nadsa Concert Reviews 2012 to 2015

Nadsa Concert Review List
Artist Performance Date
The Tim Kliphuis Jazz Trio 20th November 2015
Sally Pryce 16th October 2015
Ron Abramski 18th September 2015
Samantha Ward 17th April 2015
The Wihan Quartet 21st March 2015
Judith Hall and Craig Ogden 20th February 2015
ZUM3 18th January 2015
Ensemble Marquise 21st November 2014
Varenne Ensemble 31st October 2014
Sara Trickey and Dan Tong 19th September 2014
The Songmen 11 April 2014
The Fitzwilliam Quartet 21 March 2014
Katona Twins 21st February 2014
The Florin Trio 18th January 2014
Jack Liebeck and Martin Cousin 15th November 2013
Rosalind Coad and Gregory Drott 18th October 2013
Paul Lewis 21st September 2013
Pure Brass 15 February 2013
Jacqueline White with Clive Matthews 18 January 2013
Mark Bebbington 18 November 2012
Reviews of other performances
Current Reviews
Reviews from 2016 to 2018

The Tim Kliphuis Jazz Trio
Friday 20th November 7.30pm at the Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot.
The Tim Kliphuis Jazz Trio after their scintillating Nadsa concert; with the Mayor, Councillor Mike Ryan, and Mayoress; and James Fox, S.W. Regional Director of Sponsors Rathbones Investment Management.
The Tim Kliphuis Jazz Trio after their scintillating Nadsa concert; with the Mayor, Councillor Mike Ryan, and Mayoress; and James Fox, S.W. Regional Director of Sponsors Rathbones Investment Management.

There could have been no better offer of a place to be than with the Tim Kliphuis Jazz Trio at the Courtenay Centre Newton Abbot last Friday. Very fitting that in front of a near capacity audience Newton Abbot's mayor, councillor Mike Ryan, presented a cheque for £600 to nadsaconcerts.

The Stephane Grappelli-inspired Tim took us gently into what became a jaunty 'Tea for Two' that gave way to an impressive feature by Nigel Clark on guitar and later gave us our first experience of Roy Percy's percussive use of his bass. It was then Nigel's turn to introduce us to Hoagy Carmichael's 'The Nearness of You' where there was superb subtlety and balance between violin and guitar.

Stephane Grappelli's advice to play what you like, as opposed to his direct musical influence on Tim Kliphuis, burst upon us with the Trio's version of Vivaldi’s 'Four Seasons'. An insistent, even threatening, bass line was the prelude to Vivaldi as I had never heard him interpreted and improvised before.

After Tim, a Dutchman, had introduced us to Roy, a Scot, and Nigel an Irishman, the international mix was maintained by their next offering of a Tango: Tim's own composition, 'Astor's Dream'. The sultry hint of melancholy easily flowed from this smoothly balanced trio. And then followed 'Souvenir de Vilingen', a Graphelli number, wistfully presented.
But the mood abruptly changed for the Aaron Copland's inspired ‘Hoedown for the Common Man’. A blasting fanfare gave way to Celtic folk with 'She Moved Through The Fair' as one of the themes; then much ingenious improvisations before returning to Celtic roots.

We were eased back after the interval by the atmospheric jazzy 'I Surrender Dear'. Tim introduced the next piece as Faure's 'Nocturne No 1'. This was where we were taken from fun and sensations to awe and, for me, tingle-factor. The delicacy of touch and precision of intonation was superb; and one could easily smile as Latin rhythms made unexpected ripples.
Violin pizzicato led us into 'You Look Good to Me' which was a vehicle for high speed solo improvisations of all three instruments.
'Où Es - Tu Mon Amour' saw a return to the haunting wistful style; which was followed by a piece using pronounced slides of gypsy style. The trio's finale was 'Piccadilly Stomp' technically demanding and excitedly fast, leaving us exhilarated.
To continuing applause, the trio returned with their encore of Richard Strauss' 'Morgen' drawing a stunned electric silence from the audience; the mark that something special was taking place.

The appeal of Tim Kliphuis is so wide ranging. Who else would dare to mix Django Reinhart in the same programme as Richard Strauss; not to mention Faure, Vivaldi and Hoagy Carmichael; and to make the mix so natural? Only the broad ranging virtuosity of this trio makes it possible.
This was not the first time Tim Kliphuis had performed for NADSA concerts, and I certainly hope it will not be many years before this Trio returns again by very popular demand.

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Sally Pryce
Friday 16th October 2015 7.30pm at the Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot.

Sally Pryce after her impressive Nadsa concert at the Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot.
Sally Pryce after her impressive Nadsa concert at the Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot.

Sally Pryce's programme blew out of the water any ideas that the harp is just for nymphs, Celtic fringe Folk, and the arrival of the pantomime fairy queen. Britten's Sonata for Harp Op 83 was written for Osian Ellis [The virtuoso harpist whom I had heard playing in a NADSA concert in the 1950s]. This Sonata is somewhat of a showcase for both the performer and the diverse capabilities of the instrument. In Sally's hands, and indeed feet, the Sonata's 'Overture' had a mysterious mood of building drama that at times had a threatening bass. The Toccata was playful, bright and nervously darting. The Nocturne was pensive, and eerily produced a hypnotic tension. From an almost courtly opening, the Fugue became light and fun; whereas in the Hymn, after many ideas and a spiritual feel, we were left with an unresolved note, the resonance of which the harp does so well. This reminded us that it was only one instrument we had been listening to, not an orchestra.

Our musical feet were then firmly placed in harp territory with 'Watching the White Wheat', a traditional Welsh folk song arranged by John Thomas, the Welsh harpist of Queen Victoria. Here there developed a rippling background to a basically strophic melodic narrative that was sensitively and poignantly portrayed.
The Sonata in D by the blind Welsh composer John Parry put us into the Baroque style, with a lively and tuneful Allegro followed by a sedate and subtly phrased Andante and a concluding brisk and dancy Gavotte.
The impressionist style then flowed over us with Tournier's Sonatine Op 30. There were shimmering lights, delicate calm serenity, and sweeping climactic glissandi that lushly demonstrated the golden age of the harp in Paris.

Hindemith's Sonata [1939] brought us forward in time again. Its first movement's overarching phrasing was highly reminiscent of ecclesiastical grandeur and church bells, whereas the second was contrastingly playful. A poem, 'Friends, when I am dead', was the inspiration for a sombre, though serenely detached final movement. This was another superbly executed example of the power of the harp to create mood images.

In a lighter mode, Glinka's Variations on a theme of Mozart were thoroughly charming, and put me in mind, rather disrespectfully, of musical boxes!

Sally had given brief introductions to each piece; but, in the second part of the concert, she talked about the diversity of harps both in the Celtic fringe and further afield. Hers, being a concert harp, has the 7 pedal system which allows chromatic and key changes, albeit with some effort; whereas diatonic glissandi are easy.

