It has long been a Cranleigh tradition to kick-start the new musical year with recitals given by the many fine Music Scholars in the school. This week was the turn of the Senior Music Scholars; thirteen of them, although far from an unlucky number as each rose magnificently to the challenge of performance so early in the year, even before instrumental lessons had begun. An achievementSenior Music Scholars_ Concert_20421 in itself, as Richard Saxel (Head of Performance) and the evening’s accompanist pointed out in his customarily genial introduction, welcoming the packed Clive Stevens Recital Hall to the start of a new year of Cranleigh music making.

Stringed instruments are well represented this year in the Seniors. Olivia Chesser produced a sweet tone in a movement from Goldmark’s A minor Violin Concerto with just the right amount of vibrato to warm the tone and responding well to the impassioned climax. Deescha Chandrasma (cello) rose to the challenge of the tricky leaps in Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, reminding one of the very distinctive challenges of each of the different instrumental families, here so much more physically demanding than on the original designation for clarinet, but sounding wholly natural in Deescha’s performance. Soo Choi presented careful tuning and a good variety of tone in Dancla’s Resignation and Zoe Dixon impressed greatly in her summer holiday project to learn the first movement of Brahms’ E minor cello sonata. Zoe showed technical assurance and an early grasp of the musical architecture of this epic work, one of the very finest in the cello repertoire.

Two fine vocalists are emerging in Theo Golden and Abby Frett. Theo is gaining acclaim externally, last year winning one of the Royal Academy of Music Junior Department’s singing prizes. ThisMusic Banner evening he showed a notable development of his countertenor range in the dynamic Qui sedes from Vivaldi’s Gloria. Abby brought a lighter note to the proceedings in the delicious waltz-influenced Je te veux by Eric Satie. As the only brass player of the evening, Ed Walshe captured well the idiom of the jazz-inspired That Rainy Day in an arrangement for French Horn. Alice Simmonds, representing the keyboard family, and always a sensitive pianist, responded beautifully to the languid ebb and flow of Brahms’s Op.118 Intermezzo. 

This year’s seniors include a very fine crop of advanced woodwind players. Dan Evans (saxophone) showed poise and elegant articulation in Bach’s Adagio in G minor, ably demonstrating why so much of this composer’s music has been transcribed for the instrument. Ellen Talbot (clarinet) captured beautifully the bitter-sweet quirks of Poulenc’s fascinating compositional style in a movement from the Clarinet Sonata with fine gradations of tone and a wonderfully wide dynamic range. A fine instrumental tone also came from Joshua Wilson-Khanna; so good to hear a boy playing the flute so well and capturing the rhapsodic nature of Godard’s Idylle. Bethany Porter is continuing Cranleigh’s tradition of producing highly advanced recorder players and in two movements from Staeps’ Sonata in E flat demonstrated both a fine legato tone and seemingly effortlessly neat articulation. Fayruz Megdiche brought the woodwind contribution to a fine conclusion with a meticulously prepared and technically assured performance of York Bowen’s Op. 85 Oboe Sonata. Fayruz has recently heard that she has been successful in passing the coveted Diploma qualification in oboe performance (a major leap beyond Grade 8) and deserves much congratulation for that honour, so rarely bestowed on students still at school.

It is easy to forget, when so much music is a fleetingly-fashionable marketed commodity by design, that the greatest music, like the greatest plays and stage roles, demands of performers in some cases many years of development, thought and re-thought for interpretations to reach full maturity. We always encourage our advanced musicians to view a single performance never as a finished article, but as a step on the road to greater understanding of a piece they may perform many times in their lives, gaining greater technical assurance and depth of interpretation with each. Our Senior Scholars took a very encouraging first step along that road this evening and congratulations are due to all as well as huge thanks to Richard Saxel for his expert preparation and accompaniment of all the performers.

Marcus Pashley
Director of Music