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Craig Ogden, Guitar recital, Weiss, Westlake, Albeniz, Bach, Antonio Jose - 19.01.2018

Craig Ogden lived up to our high expectations with a varied programme including works from C18th to the present day
Our favourite was the J.C.Bach Lute Suite in G minor BMV993
Not surprisingly we found the contemporary composition by fellow Australian Nigel Westlake (Mosstrooper Peak : Sonata for Guitar) created to the memory of Westlake's son, the most difficult to comprehend. For works which are less melodic and more abstract, the programme notes are important to provide clues and Ogden ensured we had not missed these by reading them out to us before he started to play.
What is without doubt is Craig Ogden's mastery of his instrument and his rapport with the audience.
He sent us home with a rousing 'feel good' encore.
( Audience members )

Mozart, Simpson, Beethoven: Tippett Quartet, Bromsgrove Concerts, The Artrix, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, 28.02.2014

... The Tippetts captured the (Simpson) 11th quartet's bracing contrasts of turbulence and calm to perfection. Especially memorable was the way in which they built up the tension in the overlapping rushing scales of the third movement, bringing the work to its main point of climax. The hushed ethereal final movement had superb concentration and focus from the players - the music simply vanished into thin air as intended by the composer. The appreciative Bromsgrove audience listened attentively in rapt silence.
Simpsons work was a perfect companion piece for Mozart and Beethoven. In the first of Mozarts great series of quartets dedicated to Haydn the Tippetts brought out the wit in the first movement and the exuberant counterpoint of the finale (a clear precursor to the finale of the Jupiter Symphony).
Beethovens Third Rasumovsky quartet, played after the interval, was on the same exalted level as the Simpson. Flowing tempi in all four movements were well chosen and fitted the music perfectly. The Tippett's playing of the second movement's Slavic tinged melody over throbbing pizzicato accompaniment was a high point of their interpretation. In Beethoven's brilliant finale the link was clearly made between Mozart's joyous fugal writing and Simpson's intense yet vigorous counterpoint - three great string quartet composers. .....complete review

( Seen and Heard )

Most Recent Birmingham Post Reviews

Leon McCawley, 9.2.2018 Haydn, Hans Gal, Beethoven, Schubert by Christopher Morley: 5 starts

Bromsgrove Concerts’ imaginative programming brings hidden rewards, which were there in abundance when pianist Leon McCawley led us off the beaten track with a fascinating sequence of comparative rarities.
We have perhaps more media-grabbing pianists, but none can surpass McCawley in his thoughtfulness of approach, and his ability to make himself as one with an instrument new to him.
His pedalling on Bromsgrove’s piano was so subtly coloured, so well contoured to the phrasing going on up above on the keyboard, and always so right for the music under discussion.
Haydn’s C minor Sonata launched the evening, a mysterious work bridging the deft precision of Scarlatti and the generous phrasing of early romanticism, McCawley drawing out its personality and making much of its caressing thirds and cross-hand virtuosity.
There was more C minor in the shape of Beethoven’s amazingly terse 32 Variations, their sarabande-like launching-pad a wonderful context for a dazzling sequence in which we were charmed by colour and gripped by McCawley’s articulation – all this in 13 minutes, in a work which every music-lover ought to get to know better.
Between these two came three Preludes by Hans Gal, a refugee from the Nazis who settled in Scotland, and whose music as evidenced here, despite influences as disparate as Mussorgsky and Brahms, has nevertheless a definite personality of its own. The conductor Kenneth Woods has done much to promote Gal’s orchestral music; perhaps McCawley could do the same for the piano music.
Schubert’s beatific G major Sonata concluded, McCawley displaying stamina both intellectual and physical over its lengthy span, and spreading a rapt stillness which lasted long after its conclusion.

Ensemble de NOTE, 17.11.2017 Mozart and Haydn by Christopher Morley: 5 stars

Disbelief had to be suspended , initially unwillingly, when faced with the prospect of Mozart's sublime Gran Partita for 13 wind instruments, one of the greatest works in the entire canon, being given in a version for a motley quintet of keyboard, strings and clarinet.
But this performance for Bromsgrove Concerts of Schwencke's transcription, though not quite achieving the essence of the piece's ineffability, the Ensemble DeNOTE delivered with a graceful awareness of its radience.
The keyboard, John Irving's beautiful fortepiano, sustains many of the textures (repeated woodwind chords are convincingly transferred to the instrument's tactile responsive articulation), violin, viola and cello stand in for horns, bassoon and whatever else with great success, with only the rare halting phrasing making us regret the absence of suave winds, and the clarinet's (here the heroic Jane Booth) sweetly reminds us of the work's provenance.
This was an enthralling account, as was that of Mozart's Kegelstatt Trio which opened the evening, rich in empathy and interplay. Booth's boxwood clarinet oozed milky balm, Oliver Wilson's viola was pungent (how moving to consider that Mozart probably wrote the part for himself) and Irving's fortepiano drew us in immediately with its intimate inward-looking tones.
Irving's instrument here had sounded properly self-effacing. Left to itself in Haydn's sonata no 49 in E flat, it emerges as a vehicle for clarity and delight as well as conveying an awareness of Haydn's exploratory side, shafting a sunlight which heavy modern instruments cannot help but shroud.