Of all the music we heard in this concert, Hasselmans' La Source was the most familiar. With this familiarity goes the danger of expectations unfulfilled, but not so here: we were treated to a sparklingly sensitive rendition.

The Santa Fe Suite by the Welsh composer William Mathias drew the concert to a close. It was inspired by his visit to New Mexico: the movement 'Landscape' conjured a decidedly Spanish heat, whilst the final movement 'Sun Dance' was fiercely visceral.

How a concert of any one instrument could have been so diversely engaging is greatly to the credit of Sally Pryce's programme composition and structure skills. Her performance was acutely sensitive and an inspiring delight to experience.

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Ron Abramski
Friday 18th September 2015 7.30pm at the Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot.

Ron Abramski sat at the Yamaha Grand Piano
Ron Abramski after his brilliant Nadsa concert at the Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot.

“What a stunning way to start the season” was an overheard comment from the audience. Indeed, Ron Abramski, probably more famous in the USA and Germany than in the UK, rather took us by surprise.
From his understated demeanour there emerged a character that drew the audience into his well constructed programme. At superficial face value the programme was populist romantic, with some Hindemith, presumably for our education in modernism. As the evening progressed I realised there was more of novelty and interest than I had imagined.

Brahms had been championed by Schumann; and Brahms was obsessed with Schumann's wife Clara. Brahms' four Ballades were written soon after Schumann's mental collapse and suicide attempt. The gravitas of this situation was transmitted to us via Ron's playing of the first Ballade, which follows the dramatic narrative of the Scottish poem 'Edward'. We were taken to a bleak dark despair. The second Ballade completely changed our mood with a soft light touch that at times was rhythmic and lively. By the end of the fourth Brahms Ballade we were sure we could put our faith in Ron Abramski and follow wherever he led.

Part of the magic of the evening was the rapport Ron established with the audience. He told us that he wanted to play the Hindemith and, recognising that many of us would find it 'difficult', he played the fugue theme and said that when we heard that, there was not long to go! This respect for his audience drew a rapt attention for Hindemith's Piano Sonata No 3: indeed when the fugue heralded the fourth movement I felt regret that this intricate virtuoso work was nearing its grand finale.

Chopin's third, and last, piano Sonata was our treat after the interval. Firm chords were followed by beautiful lyrical melodic lines exquisitely executed by touch, micro and macro phrasing and appropriate rubato. So good to be able to abandon oneself to the visceral effect of Chopin's music, and not be irritated by excessive romanticism that too often 'gilds the lily'. Good too that visually we were not cursed with affected grimacing, though during the scherzo I did notice a few craning necks of the audience to observe the incredible speed of his fingers. The largo was contemplative and sometimes serene; a total change of mood: and then the presto fair took ones breath away. It was difficult to see how Ron could follow that.

Liszt's transcription of Wagner's Tannhauser Overture is another piece that Ron wanted to perform. It is technically very demanding, and we were informed that even the extremely accomplished pianist Liszt himself had, on one occasion, faltered. So in an atmosphere of challenge, we sat mesmerised as familiar themes developed and surged around us. It often seemed as though this was written for three hands, and people strained to see how only two hands coped. A sense of awe and wonder sustained us through to the dramatic end. Whether the transcription from orchestra to piano really works is a moot point; but undoubtedly it was huge fun!

It was no surprise that Ron was called back for an encore. He gave us Schubert’s Impromptu in G flat major. This was a masterpiece of programming and performance; our savage hearts were calmed by beautiful serenity. I look forward to hearing Ron Abramski again.

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Samantha Ward
Friday 17th April 2015 7.30pm at The Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot

Councillor Carol Bunday, the Mayor of Newton Abbot, Mike Hocking and Samantha Ward
Samantha Ward after her Nadsa concert at the Courtenay Centre, with the Mayor of Newton Abbot, Mike Hocking, and Councillor Carol Bunday.

Nadsa's concert season ended with a flourish. Pianist, Samantha Ward, cleverly presented her programme with its crescendo of styles, within a mainly chronological structure.

Scarlatti [1685-1757] Sonatas K11 and K466 were our introduction to this piano recital. The mechanical rendition of K11 immediately gave a period feel to this intricate bright piece which had been composed in the era of the harpsichord. Scarlatti was one of the first composers to have access to the newly invented Fortepiano, and in K466 Samantha certainly allowed herself the use of touch sensitivity in phrasing. The Impromptu No 2 in A flat by Schubert [1797-1828], a very familiar work, took us into a different expanded world of delicacy and sustained overarching phrases.

By the time Beethoven [1770-1827] was writing his Bagatelles Op 126 [intended as a cycle] the 'modern' Pianoforte was being extensively used. Samantha, in these six pieces, gave us a demonstration of the capabilities of this solo instrument via spirited allegros, dramatic fortes, expressive cantabiles, pleasant meanderings of quasi allegretto and the abrupt changes in the last of the six Bagatelles.

The Arabesque in C Op 18 by Schumann [1810-1897] has a well known haunting melody that lyrically opens the work; but closes it in a subdued hush. Here we had been taken firmly into the romantic period, with music written to appeal to female pianists.

Brahms [1833-1897] Sonata No3 in F minor Op 5, whilst being truly romantic, is also a virtuoso work. The opening was dramatic stuff, and left no doubt that Samantha could fill the hall. In supreme contrast the andante was gentle with beautiful crescendos and diminuendos. The Scherzo burst upon us with lots of energy, subsequently developing tunes; but a fourth intermezzo andante movement used the 'fate' rhythm from Beethoven's fifth Symphony: truly menacing. The final movement was certainly virtuoso territory as we were swept to an exhilarating conclusion.

The audience's applause brought Samantha back to play two encores, the first of which was Happy Birthday to celebrate the 90th Birthday of Keith Fergusson, who with his wife, Loveday, had sponsored the concert. The second encore was Schumann's 'Romance' which was the perfect foil for the exuberance of Brahms, and Samantha's, virtuosity.

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The Wihan Quartet
Saturday 21st March 2015 7.30pm at The Performing Arts Centre, Teignmouth

The Wihan Quartet at the Performing Arts Centre Teignmouth after their Nadsa concert; with David Austin and his sister Mary White of sponsors Newton Abbot's Department Store Austins.

What made the Wihan's programme special one might ask? Well, when written, the compositions had been noted as pushing the boundaries, particularly Mozart's String Quartet No. 15 from his 'Haydn Quartets', and Beethoven's String Quartet No 7, a 'Rasumovsky Quartet', the latter considered to be greatly ahead of its time. But another element could have added an extra frisson to the Beethoven, and Smetana's String Quartet No 1 'From my Life': both of these works were written when their composers tragically had become deaf.

And then we had the Wihan's live performance: it was exceptional.

Their treatment of the Mozart was a delight with fine attention to detailed phrasing executed with such compelling vitality that there was no chance of its feeling precious. This was late Mozart, the rendering of which anticipated the romantics.

