music, and one of his finest achievements has been his advocacy of the Piano Sonata by John Ireland.
This made a crowning end to his recital on Thursday devoted entirely to native composers, and the latest instalment in the enterprising Gloucester Music Society's "A Pageant of English Music" season.
Before that triumph, however, we heard a fascinating array spanning more than a century of composition, including a work completed only this year,  the Piano Sonata by Matthew Taylor, and here given its premiere.
Taylor crams a lot into its 17 mintues, his command of piano-writing allowing a rich vocabulary of well-melded gestures to tumble into life (not least growly repeated notes in the bass register which worm the Liszt Sonata into the ears).  There is much dance-like tenderness in the three central movements, inspired by the births of his two daughters, and a grittier structural template in those that frame them.  But what screams out from the work is a natural feel for melody which is fractured into distortion.
Bebbington delivered the piece with what Taylor himself described as "authority and sensitivity", and another composer, Ian Venables,  was present to hear his own Caprice, its clarity and forward movement captured perfectly by the pianist.
This is music whos ideas are instantly memorable and identifiable, working towards a big ending which teases at containing so much more.
We also heard rare solo piano works by Ivor Gurney, Sehnsucht outstanding among them for its veiled anquish, Bebbington's legendary pedalling permitting long, dying-away endings, and Arthur Bliss' Four Masks, witty, brittle and owing less to the Stravinsky cited in the programme-notes than much more to Satie and the Debussy of Suite Bergmasque - that punning link needs to be explored.
 
 
We had a large audience to welcome our President Julian Lloyd Webber for his recital with John Lenehan on 20 September.  This was a wonderful opportunity for music lovers in Gloucestershire to hear these popular performers in the glorious accoustic of St Mary de Lode Church and Julian  kindly agreed to sign CDs in the interval.  It proved to be a truly outstanding concert with the two musicians in superb form playing works they loved, and launching the season paying tribute to English composers in magnificent style.  The concert received the following review.
 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Gloucester Music Society invited its President, Julian Lloyd Webber, to perform the inaugural recital of their new season which highlights the music of English composers past and present.

And who better? Cotswold resident Lloyd Webber is a great devotee of Delius whose 150th anniversary falls this year. Indeed, he once tracked down a forgotten piece by the composer written in 1896 and gave its premiere in Helsinki 80 years later.

What a good thing he did so, for the Romance has a strong melody and radiates warmth and charm. It followed one of Delius' final works, the Caprice and Elegy, of which the Caprice was more wistful than light-hearted and the Elegy infused with poignant melancholy.

Delius' more rapturous Sonata for Cello and Piano, received a flowing, rhapsodic performance by Lloyd Webber and pianist John Lenehan culminating with a strong reiteration of the principal melody.

By contrast Debussy's Sonata composed at the same time is much grittier in tone. While echoes of the First World War were absent from Delius' music there was a distinctly sombre tone in the Debussy work which called on the cello to imitate a guitar, tambourine and flute in the serenade section.

The recital concluded with Ireland's Sonata for Cello and Piano in which the piano and cello were evenly matched. After a brooding opening the work abounded in drama and contrast; at one point the instruments seemed to be indulging in a furious quarrel. The Larghetto was more prayerful and contemplative, but the energetic finale put an abrupt end to the calm.

Both musicians seemed at home in the intimacy and excellent acoustics of St Mary de Lode. resulting in memorable performances which touched the soul.

Roger Jones

 

We are also continuing with our fund raising venture for our Society in which unwanted jewellery is collected for recycling,  with profits going to the Society.  We supply envelopes for this at our concerts and these are sent direct for recycling post free or returned to us at the next concert so that we can arrange collection.   We have been very pleased with the response to this which has already generated extra much-needed funding for the Society.  Please enquire if you would like to take part.

We received the following review for the Rautio Piano Trio concert which took place on 19 January 2012.

The Rautio Piano Trio, St Mary de Lode Church, Gloucester, 19.1.2012

You may be wondering about Gilbert Biberian's absence from the concert platform of late. However, it seems that the Charlton Kings based guitarist has turned his mind to composing. All was revealed when the the Rautio Trio gave the world premiere of his new Piano Trio for  Gloucester Music Society. Entitled Ithaka, the eight movement work is inspired by a poem by the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy and felt like a musical journey, albeit an inward one. Although I was expecting the music to represent Biberian's Greek Armenian roots, these were embedded within the music rather than evident on the surface. This is a work of considerable variety with a declamatory start and several dramatic outbursts along the way. But the excitement was balanced by a silvery nottorno, a dance which reflected the sinuous rhythms and melodies of Asia Minor and a heart-felt Alleluia. The composer tells me he is now working on a string quartet and a guitar concerto, which we look forward to hearing in due course. The Rautio Trio, whose members hail from Russia, Israel and the UK, also demonstrated their demonstrated their exceptional versatility and musicianship elsewhere in  the programme.  The Piano Trio in G composed by the 25 year old Beethoven abounded in youthful exuberance with pianist Jan Rautio taking care not to overwhelm his colleagues. The stimulating second half placed special demands on the players who gave an warm, affectionate account of Frank Bridge's prize winning Phantasie Trio, with its rhapsodic melodies . Ravel's Piano Trio completed the evening with the young musicians revelling in its its fascinating sonorities and adventurous rhythms. From the mysterious, plaintive melodies of the first movement and the exciting scherzo to the grandeur of the passacaglia and the orchestral sounding finale they never put a foot wrong.

