March 24th 2018
The Schubert Ensemble
The Schubert Ensemble is widely recognised as one of the world’s leading exponents of music for piano and strings with more than 80 commissions and over 30 critically acclaimed CDs to its name. They have decided to bring their 35 year career to a close at the end of June 2018 so their Painswick concert was part of their final celebratory season, and included the second performance of a new quintet by Master of the Queen’s Music, Judith Weir, which was premiered at the Wigmore Hall 3 days previously.
- New Piano Quintet (To be premiered at the Wigmore Hall three days prior): Judith Weir
- Piano Quartet in A major Op.30: Chausson
- Piano Quintet in A major D.667 (The Trout): Schubert
April 14th 2018
Raphael Wallfisch (cello)
& John York (piano)
Raphael Wallfisch is one of the most celebrated cellists performing on the international stage and since winning an International Cello Competition in Florence at the age of twenty-four, he has enjoyed a world-wide career playing with the world’s leading orchestras as well as recording nearly every major work for his instrument. Alongside his solo career, Raphael has a long-standing and distinguished duo with John York with whom he has undertaken many international recital tours and made numerous recordings, and the duo celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2017.
- Variations in E flat on Mozart’s “Bei Mannern welche Lieber fuhlen”: Beethoven
- Sonata in A major Op 69: Beethoven
- Sonata No.2 in A minor Op 81: Miaskovsky
- Sonata No.2 in F major Op 99: Brahms
April 28th 2018
The dynamic and charismatic Heath Quartet have established themselves as one of the most exciting British chamber ensembles of our time. Formed in 2002 at the Royal Northern College of Music, they have received numerous awards, and get rave reviews wherever they play. Their recording of Tchaikovsky’s First and Third Quartets was selected as Disk of the Week by both the Sunday Times and BBC Radio 3 and their recording of Tippett’s string quartets won the 2016 GRAMOPHONE Chamber Disk of the Year. Highlights of their 2017/18 season included tours of the US and New Zealand, recitals in Belgium, The Netherlands and Spain, and a five-concert series at Wigmore Hall, featuring the quartets of the celebrated young German composer, Jörg Widmann.
- Quartet in D major op 71 No2: Haydn
- Quartet no 5: Widmann
- Quartet no 1 in D major Op11: Tchaikovsky
May 12th 2018
Dame Sarah Connolly (mezzo soprano)
& Joseph Middleton (piano)
Dame Sarah Connolly is recognized internationally as one of the great mezzo sopranos of our time, celebrated both for her ‘luxury chocolate-liqueur voice and her thrilling theatrical intensity on stage’. Highlights in Dame Sarah’s 2017/18 season include her debut at the Wiener Staatsoper in a new production of Ariodante, the title role in Giulio Cesare at the Glyndebourne Festival, Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde for the Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona and Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with the Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester in Berlin. As one critic has written ‘she is unrivalled, simply the best, most exciting, most galvanizing performer we have today.’
- Programme included the First Performance of a Song Cycle by Sally Beamish set to poetry by Laurie Lee.
- Songs by Vaughan Williams, Gurney, Parry, Howells, Holst, Britten, Tippett and others
Performance Reviews 2018
The first of Painswick Music Society’s season of concerts featured the outstanding Schubert Ensemble with musicians Simon Blendis (violin), Douglas Paterson (viola), Jane Salmon (cello), Peter Buckoke (double bass) and William Howard (piano). The Ensemble is well known for its commissioning work with leading UK composers and also for their workshops with young people. We were honoured to be part of their final celebratory farewell season and our concert followed their Wigmore Hall performance earlier in the week where they had been very warmly received. Their programme started with Chausson’s Piano Quartet in A major, a rarely played but distinctive work in the French romantic tradition which the Ensemble approached with energy and great rapport.
Schubert’s Trout Quintet followed the interval and the charm and exuberance of the music together with the evident enjoyment of the players, was greatly appreciated by a near-capacity audience. This was followed by a new Piano Quintet by Master of the Queen’s Music, Judith Weir, written especially for them and appropriately entitled A Song of Departure, a brief farewell piece based on Schubert’s famous song Abschied from Schwanengesang. Each of the players had their moment in the spotlight and it was a lovely tribute from a composer who has enjoyed a long association with the Ensemble. For the encore they played a beautiful arrangement of Strauss’s Morgen (Tomorrow) which brought a memorable afternoon to a wistful conclusion. The Schubert Ensemble has performed several times for Painswick Music Society during their 35 year career and will be greatly missed by us and their many admirers around the world: we thank them and wish them all the best for the future. house down.
Raphael Wallfisch and John York
The second of Painswick Music Society’s season of concerts featured the prestigious Duo of Raphael Wallfisch (cello) and John York (piano). Their deep musical insights and immaculate playing delighted a capacity audience at St. Mary’s Church.
