The following concerts were the only ones possible in 2020.
9th January. ICKNIELD ENSEMBLE. Arwen Newband, Alan Thorogood, violins; Nicholas Turner, viola; Sarah Boxall, cello; Anna Le Hair, piano.
This ensemble has strong local connections, with the Tring-based Anna, a tireless presence in live music throughout the Vale, in charge of the piano. This is the last of our series featuring masterpieces from the French chamber music renaissance towards the end of the 19th century (that said, the Fauré G minor Piano Quartet is scheduled for next year). The Franck Piano Quintet is simply one of the most explicitly passionate chamber works in the repertoire, and the St Mary acoustic will be perfect for its emotional extravagance. The Hungarian Dohnányi’s C minor Piano Quintet is a remarkable work for an 18-year-old, and no less a figure than Brahms arranged its Vienna premiere. Quite a programme, and you should allow a full 75 minutes for it.
16th January. IAN BYRNE BRITO, viola; SIU CHUI LI, piano.
The performance of the Shostakovich Viola Sonata offered here has been a difficult project, with the original violist becoming, as the euphemism has it, ‘indisposed’; however, there is every hope he may be able to attend this concert. Ian, a superb musician, well known to us through the Anern Trio and the Friern Ensemble, stepped in, and – with Siu Chui, who has an international reputation as a chamber pianist [she has visited us before, in the Trout Quintet] – has learnt this incredibly demanding work especially for us. It is the composer’s last, composed while he was dying, with two meditative movements framing one of his great ironic ‘scherzos’. The finale features a Beethoven quotation which everyone will recognise. Ian and Siu Chui will also play an arrangement by Forbes Watson of Mozart’s E minor Violin Sonata K304. We owe both our guests a debt of gratitude for this concert.
23rd January. UEDA / RINALDO DUO. Lisa Ueda, violin; Daniele Rinaldo, piano.
Japanese-born Lisa first played for us over a decade ago as a student, making a huge impression. Since she has appeared as a violinist in the Anern Trio and Friern Ensemble, but – at last – we have her with Daniele Rinaldo in one of the finest international duo partnerships of their generation. Daniele is anyway one of the foremost of younger Italian pianists, and has played as a soloist all over the world. They are stepping in for a cancellation, and their programme contains works they will have prepared for their second CD, due to be recorded just before our concert: the sonata by Reynaldo Hahn from 1926/7, a neglected lyrical masterpiece, and the Divertimento by Stravinsky, arranged from his Tchaikovsky-inspired ballet, The Fairy’s Kiss. From their first CD, which hopefully will be on sale, comes the fiery Violin Sonata by Janáček. Allow over the hour for this world-class concert.
30th January. NATASHA SACHSENMEIER, violin; JENNIFER HUGHES, piano.
Natasha, as well as a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music, has a degree in philosophy from Trinity College Cambridge, and a mathematics degree from the OU. She has played widely, not least once before at Aylesbury. Her pianist was then, and is now, Jennifer Hughes, a superb and versatile chamber musician, and a welcome visitor to St Mary’s for well over a decade. The programme promises nothing but enjoyment: Bartók’s First Rhapsody, evoking Balkan folk music, Brahms’ most dramatic Violin Sonata, the D minor, and the violin version of Prokofiev’s delightful D major Sonata, usually heard on the flute (as we did in back in November). And in case anyone thinks that’s poor value for your fiver, Natasha (especially) and Jennifer will take deep breaths and play Antonio Bazzini’s La Ronde des Lutins / Dance of the Goblins. You may not believe it.
6th February. CONSTANCE CHOW, piano.
Constance was trained at King’s College London and Guildhall, and now enjoys a reputation as a concert pianist across the UK and Europe and in her native Hong Kong. In this, her first recital at Aylesbury, she is playing Schumann’s evergreen Kinderszenen, Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales and the Fifth Sonata in F minor by the English composer York Bowen, first performed in 1924. Bowen – who has a considerable following – is often lazily called the ‘English Rachmaninov’, but this gives a sense of his Romantic style. His music has certainly been requested, and for some this will be a highlight.
13th February. AYLESBURY OPERA. Louisa PETAIS, Eva Gheorghiu, sopranos; Rachel FARAGO, mezzo-soprano; Philip Hayes, tenor; Alistair Sutherland, baritone.; Kelvin Lim, piano.
AO’s annual visit, and how good they are under their brilliant music director Kelvin! A feast from verismo operas – Puccini, Leoncavallo, Mascagni, Cilea. More information is likely to appear on the website.
