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Concert Reviews

Violin and Piano duo impress in Norden Farm concert


The audience at Norden Farm were treated to some fine playing in Maidenhead Music Society’s concert on Thursday.  Polish violinist Maria Włoszczowska and pianist Sophia Rahman gave a memorable performance.  They began with Schubert’s A minor Sonatina, which has contrasting bold and lyrical sections, and which allowed them to demonstrate both their technical skills and musical rapport.


Beethoven’s A major Sonata followed, and the duo brought out the lightness and delicacy of the music, especially in the finale.  Beethoven treats the violin and piano equally in this Sonata, and the balance and interplay he requires were perfectly achieved.


After the interval Maria and Sophia performed the four Romantic Pieces by Dvorák, which had originally been written for two violins and viola.  The influence of the Czech folk tunes was clearly heard in the playing.


A smiling Sophia informed the audience that the final item would be a challenge, both for them and the performers.  Prokofiev’s Sonata no 1 for Violin and Piano, in F minor, dedicated to David Oistrakh, has some fierce sections requiring virtuosic playing by both performers which they carried off with aplomb.  There were also some lyrical passages which sounded serene in comparison.  The players overcame the challenges very effectively, revealing a deep feeling for and understanding of the music, which evoked a delighted response from the audience.


The Maidenhead Music Society presents six main concerts and a Celebrity concert each season at Norden Farm.  Their next concert is on 19th March and features the Chamber Philharmonic Europe, playing pieces by Vivaldi, Hummel, Suk, Bach, Rachmaninoff and Nielsen.


Peter Griffiths

Talented Teenage Musicians Play Classical at Norden Farm

Maidenhead Music Society presented its annual ‘Young Winners’ classical concert last Sunday morning at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts in Maidenhead.  Featuring two talented teenage musicians, it was exciting to hear their youthful quality and passion. 

Emily Ambrose, 15, a music scholar at Marlborough College, played the bassoon – almost the same size as herself – having started on the recorder when small.  It is unusual to see the bassoon in full view (as it is normally hidden away in the orchestra) and to hear its solo repertoire. Emily demonstrated the variety of its sounds, from chocolate brown legato to orange staccato pops with great technical skill.  Her programme ranged from 20th century Gordon Jacob, to a Hungarian Rondo by Weber and a dramatic and melodic Saint-Saëns sonata, his last-ever composition.  Such commitment and talent is remarkable.  Emily plays in the National Youth Orchestra and is also doing her GCSEs this year.


14-year-old cellist Oliver Simpson, also a music scholar (at Abingdon), gave a mature, confident performance, beyond his years.  There was a lovely rapport between him and his accompanist on the piano, his father Nicholas.  Oliver’s programme included Bach, Fauré, Tchaikovsky, and challenging pieces by Shostakovich and Popper.  He showed the cello in all its moods and colours and clearly enjoyed the virtuoso passages he played with great conviction.  Oliver has had much success in music competitions, and at Norden Farm he showed it is fully deserved.

Maidenhead Music Society has given talented young musicians a platform for many years - from Jacqueline du Pré in 1962 to BBC Young Musician Martin Bartlett in 2013.  Look out for Ewan Millar and Harvey Lin (both of whom have played for MMS recently) – and now Emily and Oliver. 


Christine Jones

Endellion concert review 20 June 2019


Top English String Quartet celebrates forty years of playing together


Forty years is a long time for a group to work together but that is exactly the anniversary which the Endellion String Quartet has just achieved.  On Thursday evening, the Endellion, one of the top string quartets in the country, gave a concert at Norden Farm hosted by Maidenhead Music Society.  They opened the concert with an early work by Haydn, which they played with the poise and easy intimacy of four people who had worked for many years to arrive at their mutual understanding.  Puccini’s ‘I Crisantemi’is a unique piece written by a composer principally renowned for his operas; it is short, but lyrical and melodious.  Others play this with more elastic tempi and plentiful rubato, but the Endellion’s view was quite strict; some might have wished for more emotion.  


