After an industrious summer of event and programme planning, not to mention the minor task of preparing to move to the new building, I’m delighted to say our new Concert Diary for the Autumn term has now been published online.
The Lunchtime Concert series continues, as we welcome musicians from Total Brass, sitarist Jonathan Mayer, and close-harmony group Sector7 in concerts throughout the term.
University Music Scholars will be giving an informal lunchtime concert in the first week of November – an exciting moment, as it will be the first event in the brand new Colyer-Fergusson music building and its wonderful new concert-hall!
We’ll also be gathering to raise money for Children in Need again this year; come and be part of a whacky world première with a difference, written by yours truly – all you will need is a donation and your mobile-phone, complete with three different ring-tones…
The world-famous Brodsky Quartet continue their fortieth-birthday celebrations in inimitable style, as they bring their ‘Wheel of Four Tunes’ to the Colyer-Fergusson hall. Armed with an array of forty pieces from their hugely eclectic repertoire, the pieces in this concert will be decided by the spin of a wheel in what promises to be a unique event.
Finally, the term comes to a grand finale with the inaugural Gala Concert, with the combined ranks of the Chorus, Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Choir, Concert Band and Big Band, in a spectacular evening celebrating the formal opening of the new Colyer-Fergusson music building, complete with two new works especially written for the occasion.
The University Camerata and Cecilian Choir teamed up for yesterday’s final lunchtime concert of the term, with Vivaldi’s Winter and Purcell’s ‘Frost Scene’ from King Arthur.
Soloist in the Vivaldi, Jeremy Ovenden brought out the brittle, biting aspect of the piece in a strong, confident reading, and the Camerata responded with suitable fragility in the sul ponticello passages.
Making her debut at the Gulbenkian, Music Scholar Paris Noble cast a bright flame as Cupid, scolding the Cold Genius (a welcome return for alumnus Piran Legg) and bringing on a chorus of Cold Revellers to warm them up and spread love throughout the arctic countryside.
The Cecilian Choir, looking suitably chilly in winter hats and coats (there had been a fire-alarm that morning, so the musicians ended up waiting outside the Theatre for a while – true method-acting, as one of the altos wryly observed), shambled on before casting aside their winter attire for a heroic closing chorus.
Pictured also is the fine harpischord brought in for the concert (Christmas truly came early for me this year), a Ruckers-Hemsch copy by Ian Tucker, based on an instrument from 1763, which had a soundboard decorated identically to one owned by Handel. Many thanks to Edmund Pickering for delivering and tuning the instrument.
Bravo to all involved: a concert to ‘warm’ the heart…
Be My Guest: an occasional series featuring guest posts and contributions. This week, Music Society President Chris Gray reviews yesterday’s lunchtime recital by Benjamin Frith.
Frothy Frith: Pictures a plenty!
During the ever popular Lunchtime Concert series, sponsored by Furley Page, I sat and listened to what was an absolutely outstanding performance by Benjamin Frith of Mussorgsky’s Original Pictures at an Exhibition. The concert not only forward looking to a performance of Ravel’s orchestrated version by the University Symphony Orchestra, but also provided a warming and gratifying experience on an otherwise cold and bleak day on the Canterbury campus.
This iconic piece opens with a simple Promenade played at a quicker tempo than the ear is used to, having been a veteran of many interpretations of the Ravel orchestration. Frith provided a very lyrical and sensitive performance of this renowned motif. The movement was in two sections; the chorale opening bars and the rich density of the harmony to follow, and this was apparent in Frith’s playing as he offered two beautiful passages of playing. Throughout the concert, the pianist had a way of creating different timbres of sounds from the piano, which provided even greater colour throughout the performance.
The next movement, Gnomus, shows off the grotesquery of the toy nutcracker present in this picture. The piano was alive with stunning misshapen motifs that installed terror into the listener. Frith had a brilliant tendency to unleash fury without losing control of his instrument which was apparent throughout the performance.
Following another Promenade between pictures the piece progresses to Il Vecchio Castello which depicts an old castle by night. The continuous pedal note in the left hand imitates the sombre and distant nature of this movement, whilst the reminiscent playing certainly transported the listener to another land.
Once again the listener is transported via an assertive Promenade towards the next painting Tuileries based on a picture of the park of the same name. The dexterity in articulation and delicate tempi changes conveyed the playful nature of the children depicted in the painting. This was in stark contrast to the following movement Bydlo, a huge cart drawn by oxen. The power of the piano itself was apparent throughout this movement and the dynamical contrast reflected the passing of the cart; heavy and unwieldy the playing was a relentless trudging through the thick mud lining the cart’s route, and the dense chords in the left hand mirrored this.
