Reviews of concerts, 2011-12


Concert on 4th October 2011: The Mike Miller Jazz Trio

The following review appeared in the local press:

Music at Lunchtime, the name given to the monthly concerts given at Farnham United Reformed Church, is now entering its 14th year, but has never featured jazz - until now.

On Tuesday 4th October the Mike Miller Jazz Trio provided a programme of jazz standards and other music well suited to the occasion: Gershwin, Thelonius Monk, Ellington, Richard Rogers and other, interspersed with other less well-known composers including Mike Miller himself, whose Blues for Karl was well received.

Merely to list some of the best-known tunes brings back memories of the occasion: Summertime, Lady be good, Pennies from Heaven, Misty, Softly as in the morning sunrise, Night and Day, the Lady is a Tramp and, to sum up the entire gig, It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.

The trio was of course led by Mike Miller himself on guitar, but there were notable solos from Mike Bennett, on double bass; and the drumming of Nick Morris was a joy to listen to - you would have to go a long way to hear such a musical trio.

Concert on 1st November 2011: The D'Avanzo Piano Trio

The following review appeared in the local press:

An unexpected treat

It was an unexpected pleasure to hear the D'Avanzo Piano Trio perform at Farnham United Reformed Church on Tuesday 1st November as part of the regular Music at Lunchtime series.

The Duo Figaro had been booked to appear but less than a week before the concert Peter Mallinson, the viola player, had sustained a fall, spraining his wrist and leaving him temporarily incapable of playing.

By good fortune, the violinist in the Duo, Lucia D'Avanzo, was able to arrange for her friends in the D'Avanzo Piano Trio, Noelle Casella, cello, and Sebastian Grand, piano, to join her in giving a concert in place of the Duo.

The first item in their programme consisted of the first three of the charming Miniatures for Piano Trio written by Frank Bridge just over a century ago, in 1910. These pieces, written for students to play or for amateurs at home, are nevertheless delightful to listen to.

More serious stuff was to follow: the Piano Trio No. 1 by the nineteenth century composer Édouard Lalo, written in the tradition of the trios of Mendelssohn and Schumann. This is a very fine work, and it is a pity that we do not hear it played more often. The playing of the D'Avanzo Trio certainly made this listener want to hear it again. The first stormy movement was followed by a peaceful and tuneful Romance and then a stormy scherzo before the Finale.

Finally we were given Rikudim (four Israeli dances) by the Belgian composer Jan Van der Roost, wonderful pieces with a definite Jewish feel to them. After the first dance, marked Andante moderato, the second was alternately sad and fiery, the third dreamy and the fourth, "con moto e follemento" (madly?) another fiery movement. I could have listened to these all afternoon.

We send Peter best wishes for a good recovery and are very grateful to the D'Avanzo Piano Trio for stepping at such short notice and playing with such distinction.

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Concert on 6th December 2011: Litsa Tunnah, violin


Litsa Tunnah is an outstanding young violinist who gave the concert at Farnham United Reformed Church on Tuesday 6th December 2011, part of the regular Music at Lunchtime series.

There were two pieces in Litsa's programme. The first was Bach's partita no. 3 in E major. From the first note it was clear that this was going to be a memorable performance. Her mastery of the music, the nobility of her tone and the authority of execution confirmed expectations.

The violin sonatas by the Belgian composer Eugène Ysaÿe are much less well-known but he wrote them with J. S. Bach very much in mind. Litsa played the two middle movements of Ysaÿe's second violin sonata: the slow, sad Malinconia and the Danse des Ombres, both virtuoso works. Speaking as one to whom these pieces were new, I would certainly like to hear them again.

As an encore Litsa performed the Recuerdos de la Alhambra by Francisco Tárrega, a piece written for the guitar so distinctly in mind that it would appear to be impossible to play on the violin, but it makes a splendid virtuoso encore.



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Concert on 7th February 2012: Gillian Lloyd, organ

The following report appeared in the local press:

The snow still lying on the ground on Tuesday morning did not deter the audience from attending Gillian Lloyd's organ recital given at Farnham United Reformed Church on 7th February, part of the regular Music at Lunchtime series.

It may have been cold outside, but it was warm inside, helped by a spirited performance of the jubilant Sinfonia to Bach's Cantata no. 29, the first piece in the programme.

That was followed by three versets on Away in a Manger by Mark Blatchly, a composition that shows engaging eccentricity, particularly in the central Nocturne.