Next, how appropriate that the Smetana was being performed for us by a Czech quartet; this music is in their blood. Their souls were bared with dramatic accelerandos and rallentandos, seemingly the most natural things in the world. We experienced a full gamut of emotions in this autobiographical work that even portrays the shock of Smetana's sudden deafness. From the dramatic and foreboding chords starting the first movement, we moved through turbulence, youthful vibrancy, a sedate section, and on to extremes of romance followed by maturity; only to be cut down into nostalgia and resignation.

Beethoven followed; chronologically out of place, but musically probably the most advanced piece of the programme. The Wihan gave us a superb opening living crescendo that set the scene of wondrous diversity in the first and second movements. Melancholy pervaded the third; not an easy emotion with which to hold an audience, but the Wihan skilfully carried us through to the cheerful finale [which Beethoven had almost certainly incorporated to please the commissioning Russian Ambassador Count Rasumovky, and us!].

The audience called for, and got, an encore. Jaw-droppingly, their choice was the last movement of Janáček's String Quartet No. 2 - "Intimate Letters". This really had the wow factor; emotions heightened and every nerve- ending jangled.

Mozart, Smetana, Beethoven and Janacek could not have asked for any better performance of their creations.

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Judith Hall and Craig Ogden
Friday 20th February 2015 7.30pm at The Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot

Judith Hall and Craig Ogden at the Courtenay Centre after their Nadsa concert; with Joanna Williams, Michael Cosgrave, and Clive Meredith from sponsors Wollen Michelmore

An audience, on seeing the programme of this flute and guitar concert, might have been expecting a pleasant potpourri of vignettes; but this Nadsa concert went far beyond that. The carefully crafted programme contained such a variety of styles of music to hold any audience, that only skilled performers could carry it off. Judith Hall, Australian born with local connections, and Craig Ogden, also an Aussie, gave us a performance of universal star quality.

Ibert's Entr'acte [1937] was a spirited opening to the concert with the flute taking a swirling melodic line whilst the guitar atmospherically set the flamenco scene. Giuliani's Gran Duetto Concertante took us back to the 18th Century and to an Italian style. The first movement was in contrast to a dancy minuetto where the guitar became prominent, and even more so at the beginning of the Rondo militare, a movement in which they later developed delicate ornamentation.

Our thoughts about what repertoire there is for such an unusual duo combination of instruments were charmingly addressed by Judith; and of course, if it doesn't exist, they adapt scores from other instruments. Easily said, but much more difficult to execute effectively. Judith also admitted to devising the programme; well, by the end of the evening, one would say she should take credit for it!

Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras is so well known that comparisons make live performances a risky business. But what a dream this was. The apparently effortless overarching phrasing of the flute was superb, and Craig's guitar somehow made an orchestra superfluous. Lest we got musically complacent, Milhaud's Corcovado followed with its less familiar form, though rhythmically maintaining the South American connection. Three of Beaser's Mountain Songs, written for flute and guitar, brought us right up to date with an extant composer. The wistful 'Barbara Allen', busy 'Carpenter, and the lively, folksy, syncopated 'Cindy' not only gave us variety but demonstrated how this duo could switch our emotions so quickly.

With a very relaxed manner Craig not only amusingly introduced some of the evening's items, but was also engagingly informative about his 'Smallman' guitar, which like himself is a very special Australian import. A guitar concert without Albeniz's 'Asturias' would seem wanting; but here again our live performance exceeded our expectations. The large audience was mesmerically held through flamenco and the tension of pin-drop silences.

A version, for the duo, of Django Reinhardt's 'Nuages' was another change of style as we were immersed in swing jazz; though the improvisations around the theme seemed much too clever for 'clouds'.

It was during Beethoven's two Sonatinas that my admiration for Craig's playing took another leap. Never have I thought the guitar could sound so much like a piano; and this style was continued with Poulenc's Movement Perpetuals. Both of these pieces adapted well, and could only work with such superb empathy and balance between the performers.

An early work of Ravel was light and fun: whereas Houghton's 'Cave Painting', with its insistent beat and flute over, was disturbingly visceral and mysterious. We were left with a calm wonder.
Bartok's Romanian Folkdances were the final programmed pieces and here again we were captivated by diversity: compelling rhythms, fine delicacy and an exhilarating finale.
It wasn't quite the finale, however, since Judith and Craig judged the mood of the enthusiastic audience so well and gave us an encore of Philip Buttall's intriguing Waltzing Matilda.

I am sure I am not alone in being impressed by the versatility of a flute and a guitar in the hands of this duo. From bluesy half tones, through smooth, delicate and precise notes to the fiercely edged, Judith could produce them all with enviable breath control and poise. Craig's ability to bring out the chameleon from his guitar was wonderful to experience; an orchestra one minute and a gripping soloist the next.

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Sunday 18th January 2015 3.00pm at The Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot

ZUM3 after their NADSA concert [sponsored by an anonymous donor], at the Courtenay Centre

Pushing boundaries can be risky; bringing the Zum trio to Newton Abbot was certainly worth it. There was no written programme, which immediately set them apart from any 'normal' concert, and their style defies pigeon-holing. Gypsy Tango, their creation, was rarely far away, though the multiplicity of influences on their playing and composition was mind-blowing.

Adam Summerhayes was playing on his violin as the trio walked through the packed Courtenay Centre Hall: nothing pretentious here. Joined by Chris Grist on Cello and Eddie Hession on accordion, light hearted themes emerged and the tempo pulsed to a frenzy. The 'Penultimate Tango in Paris' smoothed us with a sultry but very controlled nuevo tango style, only to be followed by an accordion-led piece that put me firmly in Paris; though that was Argentinian, we were impishly told by Chris Grist doubling as master of ceremonies. And that was probably the nub of the show: provenance is irrelevant. What captivates is sensitivity and virtuosity. We had endearing anecdotes from Chris regarding Zum's globe-trotting experiences, and the perpetuating of the urban myth regarding the Hungarian Suicide Song 'Gloomy Sunday' which they then performed. Such juxtaposition of compulsive humour and sombre haunting bleakness showed superb musicianship. Their show closed with a scintillating display of virtuosity in both a Hungarian Polka and Adam's composition 'Five Naked Ladybirds'.

We were in awe of this group at first hand. Reading their credentials of course we shouldn't have been so surprised. It seems that if an accordion player is required anywhere from Hollywood to working with the Three Tenors, then Eddie Hession is the man; Adam Summerhayes comes from a line of classical violinists and is acclaimed for an eclectic list of recordings; and Chris Grist, besides being an excellent cellist, also had the power to hold the audience in the palm of his hand. Great that they can now add The Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot to their list of venues.

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Ensemble Marquise
Friday 21st November 2014 7.30pm at The Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot

Ray Avis, of Buyrite Tyres [sponsors of the NADSA concert], pays homage to Judit Blaskovics-Felszeghy coloratura soprano in the Ensemble Marquise.

