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10 August : Simon Bell
Giving the statutory Health and Safety announcement beforehand, Cathedral sub-organist David Johnson warned us about the piercing volume emitted by the Cathedral's new smoke alarms. But any smoke alarm would have been hard-pushed to make itself heard over the welter of sound unleashed by Simon Bell in Reger's Introduction and Passacaglia in D minor. This wasn't noise for noise's sake, though. As the clarity and structural control he brought to the Passacaglia showed, he is a deeply thoughtful, musical player, and his command of Reger's imposing structure was masterly.
After that, C P E Bach's D major Sonata was the perfect sorbet. The accompanying chords in the first movement had an almost harpsichord-like crispness (quite an achievement in itself), and there was a wonderful airiness and sparkle to the final Allegro.
In the opening Allegro Vivace of Widor's 5th Symphony, Simon Bell made the most of the contrasts between the variations, with some impressively deft finger-work in No 3. His ear for effective colour was particularly evident in Pierné's Three Pieces, with his graceful phrasing bringing out the Fauré-like qualities of No 2.
His rock-solid feel for rhythm was a huge asset in Ad Wamme's delightful minimalist piece Miroir, a lot more interesting than some minimalist pieces I can think of. I would have liked more of a break before he launched into Guilmant's Sonata no 1. But this was a deeply rewarding performance, in which he skilfully combined rhythmic flexibility with maintaining a strong current in the first movement, brought an easy swaying rhythm to the second, and attacked the finale with blistering energy.
Copyright © 23 August 2005
Mike Wheeler, Derby UK