Festival Music as Good as Ever

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The Opal trio

The 2019 Rye Arts Festival’s offerings have been at as high a level as always and have given valuable opportunities to young players, in addition to enabling us to savour some established masters. The Opal Piano Trio and Ernst-Simon Glaser come into the “just starting out” category, though both are already well travelled.

Ernst-Simon Glaser

The Trio played two huge masterpieces in the third of Beethoven’s Opus 1 and the better known of Schubert’s two, in B flat major D.898. These very young players were unintimidated by the emotional profundity of these works, gave convincing accounts of each and were especially moving in the opening of the slow movement of the Schubert, a moment which made the listeners hold their breath in homage to the composer.

From St Mary’s in Rye we move to St Thomas’s in Winchelsea for the young Norwegian ‘cellist Ernst-Simon Glaser’s recital of three Bach ‘cello suites and three related works for solo ‘cello by contemporary Norwegian composers, one of whom was in the audience and acknowledged the deserved applause. Mr Glaser played the Bach suites with great expressiveness and it was hardly surprising that the modern pieces seemed less impressive; however, first hearings often deceive. Mr Glaser is a most accomplished musician and one to follow.

In the “master” category we must put organist David Flood and baritone Roderick Williams.

Roderick Williams

The former’s splendid, exhilarating recital in St Mary’s, Rye was enhanced by Dr Flood’s informative and also highly amusing comments on the music he was playing. Varied and played by a world-renowned player, this recital was an absolute treat. The performance of Schubert’s final collection of songs Schwanengesang was also enhanced by a witty and informative introduction from the highly engaging and charismatic Roderick Williams, who, singing in the English of Jeremy Sams, gave us a magnificent interpretation of this work.

The songs everyone knows, such as Serenade, were fresher than ever and the less familiar were made to seem old friends. In the success of this concert, the contribution of another “master”, pianist Iain Burnside, must not be overlooked. He and Mr Williams have an intensely strong rapport and the fact that it was also Mr Burnside’s birthday simply enhanced the whole occasion.

Despite the imminence of autumn, these concerts put me in a good mood at least until Christmas and we should all acknowledge the hard work of those whose efforts bring us such nourishing fare every Festival. We look forward with anticipation to 2020.

Image Credits: Rye Arts Festival , Veryan Pollard .

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