Sat 21st September 2019: Rhythmie Wong (piano)

Rhythmie Wong's piano recital at St Wilfrid's Church on Saturday 21 September, the opening concert ofHaywards Heath Music Society's 78th season, set a remarkably high standard. She opened with Haydn's taxing Sonata in E flat major which she played with authority and superb technical fluency. Her beautifully clear articulation was evident throughout and the Adagio was poetically interpreted with a lovely singing tone.

Rhythmie devoted the rest of the first half to a group of pieces by Granados, beginning with the famously lyrical 'The Maiden and the Nightingale'. She played this beautiful, expansive work with genuine feeling and an absence of sentimentalism. Her trills were exquisite. In Valses Poeticos, a group of eight waltzes preceded by an introduction, her assured performance admirably captured their variety and the aptness of their succinct titles. Rhythmie concluded her Granados pieces with the lesser-known Allegro de Concierto which she played with aplomb and the skills of a true virtuoso.

After the interval, Rhythmie's attention turned from Spanish to French romantic music, starting with Gaspard de la Nuit, one of the piano repertoire's most challenging works in terms of its technical and interpretative demands. In Ondine, she captured the haunting world of the water nymph and in Le Gibet the bleakness and sadness of the swinging corpse. Maybe, to emphasise the contrast, Scarbo, the final section of the suite, called for more excitement and panache.

The highlight of this superb recital was the concluding work, La Valse, which Ravel wrote for the Ballets Russes and later arranged for piano solo. It is seldom performed in that format because of its technical difficulties. Rhythmie met the challenges admirably and her playing in the incredibly complex and frantic climax, which included some spectacular glissandos, was scintillating and breathtaking. She richly deserved the standing ovation accorded to her, before enchanting the appreciative audience with an appealing encore.

On the evidence of this and other piano recitals for Haywards Heath Music Society in recent years, there is no shortage of top-level virtuosic young talent worldwide.

Review by John and June Ingleton.

Sat 19th October 2019: Alexandra Lomeiko (violin) and Kumi Matsuo (piano)

We were treated to a recital of great virtuosity from an extremely accomplished duo in a widely diverse programme featuring works by J.S. Bach, Gabriel Fauré. Karol Szymanowski and Maurice Ravel. The tenor of the evening was set by the couple's vigorous playing of Bach's Sonata for Violin and Piano in E Major BWV 1016 where both violin and piano alternated in importance, moving through the Adagios and Allegros of the four movement sonata , in slow- fast tempi, with admirable control. The next piece, Fauré's Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major no. 1. Op 13 evoked an entirely different mood, especially in the gentle, lyrical Andante in D minor where a magical spell hovered, and ending with playful, spirited Allegros that cascaded in Rondo form.

After the interval Alex and Kumi played Myths – Three pieces for Violin and Piano op.30 by Szymanowski which began with the rippling sounds on the piano of the Fountain of Arethusa followed by song-like strains on the violin depicting the youth Narcissus falling in love as he gazed at himself in a pool. Suddenly the mood shifted to rapid activity as Pan, god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, chased the wood nymphs. The whole rout was brilliantly interpreted by Alex who ran through a dazzling display of pizzicati, two note trills, glissandi, tremolos, even thumping down on the violin with her hand to prolong the rumpus that ended this challenging work.

Finally, shifting into the 20th Century we heard Ravel's take on American influenced music, jazz and the blues, incorporated in his Sonata in G Major for Violin and Piano written in the 1920's following a trip to America where he met Gershwin, Paul Whiteman, the band leader and the trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke. The opening Allegretto contained shades of Gershwin followed by a syncopated Perpetuum mobile before the final Allegro swept all before it in a show of lights-out virtuosity from Alex on the violin at which point we all sank back in our chairs to draw breath!

Alexandra explained the provenance of the works and intention of the composers between pieces and our audience responded to the warmth and enthusiasm of both performers by clapping enthusiastically afterwards and at their encore. The evening was a great success and I am sure we will hear a lot more about Alex and Kumi on the international stage in the future.

Review by Ian Barras-Hill.

Sat 16th November 2019: Andrey Lebedev (guitar) with Iosif Purits (accordion)

A large, enthusiastic audience was treated to a sensational display of virtuoso playing by two young Russian artists at Haywards Heath Music Society on November 16th.

Andrey first gave us a solo recital two years ago and his dazzling display of technique and musicianship led to a return visit, this time with his friend Iosif Purits.

Iosif opened the concert with a group of orchestral and piano transcriptions for the accordion. We have never before had an accordion at the Music Society and were not all sure what to expect! For those who associate the instrument mainly with cafe music the enormous range of sounds produced by a classical accordionist came as a revelation.

As the opening bars of Vivaldi's Winter concerto filled the church the audience was captivated. Iosif voiced the different orchestral sounds so convincingly and brought the music to life so that one heard the familiar notes with new ears. The speed and brilliance of Mendelssohn's Spinning Song was just breathtaking! The plaintive sound of the accordion was well to the fore in Tchaikovsky's "Autumn" followed by the light-hearted romp of Children's Scherzo by Mussorgsky. This group ended with an original accordion composition "Fest on the Moldavanka" by the contemporary composer Victor Vlasov. The sheer vivacity of this music with its infectious dance rhythms led to rapturous applause as Iosif concluded his solo section.

Dance rhythms were well to the fore as Andrey concluded the first half with modern works for solo guitar. The Cuban composer Leo Brouwer presented his piece Danza de los Ancestros to Andrey who premiered it in 2015 and this was followed by Sonata for Guitar by Alberto Ginastera from Argentina. Andrey again impressed with his consummate skill in performing these very difficult works. He is clearly completely at home with Latin American modern compositions.

The combination of Accordion and Guitar was a new experience to many people and the second half was devoted to transcriptions by Andrey and Iosif for the two instruments together. The pair are in the process of transcribing Bach's Goldberg Variations and they gave us a taster with the theme and first variation which was hypnotic in the sheer beauty of the sound. Popular Spanish music including the Ritual Fire Dance by Manuel de Falla were preceded by, what was for many people, the highlight of the concert - the Adagio from the Concerto de Aranjuez by Rodrigo. This very popular guitar concerto transferred perfectly to accordion and guitar and made for a riveting experience. The concert ended with excerpts from L'Histoire de Tango by Astor Piazolla.

In this concert we heard many familiar pieces performed by an unfamiliar pairing of instruments. The very skillful transcriptions ensured one listened to the music in a very different way and made for a most rewarding experience.

Many people asked for a return visit and we hope that both Andrey and Iosif will delight us again in a future season!

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