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
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
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)
Dame Sarah Connolly and Joseph Middleton
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.