An invitation to be present in an 18th Century salon was the unusual format for the third NADSA concert of the season. The Hungarian Ensemble Marquise immediately set the scene by looking the part in period costumes and demeanour. Strange that Judit was walking around, albeit in a serene and sedate fashion, whilst Marta Gal was energetically playing 'Les Barricades Mysterieuses' by Couperin, on the harpsichord; but that was how 'good' music was treated in the 18th century, - it knew its place. Lest we became too stuffy, we the audience were given gentle reminders that, whilst musical performances were taking place, so too could flirting and eating grapes, and upstaging was probably not infrequent. 

Composers for the evening ranged from the 14th to the mid 18th Century, so setting it in the 18th century meant nothing jarred the musical senses. There was plenty to wonder at in terms of variety. Only retrospectively did I come to appreciate how meticulously the programme sequence had given us variety of pace and emotion. It also pandered to my curiosity since our first hearing of the male soprano Laszlo Blaskovics was in a duet, and, wanting particularly to listen to the timbre of his voice, I didn't have to wait long. He sang a solo next.

Each member of the ensemble had their chance to shine:- Marta Gal took Daquin's harpsichord solo Le Coucou at a frantic pace which left one in awe; Katalin Kallay on recorder was a delight in variations on Greensleeves [as I've never heard Greensleeves before], and refused to be upstaged in Barsanti's second sonata; and Agnes Kallay wove a more sombre mood with J S Bach's cello suite No 2, Sarabande. Laszlo Blaskovic's dramatic rendering of Sesto's aria from Handel's Giulio Cesare was particularly effective, especially since he is the appropriate gender.

However, Judit Blaskovics-Felszeghy was the star of the show. She looked good, she moved well, and one came to wonder if there was anything she couldn't do as a coloratura soprano! In the aria by Vivaldi 'Di due rai languir costante' she sang with superb control and sensitivity; the well know aria 'Lascia ch'io pianga' from Handel's opera Rinaldo was sung with poise, and was sublime. But also she sang the aria 'Agitata da due venti' from Vivaldi's opera Griselda, somewhat of a coloratura virtuoso piece. During this, one's jaw fair dropped as she boldly executed vocal gymnastics whilst maintaining clarity of tone.

As a crowning glory, there was the duet with Laszlo, from Monteverdi's opera L'incoronazione di Poppea. Expectations were high, but amazingly surpassed with some numbing, tingle-factor singing. The enactment was restrained but poignantly effective, possibly more so because we were relieved from the gender complications encountered with this often 'trouser-role' opera: this was the real thing!

The audience's applause was rewarded by an encore of Monteverdi's duet from 'Poppea'. Superb judgement and artistry to round off an enchanting evening, - and left us with a haunting melody.

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Varenne Ensemble
Friday 31st October 2014 7.30pm at The Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot.

The Varenne Ensemble after their NADSA concert; with Celia Frank, daughter of Phyllis Tate [composer of one of the works]

Mexican flights delayed to Europe caused a change of programme for Nadsa's October concert. Cellist Robin Michael's rehearsal schedule became so tight that more Brahms was substituted for the less well known Fruhling, as Newton Abbot caught Robin between Budapest and London engagements.

The Varenne Ensemble's opening Allegro movement of Beethoven's Piano trio No. 4 was an engaging mixture of mellifluous balance and vivacity. In the Adagio we had a complete change of mood where the cello took the sentimental tuneful lead, the clarinet later echoing the phrases and the piano becoming their accompaniment. The theme and variations of the third movement began in sprightly fashion as no doubt befits a theme which was a 'popular song' of Beethoven's era. A contrasting reflective variation was followed by musical drama that subdued to a more conventional close. The Varenne treated us and Beethoven well!

Robin Michael and Dan Tong then played Brahms' Cello sonata No. 1 in E minor: not on our official programme, but fortunately in their recording repertoire. Opening the first movement, the deep and moving resonance of the cello gave me a tingle factor moment. Soon after, the piano became an intense accompaniment. The second movement's style took us back in time. The playing became light, and I wondered whether it was by chance or intention, [given Brahms' interest in music from Renaissance to Classical periods] that I should have been reminded of a hurdy-gurdy, since that instrument had been very fashionable in the 18th century. The third movement, being largely in fugue form, continued the retrogressive style, playfully at times, to a spirited coda.

Sonata for Clarinet and Cello by Phyllis Tate [1911 – 1987] followed the interval. Here we were in different territory. The slow opening movement of pensive melancholy leaves no hiding place for performers: we were treated to a riveting sequence of phrases demonstrating just how glorious and varied the Clarinet and Cello can be in the right pairs of hands. The Vivo started briskly, later becoming more pensive. However, Elaine Cocks and Robin Michael deftly kept us in mind of the tempo with which the movement begins, and also ends. The Sarabanda was played with superb delicacy, and conveyed a ghostly quality that was maintained into the more complex finale. The presence of Phyllis Tate's daughter [Celia Frank] at this performance gave it a very special sense of occasion.

Brahms' Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano in A minor returned us to a wonderful world of melody and instrumental interplay. The drama and variety of the Allegro was beautifully matched by the thoughtful calm of the Adagio. The grace of the Andante led us to the more assertive Allegro's conclusion.

Elaine Cocks, Robin Michael and Dan Tong had drawn a good and appreciative audience for this the second concert of the NADSA season. Their musicianship and cohesion was a privilege to experience live in this ensemble, and all the more impressive considering they have separate musical careers.

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Sara Trickey and Dan Tong
Friday 19th September 2014 7.30pm at The Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot

Sara Trickey and Dan Tong after their concert [sponsored by the C & M Pike Trust] with John and Svetlana Pike

The NADSA concert season began last Friday with an excellent violin and piano recital given by Sara Trickey and Dan Tong.

Schubert's Sonata in G minor [originally titled by him as 'for piano, with violin accompaniment'] gave Dan a delightful opportunity to show off the new NADSA piano. His strong melodic line and sensitive phrasing was mirrored by the violin in the Allegro giusto: the sweet calm of the Andante came as a beautiful contrast. The charming flourish of the finale left us feeling all is well in the world!

The violin trill that opened Beethoven's 10th Sonata led us to expansive soaring melodic lines. The Adagio espressivo that followed certainly lived up to its name. Contrasting, lively and subdued, sections were brought to a crescendo conclusion; and so ended a wonderful, traditional first half.

Following the interval, Sara and Dan played the second movement of Sonata No. 1 by Mathias [probably best known as the composer of 'Let the people praise Thee, O God' written for the Wedding of the Prince of Wales & Lady Diana]. There was here an intriguing mix of delicacy, calm and angst.

