Blenheim Concerts

David Shavreen reviews trio of Peter Sparks, Shelly Organ and Matthew Schelhorn

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The final concert of the 2005 Season will be given at 3.30p.m. on Sunday, 6th November.

Oliver Coates (Cello) and Danny Driver (Piano) will be playing Sonatas by Beethoven, George Crumb and Rachmaninov.

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On Sunday, 18th September, The Blenheim Music Circle were entertained by an unusual trio consisting of Peter Sparks (Clarinet), Shelly Organ (Bassoon) and Matthew Schellhorn (Piano).

These excellent artists presented a most intriguing programme of music which in the first half was dedicated to Romantic music of the l9th century and in the second to more modern pieces. The unusual combination of instruments ensured that the music would not consist of hackneyed war horses, and so it proved to be. Indeed the first piece, a trio, was by an almost unknown composer. Charles Harford Lloyd spent most of his life as a church organist and wrote much music for church use, but this trio was a delightful work admirably written to demonstrate how expressively and charmingly this combination of instruments can sound together. Elgar’s Romance Op.62 followed, arranged by the composer for piano and bassoon. It is comparatively recently that the bassoon has emerged as a solo instrument and this piece demonstrated once again how effectively it can sustain a melodic line.

The last piece in the first half was a quIte unusual work by Glinka who is usually thought of as the father of the Russian school of music, but the Trio Pathetique was not of this kind. This was a young man’s music while he was still under the influence of his piano teacher, the Irish composer John Field, the inventor of the Nocturne. During the 1830s Glinka was in Italy at a time when Bellini and Donizetti held centre stage in the operatic world, and this Trio with its lyricism and dramatic structure exhibited all these influences.

The second half began with Francis Poulenc. This was a witty and high-spirited dialogue between Clarinet and Bassoon where the high register of the Clarinet and the low register of the Bassoon were exploited to the full. Here Poulenc, one of Les Six, was extending his sympathies and techniques under the influence of Stravinsky.

The two pieces that followed, Le lemps Viendra by Cecilia McDowall and An Innocent Abroad by Jeremy Thurlow, were both written for this group. The first centred on Anne Boleyn, the ill-fated wife of Henry VIII and was a lamentation and rebuke, and incorporated most effectively the sounds of bells, ghostly susurrations made by sweeping the hand over the piano strings, and some phrases from the King’s own song, Passetyme with Good Companye.

An Innocent Abroad was another opportunity for discord and argument between the clarinet and bassoon with the shrill upper register of the Clarinet confronted by staccato growls and burblings of the bassoon until at last equilibrium and melody were restored.

The last piece was a step back in time. The composer William Yeates Hurlstone had given every sign of a major talent when he died at the age of 29 of asthma. He had risen to be Professor at the Royal College of Music where the score of his Trio in G minor was discovered in 1988. It proved to be a lively and colourful work beautifully constructed, owing much to the great Romantic composers, and brought the concert to a fitting close. In short, these three artists by their well-constructed programme and their enthusiasm and artistry had given a most memorable recital.


David Shavreen.

11th December, 2006