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Cello Lessons

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The Oxford Times
Friday, July 11th, 2003

Sophie's Silver Lining Festival: Chacombe
Church of St. Peter & St. Paul : Friday, July 4th, 2003

"Out at Chacombe, which is a kind of English Brigadoon of roasted Banbury stone, where an encounter with Miss Marple or Miss Matty of Cranford might seem all in the day's routine, the concert I heard in the church last week was - believe it or not — part of a music festival.

The project was launched three years ago by Cherry and Stephen Large, commemorating their daughter Sophie, killed in a road accident. Ever since, the festival has grown in size and interest. It assists the Silver Lining Fund, contributing to the support of young singers and actors; it also provides a platform for starry young artists, whose quality is assured by the presence of that fine viola-player Tim Boulton, as festival director, and Tom Poster, this year’s artistic director.

Supporting cast includes a homespun nexus of intelligent help (Juliet and Nigel Banks, for example) but Stephen Large, eyeing us before the concert began, observed that the years had brought in more and more faces he failed to recognise. No mystery about that of course. If people insist on recruiting artists of rarefied calibre, like this, they do so at local peril. So forget the diplomatic half-truths. Charity Concert or not, the music-making here deserved unalloyed bravos.

To begin with, the cellist Richard Harwood, whose career has not wavered since his child prodigy days, played Bach’s G major Unaccompanied Suite at such a pace you thought it was just meant to dazzle. But then you picked out the un-neglected, expressive detail and meticulous control of bass notes, never allowed to boom out of balance. Equally original was the selection from Bartok’s 44 Violin duos. The dissonant clashes, the tri-tone entries: these prevented neither Tom Hankey nor Nadia Wijzenbeek (particularly the latter) from handling these works with a rich, seductive fluency, that stressed their fun and charm.

The larger pieces, Schubert’s Quartettsatz and Schumann's Piano Quintet, were narrated with the kind of aggressive freshness you would expect from young players with bags of talent. The same mood infected that other beautiful work, the Faure Piano Trio, whose insistent motifs, sporting among the harmonies, seem the quintessence of Faure’s passionately wistful style. But its bitonal feuding, its relentless onward and upward drive, was what this performance relished most.

Bombarded with chromatics, assailed by rising dynamics, you sat there in awe."

Derek Jole | header

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