Three pieces by Sibelius then came as both a contrast and a surprise. The first of these enigmatic and experimental works, 'Scene de danse', has a strange disjunction of the violin's energy and the piano's rhythmic accompaniment. 'Danse caracteristique' was even more enigmatic. It was only with 'Rondeau romantique' that we had the lushness that I associate with Sibelius: we had, as it were, come home. The folk/dance theme was taken a little further with Bartok's 3 Hungarian Folk Tunes; but it was with Ravel's Tzigane that we took off into gypsy style. Sara Trickey's violin solo introduction took us masterfully well beyond the tones of classical tuning. The piano accompaniment and interludes served to highlight the versatility of the violin. This contrast was probably not intended by Ravel since his original score included instructions for register-changes on the optional luthéal attachment [to the piano]. Ravel orchestrated this work in the same year [1924] as its original performance: thank goodness the original version was scored for piano, or we may never have had this virtuosic performance in Newton Abbot. The Courtenay Centre rang with appreciative applause from the near capacity audience. Before they were allowed to leave, Sara and Dan rewarded us with a Schubert encore: a triumph of a concert!

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The Songmen
Friday 11 April 2014 7:30pm at The Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot.

The Songmen at the Courtenay Centre, after their nadsa concert, with the sponsor Ray Avis of Buyrite Tyres

Something quite different ended the Nadsa concert season: The Songmen.
Any thoughts that the programming search for variety had gone too far towards jazz or pop were immediately dispelled by the first few bars of William Byrd's Motet [1591]. The lightness of touch they brought to this rendering made me quite forget that they were singing a cappella; my brain had assumed period instruments were there too. In Thomas Weelkes' [1576 – 1623] Gloria in Excelsis Deo we had, reassuringly, a full range of dynamics. The next performance, of Stanford's Beati Quorum Via, moved us chronologically to the 19th century and was remarkable. The versatility of The Songmen made the change of style, from Renaissance composers to Romantic, very obvious; not only did overarching phrasing engage our senses but the timbre of their voices changed. The final E flat piano note sung by Guy Lewis was the stuff of tingle factors. Singing fast, high and forte may get audience applause; but the real skill shows in high, sustained pianissimo notes, and his was a gem any choirboy would have been proud of!

The next two songs were composed by Robert Waters [Nolo Mortem Peccatoris] and Ben Sawyer [Silence and Sound], both members of the Songmen. The former bathed us in new harmonies, whilst the latter had a strangeness and angst about it. Brigg Fair [arr Percy Grainger] had us in more familiar territory.

And then we had two pieces by John Rutter who had recently been to the USA immediately before their composition. The several soloists were at times backed by vocal pizzicato and a swinging beat. The first half of the concert was rounded off by a return to the 16th century with French songs by Pierre Passereau and Clement Janequin. 'Il est Bel et bon' was light, fast and fun, whereas La Guerre also became animated, but this time the narrative was the drama of war.

After the interval we returned to the Renaissance with Thomas Morley's Now is the Month of Maying. Their rendition of this double-entendre laden madrigal was very spirited. The Songmen, in Peter Knight's arrangement of Londonderry Air, produced a chilling change of mood. Such a well known tune needs careful handling, and we had experts. Even though barbershop is by no means my favourite genre, I found their interpretation of this tragedy-anticipating narrative deeply upsetting. Very fortunately for my sensibility, I did not find the arrangement of Swing Low moving. For me, the barbershop / jazz delight in harmonizing around a well loved tune and narrative meant, the chariot got lost. Down to the River arr Philip Lawson was a return to a moving performance and a chance to hear solo voices.

Ben Sawyer's arrangement of Be Your Husband [written for Nina Simone] by Andrew Stroud struck new ground again with clapping on-beat and off-beat accompaniment; and including more than a passing reference to The Beatles 'Come together'. Ben also arranged the King, Leiber & Stoller song Stand by Me which worked well as a narrative with a compelling beat and harmonised haunting refrains. Irving Berlin's Cheek to Cheek [arr Pickard] was very good barbershop, and Mr Bojangles by Jerry Jeff Walker [arr Guy Lewis] was another chance to hear a solo voice with backing. The Songmen's Lullabye by Billy Joel [arr Phillip Lawson] was utterly beautiful. The concert programme then had another sharp contrast, Crazy 'Bout my Baby by Hill & Walker [arr Ben Sawyer]; a jazzy up-beat way to finish. But the audience, that had been both gripped in hushed reverence, and moving with the rhythms, wanted more; and the Songmen were brought back for an encore. They gave us their version of an excerpt from Rossini's overture to The Barber of Seville: fast, fun, and wonderfully romantic.

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The Fitzwilliam Quartet
Friday 21 March 2014 7:30pm at The Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot

The Fitzwilliam Quartet at the Courtenay Centre, after their nadsa concert, with the sponsor Veronica Chambers

The world renowned Fitzwilliam Quartet returned to Newton Abbot last Saturday, and played to another near capacity audience. Their name, together with composers Tchaikovsky, Delius, Sibelius and Shostakovich, meant this was an event in the West Country worth travelling to. What made it so special was the knowledge that the viola player, Alan George, had worked closely with Shostakovich; thus this quartet's performance was as close to a definitive rendering as we are likely ever to experience live.

There is more to concert programming than a variety of composers; but the Fitzwilliam's selection proved very interesting in themselves. They started conventionally with the earliest composer, Tchaikovsky [b.1840]. The movement in B flat major was written in 1865 when Tchaikovsky was still a student in St Petersburg; but wasn't published until 1940. A lesser known work, this was made captivating by the subdued, but warm, tones the Fitzwilliam gave to a solemn introduction. Each instrument had brief solo runs before we were spirited into a lively folk-dance that had edge. The opening mood returned, and we were led masterfully into silence.

Delius' third movement of a string quartet, named by him as 'Late Swallows' [1916], proved an intriguing mixture of melancholy and grace. With Delius' title to set this tone poem's scene, the Fitzwilliam's swooping phrases were beautifully evocative. Foci changed as later we zoomed in and out of more distant views which became lost to sight. The earlier memories return to be faded into nothingness. This is a work that I would not wish to hear entrusted to any lesser musicians!

The Shostakovich quartet No.13 in B flat minor was given its UK premier by the Fitzwilliam Quartet; and Shostakovich came over to York to hear it. Years later, here, in Newton Abbot, there were many of the audience for whom this work was the pinnacle of the evening's experiences. Not only did we have dramatic fortes and delicate pianissimos, but there were percussive effects when instruments were struck with bows. There were, I'm sure, many like myself for whom Shostakovich's works are, to say the least, 'difficult': but any sensitive soul could not fail to be touched by the tension created during this performance. When performance is all that one expects it to be, I often feel that it is by the silences that performance is judged: this audience was gripped for the duration.

After the interval we were treated to Sibelius' String Quartet in D minor. This has a brief simple introduction by violin and cello, followed by a more expansive series of melodies. A short Vivace precedes an Adagio where the Fitzwilliam gave us exquisite moments of striving and poignancy over-arched with beautiful phrasing. The movement was faded peacefully to a conclusion. A bright attack heralded a peasant dance, and the tempo was upped for the final spirited Allegro.

