St Luke’s Music and Wine: Sussex Flutes, March 18th, 2016

A recital report from Simon Jenner


St Luke’s hosts international rising and risen stars. This popular ensemble is in danger of being overlooked because it’s local and for its unique line-up. Victoria Hancox, Nicole Leclercq, Anne Hodgson, Sue Gregg and Katrin Heymann boast a flexible, extraordinarily rich, novel sonic blend, with flutes from piccolo to bass suggesting a far wider palate than flutes. Pieces written for them reflect it. Continue reading

Sussex Musicians Concert, Unitarian Church, March 12th, 2016

Simon Jenner has been in touch from Brighton in East Sussex about two outstanding performances that bookended an evening of concert-level musicianship:

Gideon Klein (1919-45) was murdered in Auschwitz nine days after completing his String Trio, an astonishingly concentrated post-Bartok world refracted through Janacek: vivacious and devastated, variations on a Moravian folksong at its core. Andrew Biggs, Beatrice Sales and Nick Cooper’s recording – when uploaded on the website – will mark a reference-point for the future.

Composer Kevin Allen  – famed for his Brahms and modernism – enjoyed the Bluthner grand’s plummy sonority, accompanying two Brahms and two Bellini melodies. Baritone Andrew Robinson rioted to a twelve-year-old prodigy’s patter-song. In  the Brahms ‘Wie Melodien’, its great tune’s used for his Second Violin Sonata. The song’s so abstract it deserved another shot! Then the dramatic ‘Mainacht’. Robinson projected complexity as well as great tone.

Joe Ward’s Chopin Nocturne Op 48/1 was taken at a pace to display its tenebrous night, stoicism anguished and slowly fractured. The Waltz Op18 came as a sorbet after.

Franck’s Violin Sonata saw Biggs and Allen unite for one of the most urgent performances I’ve heard of any violin sonata. The ride was terrifying, edge-of-seat late-romantic chromaticism exploding in chords under fast-running violin passages, contrasting with aching melancholy, drawn out to a shuddering regret somewhere beyond words. One of the most rewarding concerts, even for this club.


Comments from Simon Jenner

Worthing Symphony Orchestra, Ode to Spring, Assembly Hall Worthing, March 6th, 2016


Two symphonies bookended this as-ever adventurous ensemble’s concert under charismatic, communicative John Gibbons, enclosing two piano-and-orchestra works played by the great Idil Biret, great-grand-pupil of Chopin.

Schumann’s First Symphony is his most compact and tautly-argued, lending it a thrusting urgency. You’d hardly think it his first mature orchestral piece, so thrilling is its burst of rising fifth, falling third, a motif dominating ripe horns of Spring, its subject, where clarinets hesitate, echoing strings.

Franck’s once-popular Symphonic Variations for Piano-and-orchestra recall organ rolls in waves of sonority, but mystically-centred this reveals itself a profound, layered work, ripe for new fame: Biret nailed this with force, poetry, dizzying precision. Such brevity and compactness also militate against the Chopin’s programming: the Andante Spinato played solo, magically, the Grand Polonaise with the orchestra, melding both versions where Biret forces pace, leaping at the polonaise rhythm.

Finally the rarity. Edmund Rubbra’s Fourth Symphony is his most popular, though he wrote even finer ones later. This 1941 work he conducted at the Proms in battledress, and its wartime mix of serenity, anticipating Vaughan Williams’ Fifth at its opening, and its Wagnerian chill preluding the last movement build to bell-like perorations of hope, enclose a work by turns magical, forceful, almost too big for this concert hall.



Simon Jenner


I wonder how many people have seen signs or read notices that cause an involuntary smile whilst being read? Like: ‘TOILET OUT OF ORDER. PLEASE USE THE FLOOR BELOW’ or that seen in a London department store: ‘BARGAIN BASEMENT UPSTAIRS’. As a retired teacher, I’ve also seen some very funny words written by children and young people; even by the not so young when caught off guard, or writing in English as a foreign or second language. Continue reading