|Lesley Garrett & Anna Tilbrook - Sunday 15 September 2019|
The 78th season of world-class musicians in Marlborough opened with a performance from the renowned soprano, Lesley Garrett, accompanied by the excellent Anna Tilbrook on piano. The concert was more ‘An Evening with ... ’ rather than a conventional song recital, but that didn't matter in the slightest as Lesley Garrett treated us to a journey through her musical life, surrounded by an eclectic range of musical offerings.
A packed Memorial Hall clearly enjoyed the experience as they warmed to some amusing anecdotes and a few trips down memory lane. Lesley's enthusiasm is utterly infectious and she is a huge presence on stage, but special praise should be given to her accompanist, Anna Tilbrook, whose discreet, subtle but essential contribution provided Lesley with the perfect support throughout the entire programme.
Once again, the Memorial Hall acoustics came up trumps, with the gorgeous Steinway (under Anna Tilbrook's touch) revealing its gems of colour and depth. At the time of writing the refurbished Memorial Hall has been open over 12 months. In that time, we have welcomed some fabulous artists to the stage and they all remark what a special place it is in which to perform. Make no mistake, it is, and how lucky we are that we have such a facility within our Marlborough community.
|Ensemble Bash - Sunday 6 October 2019|
The second concert in the 2019/20 Marlborough College Concert Series was given by the colourful and engaging Ensemble Bash. Now in their 27th year together, they have delighted audiences across the globe with their innovative and ground-breaking performances, which remain as fresh and as exciting as ever.
One could perhaps be forgiven for taking a few moments to tune into their wave length, but once you do, a whole world of sound opens up. Some of the more delicate rhythms and indeed the bells are almost hypnotic, whilst the impact of the Ensemble in full flow on more percussive instruments is completely engrossing. The sheer number of instruments on display is pretty amazing too, (only when you assist with clearing the stage at the end of the concert and loading up the van do you realise quite how much kit there is!) and each of the players takes turns in demonstrating their considerable talents to the full.
No question, this is a contemporary programme, and indeed a very visual spectacle, but with their informative and, at times, witty verbal introductions to assist one's understanding of style and content, it is all pleasingly accessible.
In addition to the College's Music Scholars, it was also good to see a number of other young audience members in attendance, one of whom remarked to me afterwards, ‘it was huge fun, and fascinating to see and hear so many instruments with such fantastic and original sounds ... ’ He was right.
|Sheku and Isata Kaneh-Mason - Sunday 10 November 2019|
Marlborough College Concert Series welcomed Sheku and Isata Kanneh -Mason to the Memorial Hall. The two most prominent members of a cross-genre dynasty of musicians, the Kanneh-Masons have graced the stages of the Barbican, Wigmore Hall, Sendesaal, as well as sharing stages with Sir Elton John, Clean Bandit, and appearing on The X Factor and Top of the Pops. This is a family democratising the role of a musician in the twenty first century.
The programme was carefully crafted to display not only the familiarity of both musicians' dialectics but also their respective instruments; the cello verging on obbligato in Beethoven's take on Die Zauberflöte, and the musicians weaving their lines together in the fires of Barber's Sonata for cello and piano, glacial lines of Lutoslawski's Grave, before traversing the Olympian heights of Rachmaninoff's Cello Sonata.
If Lutoslawski and Rachmaninoff represent the Apollonian of the evening, Beethoven and Barber more than made up the Dionysian portion. Isata rode the dynamic properties of the 'Mem' Steinway like a surfer cresting a wave of pure emotion, carrying us along in her wake. Sheku provided a delicious counterpoint building to a stretto finale which defied anyone not to break into a smile! Lutoslawski represents a journey into a dialectic which substantially redirected the evening. Bringing the cello to the forefront of the programme, Grave created a tonal palate which displayed the dark hues of Sheku's 1610 Amati to fullest advantage. This brief, single-movement etches out a long accelerando, rising in pitch across both instruments. The synergy between the siblings shone out in the delicate interplay of piano and cello lines.
The same craft and attention to detail also informed the Barber Cello sonata. Opening with a glow of dying embers, this jewel of a composition quickly blazes back into life, before fading away into a haze of notes. Barber was a fastidious composer, and notated everything in impeccable detail. It's a brave performer who can sit back on the score and allow the music to speak for itself, and this is just what the duo did this evening.
