Category Archives: Reviews

Review of Recital by Sarah Beth Briggs 19 September 2017

Sunderland Pianoforte Society celebrated the 75th season with a recital by former member Sarah Beth Briggs who delighted the audience with a varied and interesting programme. The recital started with the Italian Concerto BWV 971 by Bach which was given with great authority and clarity. The Mozart sonata in F, K332, followed this and again was given a good, thoughtful performance. The first half of the recital ended with the rarely heard Beethoven sonata, op. 90. After the interval we moved to the more romantic music and were treated to the Sonatina in A minor by Hans Gal, a composer who was born in Vienna in 1890 but moved to Edinburgh in 1939 and was one of the founders of the Edinburgh Festival. This was really beautiful music and very well played. It is worth mentioning that it was its first performance in Sunderland and well received by an appreciative audience. We then heard Two Arabesques by Debussy then the Schumann Arabeske, op. 18. The evening ended with a powerful performance of the Chopin Ballade No. 4 which presented no technical difficulties to Sarah Beth Briggs despite being one of the most challenging works in the piano repertoire. However, the audience wanted more and were given a soothing encore of Traumerei by Schumann.

Newcastle born Sarah Beth studied with the late Denis Matthews and her professional career was launched at the age of eleven when she became the then youngest ever finalist in the BBC Young Musician of the Year. Sarah’s playing takes her to many countries and she enjoys balancing a successful solo career with numerous chamber music engagements. Her most recent venture is a piano duet partnership with James Lisney.

The Society is grateful that Sarah has been able to perform for our special season and we look forward to following her career in the future.

LS

Review of recital by Joseph Houston 25 April 2017

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The final recital of the season was given by Joseph Houston, a brilliant young pianist based in London and Berlin. A good appreciative audience enjoyed a very interesting first half of the recital which was quite unique as it was presented with a combination of composers and it was played without the interruption of applause. This worked very well, being varied and well thought out.

The recital opened with ‘La Cathedrale Engloutie’ by Debussy to be followed by ‘With Drums and Pipes’ by Bartok. We then heard the Intermezzo in Emajor, op. 116 No.4 by Brahms and returned to Debussy for ‘Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest’ and ‘Les sons et parfums tournent dans l’air du soir’. Returning to Brahms, we heard the ‘Capriccio in G minor, Op.116 No.3’ then Bartok’s ‘The Night’s Music’ and ‘The Chase’ The first half of the recital ended with’Les cloches de Geneve’ by Liszt and to hear this collection of such varied music, played without applause was quite refreshing.

After the interval we heard the ‘Sonata op.2 no.2 by Beethoven which was given a lively performance and the evening ended with ‘Ballade No. 4’ by Chopin which was played with great style and power. This is Joseph Houston’s second visit to the Society and he has always impressed the audience with his brilliant technique and musicianship but most notable is his subtle and clever use of pedal which is always used with great care. Altogether a good end to the season.

The Society is most grateful for the financial support given by the City of Sunderland which enables and enriches the quality of music and the arts to continue.

Lily Scott.

Review of Recital by Harry Nowakowski-Fox 14 March 2017

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The Sunderland Pianoforte Society presented an attractive and demanding programme last Tuesday. The pianist was Harry Nowakowski-Fox, a Young Steinway Artist who has won a number of prizes, including the grand prize at the Windsor International Piano Competition. He commenced with Schumann’s Kinderszenen (“Scenes from Childhood”), a set of short pieces which are not for children, but are an adult’s recollection of childhood, for adults to play. The recital continued with a spirited performance of Sonata Opus 53 by Beethoven, dedicated to his friend Count Waldstein. A high degree of technical dexterity is required to play this sonata, and Harry was well able to demonstrate this, and to produce a considerable range of dynamics and sonorities from the piano, making for a most effective performance.

The first piece after the interval was Chopin’s Fantaisie in F minor which has an unusual design, as befits a fantasy, and the contrasts were well-handled. The final work in the programme was more Schumann: Kreisleriana Opus 16. Kreisler was a fictional character, an eccentric conductor who found consolation at the piano. Harry Nowakowski-Fox gave a thoughtful treatment of this set of pieces, bringing out the various moods of the eight movements, and maintaining interest throughout. As an encore he played again the best known piece from Kinderszenen: Träumerei (“Dreaming”). Harry is an exciting pianist; it will be well worth following his career as it develops.

