Tuesday 4th April 2017 at The Playhouse

Opera North Brass Ensemble

Alnwick Music Society heralded spring with a rousing concert of brass music at The Playhouse. Opera North Brass Ensemble, lead by Murray Greig, provided a wonderfully varied programme of music extending from the seventeenth to the twenty first century. After an opening flourish by contemporary composer Barry Russel, the Ensemble moved on to music by Daniel Speer and Thomas Weelkes, using their modern instruments to capture the sounds of an earlier age. Individual instruments were then given the spotlight in a range of short compositions including works by Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein and a young, up and coming composer, Benjamin Ellin.

The second half of the programme, featuring well known music specially arranged for the ensemble by Murray, ranged from Verdi’s Nabucco Overture to Warlock’s Capriol Suite. Perhaps the most memorable item was a colourful arrangement of Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasilieras No.1, originally for eight cellos, which successfully captured the vibrant spirit of South America.

This was the first brass concert to be held by the Society for many years and its enthusiastic reception will doubtless ensure another such event before too long.

David Carter

Tuesday 21st February 2017 at The Playhouse

Gina McCormack

Another great recital in The Playhouse with works by Mendelssohn, Richard Strauss, Prokofiev, and two Poles, Weinberg and Szymanowski. The Alnwick Music Society concert on February 21st featured a violinist of outstanding calibre who, over the years, has appeared many times for the Society, usually as leader of either the Sorrel or the Maggini Quartets. Her concert partner was Nigel Clayton, whose sure and inspiring pianism completed a perfect duo. In the Strauss Violin Sonata the richly lyrical and almost orchestral style contrasted well with the quicksilver virtuosity of the Mendelssohn in the second half, whilst in the first Prokofiev’s songlike Five Melodies followed the attractive Violin Sonatina of Weinberg whose reputation is burgeoning after years of being overshadowed by other late 20th Century Russian composers. Once again a wonderful evening with a well-filled house to enjoy it.
Martin Gillham

Tuesday 29th November at The Playhouse

Premiere of New Music by Local Composer

It was a great privilege for the Alnwick Music Society to be able to host the First Performance of John Caskin’s latest work ‘Lines from a Wanderer’, for baritone and piano. It was commissioned by the Society and was performed by Marcus Farnsworth and pianist James Baillieu. Based upon poems by W.B.Yeats, Thomas Hardy, and Robert Browning, the common theme is man’s desire to travel, to escape and be alone, and the inevitability of thinking of the lives and fortunes of those left behind. It is a serious work, perhaps not easy to appreciate well first time around, but highly expressive of the emotions in the poems, and shot through with moments, not only of lostness and yearning, but also of lyricism. The evening’s programme began with songs from Schubert’s Schwanengesang (Swansong), written at the end of his life, and sensitively performed by the artists. After the Casken work it was fitting, on the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme, to hear George Butterworth’s lovely “Six Songs from ‘A Shropshire Lad’”, remembering how A.E.Housman’s poems summon up the grief of lost comrades, one of them being Butterworth himself who died on 5th August 1916 in the early weeks of that fateful conflict. Then, to end the evening, we were given renderings of Benjamin Britten’s folksong settings ‘Salley in our Alley’, ‘I wonder as I wander’, and ‘The Plough Boy’. Both artists excelled in singing and playing of fine musicianship and great creativity. Another memorable evening.

Martin Gillham

CONCERT REVIEW – Tuesday 15th November at The Playhouse

Queen of Pianists

Superlatives fail me! This was an absolutely superb concert, with a packed Playhouse for Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt. In a glittering long silver dress, she began with six of Scarlatti’s sonatas and made them sing and dance for us. Her playing was from memory, quite a feat in a two hour programme; here was playing of great intensity and feeling, and a rock-solid technique. The Mozart sonata (K333) that followed reminded us of the greatness of Mozart’s music. After the interval we were entered a different world with two Beethoven sonatas (opus 31/2, and opus 27/1. Here, she brought out all the drama in the pieces, her facial expressions revealing an interpretation arising from deep within her. To delight an already satiated audience she played another Scarlatti sonata for an encore, and the Aria from Bach’s Goldberg Variations. If you weren’t there you missed a treat. Bravo!

Martin Gillham

CONCERT REVIEWTuesday 11th October at The Playhouse


The young French Van Kuijk String Quartet, named after its leader Nicolas, gave us a splendid recital of Haydn, Ravel and Beethoven on Tuesday 11th October. Their playing was immaculate, and their concentration very noticeable as they sought to get the most out of the music. Not surprisingly, the Ravel Quartet was perfection indeed. I’ve never heard playing of such finesse in this work. The delicately perfumed slow movement oozed summer heat and sultryness. This was pianissimo playing of rare intensity. They dared to play really slowly, holding the tension of the music beautifully. One fellow member of the audience told me that it was as if she was by the river in southern France, with the insects hovering over the water, spending a lazy day in the warmth. An exquisite and passionate performance. As good as a holiday in Provence – almost!

Martin Gillham

CONCERT REVIEW – Tuesday 30th August at The Playhouse


There was a time when women who were pianists were not hired to perform some of the bigger, more powerful works in the piano repertoire. Not so now, as Alexandra Dariescu demonstrated at the recent Alnwick Music Society concert. Looking stunning in a scarlet dress, she played with power, vigour, great expression and, when needed, gently and persuasively. The early Beethoven sonata (op.10/2) was given clarity, joy and humour. She took us also into the fascinating world of late Faure with his Nine Preludes (op.103), and concluded her programme with the piano version of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. “It’s only 114 days to Christmas” she said disarmingly. Another splendid concert, with more exciting recitals to come. Check at The Playhouse for details.

Martin Gillham