Review: Ilkley Concert Club Afternoon Concerts at the King’s Hall, Thursdays 28 October and 11 and 18 November

STUDENTS from the Royal Northern College of Music have given three wonderful afternoon concerts over the last month.

These well-attended occasions have seen playing of the highest standard – definitely not what is conjured up by the words, ‘student performance’!

The first concert was given by the Levare Quartet who held the audience spellbound with some stylish Haydn, a deeply felt performance of Puccini’s ‘Chrysanthemums’ and an inspired rendering of Janacek’s challenging ‘Intimate Letters’ quartet. The appreciative audience were treated to a thrilling experience of first-class string ensemble playing by a group clearly on top of the technical challenges and, one could sense, growing into their own style. Special mention should go to the first violin, Didier Osindero, for his wonderfully warm rich tone as well as a delightful lightness of touch in virtuoso passages, and to the violist, Emily Davies, who excelled with wonderful vibrato and shimmering pianissimos in the Janacek.

The second concert featured Bradford-born pianist, Mason Greenwood, who gave a deeply thoughtful performance of Beethoven’s rarely heard op. 22 sonata, followed by a dazzling display of pianism in Chopin’s challenging Andante spianato et grande polonaise brillante. The Hillon Piano Trio followed with four of Schumann’s canonic studies for the pedal piano, arranged for piano trio, and Beethoven’s variations on the patter song – ‘I’m the tailor, Kakadu’ – a wonderful example of how to make a stunning work out of a piece of nonsense! The two pianists, our soloist and Keelan Carew from the trio, presented an intriguing comparison. Both technically able, Mason’s more introverted style unfortunately made less impact than Keelan’s extravert joy in performance.

The Festivo Wind Quintet kicked off our last afternoon concert with Ibert’s exuberant Trois pièces brèves followed by a wind arrangement of Fauré’s Pavane. The players all shone in their solos although there were a few early issues with balance. However La chemineé du roi Réné – a suite from a film score by Milhaud - brought out their best with its characterful evocations of jousting and hunting and serene final nocturne.

The Rumava String Trio provided a contrast with an accomplished vibrato-free performance of a Purcell fantasy followed by Dohnányi’s late-romantic Serenade, full of lively counterpoint and suffused with Hungarian melancholy – the violist, Rebecca Stubbs, bringing particular pathos to the Romanza.

The innovation of afternoon concerts has been much welcomed by concert goers. It is to be hoped that we shall hear more of these excellent musicians in the future.

by Chris Skidmore