The Fitzwilliam Quartet performed a glorious concert. Not only had their programming given us a variety of composers, but also I appreciated the progression of styles towards Shostakovich before the interval, and the chronological and stylistic retreat to Sibelius afterwards. If one were to look for a theme in their programme, it could well be the dark sides from early Tchaikovsky to a dying Shostakovich; an evening of intense introspection.

Apparently the Fitzwilliam had played our programme recently at the Kings Place in London; no wonder their performance shone.

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Katona Twins
Friday 21st February 2014 7.30pm at The Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot

The Katona Twins after their nadsa concert, flanked by representatives of the sponsors Wollen Michelmore Solicitors

Nadsa's Katona Twins guitar concert got off to a good start before a note was played. More chairs had to be put out for a near capacity crowd.

All the programme's items [except that by Barrios and Rodrigo] had been arranged by the Katona Twins: and how, I wondered, would they cope with drum rolls at the beginning of Rossini's Overture 'The Thieving Magpie'? No problem. Guitars of course are good resonating boxes, so produced an arresting introduction. But then I was searching for an orchestra in my head, whilst two guitarists were playing on stage. It was after a dramatic pause that the magpies came to life and darted from speedy pianissimos to exuberant fortes.

J S Bach's English Suite No. 3 for harpsichord was the next work, with its seven very differing movements. The Katona's prelude was spirited; however, it was the following allemande, of more relaxed tempo, that suddenly sharpened the senses. We were listening to guitars, though, with the strings being plucked, how similar to a harpsichord the sound was. After a lively courante, the sedate saraband gave us the time to appreciate the subtleties of Bach's phrasing and accenting that was being so brilliantly displayed by these two guitarists. Bach's works are no strangers to adaptation: this was one of the best I've heard.

Another change of style was the solo piece, Vals No3, by the Paraguayan composer A. Barrios. Written for the guitar, this piece is richly melodic and Hispanic.

Having musically arrived in the guitar's heartland, 'Cordoba' and 'Asturias' by Albeniz [the Spanish composer of 'nationalistic' music] maintained the Iberian pulse. The Moorish influences of Cordoba were hauntingly portrayed, whilst the inappropriately named 'Asturias' had sections of speed, drama and percussive effects reminiscent of modern flamenco.

Returning after the interval to a Katona arrangement of Handel's Chaconne in G was a delight. Now it was easy to accept two guitars in place of one harpsichord: perhaps an improvement on the original.

The solo for guitar by Rodrigo, Invocacion y danza, was indeed a fitting tribute to Manuel de Falla.

Albeniz's 'Mallorca' then shifted our focus from Andalusia to softer lilting melodies that showcased the ability of the Twins to be playing as one.

Excerpts from De Falla's El Amor Brujo were to bring the concert to a close in a variety of ways: a dramatic fanfare, a somewhat awkward Dance of Terror, a beautifully calm Magic Circle and a Pantomime of changing moods. The Ritual Fire Dance, so well known yet still evocative and mesmeric, would have ended the concert, but for the applause. We were treated to an encore, their arrangement of Scarlatti's Metamorphosis, which proved a dazzling finale.

Peter and Zoltan Katona, not only came to the concert with a glittering CV, they also presented us with a varied programme that both surprised and entertained us at the highest level. They have already played in the major concert halls around the globe; and this year sees them performing in Europe, South America and the far east. We are lucky that they now live in England: it will make it easier for us to catch them again.

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The Florin Trio
Saturday 18th January 2014 7.30pm at The Performing Arts Centre, Teignmouth

The Florin Trio at NADSA's concert in The Performing Arts Centre, Teignmouth

The Florin String Trio gave the fourth in the 2013 /14 series of NADSA concerts. Following such names as Paul Lewis, Martin Cousin and Jack Liebeck, they had hard acts to follow; but what a gem their concert was. Their programme, a mixture of familiar and unfamiliar styles, demonstrated a confidence to perform works seldom heard. How wonderful for west-country audiences to have the opportunity to be introduced to works of Dohnanyi and Schnittke by such intense musicianship.

There were no flamboyant gestures or dramatic visual interactions; however, after only a few bars into Dohnanyi's Serenade in C major, I felt confidently led in their march by an amazing mix of energy and subtlety. As we were taken to subsequent movements, there were moods ranging from the pensive and ponderous to the lively and frantic: what phenomenal skill the Florin has; to hold our emotions at such boisterous heights and then fade them, with a pianissimo, into silence.

The Dohnanyi work was unfamiliar to me, but its somewhat romantic style was well within my comfort zone. The Schnittke, I anticipated, was unlikely to be anywhere near my comfort zone, and I was approaching it with some trepidation. Charles Mutter, the violinist, gave us a brief introduction to the context of Schnittke's String Trio [1985]. As a result I had a miraculous change of perception. He told us that, with influences from Schoenberg and Shostakovich, and an Iron Curtain environment, the going was going to be tough: but by admitting to this with his impish humour, Charles demonstrated psychological skill as well as musical excellence.

The two movements of the Schnittke were characterised by huge contrasts; but underlying all, persisted a great sadness. Between the composer's score and the trio's implementation we were variously stimulated, not least by the deft use of open harmonics on the Cello. Piercing dissonances shrieked out; but also there were floating melodies which were shattered, became smothered, or fizzled into a disturbing silence.

During the interval there was a palpable buzz amongst the audience: we had been present at something very special.

Beethoven's Serenade in D major took us to a different world. An early work of his, this lacks the gravitas one usually associates with Beethoven: the style was light. The opening march of this serenade was lively and spirited, contrasting with the following adagio of lyrical serenity. A crisp and dancey minuetto was then followed by a reflective adagio itself interrupted by playful scherzo episodes. A polonaise movement was another strong invitation for the spirits to dance; and then it seemed the score was giving each instrument of the trio the opportunity melodically to shine in what was obviously an enjoyable and sophisticated environment. The only regret of the final march is that it brought this concert to a close.

How decadent I felt, whilst listening to the Beethoven, that I should be able to enjoy this music when Schnittke, via the same trio, had so recently led us to such distressing sadness. I then considered that perhaps Schnittke, having worked so directly on our emotions, could stake a claim to be a 'Romantic' composer.

One of The Florin rushed off to an engagement in Madrid, whilst London beckoned the others; the BBC and Buckingham Palace are engagements they shouldn't miss. That the individual players have very separate careers, perhaps gives The Florin Trio a particular frisson which is expressed through their music, and it is the Music that takes centre stage.

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Jack Liebeck and Martin Cousin
Friday 15th November 2013 7.30pm at The Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot

Jack Liebeck, with his £ million violin, and Martin Cousin at NADSA's concert, with John and Svetlana Pike [of the C & M Pike Trust, the sponsor].

