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Franck, Piazzolla & new works

Ksenija Sidorova & Stefan Ćirić (accordion/piano duo)

The Friends of Blackheath Halls series, Artistic Director Tom Butler

Recital Room, 10 October 2011

A marvellous experience for Blackheath's lunch-time audience, numbering a healthy 40 or so who risked "an accordion recital", which is still far from mainstream*.

Afterwards Ksenija Sidorova explained to some curious listeners how her strange instrument works, telling us that her keyboard+buttons Pigini concert accordion is "the Rolls Royce" of accordions.

I have heard and reviewed Ksenija some four times and enthused about her debut CD. Hers is the most visual of instruments and watching her play is riveting, and Blackheath's small Recital Room proved an ideal venue. This lunchtime recital with her partner Stefan Ćirić was possibly the best experience of all, and the one with greatest potental significance.

Strange to tell, the accordion/piano duo is a rarity, possibly unique, but its potential is unlimited. I had been a devotee of the accordion and collector of accordion recordings since the days of the Danish pioneer Mogens Ellegard, but had never heard accordion with piano...

What looked to be a demanding programme for listeners proved not so. Two novelties, by the Russian Tatiana Sergeyeva and the Finn Heikki Valpola, who has composed numerous works for accordion for such as Ellegaard, Mie Miki and Marcel Azzola, were delightful and perfectly balanced at the piano by Ciric, who prudently kept the Bosendorfer closed.

Cesar Franck's Prelude, Fugue et Variation Op 16 was revelatory in their joint arrangement; I cannot conceive of it sounding better on the piano alone, and the accordion in this player's hands has unbelievable expressive subtleties, but always idiomatic and nothing exaggerated.

Finally Piazzolla's Four Seasons, long "After Vivaldi". The duo's ordering was just right, Summer and Autumn (we are just between the two this October) followed by Winter, and Spring to bring a happy conclusion, with Piazzolla's Oblivion for the encore insisted upon by the enthusiastic audience. Again, the Piazzolla arrangements by these musicians jointly are perfect and should be published forthwith to encourage others (especially college students) to form accordion/piano duos.

This programme (plus a solo for each player) could be the ideal for Ksenija's next disc, hopefully a duo DVD with Stefan?

Peter Grahame Woolf

* Ksenija Sidorova, a PLG Young Artist who studied at RAM in Owen Murray's splendid department, showed some who wouldn't have known, what a wonderful recital instrument is the concert accordion. Takahashi, Berio and McGuire were followed by Nordheim's Flashing. Ksenija "wears" her heavy accordion with an elegance and visible musicality, the fingers dance lightly, she breathes with her bellows, "incarnating every breath of the music in her body" (The Times) and is a delight to watch [see her YouTube videos].

Mozart & Brahms

MOZART trio in g major KV 564
BRAHMS trio no 1 in b major op 8 (1854/1891)

Lawson Trio
Annabelle Lawson piano
Fenella Humphreys violin
Rebecca Knight cello

Blackheath Halls Recital Room:
Monday 24th October 2011

A recital notable for an involving account of Brahms' youthful first piano trio, in the shortened version which Clara Schumann urged the composer to make and publish some forty years later.

It was remarkable for the close ensemble and acute listening of each to the others, Annabelle Lawson finding an ideal touch and discretion with the pedal on the Blackheath Bösendorfer, at which piano soloists are often found wanting.

Cellist Rebecca Knight in an ideally pitched commentary gave us the background stories of its composition and revision, contrasting those with the happy and apparently carefree Mozart trio, actually composed in dire circumstances.

This fairly new Friends' series is substantially enhancing the profile of Blackheath Halls (which no longer welcomes reviews of its long-running Blackheath Sundays). It must be hoped that Blackheath Mondays will have a long run under its curator Tom Butler; the spring 2012 programme is keenly awaited.

Peter Grahame Woolf

The Lawson Trio will be launching their first CD at South Bank Centre next year in an April Purcell Room Recital to include works by Haydn, Powers, Hoad, Reeves and Ravel.

Devienne Pleyel Bozza etc
Music for flute. clarinet, bassoon wind trio

Chelsea Trio

Friends of Blackheath Halls Lunchtime Concert
5 December 2011

A pleasant hour at lunch time was enjoyed with successful younger professionals playing mainly French chamber music, all of it probably unknown to everyone there.

Catriona Scott explained that their fl/cl/bsn grouping is rather unusual and has a limited repertoire. She introduced each item and led from the clarinet - and was the only one to bring in gesture to communicate more effectively with the audience (as had been advocated strongly the previous month in a Greenwich master class).

Not an occasion for detailed critical analysis, because Nicola Rowlands, the group's regular flutist, was not available; I look forward to catching the Chelsea trio again.