David Pennycuick

Review of Recital by Maria Marchant 14 February 2017

107_0866Valentine’s Day was celebrated in style at Sunderland Museum when the Pianoforte Society presented a recital by brilliant young British pianist Maria Marchant, who entertained an appreciative audience with an evening of romantic music. The recital started with a selection of well loved lyric pieces by Grieg to be followed by Liszt transcriptions of Schubert songs. Then we heard the Liszt Petrarch sonnet 104 from “Deuxième Année: Italie”. The first half ended with Spanish music; we had Granados “The Maiden and the Nightingale” and Albeniz “Sevilla”. After the interval Glinka’s “L’Alouette” was followed by pieces from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet”. We then heard Debussy’s “La Cathédrale Engloutie” and Brahms’ Intermezzo Op. 117 No.1. The recital ended with Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata which was played with great style and authority, but the audience was wanting more and Maria played Holst’s “Northumbrian Pipes” which made for a very good end to the evening.

Maria made her Wigmore Hall and South Bank debut in 2010 and has since been in great demand throughout Britain and abroad. As a passionate advocate of British music, Maria gave the world premiere performance of “Goodwood by the Sea”, a new solo piano work by Roderick Williams written for Maria and commissioned by the Shipley Arts Festival, where she is pianist in residence. Maria is also involved with chamber music and is recording her debut CD for SOMM records for international release in 2017.

Lily Scott

Review of Young Pianists’ Recital 13 December 2016

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Sunderland Pianoforte Society continued their 74th season with a concert which was given by pupils of David Murray and local piano teacher, Eileen Bown. The concert was given in the Pottery Room at Sunderland Museum and was well attended by members and proud parents as well as families who enjoyed an evening of superb music given by pianists of varying ages ranging from Flint Shepherd who is 6 years old to mature performers. The aim of the Society is to encourage the study of piano playing and this was certainly done on Tuesday evening with the help of David Murray who introduced the pianists.

The evening began with 6 year old Flint Shepherd who played a Prelude by Hummel, and this was followed by Ciaran Leahy playing “Staccato Beans” by Tan Dun. This was followed by James Barker playing “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and then Louis Scott played “Cruella de Vil”. These four young pianists not only played well but are to be congratulated on their stage presence and appearance. We then heard Icy Wong playing Chopin’s Nocturne in D flat op.27 no.2 with great sensitivity to  be followed by William Horseman playing Rachmaninov Prelude in B minor op.32 no.10. Amy Baker then  played the first movement of Sonata in D minor op.31 no.2 by Beethoven and the first half of the evening ended with Tom Yang playing 3 movements from the Children’s Corner Suite by Debussy. After the interval during which mince pies and wine were enjoyed Nicole Lau played the Prelude and Fugue in G major by Bach and was followed by Victoria Robinson who played Debussy: Pagodes from  Estampes and Saint Saens Etude en forme de Valse, played with great polish and style. Amy Baker made a welcome return to play Cadiz by Albeniz and was followed by a lively performance of Toccatina by Kapustin given by Alan Coxon. The concert ended with a performance of the famous Rhapsody in C by Dohnanyi given by William Horseman.

It is encouraging to hear these talented young pianists, some of whom will be going on to have professional careers and the Society wishes them every success. Many thanks go to David Murray and Eileen Bown for all their hard work in producing such a good evening.

Lily Scott

Review of Recital by Ashley Fripp 22 November 2016

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Lovers of classical music were treated to an excellent concert on Tuesday evening at the Sunderland Pianoforte Society, in the Museum and Winter Gardens. The pianist was Ashley Fripp, making a very welcome return visit to the Society. The first half of the programme consisted of two contrasting sonatas – opus 10 no.3 in D major by Beethoven and opus 14 in D minor by Prokofiev. Ashley took full advantage of the piano’s dynamic range to express the differing moods of the various sonata movements. His performances of both works were powerful, but delicate where the music demanded.