Martin Setchell is Associate Professor of Music at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Martin's toccata on Joy to the World has a triumphant feel to it, and one can only regret the short duration of the piece. Spring Song, also short, by W. Elwell, is an attractive piece in which Gillian used an unusual combination of stops, making it sound particularly cheerful.

Eighteenth century English organ music sounds particularly good on the Henry Jones organ, and so William Boyce's Voluntary in D came across well, and made a useful contrast to the rest of the programme, as English organs of that period did not have pedals. It was followed by a fluid performance of the delightful third movement, Allegretto, of Mendelssohn's Organ Sonata no. 4.

Frank Bridge'a Adagio in E was written in 1905 and can be considered as a gentle introduction to twentieth century harmony. It starts and finishes quietly, building up to and receding from a climax at the centre, and as such needs good organ management, particularly on an organ such as this one, which has very few registration aids. Under capable hands (as here) it is a most effective piece.

Finally we were given a real tour de force: Bach's prelude and Fugue in D, BWV 532, a virtuoso piece if ever there was one. It recaptured the extravert character of the opening piece, also by Bach, rounding off the concert in a very satisfactory way.

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Concert on 28th March 2012: Chris Pelly, trumpet, with Barbara Henvest, piano

The following report appeared in the local press:

Music at Lunchtime has now been running at Farnham United Reformed Church for the best part of 15 years, but we have never been able to feature a musician who has been associated with the church from birth: not until now, that is. For Chris Pelly, who gave the concert on Wednesday 28th March, was born and bred in Farnham. Now in his third year at the University of Leeds, he is studying music, and he decided to give us a a preview (or pre-listen) of his degree recital on trumpet.

All the music for the recital had been written since 1950 and so sounded refreshingly modern. Chris started with the first movement of the Sonata for trumpet and piano by Derek Bourgeois, a splendidly extrovert piece which starts and ends with trumpet fanfares with a more lyrical middle section.

Not all trumpet music is fanfares, however, and the second movement of John Addison’s Trumpet Concerto (arranged for trumpet and piano by the composer) is marked “Adagio misterioso”. It certainly begins in a mysterious fashion, with the trumpet muted and the trumpet and piano seeming to search for their own ways throught the music independently. In due course the mute comes off and a song-like passage takes over for a while until the rather unsettling feeling of the opening occurs once more. It would be good to hear the whole of this concerto.

Finally we were given George Antheil’s 4-movement Trumpet Sonata. Antheil’s autobiography is entitled “Bad Boy of Music” and so we could have expected some seriously quirky music, but by the time Antheil wrote this trumpet sonata he must have mellowed considerably. The first movement starts lyrically but then becomes much more jolly; the second is also lyrical and for a time the trumpet and piano are playing in different keys. Then, after a very fast scherzo the fourth movement starts in what seems to be a very fast waltz, but as the movement progresses and gets faster and faster the tune becomes more and more distorted right to the end – a virtuoso piece.

A virtuoso soloist needs a virtuoso accompanist, and we had it in Barbara Henvest. Chris was fortunate to have her, and so were we.

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Concert on 10th April 2012: Matthew Rickard, piano

The following report appeared in the local press:

Vaughan Williams is not famous for his piano works; but in 1940 he wrote the incidental music for the Powell/Pressburger film The 49th Parallel which gave rise to an attractive piano piece, The Lake in the Mountains.

It was the opening item in the concert given by Matthew Rickard on Tuesday 10th April at Farnham United Reformed Church as the concluding concert of the 2011/2012 season of Music at Lunchtime.

The date was Easter Tuesday, which turned out to be a good date, being in the school holidays, so that several youngsters (some of whom were Matthew's pupils) were able to attend.

Matthew specialises as a piano accompanist, but he is a formidable soloist, as became clear during the concert.

The Vaughan Williams piece is one of two English piano works played at the concert, the other being Ivor Gurney's dreamy Nocturne in A of 1908. Both pieces deserve to be heard more often.

Between the Vaughan Williams and the Gurney Matthew played the better-known and rightly loved Suite Bergamasque of Debussy, especially famous for its very popular third movement, Clair de Lune.

The final item in the concert was the Scherzo in E flat minor by Brahms. This is a virtuoso piece, full of fire, and it received a stunning performance which left the audience breathless - a fitting conclusion to the 2011/2012 season.