Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Brighton Festival - Lunchtime Concerts, Part 2

And so to catch up on some more of the Lunchtime concerts from the Brighton Festival.

Pianist Ashley Fripp (Thursday 17 May) began with a delightful performance of Haydn's Sonata in D major, Hob. XVII:D1.  He followed this with Liszt's Vier kleine Klavierstücke, a late set of miniatures, and not ones I previously knew.  They are less obviously showy than the more well known Liszt repertoire, and Fripp brought great sensitivity to their more introspective style.  The rest of the programme was given over to Rachmaninov - first of all the challenging Ten Preludes, Op. 23.  The 10 came some time after Rachmaninov's mammoth single Prelude in C sharp minor, and he followed these later with thirteen more to provide a complete set of all the major and minor keys.  Whilst some are less challenging than others to play, they all require great skill to bring out inner melodies and balance the dynamics, particularly when playing the set together.  Fripp managed this beautifully, a highlight for me being the contrast of the almost dance-like, dramatic third Prelude in D minor, followed by the exquisitely lyrical and romantic fourth Prelude in D major.  He ended his programme with the Humoresque from the Sept Morceaux de Salon, Op. 10 - lighter in style, but suitably effervescent to complete a very enjoyable performance.  

Next, cellist Tim Lowe was accompanied by pianist James Baillieu (Friday 18 May).  The meat of their programme was Brahms' F major Sonata, a passionate and dramatic piece, composed over twenty years after his first sonata for the instrument.  I really enjoyed Lowe's playing here, and Baillieu proved himself a very skilled partner too, as achieving the right balance, particularly in the dry acoustic of the Pavilion Theatre, is not straightforward at all.  Another new piece to me, Sibelius' Malinconia, Op. 20, preceded the Brahms - this was composed following the tragic death of the composer's infant daughter, and it is an intensely moving, even painful piece.  They topped and tailed the programme with two sets of variations - they began with Mendelssohn's rousing Variations Concertantes, and ended with the less well-known Variations on a theme by Rossini, composed by Martinu.  Both these works gave Lowe ample opportunity to demonstrate his technical command.  

The Eidos Trio, William Stafford (clarinet), Ilya Movchan (violin) and Konstantin Lapshin (piano) have been playing together since 2008, when they got together at the Royal College of Music.  They opened their concert (Sunday 20 May) with Milhaud's Suite, and technically their performance was spot on.  However, what concerned me here immediately was a lack of communication between the players.  There was barely a moment of eye contact between any of the three players, and there was certainly no real sense of fun - not even in the third movement, entitled 'Jeu'.  Unfortunately, this continued throughout their programme for me, and increasingly I felt frustrated by the fact that, despite their obvious skill and musicianship, the audience was not really being brought into their world through the performances.  This is particularly important in this less familiar, and somewhat challenging, repertoire, and was a great contrast to other musicians in this series who went out of their way to communicate with their audience.  However, there was still much to admire here.  The Trio by Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007) was composed in 1996.  An opera composer predominantly, he was also the partner of Samuel Barber, and wrote the libretto for his opera, Vanessa.  The trio is an interesting piece, and again, there is humour in the music here too, which once again didn't come across.  However, in the more melodic moments, particularly for the clarinet in the final movement, there was some subtle playing here.  The Largo by Ives is quite a lyrical, nostalgic piece, yet still containing typically quirky Ivesian detail.  They completed their programme with the lively Khachaturian Trio, and finally here the Eidos Trio came alive.  Perhaps it was the folk-inspired melodies and rhythms, or maybe they were beginning to relax a little more, but here I began to feel they were actually enjoying themselves a bit, and consequently the audience responded accordingly.  So overall, strong musicians that need to work on performance communication for me.  

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