But emotion was not lacking when the quartet tackled Czech composer Janacek’s 20thcentury masterpiece ‘The Kreutzer Sonata’ inspired by Tolstoy’s novella of the same title.  It tells the story of a marriage disturbed when the wife is introduced to a young violinist and the husband falls prey to suspicions of infidelity. The music expresses anguish, anger, frustration, argument, despair, misery and resignation.  The often-frantic score was brilliantly captured by the players, the flow of the music around the players being dramatically and clearly brought out.


The final work in the concert was Smetana’s first string quartet.  It is another programmatic piece, described in a letter by the composer, also Czech, as a ‘tone picture of my life’.  The first movement opens with a solo for the viola, played by Garfield Jackson, intensely and robustly.  This mood was matched by cellist David Waterman on his rare 18thcentury cello by Giovanni Guadagnini, picking up the rumbustious bucolic character of the polka in the second movement.  The final Vivowas haunted by the shrill top E on Andrew Watkinson’s violin, representing the onset of Smetana’s tinnitus and deafness before the music at last fades away to nothing.  Throughout Watkinson was strongly supported by second violin Ralph de Souza in the complex interplays.


Philip Ratcliffe

Linos Piano Trio deliver musical nectar of the gods


Named after Linos, the Greek demi-god of music, the Linos Piano Trio received a warm and enthusiastic reception at a concert presented by Maidenhead Music Society at Norden Farm last Thursday [25 April].  The Linos’ eclectic programme ranged through the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries and opened with a short taster by CPE Bach, son of the now more famous Johann Sebastian.  

The trio went on to play Beethoven’s Second Symphony; whereas the audience might have expected this to be performed by an orchestra of over forty, the composer himself had re-scored his symphony for only three instruments.  It worked.  The balance between pianist Prach Boondiskulchok, violinist Konrad Elias-Trostmann and cellist Vladimir Waltham was always delicately judged and the novel format will have been a revelation to many listening.

After the interval, the Linos went full-throttle into Brahms’ third and final work for this combination.  The fire and passion of the writing was punctuated by the composer’s pauses, perfectly timed by the Linos, the sudden silences breath-taking.  They persuasively mastered the technical and musical challenges of the piece including the very fast pizzicato passages.

The formal programme concluded with the Linos’ own arrangement of Ravel’s “La Valse”, where Ravel beguilingly opens his composition with attractive, lilting, almost-traditional waltzes which gradually morph into something more troubled and sinister.  The mutual understanding of the three players built a darkening musical image with the utmost conviction.  The audience’s enthusiastic applause brought its reward with an encore of Debussy’s lovely “Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune” which sent everyone away happy.


Philip Ratcliffe

Joanne Edworthy sings for Maidenhead Music Society at Norden Farm


Classical music lovers were given a special treat at Norden Farm last Thursday when High Wycombe mezzo soprano Joanne Edworthy sang at a concert presented by Maidenhead Music Society. She opened her recital with songs from Debussy, followed by little-known works for cabaret by Britten.  The centrepiece of the performance was Schubert’s ‘Shepherd on the Rock’ where Joanne was accompanied by local clarinettist Ben Aldren.  After the interval, Ben gave a riveting account of a theme and variations by Rossini, showing off his virtuosity with beautifully-controlled high-speed passages and elegant tone.  

Joanne returned to the stage to sing Spanish songs by Granados and Obradors before closing the concert interpreting witty compositions by Sondheim.  Her diction and articulation were exemplary, enabling every word to be clearly heard and her accents in French, Spanish and German were impeccably authentic.  She added to the beautiful tone and clarity of her voice with facial expressions and body language which wonderfully illustrated the emotions she was singing about – passion, concern, wit, humour.  Throughout, pianist David Alexander accompanied with delicacy and sensitivity, and considerable technical talent.

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