The June meeting of the Shipston Music Society was held in St. Edmund’s Church as part of the Shipston Proms fortnight. The performers were Craig Ogdon and his wife Claire Bradshaw. Australian born classical guitarist Craig is one of the most exciting artists of his generation and in 2004 became the youngest instrumentalist to receive a Fellowship Award from the Royal Northern College of Music. He has performed concertos with many of the world’s leading orchestras and his recordings have received wide acclaim. Claire Bradshaw studied at the Royal Northern College of Music before completing her training at the National Opera Studio and was a finalist in the prestigious Kathleen Ferrier Awards. She has performed in concert, oratorio and opera throughout the world.

They presented a mixed programme beginning with “Music for a While” by Purcell – an ideal choice to highlight Claire’s rich mezzo voice. This was followed by some beautifully sustained singing in “Lascia ch’io Pianga by Handel and two Venetian Lieder by Schumann.

Before Craig began his solo guitar section he spent a few minutes explaining a little about  the instrument and the need for regular re-tuning throughout the programme. Then he began with movements from J.S. Bach’s Lute Suite no.3 which provided the opportunity to show his amazing technical skill: the melody was always clear above the intricate finger-work of the accompaniment. “Sevilla” by Albeniz captured the lively, rhythmic characteristics of the flamenco style with its contrasting major and minor sections and the loud spread chords. Two pieces by Gary Ryan followed. “Lough Caragh” a soft, rather wistful piece and “Rondo Rodeo”, as the name suggests, fast, and exciting  with extra “percussion” from Craig’s right hand and played with great aplomb!

The programme ended with a section for voice and guitar. Two folk songs arranged by Benjamin Britten; “I will give my Love an Apple” and “O Waly Waly” with some lovely “sotto voce” singing in the final verse. “Aranjuez” was Rodrigo’s own arrangement for voice and guitar of the main theme from his concerto, with text by his Turkish wife but translated into French! It was performed with a real feeling of longing. Finally two songs by Jerome Kern completed the programme. “The Folks Who Live on the Hill” and “All the Things You Are” were sung with a lightheartedness and demonstrated the ease with which Claire can slip from the traditional, trained style of singing into the more widely heard jazz style.

After much applause our two performers treated us to “It had to be You”. It was a fitting encore to a wonderful concert by two very talented (and busy!) people and I’m sure that many in the audience, like me, felt extremely privileged that Craig and Claire had found an opportunity in their schedules to perform in the Shipston Proms.

For the April meeting our usual venue, Shipston Methodist Church, was almost full for a recital by Claire Bradshaw (mezzo soprano) and her husband, the Australian born classical guitar player Craig Ogdon. Unfortunately Miss Bradshaw was indisposed but, undaunted, Craig Ogdon performed a complete programme of varied guitar music. He is one of the finest exponents of the instrument and has performed with all the major UK orchestras plus many abroad. He enjoys performing new works and his five Classical FM albums all shot straight to No. 1 in the classical chart. He is the youngest instrumentalist to have received a Fellowship Award from the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.

Highlights of the evening included the “Pavanne and Fantasia” by John Dowland written towards the end of the 16th century for the lute. The lively “Grand Overture” by Mauro Giuliani provided an interesting contrast. Born in 1780, he was known as a genius on the guitar and the slow introduction followed by a fast and furious section soon illustrated his grasp of all the sounds and effects that were possible on the instrument. Later we heard two pieces by Mangore – “Julia Florida” with its beautiful lyrical melody and “Vals Op. 8” which was very rhythmic with intricate finger work. Two pieces by J.S.Bach, a “Suite for lute” and “Prelude, Gavotte, Gigue and Allemande” were followed by “Sevilla” by Albeniz. This displayed all the characteristics of traditional flamenco music; the strong powerful chords and lively melodic line played with a certain degree of rubato. One could almost hear the clicking of the castanets and the swishing of the dancers’ skirts! To complete the programme we heard two pieces by Gary Ryan, a friend of Craig Ogdon, who is another of the world’s leading exponents of the classical guitar. “Lough Garagh” with its wistful melody conjuring up scenes of peace and tranquillity and “Rondo Rodeo” a contrasting composition not for the faint-hearted performer with all the rapid finger work and different techniques required to produce the effects requested by the composer. In Craig Ogdon’s hands however, this was a memorable, virtuoso performance and was rewarded by rapturous applause from the delighted audience.

