Says Keith Bradhshaw
Just imagine if SASRA Music & Arts didn’t have its own piano and couldn’t promote such wonderful recitals as the one given by Sarah Beth Briggs on Friday 20 January in the ‘old’ theatre of West Lakes Academy. What a tremendous loss it would have been not to be able to hear Beethoven’s mighty ‘Waldstein ‘Sonata and the fascinating set of twelve piano preludes by Claude Debussy.
2012 marks the 150th Anniversary of Debussy’s birth. This memorable event will no doubt be marked elsewhere in the county this year, but you heard his music (or missed it) first in Egremont.
The preludes range in mood from the gentle and well known ‘The Girl with The Flaxen Hair’, to the driving allegro and tumultuous force of ‘What the West Wind has seen’. All of them were played with a sensitivity and technique which enthralled the audience during the second half of the concert. Sarah described each prelude very clearly before performing them. This was great help to the listener, and was in fact one of the very best introductions to any music that I can remember in over 40 years’ attending these concerts.
The piano needed the interval to recover from the severe handling it had received during the ‘Waldstein’. Beethoven had apparently just been given a new piano with an extended range, just before writing what has come to be regarded as perhaps the best solo piano sonata ever composed, and he didn’t hold back!
The audience emerged from the first half of the concert amazed at the brilliance of the playing especially in the final movement of the sonata, where Beethoven suddenly increases the pace from ‘moderato’ to a breathtaking ‘prestissimo’ coda. Sarah was equal to all the technical demands made on her, not only in the faster sections of the piece but also in the profound slower movement.
The concert had begun with other music by Beethoven: his ‘32 Variations in C minor’. Since this only lasts 12 minutes, the mathematically inclined amongst you will calculate that the average duration of each section of this piece is 21.81 seconds, recurring (this allows for the theme, so you have to divide by 33 not 32, in case anybody writes in to correct me!). I thought I was following all the variations very well when the piece suddenly finished and I was only on number 21, Sarah claims she played them all!
There will be two more concerts in the current SASRA Music & Arts Season: The Fontanella Recorder Quintet on 24 February and The Backman Piano Trio on March 16. They will also be the last ever in the present West Lakes Theatre – this is being demolished in April, as part of the Academy Rebuilding Scheme. A theatre is included in the new premises, but the Academy is not able to offer SASRA Music & Arts piano storage facilities there.
So if piano music is to be included in future, an alternative venue will have to be found. What a performance!