The 2013 concert by the Junior Music Scholars was, I am sure, the most consistently and sustainedly excellent in living memory. The new cohort of the seven youngest scholars gave performances of remarkable confidence and musicality. The pianists among them also gave us wonderful variety: Harry Simmonds superbly controlled the cross-rhythms in his Dussek rondo; George Pettifer mastered the counterpoint in a Bach Prelude; Freddie Hawes was sensitive to the jazzy harmonies of Bonsor; and Joe Hill was, indeed, ‘King for the Day’, entrusted with ending the evening (a near two-hour wait) with a Brubeck piece which he played with obvious relish.
Saskia Hogan played two flute movements by Jardanyi (a little-known pupil of Kodaly), quietly delicate and then bright and breezy. Emma Grainger gave us the famous opening movement of Saint-Saёns’s clarinet sonata, catching its lilt with a darkly liquid tone. Equally adept was Elizabeth Paton in the adorable Poulenc sonata (the middle movement): she brought a warm and consoling tone to the main melody and made real drama out of the contrasts.
There were twenty musicians in total and all will be named in a fuller review for ‘The Cranleighan 2014’. Among the five superb string players Zoё Dixon was as astonishingly mature as always, bringing a near-nonchalant virtuosity to a tarantella by van Goen. The only singer was Theo Golden, whose tenor voice has stunning power now, and who gave an idiomatically French feel to his Fauré ‘melodie’. Pianist Ed Walshe was exceptionally sensitive in Debussy: evoking a haunting loneliness.
Bethany Porter caught the dark pastoral quality in Walter Leigh’s Sonatina for treble recorder, and Daniel Evans, a saxophonist of real charisma, ended his pastiche-style piece of Balogh’s with a Hungarian ‘Hey!’
Perhaps the most touching playing of this fine evening came from the two oboists. Fayruz Mediche perfectly captured the dignified stately beauty of Grovlez’s Sarabande and the sprightliness of the Allegro. Christian McCagherty captivated us with his first note (a nerve-wracking high one) in the sonata movement Poulenc dedicated to the memory of Prokofiev. The way he phrased the heart-easing main theme with a beautiful diminuendo at the end brought a tear to the eye with its bitter-sweet tenderness.
A dozen of the youngsters benefited from the sensitive accompaniments of Phil Scriven (switching to harpsichord for Josh Wilson-Khanna’s Hasse) and Richard Saxel, and all them played with a facility that was a credit to their instrumental (or vocal) teachers. Cranleigh Music seems in as rude health as it has ever been.