Welcome to our annual up-date on MinA's concerts. Last year's concerts were all given by ensembles familiar to Allendale audiences, beginning in June with the Fitzwilliam Quartet who, with Martino Tirimo, drew a deservedly large audience for their programme of Beethoven, Shostakovich and Chopin. In July we welcomed back the Martinu Quartet from Prague with music by Beethoven and Czech composers, and in September the Piatti Quartet delighted us with Haydn, Brahms, and Walton - a rare chance to hear his fine quartet. Finally, in October, the Heath Quartet brought us mature Haydn and Mendelssohn and the best-known of Tippett's string quartets. Audience numbers were good for all four concerts, though we didn't quite reach the magical 100 mark. As always the performers expressed their appreciation for the warmth of their welcome and for the superb acoustics of St Cuthbert's Church, both of which are significant factors in the success and raison d'être of our concerts. Our season got off to a flying start with an outstanding piano recital by Martino Tirimo. Despite clashes with other events in the area we were pleased to have a large audience and they were thrilled by his virtuosic performances of music by Schubert, Chopin and Debussy. We include here a review of our most recent concert. We would also like to express our appreciation to those patrons who, despite the fact they were unable to attend the concert in May, nonetheless purchased tickets. We are very grateful for this support, as indeed we are for a generous donation which has significantly reduced the deficit on our June concert. We operate on the proverbial shoe-string budget and it is enormously encouraging to know that patrons are aware of this. We wish everyone an enjoyable summer and look forward to full houses for our two remaining concerts, on September 15 and October 27.
We live in an age when chamber-music flourishes as never before, with an unprecedented number of brilliant young string quartets competing on the world stage for attention. ‘Music in Allendale’ can, once again, be congratulated on catching one such ensemble, the Gildas Quartet (as they did over ten years ago with the Heath Quartet, now among today’s leading performers). With a busy schedule of concerts both here and abroad, they brought not only an inspirational youthful freshness and vitality but also an astonishingly mature understanding to their performances of music from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Music by Haydn opened their programme – and closed it incidentally, the Finale from his celebrated ‘Fifths’ Quartet forming a much-appreciated encore. The father of the string quartet was at the height of his powers when he wrote these masterpieces, and with them the Gildas set the standard for the rest of the evening. The second of Beethoven’s quartets dedicated to Count Rasumovsky is one of the most challenging pieces in the repertoire, both on account of the technical demands it makes on the performers and the insight required to capture the serenity and profundity at the heart of Beethoven’s musical vision. The Gildas proved more than equal to the challenge with a performance which was both exhilarating and moving. Their ability to evoke the unique sound-world of Ravel in his only string quartet, a shifting kaleidoscope of colours worthy of an impressionist painting, was just as impressive. The sensitive duetting of viola - player Kay Stephen with leader Christopher Jones will stay long in the memory, as will the vibrancy and warmth of Anna Menzies’ cello and the positive, committed playing of second violin Gemma Sharples. The Gildas are taking part in the prestigious Melbourne International Chamber Music competition, whilst shortly after that they embark on a tour of China. We wish them every success as well as a speedy return to ‘Music in Allendale’.
The third Rasoumovsky will be heard in the programme presented by another young ensemble, the Solem Quartet, who are already making waves; they will also play the shortest of Bartok's great quartets and Schumann's third quartet. Their viola player is a native of Hexham and they have been together since 2011 and their studies at Manchester University. They are popular visitors to music clubs around the UK and are currently Quartet in Residence at both Liverpool University and the Aberystwyth Festival. For our fourth concert we welcome yet again the Heath, who, since their formation in 2002 have become established as one of the UK's leading ensembles; we are indeed fortunate that they have been able to find a date for a concert here. More vintage Haydn, Britten's masterly second quartet, and one of the greatest of all Beethoven's quartets make up their programme. We sincerely hope that these four concerts will attract all our regular supporters AND a good many new listeners. We are raising ticket prices slightly (to £15, which includes the usual light refreshments) in an effort to cover costs, however, we firmly believe this is outstanding value for what we are offering. So: please pass the word around and help us fill the church - our future depends, quite literally, on your support.
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