Fortunately, Jack Liebeck chose to perform for NADSA, rather than take up an offer to give a concert in Mexico. Jack, no stranger to the BBC, concert halls all round the world, and Hollywood [2013 Oscar nominated for 'Anna Karenina' soundtrack], teamed up with Martin Cousin, a concert globe-trotter himself [and the hands in the film 'Shine'], to give a scintillating concert at The Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot.

The 'Spring' Sonata No 5 by Beethoven was a joyful and melodic opening, its themes seamlessly passed between violin and piano. Then, how wonderful it was to feel such a great change of mood in the second movement where calm expanded, subtly and gradually, with variations of the theme. The scherzo was another adventure, this time into impish playfulness, leading us to a resplendent rondo.

'The Lark Ascending', by Vaughan Williams, followed: one of the most popular and frequently recorded pieces of classical music. So, the huge challenge for live performance by anyone, anywhere, is how to make it come alive – again! It was here that I felt we transcended wonderful music-making to enter an ethereal world. The audience was hushed as the exquisite delicacy of the lark rose amongst us. Never before have I felt so at one with the piano; rarely have I felt vibrato so effectively used as here with the wings of the lark. I felt a bewildering loss; then, 'in pensive mood', my heart flew with the lark's reprise.

After the interval we were treated to a somewhat refined version of a 'Palm Court' experience. The melodies of Fritz Kreisler's 'Love's Sorrow' and 'Lovely Rosemary' were instantly recognisable with a cosy nostalgia, thankfully not tainted by excessive rubato.

The bright and powerful attack of the Elgar Sonata Op.82 took us rather by storm: following themes were delicate and sensitive, leading to a robust ending of the first movement. The second was more familiar Elgar territory, with contrasts of mood from playful to brooding, then a surging climax, followed by delicacy. The Sonata's final movement saw Elgar giving us a variety of themes and styles, with even a hint of 'Owls', that gave Jack and Martin great scope to keep us enthralled to the triumphal conclusion.

Elgar's Chanson de Matin made a well chosen encore, taking us from the tumult of parts of the Sonata to the safety of a simply sublime and melodious pasture. Elgar wrote the tune, but we were very fortunate to be present at this rebirth.

Jack returned to London where his professorial position at the Royal Academy of Music keeps him partially anchored. Martin's next scheduled concert is in Tokyo this month. We hope they both return to Devon soon.

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Rosalind Coad and Gregory Drott
Friday 18th October 2013 7.30pm at The Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot

Rosalind Coad and Gregory Drott after their NADSA concert at the Courtenay Centre Newton Abbot last Saturday

We can all, or nearly all, sing: so what makes a concert of songs special? A very trained voice, the choice of songs, the involvement of delivery; and, in this case, a highly talented accompanist.

Being the centenary of Benjamin Britten's birth, and that both Rosalind and Gregory were Britten-Pears Young Artists in 2012, it was appropriate that they commenced with Britten's cycle 'On this Island' [words by Auden]. Rosalind's voice was powerful and her phrasing and delivery were engaging.

We then had a selection of songs from the 19th Century including Schubert's very familiar 'The Trout' and Clara Schumann's 'Die Lorelei', which was effectively animated to the verge of melodrama. Contrasting with the Britten, this section of the programme, beginning and ending with Liszt's expansive flamboyance, gave a virtuosic challenge to the voice and an opportunity for the pianist to impress.

Following the interval was a musical sandwich of Joseph Marx [1882 – 1964] and Gabriel Faure which included Les Roses d'Isphahan. Being unfamiliar with the Marx songs, they were a particular treat, having a style of lushness I suspect is very unfashionable in some quarters. These gave Gregory Drott another chance to shine with surging ripples that would have given a harp a run for its money.

'Five songs by Brahms' was where I felt Rosalind's delivery was at its best. She portrayed a range of emotion, a conversation and a narrative style. As a non German-speaker these songs came alive to me: no mean feat.

The final section brought us back to English songs by Britten, Vaughan Williams and Bridge, with Quilter's 'Love's Philosophy' bringing the concert to a dramatic musical conclusion.

Rosalind Coad and Gregory Drott, sponsored by Oxford Lieder, will be performing in the Oxford Lieder Festival later this week. With Rosalind's voice, it is not too difficult to imagine her taking Verdi and Wagner roles at a younger age than most. Gregory already has a post as Director of Music at St Stephen's, Kensington, and is engaged in PhD studies in Cambridge: good to know that he also does freelance work so he will not be lost to concert halls.

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Paul Lewis
Saturday 21st September 2013, Performing Arts Centre, Teignmouth Community School.
Paul Lewis in a break from rehearsing for his NADSA Concert recital at Teignmouth Paul Lewis after his recital at Teignmouth, with David Austin of Austins Department Store Newton Abbot [sponsor of the concert], and June Cocks, NADSA concert's programme secretary

Paul Lewis, international superstar pianist, unsurprisingly drew a full house for his NADSA Concert at Teignmouth Performing Arts Centre last Saturday. There was a greater than usual buzz of anticipation from an audience that included even London glitterati.

He personally introduced his programme, explaining that each Bach chorale would be followed by a Beethoven Sonata with little break, thus dividing the first half of the concert into two sections, both in traditional forms of structure and harmony. This was to be contrasted with the extraordinarily innovative, almost modern, works of 'late' Liszt and Mussorgsky that would follow after the interval.

The first Bach chorale [arr: Busoni] was much more than a comfortable opening. Both Bach and Lewis took us through some beautiful and intricate patterns. By the time of the small break before the Beethoven, the audience was enraptured. Anticipation can be such a cruel friend; but here it was fuel to the emotions. The venue, more intimate than the Wigmore Hall, enhanced a sense of occasion, and the highly charged atmosphere led several members of the audience to comment later that the silences were palpable. A Beethoven sonata followed, seemingly as a natural progression and expansion of form and style.

Another Bach chorale was followed by Beethoven's 'Moonlight' sonata, where, for me, his programme's risk-taking began. The first few bars [so hackneyed, sometimes to the point of burlesque], were played very straight; like Bach? However the style developed imperceptibly into a magical world: then, in subsequent movements, Beethoven's broad and colourful palate was given full expression. Lewis' world famous exposition of Beethoven was a wonder to experience live.

Liszt's miniatures gave us a vivid contrast; phrases, harmonies and now dissonances being juxtaposed in very different ways. Knowing we were next to be taken to a picture exhibition, I found myself wondering whether Mussorgsky had heard these Liszt works.

The first few bars of the Mussorgsky were indeed pedestrian: then we were grasped by a warm hand and taken to a series of musical artistic abstractions. As we moved from picture to picture the progression was less from frame to frame, more from one dramatic encounter to another. Lewis' conviction and involvement with such emotions transported the audience to a grand finale.

Applause brought Lewis back for an encore which was another Liszt miniature of intense subtlety; exactly right for quelling some of the audience's exuberance.