Via a yet another Promenade, Mussorgsky reflects on the previous picture with a reflective and sombre recapitulation of the main theme. Ballet of the Chicks in their Shells lifts the oppressive feeling of the previous movement. Ben showed great skill in not only the speed of his playing but also the accuracy at which he danced across the ivories. It was a great interpretation and the tempi at which Frith played seemed perfectly natural and transported the listener into the gallery. The next painting follows on immediately into an argument between two Jewish gentlemen: Samuel Goldberg and Schmulye. The two characters were exhibited during the movement, with great dynamical contrast between the sections and the different personalities within the music. The next painting Limoges depicts a busy market place and a discussion between a group of women. Again Frith interpreted this brilliantly with dynamic busy playing and reflected the lively nature of the market place. A dark and dank Roman Catacombe is represented by a sheer mass of noise from the piano, daylight could be seen between the piano stool and the pianist himself(!), as the solid columns of sound emitted from the instrument.
Following on from this picture, Mussorgsky reflected on the loss of his close friend with a chant-like, haunting Promenade which leads to an ephemeral ‘Amen’ reminiscent of his friend’s rise to heaven. The penultimate painting The Hut on Fowl’s Legs is of a clock in the shape of the hut of Baba Yaga. This painting provided two distinct sections ranging from evil, demonic and massive playing representing the drama that surrounds the witch Baba Yaga, and the mysterious and suggestive aura that represents the sorcery of the witch.
An eddying chromatic scale propels the user into the Great Gate of Kiev, which is the manifestation of the whole piece. Magnificent spread chords imitate the tolling bells of the Great Gate and the theme returns as a trident triumphant tune very fitting as a memorial to Mussorgsky’s great friend.
As an orchestral player, I felt the piece lacked body, which was probably due to the piano, and the fact that Ravel wrote such a wonderful orchestration of Mussorgsky’s original work. However this did not detract from the simple fact that this was an outstanding performance by a genuinely talented performer. Benjamin Frith transported us to Mussorgsky’s side as he walked around the gallery, and this concert will go down in history for me as an incredibly important one. Not only did it provide an insight into Mussorgsky’s original pursuance of timbre, dynamic and tempi and will prove invaluable to my experience as an orchestral tuba player playing this piece as part of the University Symphony Orchestra.
I hope the next concert is good, it has got a lot to live up to!
Acclaimed international pianist Benjamin Frith returns to the Gulbenkian Theatre next Monday, to perform Mussorgsky’s mighty Pictures at an Exhibition.
In its original version for solo piano, this epic showpiece takes the listener on a musical odyssey through a series of paintings by the composer’s friend, the artist and architect Viktor Hartmann, at an exhibition held to commemorate the artist’s early death at the age of only thirty nine.
From the menacing ‘Hut on Fowl’s Legs’ to the lively ‘Ballet of the Chicks in their shells,’ finishing with the grandiose ‘Great Gate of Kiev,’ the piece represents a dazzling display of virtuosity for pianists.
The concert, on Monday 14 November, starts at 1.10pm, and finishes at 1.50pm. Admission free, with a suggested donation of £3.
There will also be an opportunity to hear Ravel’s brilliant orchestration of the piece at the University’s Symphony Orchestra’s concert in December.
I’m delighted to see that the current Lunchtime Concerts series, now celebrating its ten-year anniversary of sponsorship with Furley Page Solicitors, is featured in the recent issue of EK One, the luxury bi-monthly lifestyle magazine for East Kent.
Flip to page 10 for the feature, including a photograph.
If last year’s brochure was mouth-watering, then the new one is even more so.
Celebrating ten years of sponsorship with Furley Page Solicitors, the new Lunchtime Concert series includes a trombone quartet, a return visit from Benjamin Frith to perform the solo piano version of Mussorgsky’s epic ‘Pictures at an Exhibition,’ and the University Camerata in some seasonal shivering in December.
The University Chorus and Symphony Orchestra bring Finzi, Parry, and Ravel’s orchestration of the Mussorgsky to Eliot Hall in December, whilst the Chamber Choir will welcome the Advent season in a sequence of music and readings at the Church of St. Cosmus and Damian in Blean.
Some of the Music Scholars will be giving a lunchtime concert as part of the Canterbury Festival, and the annual Children in Need ‘Sing for Pudsey’ this year takes place in the Gulbenkian Theatre. The term finishes in December seasonal style with ‘Carols around the Tree’ – weather-permitting! There’s also a look ahead to some of the events in the spring term.