Rochdale Music Society

REVIEWS by Graham Marshall


A stunning performance of the String Quartet in E minor ‘From my life’ by Smetana crowned an evening of musical delight for a Rochdale Music Society audience gathered in Heywood Civic Centre on 11 February.  
The music was played by the Diverso Quartet, a group of  four Polish instrumentalists from diverse backgrounds: violinists Dagmara Foryś and Marci Ostrowski, violist Magdalena Krawczuk and cellist Zofia Lodygowska whose masterful individual technical accomplishment and combined artistic vision have been making a deep impression on audiences throughout Europe and in the Far East in the last couple of years. 
Each half of the concert opened with one of the Divertimenti written by Mozart shortly after his return from a tour of Italy in 1771 while he was still a teenager. The first was that in F major K 138, the second that in B flat major  K137.  Both works reveal the astonishing compositional maturity of the 15 years old composer. They open up a world of 18th century Italian grace and charm into which this performance entered with whole-hearted enthusiasm, taking the willing and appreciative audience with it. 
The restrained Classical elegance and measured exhuberance of early Mozart contrasted pointedly with the more up-front, emotive Romanticism of the other music in the programme. 
Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in F minor, which filled the rest of the first half of the concert, was written only a few months before his early death in 1847 and has the title, Requiem for Fanny.  It was a tribute to his sister, who had died earlier that year, and is music which expresses a wide range of dark feeling- foreboding, anguish, frustration, fear and defiance in the face of death, with heartfelt grief and melancholy. Not at all what might be expected from the composer’s larger, more popular orchestral and choral works, it gives us a glimpse into the richly furnished depths of Mendelssohn’s musical soul to which this performance gave vivid exposure. 
So, too, the String Quartet in E minor ‘From my life’ by Smetana, written in 1876, offered the players the chance to demonstrate the extent of their artistic insight and technical prowess. This they did with breath-taking efficiency and effectiveness. Every note was perfectly placed and nuanced, making an obviously profound impression on the audience. 
It has to be said that Rochdale Music Society is privileged to have been able to welcome the Diverso Quartet to its 2017 Concert Series.


Members of the Vista Wind Trio, Jennifer Dyson (Flute), Beatrice Hubble (Oboe) and Caroline Waddington (Clarinet) joined forces with Harpist Elinor Nicholson on 7 October to provide a varied  programme of music for Rochdale Music Society’s first of two autumn special concerts to be given in the newly refurbished Bamford Chapel.  Already appreciated as a concert venue with a welcoming environment for music-making, the Chapel now provides an even more comfortable place for audiences to sit back and enjoy the kind of excellent performances given on this auspicious occasion.
All four artistes featured as soloists at some point in the concert, and demonstrated their personal command of their instruments in skilful and refined performance of music from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. Together they gave insightful accounts of some works originally written for Flute/Oboe/Clarinet trio, including Malcolm Arnold’s Trio. They also presented several attractive arrangements of music originally written for other instruments or ensembles, including a Suite of pieces derived from Bernstein’s West Side Story’ and another from Debussy’s ‘Children’s Corner’.
Flute and harp came together in an impressive performance of William Alwyn’s Naiades, a work of great refinement and passion which occasioned a very warm response from the captivated audience. Featured on its own, the harp's wide range of dynamic and expressive possibilities were expertly demonstrated in Elinor Nicholson's performance of music written for her by Sally Beamish.

APRIL 9th 2016  ALEXANDER SOARES Pianoforte

The name Soares may sound more like that of a footballer than a musician, but if it preceded by Alexander it is one for concert-goers to look out, because it belongs to the young London-born  pianist who held the Rochdale Music Society audience in Heywood Civic Centre on 09 April spellbound with his exceptional technical accomplishment and artistic insight. He is surely destined  to find international acclaim.
A player who gives performances from both the head and the heart, Alexander shared with his audience his deep insight into the musical substance of every moment of the music he drew from the notes on paper as provided by the composers J.S.Bach, Claude Debussy, Frederick Chopin and Robert Schumann. 
He began the concert with the Partita No. 5 in G major by Bach, a work calling for utmost sensitivity and precision to make its impact in a modern concert hall setting using a sonorous grand piano. Alexander’s strong hands and light fingers proved more than equal to the task of presenting the music with both panache and delicacy as it moved through the varied motions of its dance sequence from its opening flourish to the fugal finale. 
The music of Debussy’s Children’s Corner Suite is far from childlike in the technical demands it makes upon the player and the wide range of musical appreciation it expected of those who listened to it for the first time in 1908. It swirls and stands still, sleeps and wakens, frowns and smiles, lies low and leaps up; and all this with Debussy’s harmonic inventiveness and colourful pianistic exploration underlying its experimental structures. In one sense it provided an almost complete contrast in style to the disciplined, teutonic textures of the Bach Partita. In another, it was just like what a late nineteenth century Frenchman’s take on a Partita would be: romantic, rhapsodic, yet elegantly poised. Alexander revelled in facing up to the challenges presented by Debussy, and lulled the elephant to sleep, danced with the snow and took the cake with the golliwog as required.  
Before the interval came a magnificent account of one of Chopin’s late works, the Polonaise - Fantasie Op. 61.  This is music which seems to well up from the soul of the composer in a way that reveals his personality in an up-front way. There is nothing of merely superficial melodic charm, but there is everything of artistic insight into mid-nineteenth century developments in the process of communicating the deepest human feelings through music. This was clearly, and one might say almost definitively demonstrated in the performance given by Alexander Soares, which was quite breath-taking in its dynamic rise and fall.  
After the interval there was the single work by Schumann, his Kreisleriana Op.16, which calls for even more artistic insight and technical expertise than the Chopin Polonaise-Fantasie.  This determinedly teutonic outpouring of a composer’s soul in music makes a very substantial contribution to any concert pianist’s repertory, and demands the deepest insights into what goes on when a composer puts pen to paper. Alexander Soares gave a masterly account of the ups and downs of life as given by Schumann in this sometimes almost tranquil but all too often explosive work inspired by E.T.A. Hoffman’s “eccentric, wild and witty” character, the conductor Johannes Kreisler.
 All in all this was a night of music to remember for the depth of understanding and the breadth of  technical accomplishment the pianist brought to a rich variety of musical expression.   - Graham Marshall



