Blenheim Concerts - A Review

The concert on July 15th reviewed by Phoebe Woollam

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For someone who was raised on Fats Waller as I was (listening to my father’s 78“ records), the concert on Sunday was a special joy and conjured up pictures of my Dad puffing on his pipe and tapping his foot as he listened.

Christopher Duckett is a pianist who is known for his performances of early jazz and the syncopated piano music of the 1920s and 30s, particularly the music of Billy Mayerl. On Sunday he played music by Mayerl, Gershwin, Joseph Lamb, Willie “The Lion” Smith, Scott Joplin, Percy Grainger and Fats Waller. It was a feast of delight! His ability to create a sensitive, delicate touch combined with breath taking pianistic agility and charming, witty embellishments kept the audience mesmerised.

Much of the programme was well known to us but there were moments when we ventured into uncharted territory. I had no idea for instance that Percy Grainger had written In Dahorney (Cakewalk Smasher), a lively, witty cake walk with spectacular ascending and descending glizzandi, and I was not at all familiar with Fats Waller’s attractive London Suite.

It was a particular pleasure to hear piano rags played so thoughtfully (and at a stylistically correct tempo) in an age when one usually hears them thumped out at top speed. Solace (a Mexican Serenade), an unusual rag by Joplin, had a gentle, lilting “habanera” rhythm that was exceptionally appealing.

Christopher Duckett graduated from the Royal College of Music where he was awarded the Prokofiev Prize and, although he is an expert on the piano music of Billy Mayerl, he does not confine his performances to syncopated piano music. He has an extensive repertoire and frequently performs as a chamber player with his piano trio, the Harban Trio. He also works as an accompanist and a repetiteur. He gave us a glorious afternoon filled with stylish, virtuoso playing. I hope we will hear him again before too long.

Phoebe Woollam

The next concert is on Sunday16th September 2012 at 3.30 pm in the Chiswick Catholic Centre.

The mezzo-soprano Máire Flavin and the pianist Nico de Villiers

will perform works by Brahms, Berlioz, Mahler and Duparc


July 18, 2012

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