<< -- 3 -- Bill Newman THE KIRCKMAN CONCEPT
Back to the more familiar Purcell Room at London's South Bank on 18 October 2004, to hear cellist Richard Harwood, a pupil of the beloved Joan Dickson of past BBC fame, and pianist Connie Shih, of whom -- if memory serves me right -- I caused something of a furore when she was placed second and not first by the Beethoven Society in London at their yearly prize winning. I left in considerable anger after stating my opinions on their overall judgement. (Please correct me if I am wrong -- my possible recall in such matters occasionally causes me to blush with embarassment!) Richard's pedigree includes appearances with conductors David Parry, Shuntaro Sato and Lord Menuhin, a BBC Radio 3 début at age thirteen of the Elgar Concerto and a BBC recording of Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations. His Purcell Room début was with pianist Julius Drake. A Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna début came in 1997 along with various European appearances. He adores contemporary music -- Dominic Muldowney and Martin Butler solo works feature strongly -- and he has taken part in the Park Lane Young Artist concert series. Connie was nine -- she was born in Canada -- when she made her début in Mendelssohn's First Concerto with the Seattle Symphony, and she was the youngest-ever pupil of Gyorgy Sebok -- best-known as Janos Starker's recital and recording partner -- how I still remember those Mercury sessions at Watford Town Hall! Then came lessons with Claude Frank at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, and later studies with that pianist-doyen Fou Ts-ong. The Wigmore and Carnegie Halls both witnessed her personal triumphs, also the Bath International Festival. Chamber music sessions with Steven Isserlis, Michael Collins, Julius Berger, Keith Harvey and the Zehetmair Quartet added to her laurels together with concerts abroad. Next on her list following a solo recital is a première of Anthony Scott's Piano Concerto, Vernon Handley conducting.
Their programme was unusual. Mendelssohn's Variations concertantes illustrated the dexterity and calm command of both contestants providing a true insight of what integrated chamber music playing is all about. This was followed by Schubert's well-loved Arpeggione Sonata -- perhaps a little too restrained in outer sections, but lovely in the central movement. Viennese players understand better the question of rubato, tempi, overall pace and nuance, but there was no absence of childhood remembrances in the Czech subtleties of Janácek's Pohadka (A Fairytale) where the slightly stilted accents, phraseology and peculiar charm matched the composer's innermost intentions. The real tour de force was Frank Bridge's Sonata, just one of several masterworks by a neglected genius. In tribute to Dickson's memory came Fauré's sublime Elégie -- a fitting, poignant close to a highly enjoyable recital.
Copyright © 15 January 2005
Bill Newman, Edgware UK
Forthcoming Kirckman concerts feature violinist Soojin Han with pianist Katya Apekisheva (4 March), the Fidelio Piano Quartet playing music by Mendelssohn, Brahms and James Francis Brown (5 March) and pianist Llyr Williams (26 April 2005). All three concerts are at London's Wigmore Hall.
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