South Bank Sinfonia - Sunday 5 May 2019
The spectacular 2018/19 Marlborough College College Series concluded with a fine concert given by London's Southbank Sinfonia. As the College's professional orchestra-in-partnership for over a decade, the rapport with regular MCCS concert-goers is palpable and based on the attendance at this concert that relationship is set to continue.
The programme presented was attractive. Sibelius - Karelia Suite, Strauss - Horn Concerto and Brahms - Symphony No 1, offered something for everyone and the Southbank Sinfonia didn't disappoint, producing some ravishing and expressive playing under the expert direction of conductor, Simon Over - particularly so in the Brahms. Guest leader Eugene Lee's sumptuous violin solo in the slow movement of the Brahms was worthy of special mention, as were some beautifully crafted solos from the principal horn, flute and oboe. Máté Tözsér also gave a seemingly effortless rendition of the Strauss Horn Concerto where he created some impressive colour and admirable dexterity to conclude the first half.
This has been a notable season for the MCCS on its return to the newly refurbished Memorial Hall and with the addition of complimentary Mionetto prosecco and some fine Rick Stein canapés to greet the audience on arrival, there can be no question that a splendid time was had by all.
We look forward to the 2019/20 season with eager anticipation.Philip Dukes
Jennifer Pike (violin), Jeremy Pike (piano) - Sunday 20 January 2019
In 2002, I was privileged to be a member of the jury on BBC Young Musician of the Year when we awarded the coveted first prize to the twelve-year-old violinist Jennifer Pike. I remember thinking at the time that, all things being equal, a glittering career beckoned, and so it's proved. It was therefore a huge thrill to welcome Jennifer to our beautiful concert series here in Marlborough some 18 years later and to have the absolute pleasure of hearing her as a mature and well-established artist.
The programme she chose was excellent and fabulously eclectic. In fact, it had everything from the purity of Bach, (where Jennifer resisted any temptation to over romanticise - vibrato was sparse), to the magical and mystical world of Szymanowski, pausing for a salute to her father in a work by him entitled Aphelion. Her father, Jeremy, was also on hand to provide the most sympathetic and delicate accompaniment throughout the recital and that was special. There were fireworks too. Jennifer has an enviable dexterity and facility and these were very much on show in both the Wieniaswki Legende and Saint-Saëns' evergreen Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, which brought this masterclass in performance to a close
We were also treated to the original version of Ralph Vaughan Williams's The Lark Ascending (violin and piano) which incidentally is the most requested piece on Desert Island Discs and the most played work on Classic FM. It's easy to see why.
Altogether, then, a breathtaking and moving recital. I wonder whether, somewhere out there, a little 12-year-old violinist is waiting in the wings to emerge. They will need to be good to better Jennifer Pike.Philip Dukes
BBC NOW with the Amatis Trio - Sunday 4 November 2018
A packed Memorial Hall witnessed a truly special concert given by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. The concert, which was not only part of the regular MCCS series, but also part of the Memorial Hall Festival 2018, was recorded for future broadcast on BBC Radio 3. Excellent national publicity indeed for our newly refurbished Mem Hall and Marlborough College.
The programme was tailored, in part, to fit the context of the occasion. Beethoven's Overture 'The Consecration of the House' was an obvious and appropriate choice, alongside Ravel's 'Le Tombeau de Couperin' and R S Kelly's 'Elegy' (in memory of Rupert Brooke) both of which connected to the Great War and the Mem Hall's historical significance.
The highlight, however, was the performance of Beethoven's famous Triple Concerto where the soloists were the excellent Amatis Trio. With conductor Adrian Partington shaping a most sympathetic response from the orchestra this was a most memorable interpretation and one to which the audience clearly warmed.
The enhanced acoustics of the Hall were also once again put to the test and, with adjustments made to the acoustic panelling during the rehearsal in the afternoon, the BBC were able to record without superimposing any additional reverb to the sound in preparation for the broadcast. That's really good news for the future and reflects the sophistication of sound management we now have at our disposal.
In summary, so much achieved by so many for which we should all feel proud, and so much to look forward to.Philip Dukes
John Lill - Sunday 7 October 2018
Where shall we start? We could perhaps begin by saying that John Lill has given over 6,000 concerts in a very long and distinguished career, or maybe (and I quote) "I'm 74 now so I'm cutting back a bit these days, and I'm only going to tour Japan, China and Australia in the next few months..." That's an interesting take on 'cutting back'. Whichever way you look at it, John Lill remains one of the most eminent and remarkable pianists roaming the planet. The wine is vintage indeed.
His most recent recital for the Marlborough College Concert Series was enthralling, and he is clearly at home on the College's precious Steinway on which his advice was sought for it to be adjusted and prepared to suit the acoustics of the Hall. In essence then, our piano has been well and truly 'Lilled'. "I've never had my name used as a verb before, but I rather like it" was his response.
To single out highlights from his programme of Beethoven, Prokofiev, Schumann and Chopin is tricky, but you would have to go a long way to find a better performance of Prokofiev's daunting Sixth Sonata in which Lill's consummate technique and total mastery shone bright.
In mentioning the acoustics of the hall as he left, he commented "it's perfect". From someone of his stature that's high praise indeed. He's pretty perfect too ....Philip Dukes
BBC Big Band - Sunday 16 September 2018
This past year has been a significant event in the life of the Memorial Hall and the Concert Series was thrilled to return to its regular home following the hall's spectacular £6.5m refurbishment. Audiences are now greeted by a fresh, new, sophisticated and state of the art interior, which in the process of its renovation has not lost any of the Memorial Hall's elegance and charm. To herald the new season it was important to make a splash, and what better way than to invite the legendary BBC Big Band with conductor, Barry Forgie and Elaine Delmar as soloist. In short, it was sensational and the near capacity audience was treated to some astonishingly virtuosic and expert ensemble playing, which was utterly thrilling.
The acoustics of the hall have been very much at the forefront of the hallís refurbishment and with carefully managed amplification applied to an absolute minimum the natural resonance of the hall coped admirably with the complex, and at times significant, volume of sound. With further major performances in the pipeline, such as the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in November (for broadcast on BBC Radio 3) this was precious knowledge gained, and the coming season will continue to teach us a huge amount concerning the versatility and capability of the new acoustics. The BBC Big Band will live long in the memory - truly world class musicians performing in a truly world class venue.Philip Dukes