The evening began with the Junior section and Kate Wili’s performance of Godard’s ‘Idylle’ for flute and piano. As a new music scholar, Kate’s performance was both musical and confident as she conveyed the picturesque nature of the piece. Another new flautist and scholar, Jasmine Davis, performed Lili Boulanger’s ‘Nocturne’ and beautifully portrayed the slow and meditative opening as well as the more powerful and soaring second section. Tom Hills’ performance of Stanford’s ‘Intermezzo’ was full of character and control as he ably displayed the clarinet’s wide tonal range. George Chilcott chose James Rae’s ‘East Coast Mainline’ for alto sax and piano. Rae’s love of trains was evident in this energetic and exciting piece, and George’s rendition could not fail to impress with his skill and dexterity; he’s certainly one to watch in the future.
Bea Pakenham- Walsh was the only player to perform a piece from the Baroque period and her beautifully rich oboe sound was complemented by some tricky finger passages in the second movement. Lizzy Paton’s performance of the 1st movement of Saint-Saens Clarinet Sonata displayed some lovely musical shaping and a mellifluous sound. In contrast to this piece, George Pettifer played Lutoslawski’s ‘Dance Prelude No. 1’ for clarinet and piano. Written in 1954, the folksong influences from the composer’s native Poland were a joy to listen to and George captured the character very well indeed. As such a popular piece in the saxophone repertoire it wasn’t surprising that we were treated to a second performance of Rae’s ‘East Coast Mainline’ where Freddie Hawes gave an accomplished and mature performance of this animated piece. Reuben Gray performed ‘Fujiko’ by Andy Scott on the tenor saxophone. Originally written for a music conference in Tokyo in 2005, the piece has an improvisatory feel and Reuben captured the melancholic and reflective mood very well indeed. This young man really does know how to perform and he clearly loves it.
Two more performances of works by 20th century composers included Saskia Hogan’s Hindemith Sonata and Emma Grainger’s Finzi ‘Fughetta’ from ‘Five Bagatelles.’ Both are very interesting pieces and the Finzi was heard for a second time by Toby Chesser in the senior class. The British composer wrote his ‘Five Bagatelles’ in 1941 just before he was drafted to work for the Ministry of War Transport. The ‘Fughetta’ is the last movement and undoubtedly provides a lively finale as it explores the full range of the clarinet. Both Emma and Toby performed this piece with musical exuberance.
In the Senior section Josh Wilson-Khanna also performed movements from Hindemith’s Flute Sonata. The piece was written in 1936 and in the same year the Nazis placed a ban on all performances of Hindemith’s music, citing it as “cultural Bolshevism.” Hindemith sought to expand the concert repertoire, particularly for wind instruments, and used these pieces as technical exercises. The 3rd movement, played by Saskia, includes an expanded final section which concludes with a parody of a military march. Both Josh and Saskia displayed technical assurance and captured the emotion of this challenging work.
Beth Porter performed the 1st and 2nd movements of the Staeps Sonata in Eb major. Her sensitive and accomplished playing was evident and it was clear that she had good communication with her accompanist. Hanul Kang is a new clarinetist in the 6th Form and his rendition of the 2nd movement of the Weber Concerto was a real delight to listen to. Weber had the Romantic’s preoccupation with the idea of painting tonal pictures and Hanul really captured the movements haunting melody. Alex Hills gave a pleasing performance of Bozza’s ‘Aria’ and Ellen Talbot concluded the evening with the 1st movement of Poulenc’s Clarinet Sonata. Written in 1962 it was one of the last pieces he completed and is dedicated to the memory of an old friend and composer, Arthur Honegger. It has a brief introduction consisting of angry spurts of figuration, but the remainder of the movement proceeds with a sense of grief and melancholy. As an experienced performer Ellen successfully communicated the music and gave a very skillful performance.
In the Junior Section, 1st Prize went to George Chilcott, 2nd Prize to Emma Grainger and 3rd Prize to Saskia Hogan. The three Senior performances of the evening that were chosen to go through to the final in the spring were Beth Porter, Josh Wilson-Khanna and Ellen Talbot. However, Fayruz Megdiche will also join them in the final. Fayruz was unable to perform as she was in Manchester auditioning for a place at the Royal Northern College of Music. It was decided that due to Fayruz’s commitments to the department and her level of playing, it would not be fair to exclude her from the competition. With some truly outstanding woodwind performances, the final is one not to be missed!
Enormous thanks must go to Richard Saxel and Philip Scriven who accompanied all of the performers. Their musicianship and support would no doubt have put each student at ease.
Head of Woodwind and Brass