CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF St MACHAR, OLD ABERDEEN
AUTUMN CONCERTS 2023
YOUNG MUSICIANS FROM ABERDEEN CITY MUSIC SCHOOL
Sunday 26th November, 2023
PROGRAMME AND PERFORMERS:
Petra Saric piano
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893)
October, Autumn Song (From The Seasons, Op. 37a)
Freya Reid cello
J. S. Bach (1685 – 1750)
Prelude from Cello Suite No.1 in G
Janine Cheng piano
Stephen Montague (b. 1943)
Kai Gauld piano
Frédéric Chopin (1810 – 1849)
Nocturne Op. 55 No. 1
Evangelina Terris classical guitar
J. S. Bach
Prelude BWV 998
Freya Reid cello with piano accompanist
Katya Moisiuk piano
February: Carnival (From The Seasons)
Taylor Dalrymple bagpipes
Ulrich Roever (1934 – 1997) & Michael Korb (1941 – 2014)
Before Sunday afternoon’s concert featuring talented young musicians from Aberdeen City Music School, Dr Roger B. Williams MBE welcomed the young performers to the Cathedral and introduced Professor David Hewitt who gave a fascinating talk about the history of the Cathedral. He pointed out the shields which decorate the flat roof, itself along with the round pillars, very unusual, the nearest similar building being in Rome. One of the shields near the front, bears the coat of arms of Giovanni de Medici, Pope Leo X. The heraldic shields of numerous Kings across Europe are also arrayed in magnificence there. I was delighted to be able to listen in. I learned a great deal.
Soon it was time for the performances to begin. Dr Williams introduced Kevin Kyle, the new Director of the School. He was to introduce us to Sunday afternoon’s performers.
Among them were four pianists, all of them pupils of Dr Barbara Strawa-
Autumn, our poor garden is all falling down,
the yellowed leaves are flying in the wind.
I was impressed by the way in which Petra had captured the mood which Tchaikovsky weaves into his music. Petra’s rhythmic playing flowed smoothly and suggested that sensation of gentle melancholy that autumn can bring. Her playing was beautifully well paced but with a steady forward motion and clean clear fingering which I was able to watch from where I was sitting.
The second performer on Sunday was Freya Reid, a cellist. As a first piece, Freya had chosen the Prelude from J. S. Bach’s Solo Cello Suite No. 1 in G. For Bach’s music, the player has to strike a balance between rhythmic steadiness and moments of rubato which are necessary to express the emotions contained within the melodic line. Freya had thought this performance through exceptionally well. Especially in sections where Bach has included repetition, Freya injected feeling and interest into the music in this way. Without that, this music can seem dull and uninspired and Freya’s performance was not in any way like that, even for a moment.
Our second pianist of the afternoon was Janine Cheng. She had chosen a fascinating piece Mira (1995) by the now 80 year old American composer, pianist and conductor Stephen Rowley Montague. In an American programme note, Mira is described as ‘an experiment in using just the white notes on the keyboard and a few forearm clusters’. Janine’s performance made much more of it than that. She began with light tickling passages on the upper section of the piano. Then there were invigorating jabbed chords, a great variety of piano touch, eventually roaring bass sounds were created by the left hand slapping the notes of the piano and finally those forearm thrusts on the keys. I was impressed by the way in which the clusters finally opened out into fingering leading into an almost romantic conclusion.
Kai Gould was the next pianist to perform. He had chosen the Nocturne Op. 55 No. 1 by Chopin. It is essential in this music to capture that sense of night time with thoughtfulness and feeling. I thought that Kai managed that rather well. He captured that necessary marriage of changes in tempo matched with contrasting dynamics. The fiery central section was well done and I liked the little surges of motion that he got into his playing. It brought out the necessary colour in the music.
Evangelina Terris is a talented classical guitarist. She had chosen J. S. Bach’s Prelude BWV 998 scored originally for lute or cembalo. She played with marvellous clarity and steadiness and the idea of delicacy that would have been part of a performance on lute was also there in Evangelina’s delightful performance on Sunday.
Freya Reid had a second cello piece in the concert. This was accompanied on piano, it was announced, by Mrs Kyle. Sorry I don’t have her first name. They played Prayer from Jewish Life by the Swiss/American composer Ernest Bloch, once described by the cello virtuoso Steven Isserlis as ‘one of the most beautiful songs ever written for cello’. It was certainly played with great feeling by Freya Reid.
The last of the four pianists to perform was Katya Moisiuk. She had also gone to The Seasons by Tchaikovsky, but for a very different piece. February: Carnival fairly sizzled with pianistic excitement in this performance. The publishers had also added another short poem to the score, it reads:
At the lively Mardi Gras
soon a large feast will overflow.
All that was there in Katya’s performance with dazzling pianistic fireworks too!
Too soon we were at the final item in the performance. Not such a surprise as you might think because we had already seen a set of bagpipes getting ready to be played. Sunday’s piper was the magnificent Taylor Dalrymple. He had chosen a piece that is certainly popular with Aberdeen audiences, Highland Cathedral. It was also fitting for St Machar’s Cathedral since the chorus is used as a hymn tune. I shall finish by quoting a poem by Dugald Ferguson 1897, a Scottish emigrant to New Zealand:
When Scotland’s pipe sounds in my ears
My heart with martial joy it cheers
From off my mind all worldly cares
It makes to roll,
And sways at will to joy or tears,
My melting soul.
Of course we need to ignore the fact that Highland Cathedral was composed by two German gentlemen!
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