The annual competition for strings players was recently named after the late Jack Cook, a long-standing supporter of Cranleigh School music-making, and even at 10:15pm on Friday March 1st, a large audience in the MMS stayed to hear which three musicians were to be sent through to the Helen Wareham Competition in April.

The three were Ian Lee, who played the minuet movement of the Brahms cello E minor sonata with delicate care; Ben Rudolf, who gave a cultured interpretation of the first movement of BeethovStrings Winner.NEWS.Zoe Dixonen’s ‘Spring’ sonata; and Ellen Dixon, who played her mother’s violin in the opening movement of Grieg’s C minor sonata. As Ellen eloquently added in her introduction to her performance, this was real chamber music, with Richard Saxel rising to the challenge of the difficult piano part and giving all eight senior players the benefit of his professionalism. All players will be name-checked in my review for ‘The Cranleighan’, but I will add that Ellen also gave a most moving performance of Hindemith’s ‘Trauermusik’ on viola, and if there had been an audience prize (as once there was) my vote, and many more, I suspect, would have gone to Terri Yoon for her richly enjoyable romp through the old war-horse that is Monti’’s ‘Czardas’. I was astonished to hear that she had not had a violin lesson for two years!

In the Junior section there were 13 very capable players (expertly accompanied, when needed, by Dr Marie Ward), suggesting that the strength-in-depth of string playing at Cranleigh might be stronger than at any time in its history.  Again, there is space only to focus on the three winners and it was a special pleasure to hear a double bass player, Harrison White, recognised for his deft musicianship and for giving his instrument a dignified, resonant tone in a Marcello arrangement. Second was Olivia Chesser, who played ‘Resignation’ by the French violinist Dancla (1817-1907 and a pupil of Paganini and Vieuxtemps). In most years this mature and stylish fiddle playing would have earned first prize, but 2013 is a rare vintage. The indisputable winner was ’cellist Zoё Dixon, who played the familiar ‘Allegro Appassionato’ by Saint-Saёns with such confidence and poise that, with eyes closed, one might have thought one was hearing a seasoned professional, not a IVth Former. What was most striking was the subtlety of the colouring (with very musical glissandi) in a piece that can sound clumsy and four-square in (dare I say) male hands, yet there was no lack of power in the flamboyant opening phrases.

The quality of music-making this evening was testament to the teaching of our many visiting peripatetics and, of course, the evening’s master of ceremonies and Head of Strings Kevin Weaver.