An unusual music evening

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The penultimate programme in this year’s Bridgepoint music series saw a story attached to pieces of Beethoven’s piano repertoire. Viv McLean, pianist, has a most impressive CV, winning the Royal Overseas League piano competition while still a student at the Royal Academy of Music, being selected as one of the prestigious BBC Radio 3 Young Artists Programme, and has gone on to record and perform with all the major British orchestras in prestigious concert halls. His list of performances with leading musicians reads like a classical music who’s who.

Jessica Duchen is an author and critic who has written a number of books and libretti. She conceptualised the idea that a love letter discovered after his death, written by Beethoven, and addressed only to ‘immortal beloved,’ was intended for the recipient Countess Therese Brunsvik. A number of scholars have other interpretations. Miss Duchen read from her book, Immortal mixing her novel-style writing with her research.

Several pieces interspersed her narrations. Bagatelle opus 126, followed by just the opening movement of Sonata opus 81a. It may have been helpful to the listener to understand why these pieces had been chosen, and their contextualisation to the text. For the afficionados, it was disappointing not to hear the full works but simply extracts.

This was particularly the case with the Sonata in F minor, opus 57 (Appassionata), which was brilliantly played by Mr McLean. His dexterity, tempi, touch and interpretation really bought the first movement to life and it would have been delightful to have heard the whole work, performed by this most talented musician. He bought a heaviness and weight to the instrument for the first two pieces, which they dictated, and perhaps were synonymous with the depth of feelings Beethoven had when he wrote his letter. Mr McLean’s gifted ability to bring these sonorities to the instrument were counterpoised by the shimmering lightness in the F minor sonata.

Perhaps not an evening for the purist – the narration was neither all novel nor all factual, it would have been nice to understand why we were listening to these pieces, and that we did not get to hear all of them. The audience, however, were appreciative and we can only hope that Mr McLean is invited to return for another series.

The final performance in the Bridgepoint concerts looks a total gem – Handel’s pastoral cantata Aminta e Fillide. The work is, sadly, rarely performed, which is a shame because many of Handel’s later arias seem to have been rearranged from this early work. This promises to be evening of great baroque music, which takes place on Saturday, June 17 at the Rye Creative Centre at 6:30pm. Do get tickets early before they are sold out and remember there is plenty of parking plus a charity drinks bar at the Rye Creative Centre.

Image Credits: Susan Benn .

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