 Roger Jones

Reviews from our 81st season.

After the wonderful concerts which celebrated our 80th anniversary year,  the new season began with two outstanding but very different concerts.  Patricia Rozario and Craig Odgen gave a superb recital on 14 October with our second concert on 18 November proving challenging for both performers and audience alike!  This was a programme of music by Bach,  Beethoven and Boulez played by the French string quartet Quatuor Parisii which received the following review from Christopher Morley in the Birmingham Post on 25 November.
 
"In more than 40 years of reviewing, I doubt I've ever been to a more enterpriseing and brave music club promotion than the one to which Gloucester Music Society tempted me slightly outside the confines of our normal boundaries last Thursday.
 
The performers - the Quatuor Parisii - were illustrious enough,  and are always an immense draw in themselves,  performing with such charm and persuasive communication.  But their programme here was extraordinary,  brilliantly constructed,  emotionally satisfying, and at the same time spectacularly cerebral - and the unintimidated audience loved it.
 
Cornerstones (an appropriate word for this ancient building in the shadows of Gloucester's imposing Cathedral) were excerpts from Bach's Art of Fugue, unfolded with clarity and appreciation of their sheer musicality as well as profound contrapuntal genius,  and Beethoven's Grosse Fuge, its many-sided,  almost cosmic character hypnotically conveyed (it remained an ear-worm for me all through the night).
 
And interspersing all of this were most of the movements from the Livre pour Quatuor by Pierre Boulez,  one of the most unbending works penned by this now so genial octogenerian during his angry-young-man period.  Textures, attacks, dynamics and heaven knows what else are all rigorously controlled.  There is no melody,  nor any sense of developing rhythm,  but the colours and sheer gripping inevitability of these pieces make their own impact.  Concentration and mutual listening from these amazing players could almost be sensed dripping from these walls which have heard so much over the centuries.  Nothing could ever have equalled this triumphh."
 
Our first concert of the New Year was also our first percussion recital when international percussionist Andrew Whettam brought a varied programme which included the amazing Marimba Sonata written by his father, the late and much missed Graham Whettam. This was reviewed by Colin Burrow in Gloucester Citizen:
 
"Events at Gloucester Music Society are keenly anticipated for several reasons,  not the least of which is the setting.  St Mary de Lode's beautiful interior complements its acoustic, ideal for small-scale music-making.  Nowadays, maybe because of escalating costs, chamber music is often played in halls large enough for orchestras.  This church has the advantage of size.  It is small.  The atmosphere is intimate, with the audience close to the performers - or, as here, the single performer.
 
St Mary de Lode is in essence a large room,  certainly not a concert hall.  The sweep of a Norman arch makes a fine backdrop for the performances.  Such is the close rapport between audience and artists that the latter draw raffle tickets after the interval.  But could a solo percussionist maintain a whole concert? At least for the most part, yes.
 
Much of the music was performed on tuned percussion - marimba and vibraphone - but tuned percussion instruments are not without limmitations.  With the marimba, but not with the metal vibraphone,  the same wooden slat must be hit repeatedly to prolong the note.  The concert gave some insight into the ways by which composers have attempted to minimize this limitation.  The performer was Andrew,  the son of the composer Graham Whettam,  who lived his last years near Lydney.  His verbal introductions were pitched at just the right level.  Original repertory is not large.  Diversity was provided by the range of musical styles, from Bach to John Lennon,  mostly in arrangements by Andrew.  The one improvisation,  on vibraphone,  evoked the great Milt Jackson.
 
Bach's Prelude and Fugue,  with its short quick-fire notes,  worked particularly well.  Andrew played his father's Marimba Concert.  This substantial work, a challenge which pushes the instrument to its limits,  generated absorbing musical patterns.  The player has to hold not four, or five, but six mallets.  Dazzling manual dexterity, accompanied by arm movements at the speed of sound,  was also evident in the rapid hemiolas of Black and White Rag.  But the marimba did soft and mellow as well.  A novel and adventurous programme,  entirely in tune with the tradition of enterprise of the Society."

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