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Tomkins, Mozart, Debussy & Jacobson

Julian Jacobson & Mariko Brown - piano duet

21 January 2013 Blackheath Great Hall

This well established duo are beginning all their concerts this year with the Tomkins Fancy for two to play, the first known keyboard duet, Mariko Brown told us.

They followed it with the teenage Mozart's Sonata for four hands K 381, his first in the genre. On the Steinway grand they were neither ideal for the large resonant hall.

The pair swapped places and control of the sustaining pedal, in the approved manner, and found their best form in Debussy's delicate Épigraphes antiques, played with a pellucid touch and perfect sound quality on Blackheath's Steinway.

They ended with the substantial orchestral Theme & Variations by Julian's father Maurice, in the composer's own piano duet transcription, belatedly published. It is a substantial addition to the piano duet repertoire, with some 11 variations covering a wide variety of moods and textures and with a blazing finale. This went down well with the forty-strong audience which had braved the snow, as did the duo's well remembered encore Kitten on the keys.

Photography in the Great Hall is anathema so, as a reminder of 2103's hard winter, I offer an image of the piano in the snow next door at the Conservatoire, which needs £75,000 to avoid closure...

Peter Grahame Woolf

Chaminade, Haydn, Ravel etc

Tzigane Trio & Murray Duo

Blackheath Halls 19 November & 3 December 2012

The Tzigane Trio revived their account of Cécile Chaminade's 2nd piano trio Op.34 (1887) with exciting flair to audience acclamation (they'd recorded her 2 piano trios in 1996 for ASV* but had not played it for a long time).

A considerable discovery amongst the near-forgotten substantial oeuvre of this accomplished composer, who was neglected because she was a woman.

The Manager of Blackheath Halls doesn't like photos taken there by critics, nor reviews ("events are finished once they're over", he once explained). An exception perhaps for his twin daughters, the Murray Duo?

Both sisters were well trained in London conservatoires and impressed with their good appearance, close rapport and solid accomplishment, which was shown at its best in a Haydn Duet (probably Re M Hob. X:11), in three movements without continuo.

Ravel's intricate duo Sonata was found difficult by many audience members, and although it was efficiently despatched, there was not quite the flair that would make it listener-friendly too. Hear it on YouTube.

The duo's last piece (not quite an encore) was an effective, muted arrangement of tunes from The Godfather film. For many in the audience, a violin/cello duo will have been a complete novelty. The Murrays should be invited back to do the Kodaly duo, a sure fire hit. One may mention that the 2-page, all-inclusive CVs in the programme, quite common these days, were excessive.

Peter Grahame Woolf

*a safe and indeed urgent recommendation, with it's brilliant performances, excellent sound, and the premiere recording of the great Trio No.2" - Fanfare

Helen Bailey

Helen Bailey and Susy Ruffles (piano)

Blackheath Halls 10 December 2012

A fine recital up in the small Recital Room, which is undergoing refurbishment (Helen's operatic soprano would actually have sounded better in the more ample Great Hall, which has been in use recently for this series).

In advanced training at the RAM Opera Course (and recently enjoyed there in Haydn's La Vera Constanza) she ranged through opera - Handel, La Boheme & the Haydn - and song (Duparc & British folk song arrangements), announcing ebulliently every item in her endearing Northen accent, then living the roles in gesture and facial expression - that's needed a lot of aptitude and training to get that far !

She captivated the audience, which was strengthened by a school party, who pronounced themselves well pleased; the only reservation is that some of us, including the kids, would have been helped if she'd supplied a sheet of words & translations to augment the programme supplied, the pages of which are given over too much to comprehensive CVs of the artists, in this case Helen Bailey and Susy Ruffles, her prompt and sensitive piano partner.

Peter Grahame Woolf