Rachmaninoff premiered the Cello Sonata with eminent Russian cellist Anatoliy Brandukov, who had been best man at his wedding. There is a wonderful parallel here: Rachmaninoff spent his teenage years living in a house with Natalya, his future wife, having been unceremoniously kicked out of his teacher's house for having the temerity to suggest that they might buy a second piano! Brandukov was also a lodger in the Satina household, having recently returned to Russia from Paris. This sense of shared musical upbringing underpins both the composition, and the exegesis this evening. The unavoidable minor tenths which warm the piano texture throughout the second movement, and are the bane of those of us with smaller hands than Rachmaninoff, were executed with a stylish effortlessness from Isata, matched by an equally classy cello song.
This evening was more than a duet recital. The intergrality of the conversation passed between Sheku and Isata made the evening a dialogue - not only between the two performers, but a dialogue between them and the audience. Both musicians 'played' the crystal acoustics of the Memorial Hall like the third instrument in the line-up; the aching architecture of both the Rachmaninoff and Barber were spun out in a synthesis of interweaving lines. The glöckchen anthiphony of the Beethoven variations rang playfully from the stage, building shards of reverb from the hall like a sculpture. It is all too easy, when discussing young artists, to fall into platitudes about fully formed musicianship and maturity. I have no doubt that both of these musicians will continue to grow, and as they do so, will continue to redefine the boundaries of what we consider to be classical music and how it should be consumed; judging by both their playing, and their presentation, they are asking the difficult questions of the music they approach. And I, for one, can't wait to hear their answers.
|Martin Roscoe (piano) - Sunday 19 January 2020|
Martin Roscoe simply never disappoints with his virtuosity, musicality and well-conceived programming.
The concert opened with the curious Fantasy in D minor by Mozart. The dulcet tones required in this mysterious work were immediately captured. Two well-loved impromptus by Schubert followed. The long lyrical phrases of no 3 in Gb major, D 899 soared over the simmering accompaniment, contrasting beautifully with the sparkle and fizz of no 4 in Ab major.
Beethoven's Appassionata Sonata is a mammoth work, requiring power, lyricism, and immense concentration to span the whole of the work, as well as a deeply intelligent approach. Martin did not disappoint, with admirable intensity and volcanic eruptions in the first movement, beautiful lyricism in the second and a never failing energy and power in the third movement, that carried us to the very end of the final coda.
After the interval, we were charmed by the delicate and sometimes mischievous moments found in Debussy's Children's Corner. There is no doubt that Roscoe genuinely loves relating stories through his playing and gives every phrase colour and character.
Three contrasting works by Chopin brought the concert to a close. Opening with the swaying rhythm of the Barcarolle op 60, continuing with the most dramatic of Chopin's nocturnes - op 48, no1 in C minor, and closing with the fiery and physically challenging Polonaise in A flat, op 53.
After such a demanding and exciting programme, he looked as fresh as a daisy - a real testament to his extraordinary talent.
|South Bank Sinfonia - Sunday 8 March 2020|
Tasmin Little (violin) and Philip Dukes (viola)
Returning once again for their annual visit to Marlborough College, and after an intense and joyous few days making music with the pupils at the College, Southbank Sinfonia, conducted by the celebrated Simon Over (on his birthday!) performed their own concert as part of the Marlborough College Concert Series.
Presenting a very classical repertoire with romantic influences, the programme was highly suited to all the forces involved. Opening the concert, the robust and dynamic Overture No. 2 in E-flat by Farrenc was a delightful nod towards celebrating International Womens' Day; bold harmonies and striking musical development represented her great love for Beethoven (which beautifully mirrored the second half of the programme).
Following this came the Sinfonia Concertante K.364 by Mozart. The soloists were the distinguished Tasmin Little, and our very own Philip Dukes. The Southbank Sinfonia created a bright, clean, and fresh vibrancy to the sound, which was the perfect backdrop for the soloists, who were entirely united on a musical front. Synonymous musicality in the cadenza demonstrated a real inspiration for the pupils present.
Impassioned by nature, and delivered instinctively by the conductor and orchestra, Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 'Pastoral' concluded the concert. The seamless transitions between the third and fifth movements ensured an incredibly exciting narrative. Some outstanding woodwind solos and impeccable section playing for the strings presented some visionary playing.
With Arts funding receiving cuts, charitable institutions such as the Southbank Sinfonia allows graduates of some of the top global conservatoires and music colleges the opportunity to develop their skills as they make their way into some of the best orchestras in the world. A real inspiration to the pupils of the College, it is clear that with current players in the Southbank Sinfonia, the future of classical music in this country is incredibly bright.