Seeking freedom through music

Pianist - Danny Driver (right) with violinist Cloe Hanslip

On Saturday, April 30 the audience was treated to a magical evening in the beautifully converted recital hall at Fairlight Hall. On arrival a glass of prosecco was waiting, as well as one in the interval when people could wander through the amazing gardens. The title of the programme was pertinent as we witness the Russian invasion of Ukraine: “Shostakovich and the search for freedom under tyranny”.

In the first half of the programme we were treated to a special recital, Postlude no 2 for Solo Violin, composed in 1981-2 by  Ukrainian Valentin V Silvestrov. Now 84, he has become a refugee in Germany after an arduous journey, fleeing with his daughter and granddaughter in the second month of the invasion. His grandson stayed behind to fight. It was an incredibly moving piece telling the story of oppression and sadness but also expressing the fight to continue living through his music. Of course everyone in the room will have experienced it in different ways. The list of his compositions including requiems for violin / piano / viola, symphonies, hymns and more, is a long one.

Following that was a vivid account by Gerard McBurney, himself a composer and writer, of how the Ukrainian and Russian friends of Dmitri Shostakovich have been affected in the USSR under Stalin and now under Putin’s reign and presently the war. The talk was incredibly moving and Gerard’s detailed music and history analysis of the powerful Sonata for Violin and Piano in G major Op. 134 (composed in 1968) gave the listeners a much more comprehensive understanding of Shostakovich’s music. It was clear that Gerard, who studied in the USSR in 1980 before it became Russia, had an intense interest and love for Russian culture and music. At the moment he is composing, with his brother Simon, a new opera production which was intended for the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Unfortunately this has been cancelled but will still show in Covent Garden and New York.

The music of Dmitri Shostakovich changed through his life, reflecting his experience of oppression under Stalin’s regime and moving forward in time and then back to his childhood when he listened to ‘Polka’ music. He was also influence by Klezmer, Jewish music, all of these aspects being in the piece which was performed in the second half, Sonata for Violin and Piano, performed by Chloe Hanslip and Danny Driver. It was sublime.

The concert was organised by Bridgepoint Music, a new charity created to bring classical music of the highest quality to East Sussex, Kent and beyond, founded by Sarah Kowitz, the trustees and general manager, Tom Elliot, share her vision of improving people’s lives through the power of music. For the exciting 2022-23 planned season please go to: or phone Tom Elliot on 07813 108 471.

Image Credits: Susan Benn , Heidi Foster .


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