It was only then that Paul Lewis told us that this was the first occasion he had played the Mussorgsky in public, and he had wondered how he would feel at the end. Then we realised that we had heard a preview of Paul's latest world tour programme. Hopefully NASDA Concerts will be able to book Paul for another recital in years to come. At least travelling to the Westcountry involves no jet-lag.
Bach [arr: Busoni] Chorale Prelude BWV 639
Beethoven Sonata for piano No 13 in E flat major, Op.27 No.1
Bach [arr: Busoni] Chorale Prelude BWV 659
Beethoven Sonata for piano No 14 in C sharp minor, Op.27 No.2 'Moonlight'
Liszt Late miniatures S203, S208 and S201
Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition

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Jacqueline White with Clive Matthews
Friday 18 January 2013 7:30pm at The Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot

Jacqueline White rehearses for a NADSA Concert with Clive Matthews who, besides recording, has performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, given recitals at the Purcell Room, and tutored in California.

Flowers by Penny Dale of Newton Abbot Flower Club.

An evening of Poulenc's music is rare: at The Courtenay Centre we were treated to such an event plus glimpses of his life.

Poulenc lived through two World Wars, he was part of Parisian high-life and his music has great diversity. That diversity kept us on the edge of our seats: one just doesn't know what to expect next from Poulenc.

Clive Matthews played the instantly recognisable '3 Mouvements Perpetuel', responsible for launching Poulenc to fame. Later pieces showed great variety; the extremes were 'Nocturne 4' [Ghost dance] in which Clive demonstrated amazing ability to sustain pianissimo playing whilst carrying his audience with him; with 'Improvisation 8', we were jolted back into a very different reality, brilliant melodic phrases turning on a pin's head.

Jacqueline White sang Poulenc's 'Vocalise' : a privilege to hear this since there are no currently available recordings, even on YouTube. Other songs, many written in the early war years, were a roller-coaster of emotions including deep anguish in 'Dans l'herbe', light and fast drama of 'Il vole' and the strangely pensive 'Mon cadaver est doux comme un gant' ['My corpse is limp as a glove'], - no wonder it was strange! A later song cycle gave us huge contrasts of mood and style. For me, the 1943 song entitled 'C', with its heavy melancholy, was my favourite.

Clive gave us brilliant demonstrations of the sparkle and quirkiness of Poulenc, though I remain equally impressed with 'Improvisation 13' where I felt we were very close to Chopin, and 'Improvisation15', a homage to Edith Piaf, with a melody line recalling 'Autumn Leaves' and rhythmic chords inviting us to Regret Nothing. We left the Courtenay Centre having quite forgotten that the intended hired piano was still icebound in Bath. Another NADSA concert left us inspired and talking about music.

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Pure Brass
Friday 15 February 2013 7:30pm at The Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot

Ray Avis [centre], of Buyrite Tyres, takes up a trombone with Pure Brass at the Courtenay Centre.

After a spontaneous standing ovation at Canada Hill school, how would Pure Brass perform at the Courtenay Centre's NADSA concert?

They were straight in there with Lutoslawski's minature Overture, a short piece that showcases each instrument of the brass quintet in a modern genre. This was serious stuff.

We were then delighted by two works of Farnaby and Gabrieli from the 16th century and early 17th century which were melodic and of differing tempos. The lightness of touch made Farnaby's dance movements come alive, and it was blissfully easy to imagine Gabrieli's Sonata Per Sonare No. 4 echoing around St Mark's in Venice. Partita on a Krakow Fanfare by Wilby, a modern British composer, was musical drama. There were distant sounds and later the arrival of volume and brilliant technical dexterity.

Since the first four pieces had jumped back and forth in time and styles, Michael Kamen's Quintet was well placed to follow, it being an uninhibited tone poem of sheer romanticism, sensitively performed.

For those that had not met a 'Fugue' before, Pure Brass' introduction to Bach's Little Fugue in G minor was both informative and great fun; not to mention the technical agility.

Handel's Arrival of the Queen of Sheba ushered us back from the interval, and though the work is familiar to the point of being hackneyed, their performance was bright and intense. This intensity was maintained through the mournful Farewell to Stromness [which entered the Classic FM Hall of Fame in 2003] by Peter Maxwell Davies.

By the time Pure Brass played a Lennon & McCartney Beatles Suite, we trusted them to give us something special, and this arrangement provided both familiarity and novel harmonies.

I'm not sure what a jazz enthusiast would have made of Nelson's Fat Lip, to my mind a jazz inspired trombone extravaganza; for me the skill and the light hearted humour were a winning combination.

Audacious programming took us next to John Glenesk Mortimer's arrangement of Mussorgsky's Night on a Bare Mountain.

Our final genre was from the red light districts of the south and deep south USA. Williams' Basin Street Blues was performed with confidence, panache, and a genuine spirit of fun; and Bowman's Twelfth Street Rag, very familiar, was given an extra boost of light-hearted life. I found myself wondering if such joyful renderings were 'properly authentic': but then considered that a lot of our loosely termed 'classical' music has emerged from the seedier side of life!

Their encore, Puttin' on the Ritz, Pure Brass seemed to enjoy as much as we did. The combination of technical skill and infectious good humour must make Pure Brass used to encores. We certainly wanted at least one.

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Mark Bebbington
Sunday 18 November 2012 3pm at Stover School Newton Abbot

Left to Right: June Cocks NADSA programme secretary, John and Svetlana Pike concert sponsors, with international star pianist Mark Bebbington
It was very appropriate that Mark started the concert with three pieces by John Ireland [the concert having been jointly supported by The Ireland Trust and the C & M Pike Trust].

Immediately all parochialism was swept away as we were painted a rich musical picture of London life from the Thames to Soho.

Chopin's Sonata No 3 was the next programme item; for me a less well known work. For those, like me, who doubt whether they can maintain a dry eye during Chopin, this was a welcome relief. There was a diversity of themes and styles and the unmistakable harmonies of Chopin that enthralled, together with exuberance and panache of a scintillating performance by Mark Bebbington. Combined with the Steinway and the acoustic of the Jubilee Hall at Stover School, this proved to be an overwhelming experience for some!

Five Preludes by Debussy took us from Submerged Cathedrals, West Winds, An Interrupted Serenade, an Eccentric, and to a Firework Display. The impressionist style swept us from serene majesty to grandeur and the power of the natural world; brought us face to face with human predicaments, and burst the dazzling sparkle of fireworks through periods of calm.

Liszt's transcription of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde grabbed the emotions and senses, and, if we had any time for conscious thought at all, it was to wonder how a single pianist and piano became, effectively, an orchestra.

The programme finale was List's transcription of Verdi's Rigoletto, and at this point we were left gasping and marvelling at the sheer virtuosity and audacity of both composer and performer.

Following enthusiastic applause, Mark gave a wonderful encore of the Spanish Dance 5 by Granados.

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