To see other reviews of NESMS Concerts
click here

Friends of The North East of Scotland Music School
Scholarship Concert 2013

Cara Garton, David Nicholson Flute Scholar
Lisa Abraham, Tom Johnston Piano Scholar
Iain Hall, Dorothy Hately Scholar
Laura Cheyne, Ina Smith Scholar
David Ferguson, Ellie Pirie Scholar
with Drew Tulloch & Richard Bailey, accompanists

Craigiebuckler Church
Friday 28 June 2013
Reviewed by Alan Cooper
Two flautists, a pianist, a recorder player and a bass baritone were the stars of this year's Scholarship Concert promoted by the Friends of NESMS in Craigiebuckler Church.  A bigger than ever audience attended an event that once again showcased some of the finest musical talents from the North East of Scotland.  Not only was there a splendid round of performances from this year's scholarship winners, the programme included several musical gems by composers less familiar to a general audience which lent a special aura of adventure and discovery to an exciting evening.
The first of these pieces was played by flautist Cara Garton who holds the David Nicholson Flute Scholarship.  August Wilhelm Julius Rietz (1812-1877) wrote an attractive Sonata for Flute and Piano in g minor, Op.42, romantic in style but delicately ornamented.  Cara Garton captured the gentle flow of the opening movement with just the right sense of expressiveness in her playing.  The second movement was put across with a lovely singing tone and at the end Cara gave us the flautist's equivalent of a ballet dancer going on points with the delicacy of her staccato playing accomplished with a remarkable lightness of touch.  This was carried over into the fleet of foot finale which as our superb accompanist Drew Tulloch commented was reminiscent of Mendelssohn's music and indeed Rietz edited most of Mendelssohn's manuscripts for publication.  By the way he was also one of Sir Arthur Sullivan's composition teachers.
Lisa Abraham who holds the Tom Johnston Piano Scholarship is only twelve years old but her piano playing sounds far more mature.  She gave us a splendidly steady account of J. S. Bach's Courante from the English Suite No.2 with admirably clear left hand playing.  This was followed by Cyril Scott's colourful "characteristic" piece Water-Wagtail.  In Lisa's playing you could sense the brightness of light on water and later the movements of the bird.  In the second half she introduced us to another less well known piano gem, the Sonata in F Major by the early Spanish classical composer Padre Antonio Soler (1729-1783).  Echos of the early Mozart were suggested and this was followed by a carefully expressive performance of Chopin's Nocturne op.posth. in c# minor.  Lisa's playing of the ornaments had a lovely fluency and the way she gently teased the audience at the slow conclusions showed real artistry.
Recorder player Iain Hall was awarded the Dorothy Hately Scholarship named after one of the original founders of NESMS.  His first-half offerings were a delightfully smooth Andante from the Sonata in g minor by J. S. Bach followed by a fascinating unaccompanied Fantasia No.9 by Telemann.  Leaps from the upper register of the instrument to its lower voice suggested the different registers of the clarinet and this led into sprightlier playing.  This sense of virtuosity was even more overt in the two pieces Iain offered in the second half.  Norman Fulton (1909-1980) was professor of harmony and composition at the Royal Academy of Music.  His Reel from the Scottish Suite cast familiar tunes in a witty modern idiom and then there was the Variations Brillianttes Op.18 by Ernst Krähmer (1795-1837).  The title obviously translates as "brilliant variations" and that is precisely what Iain Hall gave us with his wonderful explosion of recorder virtuosity.
David Ferguson's voice continues to mature nicely and he gave us a fine account of the bass recitative and aria from Handel's Messiah: For, Behold, Darkness Shall Cover the Earth and The People that walked in Darkness.  What marked the quality of his singing in this and the two following pieces, Sarastro's Aria, In diesen heil'gen Hallen from The Magic Flute and Il Lacerato Spirito, the famous bass aria from Verdi's Simon Boccanegra was not just the smooth richness of his singing but his unusually keen sense of the rhythms of each piece of music which gave his performance a real nobility.
In the second half of the concert he gave us two favourite German Lieder, Schubert's An die Musik and Schumann's Ich grolle nicht followed by two English songs.  In Finzi's Who is Sylvia? he managed to lighten the tone of his voice nicely which fitted the music perfectly and in Peter Warlock's fine setting of John Masefield's poem in praise of Captain Morgan's favourite tipple, namely rum, he gave us a nice bluff performance, and we must not forget Richard Bailey's superbly well-judged piano accompaniments for all the vocal items!
To complete the concert, Cara Garton was back, this time in duet with another brilliant flautist, Laura Cheyne, holder of the Ina Smith Scholarship.  They gave us the Allegro con expressione for two flutes by Friedrich Kuhlau.  This sounded just like two gorgeous birds in full-throated song &nspace; and after all, isn't that exactly what was there in front of the audience?
But wait, this was by no means the end of the story.  Two equally lovely ladies were in a sense leaving us.  There were special presentations to both Joan Thomas who is retiring after thirteen years as the director of the School and to Jenny Shirreffs who is stepping aside as chairman of the Friends.  Both have promised not to be strangers to the School and though they will not be quite as much in the limelight, their attractive personalities will ensure that both will still exert their powerful and welcome auras of support for NESMS.