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 2018 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, below, 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 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 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 for our June concert (as we 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 have since taken part in the prestigious Melbourne International Chamber Music competition, after which they embarked on a tour of China. We wish them every success as well as a speedy return to ‘Music in Allendale’.
Once again our policy of engaging young ensembles was amply rewarded in our September concert by a visit from the Solem Quartet, who 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. Like the Gildas they brought youthful vitality and commitment to a varied programme, which opened with Schumann’s A major quartet; this tender love-letter to his beloved Clara was played with all the passion and care which went into its composition, whilst the complex rhythms and abrasive dissonances of the third quartet by Bartok were conveyed with relish as well as accuracy. It was good to have to have the third of Beethoven’s ‘Rasumovsky’ quartets in the programme, our previous concert having featured the second of the set. Here the Solem played with an impressive maturity, possibly beating all Olympic records with the speed of the challenging Allegro molto Finale. A large audience almost filled St Cuthbert’s Church and applauded the performers with enthusiasm, leaving us in no doubt that we should arrange for a return visit from these talented four young players in the near future. Our season ended on October 27 with magnificent performances of Haydn, Britten & Beethoven by the Heath Quartet; they are currently enjoying huge success as one of the country's leading ensembles and we count ourselves incredibly fortunate in being able to hear them here in Allendale. Early indications were that this concert was going to be a sell-out; sadly this proved not to be the case. We can only assume the downturn in the weather and a somewhat alarming forecast over that weekend, coupled possibly with the fact there was an orchestral concert in the Abbey the previous evening, were responsible. The 60-70 people who were there applauded loud and long, and afterwards enjoyed the plentiful supply of superb light refreshments, prepared, as usual, in-house. However, once again we have to remind patrons that the costs of running these concerts - performer's fees, publicity, etc - exceed income, especially on an occasion such as this, and unless we can achieve our goal of around 100 for each concert then MinA is going to end sooner rather than later.
So: please pass the word around and help us fill the church - our future depends, quite literally, on your support.
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