“Sax a Trois” was the group of musicians who entertained us at our April meeting and what a talented group they were. Anna Young, Paynor Tsate and Samantha Matthews from the Birmingham Conservatoire have all won prizes for their solo performances and as members of trios and quartets. The accompanist was Charles Matthews, a tutor in piano and organ at the Conservatoire. He is in great demand for his legendary accompanying skills not just at the Conservatoire but also in the wider circle of professional music making.

The programme consisted of a trio to both begin and end the entertainment with each student playing a solo piece in each half of the programme.

“Dance for three Saxophones” (originally for three violins) arranged by Charles Matthews set the scene with a very robust and rhythmic performance with excellent attention to detail. Anna then played “Fuzzy Bird Sonata” by Tokashi Yoshimatsu in which after several attempts Fuzzy Bird finally manages to take flight. After the interval Anna played Vocalise by Messiaen which demonstrated her beautiful legato tone quality. Paynor chose “Majorca” by Albeniz which, as expected, displayed a real Spanish atmosphere particularly as Paynor was very keen to highlight the rhythmic content. For his second piece he chose “Escapades” (from the film “Catch me if you can”) by John Williams. After  the opening section the mood became mysterious with a rather free rhythmic content before ending with “Joy Ride” which brought the piece to a very lively conclusion. Samantha played “Concerto” in three short movements by Lee Actor and in the second half she played the soprano saxophone and played “Fujiko” by Andy Scott. This demonstrated her control of the instrument and her beautiful smooth legato playing as the piece ended very softly and mysteriously. The final piece is best known when played by three violins but Pachelbel’s “Canon” nevertheless was an interesting choice and in the hands of such talented performers one could always hear the melody as it is passed from one player to the next.

Charles, as usual, was superb in the way he coped with some unbelievably difficult accompaniments  and, after an evening of excellent music-making,  the performers were rewarded with long, enthusiastic and well-deserved applause.

The March meeting of the Music Society was held, not in the usual venue of the Methodist Church, but in the Music Room at Famington Farm, Willington thanks to the very kind invitation of David Hodges. This is a perfect venue for Chamber music and the Arcus Piano Trio certainly enjoyed playing there.

The programme consisted of two Piano trios, the first by Schubert (1797 – 1828) and the second by Brahms (1833 – 1897). Schubert completed the Trio No. 1 in B-flat major in 1828 just before he died. Written in the classical style of that era, it nevertheless brings to the fore his wonderful ability to compose beautiful melodies particularly in the first two movements. In the third movement (Scherzo) the instruments imitate each other before leading us into the final movement which ended with an exciting section, played as marked, at presto speed!

After the interval, in which members of the audience enjoyed a glass of wine, it was the Piano Trio No. 1 in B major by Brahms. Although theoretically it is still in the classical age it certainly shows leanings towards the romantic era that was to follow with a stronger sense of emotion and less adherence to the classical forms. The opening of this Trio is an example; the cello and piano introduce a bold melody which builds up to the entry of the violin. Then follows a lively section in which various themes are developed. In the Scherzo the delicate finger work from all players was beautifully executed.

It was clear from the start that these three performers really enjoy playing together; the synchronisation was superb, seemingly by instinct on occasions and their musicianship is of the highest level. Formed in 2015 they have already received many accolades in this country but each one of them also pursues a successful career as a soloist. They are based in the Midlands and hopefully, we may be able to persuade them to play for us again in the future.

It was local talent who last week entertained the members of the Shipston Music Society. Tim and Helen Porter and their daughter Hannah, are just three members of a musical family (the others were performing elsewhere!) Tim is a self-taught harmonica player, Helen is well known in the area as a piano teacher and Hannah plays the piano, flute and violin.

They produced a varied programme with many pieces easily recognised by the audience interspersed with others, new to many, some arranged by the family during “jamming sessions”.For instance, the lively ”The Entertainer” by Scot Joplin was followed by the slower, slightly wistful opening of “Desperado” by Frey and Henley. The interaction between harmonica and, firstly flute then violin, swapping the melody and countermelody with perfect balance was well executed. “My Baby just cares for me” sung and self- accompanied by Hannah was a delight; she has an intuitive sense of style within the jazz idiom. Other highlights were “Ashokan Farewell” by Jay Ungar where the harmonica really became the principal performer. The piece had a rather sad “folk tune” type theme in a minor key and was performed with expertise and feeling by Tim. In contrast, “What a wonderful world” also highlighting the harmonica, was full of sunshine and joy. “Summertime” (George Gershwin) began with an introduction consisting of snatches of the main theme being passed around the players, before the flute finally took the melody into the higher range for a complete rendition which, as usual, was achieved effortlessly by Hannah. Two contrasting piano rags by Scott Joplin, “Maple Leaf Rag” and “Solace” were played with great attention to detail by Helen, and the evening ended with “The Man I Love” by Gershwin where Hannah’s flawless top notes again filled the high ceiling of the Shipston Methodist Church.

With a programme featuring pieces by composers ranging from Telemann,  Debussy and Rachmaninov to John Barry, Ronnie Hazelhurst and Paul McCartney, this was an evening of contrasting styles executed with skill and obvious enjoyment and was suitably rewarded with enthusiastic applause.

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.

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