The second half of the recital was devoted to Rachmaninov Preludes – the set of ten forming opus 23, preceded by the well known prelude in C sharp minor (opus 3 no.2). Ashley Fripp has a formidable technique allied to a deep understanding of the pieces he is playing. He was able to establish good rapport with the audience, and gave us a sensitive and altogether satisfying recital, with a Chopin mazurka as an encore.

David Pennycuick

Review of Recital by Mishka Rushdie Momen 18 October 2016

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The 74th season continued with a recital by the British born pianist, Mishka Rushdie Momen who gave an enthusiastic audience a very good evening. Mishka appeared by kind permission of The Countess of Munster Musical Trust, a scheme which helps young musicians and supports them in their early career. Already an accompished performer, Mishka has played in the Wigmore Hall, The Purcell Room, The Royal Festival Hall and many countries abroad.

The evening started with an elegant performance of the Mozart Fantasia in C minor, K475 and was followed by the Janacek Sonata No.1 which was a good contrast in style. The first half finished with a good performance of the Beethoven Sonata, op.101 in A major which was well received by an appreciative audience. After the interval we heard a very thoughtful performance of Waldszenen, op.82 by Schumann, a composer who is not always easy to interpret but this was good. The recital ended with a rousing Wanderer Fantasie, D.760 by Schubert, played with an amazing power but balanced by the thoughtfulness of the quieter passages.

Mishka Rushdie Momen is a pianist with great talent and the Society is pleased to acknowledge the financial support of the Countess of Munster Trust.

Lily Scott

Review of Recital by Jinah Shim, 20 September 2016

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Sunderland Pianoforte Society started its 74th season with a recital given by Jinah Shim, a young pianist who was sponsored by Making Music’s Philip and Dorothy Green Award for Young Concert Artists scheme. An enthusiastic audience was treated to an interesting programme which was beautifully played .

The evening began with the Schubert Sonata in A, Op.120 and was followed by three impromptus, Op.90 nos.2,3,4, all played with great sensitivity and style appropriate to the period.

After the interval we heard the Fantasie in F minor, Op.49 by Chopin followed by a powerful performance of Ballade No.2 by Liszt. The recital ended with L’isle Joyeuse by Debussy which was clearly enjoyed by both pianist and audience and made a very good start to the season.

Jinah Shim began learning the piano at the age of five and was a winner of the European Piano Teacher’s Association competition in 2005. She then went on to study at the Birmingham Conservatoire as a junior student where she won many more prizes. Notable past performances include Grieg’s Piano Concerto in Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, Rachmaninov’s 2nd Piano Concerto and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12. As well as solo playing Jinah is interested in Chamber Music  and has performed with her own Piano Quartet,  the Hill Piano Quartet.

Making Music is the UK’s leading organisation for voluntary music and the Society appreciates the financial help which enables us to present such talented young pianists.

Review of Recital by Jens-Hagen Wegner, 12 April 2016

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Sunderland Pianoforte Society finished its 73rd season with a recital given by Jens-Hagen Wegner, the brilliant young German pianist who won second prize in the Liszt Piano Competition. This was well attended by an appreciative audience who enjoyed some wonderful playing. The first half of the programme was given to a performance of music by Liszt, which included lesser known works as well as the famous Liebestraume and Benediction de Dieu dans la Solitude.
After the interval the recital continued with a very individual performance of the Sonata no.2 in B Flat Minor by Chopin, a well known work in which artistic licence was used to the full but with great effect. Jens-Hagen Wegner had given a lot of thought to this work and he had managed to bring some completely different sounds to those usually heard. This was clearly a work that he loved playing and in the Funeral March the piano was used to create some beautiful sounds which were followed by the last movement with its intense and abstract sounds. A masterful performance.  The Valse Impromptu, Landler, Kaskaden and Rhapsodie by Dohnanyi were a good contrast to the intensity of the Chopin, with the Rhapsodie being a good, lively end. However the audience wanted more and were given a performance of Un Sospiro by Liszt.