If the great Pat Dixon were still with us it would have been drinks all round (as it was most nights with this most generous of local musicians) after the champagne performances on Wednesday 21st November in the Clive Stevens Recital Hall during the woodwind performance evening named in his memory. All 18 musicians will be mentioned in the review for ‘The Cranleighan’, so here I will focus mainly on the winners.
The three prizes in the Junior Class went to Tim Ayling, Fayruz Megdiche and Ellen Talbot. Tim brought great control of line and pitch to a sonata Adagio by Bach on treble recorder; Fayruz rose to the challenge of a difficult concerto Allegro by Bellini; and Ellen conveyed the subtle richness of the slow movement of Poulenc’s Clarinet Sonata with consummate musicianship. Spokesman for the adjudicators, Marcus Pashley, commented that too many performers in both classes played into the music stand, but Ellen used her eyes, as well as the dark colours of her clarinet, to communicate this haunting music to the listeners. She was a clear winner. With Ellen and Toby Chesser (who played Lutoslawski!) coming up the School to join George Wilkinson, Emily Hill and Justin Browning, the School is well served on this instrument. Dr Marie Ward and Philip Scriven were the accomplished accompanists; Ruth Miller introduced the evening; the other adjudicators were Catherine Beddison and Kevin Weaver and in the audience were several of the peripatetic wind coaches and the non-peri, John Sandford, who all delighted in the performances of their pupils.
Oboists are a rarer breed, though, in the Senior Class, Ellie Morgan, as always, played with real musicianship. It was Harry McCagherty, however, who won through to the Helen Wareham Competition, playing a Vivaldi concerto movement at a daring tempo, but one that still allowed him to phrase stylishly. Rachel Hurst also qualified, playing Hindemith: a movement with three varied sections which allowed her to explore the full range of the bassoon’s qualities. Here Richard Saxel’s pianism was put to the test, as often in Hindemith and his professionalism cannot be over-stated in terms of the confidence and support it gave these senior players. Catherine Hobbs made up the winning triumvirate and it was a special pleasure to hear the enigmatic and Poulenc-like flute sonatina by Lennox Berkeley, whose music remains much undervalued. In terms of sheer listening pleasure, I felt that Catherine, Harry, Rachel and Ellen were almost equalled by Charlie La Fosse in a sensitive rendering of Bozza’s well-loved ‘Aria’ for alto saxophone of 1936. He also won the audience prize for the best haircut.