The 2010-2011 season of concerts presented by the Rochdale Music Society began on Thursday, October 7th with a programme illustrative of the lively mixture of styles to be encountered among the music of composers who belong to the North West Composers Association.

The concert of music by North West Composers revealed the good acoustic properties of the building, which lends itself perfectly to the kind of instrumental and vocal sounds enjoyed this by the attentive and appreciative audience on this first collaborative occasion bringing the RMS and NWCA together.

Piano music by Colin Bayliss (chairman of the NWCA) and David Forshaw (Secretary NWCA) was deftly played by Christopher Pulleyn and the composer respectively.

John Peace joined Christopher in some energetic duets by Graham Marshall (Vice-Chairman NWCA), whose ‘Five Whimsies’ were sung with great sympathy by the countertenor David Solomons and Pietà an icon for organ performed with conviction by Parish Church Master of the Music, Phlip Lowe.

David Solomons (also a member of the NWCA ) accompanied himself on the guitar in performances of four delightfully whimsical songs of his own.

Geoffrey Kimpton (Treasurer NWCA) was the committed viola soloist in his own arrangement of a substantial and lyrical four-movement work he wrote originally for cello and piano, ‘Scope’, in which he was accompanied by John Peace.

Flautist Lesley Reading played the first movement of a Sonatina for Flute and piano by Colin Bayliss, and also joined Graham Marshall in his Haitian Lullaby with Variants for Flute and guitar, a work written earlier this year as part of a disasters’ fund-raising project by the Delian Society, an internet group of composers from all over the world. The harpsichord voicing of an electronic keyboard made a perfectly acceptable substitute for the guitar in this balanced performance.

This was the first time that Rochdale’s ancient Parish Church of St. Chad had been used as a venue for an RMS concert. It will not be the last.A further concert in St. Chad’s is already planned for May 7th 2011, when members of the New London Chamber Ensemble will include in a varied programme the world première of local composer Graham Marshall’s Wind Quintet, ‘Moods’.


SEASON 2011-12 

October 1st 2011  THE FUJITA PIANO TRIO

 It still surprises me to discover just how in tune with 18th an19th century European music so many of our contemporary performers from such different backgrounds as China and Japan can be. Like the three Fujita sisters from Japan - Arisa (violin), Honoka (cello) and Megumi (piano) - who were able effortlessly to bring to the ears of a receptive audience in the Heywood Civic Centre convincing accounts of Trios by Mozart, Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann.

Mozart is all about precision and elegance. The sisters showed these in abundance through the three movements of his short Trio in C major, which might be regarded as a light-hearted companion to his great 'Jupiter' Symphony in the same key written around the same time. It provides a mouth-watering opener to an evening when the musical possibilities of combining violin, cello and piano were well realised.

The Gminor Trio of Clara Schumann, remarkable wife of Robert Schumann, was played with great sensitivity. Clara's work as a composer would might well have been more productive had she not devoted herself to supporting her husband and family of eight children by working for over 50 years as a concert pianist. Performances of her work are comparatively rare. We are indebted to the Fujita Trio for bring this warm-hearted an dbeguiling work to our attention.

Mendelssohn, like Mozart, had but abrief life. Yet he left us a wealth of musical  experience to be enjoyed over and over again. The Dminor Trio is a work filled with flowing and flowering jmeldoy in its outer movements, gently impressing in its slow lullaby-like second movement and almost breath-taking in its mercurial scherzo. It does not quite match up to his Symphonies, Violin Concerto, Oratorios or incidental music to A Midsummer NIght's Dream, but, as the Fujita sisters amply demonstrated by their impassioned account, it is an excellent and substantial ingredient in a piano trio concert.

Those present will have been captivated by the musicianship and artistic imsight of the performers on this rewarding occasion. I would have to say, however, that it was a pity that we were not offered another 10 to 15 minutes of actual programmed music. Maybe another time?

Graham Marshall





Contact Information

Rochdale Music Society

4 Fieldhead Avenue

Tel: 01706 655655