For the first pupils’ concert of the academic year the Senior Music Scholars treated the audience in the Clive Stevens Recital Hall on September 12th to a concert of great variety. Virtuosity was notably served up by confidently warm-toned clarinettist Emily Hill in Weber’s ‘Concertino’ and the more singing qualities of the woodwind family (no less a challenge to sustain a legato line on the oboe, especially) was given to us by Fayruz Megdiche in a less well-known piece by Hamilton Harty. It was as if the reed had been dipped in Guinness.
It is a golden time for the horn at Cranleigh and Tim Ayling avoided the more obvious finale of Mozart’s fourth horn concerto for the rondo (with a similar theme) from the third, unless of course he had found his score of the fourth ‘gawn’ as Michael Flanders put it. This music always makes one tempted to include ‘blessed are the cheesemakers’ in a review, thus puzzling those who know not of Leutgeb, for whom this music was composed. Tim galloped in the major fleet-footedly and made the hunting calls sophisticated, rather than raw. The other hornist was Ed Walshe, who played a pavane by a composer dear to the heart of accompanist Richard Saxel (as well as mine) Jean-Michel Damase, who died last year. Ed shaped the short phrases with subtlety and showed a musical grasp of how the variations related to the theme.
The singers both entertained us in Italian: Abby Frett in the familiar ‘Se tu m’ami’ by ‘Pergolesi’, supposedly, but actually by nineteenth century editor Parisotti. A bigger voice needed a bigger aria so tenor Theo Golden gave us Bellini’s ‘I Puritani’, though there was nothing puritanical about his generous tone that filled the small acoustic warmly. This was a riveting performance with a compelling cadenza and a timbre that had an almost French colour, thus avoiding the ‘can belto’ style of some Italian tenors.
A third ‘singer’ was Noah Frett who played the song by Joy Webb (often performed on the cornet with brass band) ‘Share my yoke’ (‘and find that I am joined with you’) on trumpet. I am old enough to remember her Salvation Army group, ‘The Joystrings’ but this was poignant, rather than joyful.
In 1959, Francis Poulenc finished his series of 15 improvisations for piano with No. 15 in C minor, subtitled ‘L’hommage à Edith Piaf’, which echoes the melancholy, impassioned strains of ‘The Little Sparrow’. New recruit to the senior Scholars, Alice Simmonds, played idiomatically and with a subtle rubato that underlined the aching nostalgia of this heart-easing piece.
The finest composition of the evening was the opening of the great violin sonata by famous Belgian Cesar Franck, a piece that always seems suited to evening listening with its smokey melancholy and almost unbearable nostalgia. Olivia Chesser had the power to balance Richard Saxel’s piano and played with real passion.
Saving the deepest to last, double-bassist Harrison White, played three of Vaughan Williams’s ‘Six Studies in English Folk Song’, originally for cello and piano but since then transcribed for at least ten other soloists. He was poised in ‘Spurn Point’, eloquent in ‘Van Dieman’s Land’ and subtle in ‘She Borrowed Some of her Mother’s Gold’. This was, indeed, a 24-carat evening of borrowed gold as these ten talented musicians filled our ears with golden music-making.