|Excellent Introduction To Two Rarely Played Works|
Phoebe Woollam reviews Elizabeth Cooney and Matthew Schellhorn
Two superb artists played for us last Sunday; Elizabeth Cooney (violin) and Matthew Schellhorn (piano). The French programme (Ravel, Messiaen, Satie and Poulenc) was challenging, but they both played with real sensitivity, panache and technical brilliance. It was an excellent concert and we were introduced to two works that are rarely played; the Messiaen and the Satie.
The Ravel sonata, rather like the Satie pieces, is almost a parody of jazz, particularly the “Blues” movement where the violin opens with strummed chords and then becomes a typical blues “singer” with all the stylistic features of rubato and glissandi. The third movement; perpetuum mobile was taken at a terrifying (but most successful) speed.
The two Messiaen pieces; Fantasie and Theme et Variations (his entire output for violin and piano) were early works which nearly failed to see the light of day. Matthew Schellhorn had studied in Paris with Messiaen’s wife who was very vague as to their whereabouts. “Unfortunately they had moved so often that some of his works were in boxes somewhere”! Luckily they did finally get published and it was interesting to be able to discern elements of his mature writing even in these early pieces.
The two Satie pieces were, like Messiaen’s, his entire repertoire for violin and piano. Like the Ravel there was an element of parody here as well. The chorale opening and the contrapuntal section that followed prompted Matthew Schellhorn to tell us that Satie considered his chorales to be “equal to Bach’s but rarer and less pretentious”!
A critic once said of Poulenc that he was “half bad boy, half monk”. This probably referred to the fact that until he was about thirty five his suave, polished music catered for the smart set and the fashion for irony at the time. However, his later work often reflected more serious preoccupations. This sonata for violin and piano was written in 1943 when he was forty four and the hauntingly beautiful second movement was performed with great sensitivity by both players. Even the last movement with its punishing tempo and fiendishly difficult piano part had overtones of tragedy and grief.
This was a delightful concert given by two extremely talented artists.
The Blenheim Music Circle was formed in 1987 to promote public concerts and recitals by professional musicians in the Chiswick area. Since its formation it has presented 120 concerts, which have featured more than 350 young musicians. It is entirely dependent on members’ subscriptions, ticket sales and advertising support from local businesses. The season runs from January to December and comprises six concerts presented in alternate months. All concerts in 2008 will be held at the Chiswick Catholic Centre
The membership subscription for all six concerts is £27 (£4.50 per concert)
Home-made teas are served after each concert.
September 17, 2008