Throughout the evening Craig enlightened us with snippets of information with reference to performance (R.H. nails need to be longer and L,H. shorter), the need for regular tuning  throughout the evening and the difference between the lute and the guitar. He also entertained us with some aspects of his career and details of his guitar, made by a famous Australian luthier, Brett Williams, which was subsequently stolen but was replaced by another “which is even better”!

We felt privileged to be able to enjoy an evening of music which displayed such outstanding skill and musicianship from a world class performer in this small town. This, together with his obvious pleasure in performing, had produced an evening of unforgettable joy and delight. After a short but dazzling encore we sent our best wishes to his wife for a speedy recovery and we very much hope that we will enjoy another evening in the future when they will perform together for us.

Despite the unfavourable weather conditions many members and friends braved the elements to attend the March meeting  -  a recital by Margeta Nadvornikova (violin) and Charles Matthews (piano). Marketa was born in Prague and began playing the violin at the age of five. In 2011 when aged fifteen she studied at the Prague Conservatoire and, after winning many competitions, she decided to continue her training at the Conservatoire in Birmingham. She is now in her final year before undertaking professional appearances. Charles Matthews has performed extensively as pianist and organist; in 1999 he won 1st prize in the Franz Liszt Organ Interpretation Competition in Budapest. He is organist of St. Catharine’s Church in Chipping Camden and is a tutor of piano and organ at the Birmingham Conservatoire.

The recital began with the 1st movement of Mozart’s Violin Concerto in G major which immediately demonstrated Marketa’s technical skills, particularly in the demanding coda section where she tackled the double and triple stopping with complete assurance. “From the Homeland” by Smetana, with moments of “longing” for home was followed by Dvorak’s “Romance in F minor” with lovely melodic phrases and then his rhythmically energetic “Mazurek”; all three works demonstrating the influence of Bohemian national folk music on the works of Smetana and Dvorak.

After the interval a short organ fugue in Bb major by another Bohemian composer, Johann Baptist Wanhal. Written in the Baroque style this provided an interesting contrast before hearing Janacek’s Sonata for Violin and Piano. Although there were hints of folk music in this work, one could begin to see also the influence of the early 20th century. The final item was the 1st movement of Dvorak’s Violin Concerto, an exciting and dazzling performance  to end an evening in which the two instruments were equal partners, the synchronisation was superb, and Marketa and Charles’ pleasure in performing was suitably rewarded by rapturous applause from the delighted audience.

The Society’s  year started in brilliant form at our concert in the Methodist Church on 19th January when we were treated to what can only be described as virtuoso performances from Charles Matthews and Lynn Arnold.  It may have been a cold evening outside, but inside the air was warmed by some outstanding playing by two popular local pianists.

The programme began with Beethoven’s piano piece written for two hands, the Sonata in D major opus 6.  This light-hearted piece was followed by Mendelssohn’s Variations in B flat major, and Schubert’s Fantasie in F minor, a delightful piano piece for four hands in four movements played without pause.

Beethoven’s Symphony no 5 is possibly the most well known of Beethoven’s orchestral output; however I think no-one in the audience had heard it played as a piano duet and they were in for a treat.  To say it was a brilliant performance is an understatement, and we were all mesmerised as the music, which was so familiar as an orchestral piece, was played to such great effect, showing perfect synchronisation between the two performers.  After a joyous encore, audience members rose to their feet to show their appreciation for a really enjoyable evening of music.

Making Music, the national organisation which supports, connects and champions musicians and those who present music, sponsored the latest recital organised by the Shipston and District Music Society.  Held at the Methodist Church in Shipston, the excellent acoustics did perfect justice to the superb playing of clarinettist Matthew Scott who was ably supported by Daniel King-Smith on the piano.

23 year old Matthew, who qualified in 1915 with an MA with distinction from the Royal Academy of Music, put on a challenging recital full of verve and technique.  Beginning with a fine performance of Francis Poulenc’s 1962 Sonata, Matthew’s first half performance led us on to Norbert Bergmuller’s Duo in E flat major, op. 15, and Gerald Finzi’s Five Bagatelles Op. 23.  The second half began with Claude Debussy’s Syrinx L.129 played on a C clarinet composed in 1913, followed by Max Reger’s Sonata in A flat major Op 49, no 1, and ended with Alexandre Chabot’s 2013 arrangement of variations on themes from the Nutcracker ballet which displayed both Matthew’s and the composer’s virtuosity and left the audience spellbound.    An encore of the Flight of the Bumblebee indicated in no uncertain terms that Matthew had far to go on the concert platform!   Daniel, a young pianist who already has wide experience on the international stage, gave a thoughtful and sympathetic accompaniment throughout.

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