In order to achieve a balanced sound, it is usual for grand piano lids to be only partially opened when stringed instruments are being accompanied. So, arriving at the church to see the gaping Steinway, with lid fully raised, left one wondering if the sound of the cello might be swallowed up. Worries were groundless: from the first chord of the Beethoven Variations it was apparent that Raphael Wallfisch had tone ‘to burn’. In his masterly hands, the cello throbbed and sang as he projected a gloriously rich sonority which reached every part of the church.
The two artists have performed together for over thirty years and their musical ‘chemistry’ produced a wonderfully balanced account of Beethoven’s 3rd Sonata. They wove a tapestry of sound which flowed seamlessly from one to the other, with both pianist and cellist producing exquisite pianissimos.
The Sonata by the Russian composer, Myaskovsky, was written under the oppressive glare of Stalinist ideology, when composers had to do as they were told – or else! The simple melodies were conveyed with soulful expression.
In the final work, Brahms’ passionate Sonata Op 99, the artists generated a breath-taking range of emotion which swept the audience through the work’s contrasting moods. The pianist’s fine technique enabled him to carry off with ease the difficult and fiery Scherzo movement while the rich melodies and haunting pizzicato notes of the cello part were endowed with a beauty beyond measure.
Listeners, aware that they’d been treated to something very special, conveyed their thanks with energetic applause. In return, as an encore, these fine artists bade us adieu with the lingering beauty of ‘Love Song’ by Karl Weigl.
The Heath Quartet with Mary Bevan (soprano)
Our third concert of this season featured the Heath Quartet ,with musicians Oliver Heath (violin), Sarah Woltensholme (violin), Gary Pomeroy (viola) and Chris Murray (cello) with Mary Bevan (soprano)- all winners of the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artist Award. This was the Quartet’s first visit to Painswick and their fresh and vibrant playing was a delight. Their programme started with Quartet in D major Op71 No 2 by Haydn. A slow introduction to the first movement is followed by octave leaps for all four players in turn, that return at the end of the 3rd movement. This was approached with a lightness of touch, humour and energy. The lines were always clear and there was an impressive rapport between the players. This was followed by Quartet No 5 by Jorg Widmann , a German composer, conductor and clarinettist, born in 1973. Widmann draws on the traditions of quartet writing by composers such as Schubert and Mozart, revealing the vitality of the older music. Oliver Heath gave a helpful introduction to the work, named Attempt at a Fugue, – a reference to the final movement, Grosse Fuge, of Beethoven’s String Quartet Op130 – which greatly increased the audience’s appreciation. There was an unusual diversity of sound with short jagged phrases, interposed with longer more melodic phrases, Bartok (or snap) pizzicato producing a twang, and differing use of the bows including a striking motion in the air, to the beat of the music. This contrasted with Mary Bevan’s vocal component- wonderful legato singing, chromatic and haunting, that held the audience’s complete attention. After the interval, taken up with much discussion of Widmann’s music, we heard Quartet No 1 in D major Op11 by Tchaikovsky. This was full of lovely melodies played with sensitivity and commitment. The famous second movement -Andante cantabile- based on a folk song that Tchaikowsky had heard at his sister’s house, was said to have moved Tolstoy to tears. This was played at a restrained tempo that increased it’s effect. The first theme of the Finale was played with great energy followed by the slower second theme in which there was perfect clarity in the pianissimo section.This brought a wonderful afternoon’s music to a close.
Dame Sarah Connolly and Joseph Middleton
This year, Vienna, Glyndebourne, Covent Garden and the New York Met have all enjoyed the soaring power and gentle playfulness of one of the greatest singers of our time, Dame Sarah Connolly. And now, to round off the concert season, Painswick was privileged to enjoy both a feast of English song and the world premiere of music by composer Sally Beamish who was there in person to hear her setting of four Laurie Lee poems which follow the turn of the seasons, “Day of these Days”, a work sponsored by Painswick Music Society.
Dame Sarah, in a kimono of vibrant, swirling colours (Vivienne Westwood maybe ?) held the audience entranced by that voice which ranges from steely glitter to velvet softness, the diction never less than perfect. Her pianist, Joseph Middleton, is a master of the art of song accompaniment and reflected the mood and soul of each song with wonderful dexterity and sensitivity.
I should also congratulate the compiler of the programme – full details of the performers, the composers including Sally Beamish and her personal connection with Laurie Lee via her mother, and the complete texts of all the songs.
Dame Sarah, our most eminent mezzo soprano whose enthusiastic, warm and friendly personality shines out through her art, brought our 2018 season of concerts to a glittering and memorable close.