Castalian Quartet, Haydn, Thomas Ades, Beethoven 29.09.2017 by David Hart: 4 stars

Formed only six years ago the Castalian String Quartet has quickly developed into an ensemble of equals, homogeneous in tone and with no dominant member to imperil their balanced sound.
They opened the 55th season of Bromsgrove Concerts with Haydn's Quartet in E Flat, Op 76 No 6, and ended the concert with Beethoven's A minor Quartet, Op 132 - both late and somewhat experimental works, a quality which the Castalian did much to embrace.
It resulted in a neatly polished account of the Haydn , its understated humour nicely unforced (Although some twiddly passage work in the Allegretto was not precisely smack in tune) and an adagio that almost drenched with expressive significance. Nothing bland here.
And the players' response toi the ebb and flow of Beethoven's opening Allegro was always mindful of the restlessness beneath the notes, while the slow movement's simple beauty was never overdressed - and became even more poignant as a consequence - with a final section so entranced it seemed as if Beethoven didn't want to let go.
Just as hypnotic, though in a totally different musical language, was 'The Four Quarters' by Thomas Ades. Although extremely formidable on a technical level, this evocation of times in a day has a classical elegance that, despite its atonality, is totally arresting..
With such devices as aggressive pizzicatos, extended harmonics and an ear tingling single-note ostinato in the Serenade, this wonderfully engaging work sounded like a series of aural abstract paintings and the Castalian executed it with dazzling aplomb.

Christopher Morley reviews Jenkinson-Frith Duo at Bromsgrove Artrix, March 4 2016, 5 stars

There is a remarkable empathy between cellist Richard Jenkinson and pianist Benjamin Frith. Despite minimal actual eye-contact between them, there is an awareness of body-language which brings a wonderful sense of oneness to their performances.

And this was nowhere more in evidence in their exhilarating recital for Bromsgrove Concerts than in the Cello Sonata of Benjamin Britten, and work written for himself ( a brilliant pianist ) and the Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. In this work both instruments declare their individual personalities, displaying all their trick-of-the-trade but ending in a gruff fusion of solidarity. Jenkinson and Frith were perfect protagonists.

They had begun with Saint-Saens' Fist Cello Sonata, Frith's pianism mercurial in this Mendelssohn-influenced piece, Jenkinson's playing generously responsive, full of nuance.

Respect in the first half, then utter life-enhancement after the interval, beginning with three pieces by Ian Venables all powerfully advocated by the Duo. It Rains opened in numb serenity, drawing long sustained pizzicato- punctuated lines from the cello; At Malvern created a genuine sense of landscape from the piano's gentle patternings (and what a desolate ending), and, best of all, was the incomparable Elegy. This aches with pain, wrenched from such telling melodic outlines, and moves towards a hauntingly unresolved ending. Only Elgar's Sospiri comes anywhere near this desperately personal anguish and the Duo, who have played Elegy so often (and thankfully recorded it), played it here with a first-time freshness.

After this, Beethoven's great A minor Sonata came almost as light relief. Eloquently fluent, structure unobtrusively delineated, and with brilliance from both partners, this masterpiece came up shiny and new. And, like the composer himself, none of us wanted to let go of the finale's main melody.

John Gough reviews Leon McCawley at Bromsgrove Artrix, October 3 2014, 5 stars

Bromsgrove Concerts’ new season opened with a visit from one of our foremost pianists, Leon McCawley, in a highly satisfying programme of the core classical repertoire.

McCawley is a mature and self­-possessed artist‚ whose playing is an intriguing balance of delicacy, detail and drama, and although everything was carefully considered, a feeling of spontaneity permeated the evening..... complete review

John Gough reviews Bromsgrove Concerts 50th Anniversary, Atrium Quartet at Bromsgrove Artrix: Walton, Shostakovich, Elgar 18.10.2013

For 50 years now, Bromsgrove Concerts have been organising vibrant and brilliantly-constructed programmes and this magnificent anniversary concert continued its high standards.

I was enormously impressed with the Atrium Quartet. Their ability to combine warmth, colour, and intensity with intellectual rigour, secure rhythm and a firm grasp of a works architecture made this a very exciting and appropriate event to mark such a celebration.... complete review