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Richard Harwood


Cello Lessons

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4 May 2011

MUSIC: Oxford May Music 2011 Festival Finale (1st Week TT 2011)
Holywell Music Room, Monday 2nd May, 7:30pm

"Bringing the past week of music and talks to a close, expectations were high for this festival finale and it certainly delivered.

The free-for-youth festival included performances from international ensembles as well as fascinating talks from eminent speakers such as Brian Cox and was a week not to be missed.

Hosted in the beautiful 18th century Holywell Music Room, yesterday evening’s finale performance featured the fantastic talents of seven musicians playing a bill of four pieces for small ensembles ranging from the courtly Trio for Flute, Violin and Viola, Op. 25 by Beethoven to the sombre yet luscious “Verklärte Nacht”, Op. 4 by Schoenberg.

As solo artists the list of the performer’s achievements are seemingly unending; from Richard Harwood’s BBC Radio 3 debut aged thirteen with a live recording of the Elgar Cello Concerto to Philip Dukes’ solo performances at the BBC Proms and extensive recordings for the prestigious Naxos music label, the musicians certainly lived up to expectations with this remarkable evening of chamber music.

The concert opened with a very fine performance of Beethoven’s Trio for Flute, Violin and Viola, Op. 25, comprising 6 short movements, each lead by the beautiful voice of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s principal Jaime Martin on flute. This was followed by Antonin Dvorák’s energetic String Sextet in A Major, Op. 48 – a stately and melodic piece played to a very high standard featuring many influences from Slavonic gypsy tunes so frequently heard in Dvorák’s writing. Mozart’s Flute Quartet No. 1 in D Major, K285 followed, ending with a charmingly gay Rondo full of typical Mozartean invention which really allowed the individuals technical abilities to shine through.

This already superb concert was then utterly stolen away by the final piece – a stunning performance of Schoenberg’s “Verklärte Nacht”, Op. 4. The audience was left blown away by this beautiful gem of turn of the century music telling a story of the evening wanderings of a couple, the admission by the woman that she is pregnant by another and the man’s magnanimous response looking to the future. This wonderful interpretation showcased exceptional ensemble playing alongside each individual’s technical prowess and power to convey emotion; the delectable light pizzicato sections really brought the room to life, painting a vivid picture of the young woman standing nervous in the moonlight nervously awaiting the response from her lover. This piece stands firmly at the summit of 20th century chamber music and this splendid interpretation absolutely did it proud.

This was an exceptional finale fit for an exceptional festival, neither to be missed."

Owen Campbell-Moore | header

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