The second in a trilogy of weekly concerts showcasing the music scholars of the Senior and Preparatory Schools delighted a large audience in the MMS on Friday 21st September. The seventeen musicians from the Lower School were given musically sympathetic support by Dr Marie Ward and Philip Scriven in performances that, as Director of Cranleigh Music Marcus Pashley explained, were not all the fully polished article yet at this early stage of term. Such a prologue was scarcely needed, given the sheer quality of musicianship we heard, not least from the hugely talented group of scholars in the new intake.
Tim Ayling seems almost a veteran by now and his assured Haydn horn concerto movement showed the highs and lows of his instrument to stunning effect. Ed Walshe hopes one day to give us the Hindemith horn sonata but for now we were happy to enjoy his burnished tone in a study by Concone. It was a nice idea to juxtapose two of Vaughan Williams’s ‘Studies in English Folk Song,’ played with real expressiveness on the double bass by Harrison White, with another pair on the saxophone (shaking off its city dirt in the country air) played by Daniel Evans: a charismatic performer.
Two of the most affecting readings of the evening came from clarinettists. Emily Hill played the opening of the Poulenc sonata with the necessary confidence to contrast the beauty of her soft playing with a deliberately harsh stridency, thus catching the two sides of the composer famously defined by Claude Rostand: ‘le moine et le voyou’. Ellen Talbot made the once-familiar ‘A Victorian Kitchen Garden’ by Paul Reade seem more than light incidental music: the exposed solo expressive, the quiet duetting with Philip Scriven really drawing the listeners in. Bethany Porter transcended the anachronism of a piano accompaniment to take us back through her pure intonation and crisp articulation to the time of Frescobaldi on her recorder.
There were three fine violoncellists, with Abigail Frett contrasting the rhythmic strumming and sinuous oriental melody in a piece by one of the ‘Russian Five’ composers (or ‘Mighty Handful), Cui. Deescha Chandrasma gave an amazingly mature and touching interpretation of a beautiful Moeran prelude, a late and welcome substitution for the programmed piece. Zoe Dixon balanced with real poise the spiritual intensity of Bach with the sustained beauty of tone needed for this arrangement by the great Pierre Fournier. Violinist Soo Choi also balanced the mechanical tangy modernity of Stravinsky and the spirit of the original baroque source (by Gallo, not, as Stravinsky believed, Pergolesi) in the opening of the ‘Suite Italienne’ he cobbled from his ‘Pulcinella’ ballet.
Singers Theo Golden (tenor) and Sam Halstead (treble) both sang Durante with care over the words and no forcing of the tone. Both projected the character of the contrasting songs, one subtle, one more extrovert, as appropriate. Flautist Joshua Wilson-Khanna adopted sensible tempi in his Loeillet movements, giving the Allemande its dance character, and his pleasing open sound eschewed excessive vibrato. Fayruz Megdiche gave us lovely oboe tone and all the dexterity needed to project her Bellini movement, with its lyrical opening and its playful variations.
The two pianists played in contrasting styles with Noah Frett playing a Bossa Nova in jazz style with a strong feel for idiom, harmony and syncopation. By contrast some of the most inward and touchingly subtle playing of the evening was by Olivia Chesser in a liquidly phrased prelude by Scriabin, blending modernism with an aching nostalgia.
Vaughan Williams knew and arranged the folksong ‘Seventeen Come Sunday’ (‘the drum and fife are my delight, and a pint of rum in the morning’); after these seventeen on Friday (all well under seventeen, of course) there was no need for the rum to lift our spirits, though the usual refreshments were provided by our hard-working catering staff, to whom thanks are due along with thanks to the many instrumental teachers behind the success of this evening.