78th concert season 2019-2020

Opening concert: Rhythmie Wong (piano)

September 21st, 2019. Review by John and June Ingleton.

Rhythmie Wong's piano recital at St Wilfrid's Church on Saturday 21 September, the opening concert ofHaywards Heath Music Society's 78th season, set a remarkably high standard. She opened with Haydn's taxing Sonata in E flat major which she played with authority and superb technical fluency. Her beautifully clear articulation was evident throughout and the Adagio was poetically interpreted with a lovely singing tone.

Rhythmie Wong

Rhythmie devoted the rest of the first half to a group of pieces by Granados, beginning with the famously lyrical 'The Maiden and the Nightingale'. She played this beautiful, expansive work with genuine feeling and an absence of sentimentalism. Her trills were exquisite. In Valses Poeticos, a group of eight waltzes preceded by an introduction, her assured performance admirably captured their variety and the aptness of their succinct titles. Rhythmie concluded her Granados pieces with the lesser-known Allegro de Concierto which she played with aplomb and the skills of a true virtuoso.

Second half: A technical masterclass

After the interval, Rhythmie's attention turned from Spanish to French romantic music, starting with Gaspard de la Nuit, one of the piano repertoire's most challenging works in terms of its technical and interpretative demands. In Ondine, she captured the haunting world of the water nymph and in Le Gibet the bleakness and sadness of the swinging corpse. Maybe, to emphasise the contrast, Scarbo, the final section of the suite, called for more excitement and panache.

The highlight of this superb recital was the concluding work, La Valse, which Ravel wrote for the Ballets Russes and later arranged for piano solo. It is seldom performed in that format because of its technical difficulties. Rhythmie met the challenges admirably and her playing in the incredibly complex and frantic climax, which included some spectacular glissandos, was scintillating and breathtaking. She richly deserved the standing ovation accorded to her, before enchanting the appreciative audience with an appealing encore.
On the evidence of this and other piano recitals for Haywards Heath Music Society in recent years, there is no shortage of top-level virtuosic young talent worldwide.

Alexandra Lomeiko (violin) and Kumi Matsuo (piano)

19th October, 2019. Review by Ian Barras-Hill.

We were treated to a recital of great virtuosity from an extremely accomplished duo in a widely diverse programme featuring works by J.S. Bach, Gabriel Fauré. Karol Szymanowski and Maurice Ravel. The tenor of the evening was set by the couple's vigorous playing of Bach's Sonata for Violin and Piano in E Major BWV 1016 where both violin and piano alternated in importance, moving through the Adagios and Allegros of the four movement sonata , in slow- fast tempi, with admirable control. The next piece, Fauré's Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major no. 1. Op 13 evoked an entirely different mood, especially in the gentle, lyrical Andante in D minor where a magical spell hovered, and ending with playful, spirited Allegros that cascaded in Rondo form.

Alexandra Lomeiko

Second half: Szymanowski and Ravel

After the interval Alex and Kumi played Myths – Three pieces for Violin and Piano op.30 by Szymanowski which began with the rippling sounds on the piano of the Fountain of Arethusa followed by song-like strains on the violin depicting the youth Narcissus falling in love as he gazed at himself in a pool. Suddenly the mood shifted to rapid activity as Pan, god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, chased the wood nymphs. The whole rout was brilliantly interpreted by Alex who ran through a dazzling display of pizzicati, two note trills, glissandi, tremolos, even thumping down on the violin with her hand to prolong the rumpus that ended this challenging work.

Finally, shifting into the 20th Century we heard Ravel's take on American influenced music, jazz and the blues, incorporated in his Sonata in G Major for Violin and Piano written in the 1920's following a trip to America where he met Gershwin, Paul Whiteman, the band leader and the trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke. The opening Allegretto contained shades of Gershwin followed by a syncopated Perpetuum mobile before the final Allegro swept all before it in a show of lights-out virtuosity from Alex on the violin at which point we all sank back in our chairs to draw breath!

Alexandra explained the provenance of the works and intention of the composers between pieces and our audience responded to the warmth and enthusiasm of both performers by clapping enthusiastically afterwards and at their encore. The evening was a great success and I am sure we will hear a lot more about Alex and Kumi on the international stage in the future.

Andrey Lebedev (guitar) with Iosif Purits (accordion)

16th November, 2019. Review by Ian Barras-Hill.

A large, enthusiastic audience was treated to a sensational display of virtuoso playing by two young Russian artists at Haywards Heath Music Society on November 16th. Andrey first gave us a solo recital two years ago and his dazzling display of technique and musicianship led to a return visit, this time with his friend Iosif Purits.

Iosif opened the concert with a group of orchestral and piano transcriptions for the accordion. We have never before had an accordion at the Music Society and were not all sure what to expect! For those who associate the instrument mainly with cafe music the enormous range of sounds produced by a classical accordionist came as a revelation.

