At last, on Friday 17th September, the members of the Shipston Music Society were able to meet and what a wonderful feeling it was to listen to live music-making again. Our recitalist was the cellist Tom Pickles who, after his visit in 2019, has won more acclaim as a talented performer both here and in Europe.

The programme began with the Allegro Appassionato by Saint-Saens which immediately displayed Tom’s technical skills. With his accompanist Charles Matthews – well known to Shipston audiences – this was a partnership of the highest level with superb synchronisation. The “Romance” by Delius followed, with its beautiful legato melody providing a gentle contrast before the Sonata no. 1 by Francis Routh, a present day composer. Immediately we were impressed by the complexity, rhythmic content and the tonal aspect of this 21st century piece. It was obvious that they had great fun playing this piece together. Six Studies in English Folksongs by Ralph Vaughan Williams brought us gently to the interval.

The Cello Suite no. 1 by J. S. Bach is part of the classic repertoire for advanced performers and requires a high level of technical and interpretive ability which Tom had no problem in displaying. After Sonata for Solo cello by Francis Routh, The Prelude by Ernest Moeran introduced a peaceful atmosphere and demonstrated the beautiful sonorous tone quality of Tom’s playing. Finally, Max Bruch’s Kol Nidrei completed the programme. Wistful and yearning in the introductory section, this was soon to be overshadowed by an angry loud chordal section. The very high level of technical ability required for this demonstrated why the accompanying skills of Charles are in such demand.

The Cradle Song by Frank Bridge was a fitting encore to an evening of music performed with feeling, superb technical ability and obvious enjoyment.

The March meeting of the Shipston Music Society featured cellist Tom Pickles, a graduate of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire with accompanist Charles Matthews. During his time at the Conservatoire Tom was the winner of several prizes and awards and since then has performed in venues around the country.

From the first notes of Frank Bridge’s “Four Short Pieces” one was captivated by the deep, sonorous tone quality of Tom’s playing. The “Sonata no 2” by Francis Routh (present-day composer) is a powerful work displaying the wide compass of the cello and possible dynamic range. This was played with feeling and a real understanding of the music. At the end of the month Tom will perform it again at a concert with Francis Routh present. Then followed Sonata in D minor by Debussy and, after the interval, “Threnos” by John Tavener with its slow, elegiac opening featuring adjacent notes sounding together – one of Tavener’s “thumb prints”. Tom gave us a wonderful performance of it.

The programme ended with “Sonata in F, op.5” by Beethoven in which the final movement, Rondo, is marked Allego vivace. It was certainly played with great panache and skill by both performers and the superb synchronisation of Charles with his soloist in the extremely fast scale passages left us all breathless. After rapturous applause Tom returned and brought us “down to earth” with an encore of unaccompanied Bach to conclude a memorable evening of music for cello and piano by composers from the early 19th century to the present day.

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