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Manchester theatre reviews

The Capstone

Capstone Theatre Weekly Community Series

Reviewed by Denis Joe March 2011


A lunchtime recital provided by year two music students from Livepool Hope University as part of the Capstone Theatre weekly community series.


Alison Jones opened the recital with the first two movements of Bach's Flute sonata No.4. The opening was done confidently and although there were a coupe of slip-ups at the presto, the performance was executed well.


Although Bach’s music can sound simple to the ear, this maybe down to the fact that the music sounds formalistic. Sometimes it is easy to know ‘what is coming next’ without being familiar with the piece and this is true for most Baroque composers. But the obvious mathematical construction of the music can prove difficult for an artist to stamp their interpretation on a piece and if the music is not to sound like any other performance, then there is a great deal of pressure placed on the performer to stamp their authority. Ms. Jones is obviously familiar with this piece and during the slower sections she seemed to feel comfortable enough to ‘move around’.


In all, Christopher Tuohey played the Handel Variations well and brought out the subtleties within the music with a degree of confidence. There are 6 variations, after the opening theme, and a finale. Some difficulty showed in the second and third variations. Overall the piece was played with an assuredness and the finale sounded note perfect and played with a beautiful fluidity. This Handel theme with accompanying variations was published in 1720 as the concluding movement of a suite. For some unknown reason, it became known as 'The Harmonious Blacksmith'. The variations in Giuliani's setting do not follow those of Handel.


Adam Roberts played a piece, originally intended for a stringed instrument, of which there are a number of different versions. The most popular is in the key of C, which suits the tuba. The real challenge here was for a brass instrument not to sound too funeral. Mr Roberts avoided that danger and at times he made his tuba sing. The combination of piano and brass may strike some as strange, but it does work very well, and this performance was testament to that.


Perhaps the bravest performance came from Elinor Darlington. The Romanze is usually a piece for orchestra and violin. The showiness of the solos would not be easy for a violinist to pull off with only piano accompaniment. It was well that Ms. Darlington avoided that and played her parts with a degree of firmness, allowing one to forget that this is normally a piece for the concert hall. What also speaks volumes for her confidence is the fact that she chose to play this, relatively, familiar piece.  But she and Mr Walters also managed to give a fresh insight into it.


The Louis Cahuzac piece was a revelation. Ms Haughton felt that Cahuzac deserves a wider audience and it was hard to disagree after hearing this piece.  He was one of the most accomplished clarinettists, who wrote very little, but what he did write was for his chosen instrument. The solo moments in this piece were outstanding and Ms Houghton obviously feels a deep affinity to Cahuzac’s music.


The euphonium is not an instrument that features much in classical music, its most famous use being in Mars, from Holst’s Planets. Mainly it is an instrument that finds its voice in brass bands, whose music is not known for its sensitivity (though I may be being a little unfair by saying so). But there are comparatively few British solos for euphonium and piano which do not have a brass band derivation.


So this Ernest Young piece was an eye-opener for me. If this intermezzo is anything to go by, then the sonata deserves a much wider audience. Mr Critchley’s playing was beautiful to listen to and you could understand why Romantic composers were so intent on the brass sections of orchestras getting a hearing. It was certainly a beautiful piece to end on.


Concerts and recitals, such as this one, are important events for a number of reasons. Obviously they provide the students with an opportunity to test themselves before an audience. It also shows the dedication that these students have, especially those who play the less ‘popular’ instruments.


We can also learn something about the process of the music. When we go to professional concerts or we listen to CDs, it is easy to forget just how difficult these composers made things for people who have to perform their works.


But also it tells us that music is something to be taken seriously and that compositional music has, not only relevance today, but also has a future. You do not go to these recitals expecting great performances, but there is a sense that you, as a member of the audience, are privileged in being allowed to see into the process of an artistic development. No other art form allows us to see the process of development as intimately as these recitals do for music. A poem (and its performance) is ‘complete’ when presented to the audience. We do not watch over the shoulder of the painter or sculptor. Yet in these recitals we can see the blossoming of the instrumentalist: we can see those moments of inspiration that the music supplies and the technical errors. And there is something very reassuring about that.


Alison Jones, Flute, Sonata No. 4 in C major Andante, Allegro J S Bach
Christopher Tuohey, Guitar, Variations on a theme by Handel , M Giuliani
Adam Roberts, Tuba, Concerto for Double Bass Andante, Capuzzi
Elinor Darlington, Violin, Romanze in F, Beethoven
Emma Haughton, Clarinet, Pastorale Cévenole, l.Cahuzac
Timothy Critchley, Euphonium, Euphonium Sonata Intermezzo, Ernest Young 

David Walters, Piano accompanist

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