20th February. ADRIANA CRISTEA, violin; MINA BELDIMANESCU, piano.
Two newcomers – exciting prize-winning Romanian musicians who are bringing an hour-long programme called Romania with Love, an anthology of short pieces by various composers, mostly unknown beyond the Carpathians. The selection has been made with emphasis on the folk roots Balkan music. Adriana calls herself a passionate violinist, and that is the quality needed for this earthy colourful repertoire. Let’s see if she and Mina can set the church on fire (so to speak). You might be sorry if you miss this one.
27th February. MIKHAIL LEZDKAN, cello; BÉLA HARTMANN, piano.
Mikhail is a distinguished Russian-born cellist, now living and working in the UK. He has toured Asia with Vanessa Mae, worked with orchestras such as the St Petersburg and Moscow Philharmonic, and is a chamber musician and teacher. Béla’s connection with St Mary’s go back to the early years of the century, and it’s wonderful to have him back. He is Czech-German, but lives in the UK, and has played all over Europe and at the Carnegie Hall in New York. This is the first of two concerts to commemorate Beethoven’s 250th birth anniversary with all his cello sonatas. You will hear Opus 5 no 1 in F, and the great A major Sonata Opus 69. The series will be concluded on 4th June.
5th March. ANNA LE HAIR, piano.
The versatile Tring-based pianist (see 9th January) – her repertoire, and her energy, seem inexhaustible – is returning for a solo recital. She is to play Beethoven’s first published sonata (we are celebrating his 250th birth anniversary), Janáček’s beautiful set of atmospheric miniatures On an overgrown path, and Debussy’s ebullient L’isle joyeuse. A beautifully constructed programme.
12th March. A Handel On Jazz Trio:
TOM RIDOUT, amplified recorder; BILLY MARROWS, guitar; FLO MOORE, double bass.
This is one of our rare ventures into jazz, bringing to St Mary’s three outstanding musicians of the younger generation. Tom Ridout was a finalist in the 2016 BBC Young Musician Jazz Award, and has since graduated from the RAM and won the Lancaster Festival Youth Jazz Competition. His album, No Excuses (hopefully on sale) features Tom on tenor and soprano saxophones and alto and bass recorders with a 13 piece band. For us, we have two other stars of the young jazz scene, Billy Marrows, named the 2019 Eddie Harvey Jazz Arranger of the Year, and bassist Flo Moore. The programme includes a reworking of a Handel sonata.
17th September: Adriana Cristea and Mina Beldimanescu (violin and piano)
Two brilliant Romanian musicians play a wonderfully attractive selection of music, Leclair’s Sonata no. 3; the popular ‘Meditation’ by Thais; and two of the greatest violin sonatas ever written: Beethoven’s Spring Sonata and Brahms, Sonata no. 1.
24th September: Adam Parrish (piano)
Adam plays music from Beethoven and Schubert, together with arrangements of music by Gershwin, Freddie Mercury, G&S and Russ Conway.
1st October: Henri Hill + Emma Purslow (violin and viola)
Bartok and Mozart Duos and some other treats, including jazzy numbers by Benedict Brydern.
8th October: Joana Ly + Martin André (violin and piano)
Two masterpieces: the youthful, dramatic sonata by Strauss (i.e. Richard; not Johann from Strictly Come Waltzing)
And the wonderful second sonata of Brahms.
15th October: Julia Wallin (piano)
Erkki Melartin: Rain- Barcarole-Salome's Dance
Toivo Kuula: Mutton Dance
Ilmari Hannikainen: Feux follet- Evening -A la Fontaine
Sibelius: Selection from the Trees op.75
22nd October: Jelena Makarova (piano)
Beethoven (1770-1827). Sonata No. 15 in D Major, Op. 28 "Pastorale"
Bružaitė (b. 1966). "Be Moon" (World Premiere) (2020)
Chopin (1810-1849). Polonaise in C sharp Minor, Op. 26 No. 1
Riley (b. 1963). "Hook, Line and Sinker" (2019)
Medekšaitė (b. 1979 ). "Textile 6" (2020)
Ustvolskaya (1919-2006). Sonata No. 6
29th October: Gerard Cousins (guitar) FULLY BOOKED
A reflective programme of Gerard’s own compositions including a homage to the great jazz guitarist John McLaughlin as well as my transcriptions of music by Arvo Part and Philip Glass (CD of Glass out on 16th October).