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Monday, 22 December 2014

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THE previous concert in this year’s SASRA concert season featured an orchestra playing substantial works. On November 25, we were treated to a piano/wind trio playing nine smaller pieces, but with no less musicianship.

The concert opened with Pennillion by Howard Blake of The Snowman fame. A gentle wistful theme gave way to variations which gave the trio scope to demonstrate their mastery of their art.

Spikey staccato passages were followed by Hungarian folk music style; whole tone mode brought to mind Debussy, and gentle dissonances led back to the opening theme.

A Trio Sonata by JS Bach demonstrated the group’s enjoyment and skill at playing counterpoint and fugue.

Twentieth century music by Madeleine Dring followed with a jokey, child-like opening movement on the piano. A West End-style song gave the flute and clarinet chance to shine while the piano accompanied them.

We then moved back 400 years to a tearful piece by John Dowland which gave the alto flute a chance to shine.

Bela Bartok was one of the 20th century’s great composers; we heard some of his well-known pieces; the Roumanian folk dances, played with power and passion with driving rhythms.

Saint-Saens’ Tarantella is a frenzied dance to rid one of a spider’s bite. The piano played a percussive ground bass which was then picked up by the wind players; the trio revelled in the dance.

The players communicated very well with the audience particularly when they were describing the difficulties in finding Leon Levitch whose Opus 2 came next.

This was a powerful, emotionally deep work reflecting his history in Eastern Europe during World War 2.

Three Songs Without Words by Mendelssohn came next; very melodic with the theme passed from one player to another. The use of counterpoint was reminiscent of Bach: Mendelssohn was responsible for the revival of Bach in the first half of the 19th century.

The concert was concluded by Malcolm Arnold’s Grand Fantasia, with an urbane opening leading into a plethora of increasingly frivolous themes, including silent movie music passages, Habanera from Carmen and a tremendous jazz ending. The players played with great gusto.

The audience had thoroughly enjoyed the evening and couldn’t let the Trio escape without an encore; Malcolm Arnold once again.

An excellent evening’s music-making from a highly talented group who’d be very welcome in West Cumbria again.

Colin Southall

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