Andrey Lebedev

As the opening bars of Vivaldi's Winter concerto filled the church the audience was captivated. Iosif voiced the different orchestral sounds so convincingly and brought the music to life so that one heard the familiar notes with new ears. The speed and brilliance of Mendelssohn's Spinning Song was just breathtaking! The plaintive sound of the accordion was well to the fore in Tchaikovsky's "Autumn" followed by the light-hearted romp of Children's Scherzo by Mussorgsky. This group ended with an original accordion composition "Fest on the Moldavanka" by the contemporary composer Victor Vlasov. The sheer vivacity of this music with its infectious dance rhythms led to rapturous applause as Iosif concluded his solo section.

"The sheer vivacity of this music with its infectious dance rhythms led to rapturous applause..."

Dance rhythms were well to the fore as Andrey concluded the first half with modern works for solo guitar. The Cuban composer Leo Brouwer presented his piece Danza de los Ancestros to Andrey who premiered it in 2015 and this was followed by Sonata for Guitar by Alberto Ginastera from Argentina. Andrey again impressed with his consummate skill in performing these very difficult works. He is clearly completely at home with Latin American modern compositions.

Second half: Accordion and guitar in perfect harmony

The combination of Accordion and Guitar was a new experience to many people and the second half was devoted to transcriptions by Andrey and Iosif for the two instruments together. The pair are in the process of transcribing Bach's Goldberg Variations and they gave us a taster with the theme and first variation which was hypnotic in the sheer beauty of the sound. Popular Spanish music including the Ritual Fire Dance by Manuel de Falla were preceded by, what was for many people, the highlight of the concert - the Adagio from the Concerto de Aranjuez by Rodrigo. This very popular guitar concerto transferred perfectly to accordion and guitar and made for a riveting experience. The concert ended with excerpts from L'Histoire de Tango by Astor Piazolla.

In this concert we heard many familiar pieces performed by an unfamiliar pairing of instruments. The very skillful transcriptions ensured one listened to the music in a very different way and made for a most rewarding experience.

Many people asked for a return visit and we hope that both Andrey and Iosif will delight us again in a future season!

Jonathan Radford (saxophone) with Ashley Fripp (piano)

15th February, 2020. Review by Ian Barras-Hill.

Storm Dennis hit the UK on Saturday February 15th 2020 and Haywards Heath felt the brunt of some lashing rain and wind that night. However, this did not deter our valiant audience who turned out to enjoy a hugely entertaining concert by two musicians at the top of their game. It began with Jonathan Radford's arrangement of Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'une faune, an impressionistic work, inspired by a poem by Stephane Mallarmé, that evokes the desires and dreams of the faun in the heat of the afternoon. The soprano saxophone replaced the more familiar flute line which Jonathan played with a haunting and melodious tone until the pace and attack stepped up in the next piece, the Sonata No 1 in A Minor Op. 105 by Robert Schumann, a late work first heard in 1852 with piano accompaniment by Clara Schumann.

Ashley Fripp (piano) and Jonathan Radford (saxophone)

A touch of Sturm und Drang...
Delivered with passionate expression, Jonathan and Ashley drove this Romantic music forward in a highly synchronised interplay of soprano sax and piano that accentuated the repeated themes through a cascade of semiquavers culminating in the final chords of the coda. The saxophone sounded more like the clarinet at the end just as the sweetness of the flute had been hinted at in the first Debussy piece.

Nights at the Alhambra
In a truly trans-continental programme, the first half ended with Albeniz's SUITE ESPANOLA Op. 47 which gave us a taste of the regional music of Spain. First, Granada (Andalucía) – a serenade that transmitted the heat of the day in its slow languorous pulse then Sevilla, based on the Seguidilla dance similar to flamenco. Jonathan's fluent runs on the soprano sax keys captured the swirling majesty of the dance beautifully, whilst Ashley struck the syncopated rhythms to perfection.

It takes Two to Tango, then there was Gershwin!
The second half took us first to Buenos Aires then to New York. We heard L'HISTOIRE du TANGO by Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), one of the most famous compositions by this Argentinian composer. Bordello, 1900 is a lively tango, originally played on guitar and flute, where the women tease the policemen, thieves, sailors and riffraff who come to see them. The mood changed in Café, 1930 with the tango taken at a softer, rhapsodic pace. Here Jonathan played melancholy harmonies on the soprano sax with a rich plangent tone, at times sounding a bit like film music. The last movement Night Club, 1960 introduced new styles of tango influenced by international dance crazes like the bossa nova, and a profound alteration to the original tango forms. Jonathan picked up the pace with a tirade of sparkling arpeggios and off- beat clusters of notes.

Finally, we thrilled to the soaring glissando wail of Jonathan's alto sax at the start of Gershwin's RHAPSODY IN BLUE - the tour de force of the concert. He performed this dazzling work on three saxophones, but the focus was very much on the piano with Ashley driving the intoxicating rhythms of this symphonic jazz piece and holding it all together with Jonathan in a brilliant interplay of matched instruments. Clearly our audience loved these two and clapped enthusiastically throughout, and at the welcome encore. In this concert we saw fresh life breathed into familiar works through skilful transcriptions and arrangements by Jonathan and other arrangers. It was a pleasure to hear how the combination of soprano, alto and tenor saxophones with piano worked so well together.