The Lisa Bucknell Trio Concert
In this penultimate concert of the season, the Lisa Bucknell Trio performed works written for a less traditional ensemble formation: viola-clarinet-piano, and what a treat it was!
The three Australian musicians displayed their personal and musical connections from the moment they walked on stage and throughout their performance. The friendly dynamic between the players was evident especially in Mozart’s ‘Kegelstatt’ Trio, K. 498.
The programme was well balanced, with works by Schumman, Bruch, Mozart and a contemporary piece written by Huw Watkins in 2011 named ‘Speak Seven Seas’, in which the trio expressed its meaning effortlessly, considering its technical and textural difficulties.
Sharing similar ranges and timbres, the colours in the viola and clarinet complimented each other effectively, especially in the solo passages from the selection of Bruch’s Eight Pieces, Op. 83.
The rare opportunity to hear this trio was a musically enlightening occasion, made into an even more pleasurable experience as they entertained an appreciative audience.
Ana Vandepeer, BMus(Hons)
We are delighted to welcome The Lisa Bucknall Trio ( Lisa Bucknall Viola, Chad Vindin Piano and Som Howie Clarinet) to play at our next concert.
A clarinet-viola-piano trio differs from the traditional piano trio in that the viola and the clarinet share roughly the same range. The combination of viola and clarinet is thus distinguished by the timbre (tone quality or colour) of the instruments rather than register (high versus low ranges, like violin and cello). W A Mozart was the first to write for this combination of instruments with his Kegelstatt Trio, K.498 (1786). The other two most notable works for this distinctive combination of instruments is the Schumann’s Märchenerzälungen, and Max Bruch’s Eight Pieces. Each of these three masterpieces feature in our concert on 31st March.
The fourth piece in this concert is Speak Seven Seas by the British composer Huw Watkins. In 2011 Huw Watkins was invited to be Composer in Residence at the “Spannungen” Chamber Music Festival in Heimbach, Germany. As part of the residency, Watkins was commissioned to write a new work for viola, clarinet and piano, which was entitled Speak Seven Seas. It showcases Watkins’s propensity to create an unselfconsciously lyrical flow of material and to balance it with a consciously meticulous craftsmanship. This trio has an apparently easy ebb and flow, but its dramatic tension was manipulated with the same unerring control.
Lisa Bucknell began her studies on viola after winning a scholarship at the Sydney Conservatorium Open Academy, and has completed a Master of Performance with Distinction at the Royal College of Music. She was a prize-winner at the North London Festival of Music, and has extensive orchestral experience. She has performed in prestigious venues including the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Festival Hall, the Royal Opera House, Cadogan Hall, and the Sydney Opera House. Lisa, Chad and Som all studied for their Bachelor’s degrees at the Open Academy at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, before they each relocated to the UK.
This delightful combination of instruments in the hands of such consummate musicians promises to be one of the highlights of this current season.
The Maxwell Quartet Concert
There was a particular sense of expectation about this month’s concert, as the Maxwell Quartet had originally been due to perform in January but had to postpone their Whitstable appearance due to the insertion of an extra international engagement in the Netherlands.
They were certainly worth waiting for: this proved to be an evening of chamber music at its very best, with string quartet playing of the highest order. The artists had all been close friends since childhood, making music together as they grew up together in Scotland, and this seemed to give them a special degree of rapport with each other. Not only was there was a homogeneity of age but also to some extent of appearance; all four were on the hirsute side, sporting four beards and a ponytail between them! Even their all-black dress code was given a quirky twist by the violist Elliott Perks who sported some brightly patterned socks that put one in mind of sailing boats. Meanwhile, much entertainment was to be had watching the expressive face and mobile eyebrows of 2nd violinist George Smith, and following the hyper-lively body language of cellist Duncan Strachan, whose balletic movement whilst seated not infrequently included lifting both feet off the ground at once!
The Maxwell Quartet’s programme included works from the late 18th century, latish 19th century and early 20th century, with a contrasting first half of Haydn (Op 76 no.2) and Ravel (Quartet in F major), followed after the interval by Tchaikovsky’s 1st Quartet. The performers brought out the full humour and quirkiness of the Haydn, imbuing it with both delicacy and sparkle, but the effortlessness of their ensemble was on best show in the Ravel, which unfolded with a wonderful degree of fluency and a sensuous, easygoing lyricism. Ravel’ s Quartet occupies a distinctive soundworld, making use (inter alia) of the octatonic scale, and this performance transported us into some truly magical realms.
The quartet’s rendition of the Tchaikovsky, though also most enjoyable, perhaps fell a touch short of the extremely high bar they had set themselves with the pre-interval repertoire. While the outer movements were convincingly rendered, the famous Andante cantabile really needed to sing more, and could have done with a stronger melodic line from 1st violinist Colin Scobie; for my money, the movement didn’t feel quite relaxed enough. The Scherzo & Trio were suitably vigorous with the sense of dance well captured, but would have perhaps benefited from greater dynamic light and shade.
We were treated to a delightful encore in the shape of some Scottish and Irish folk music (the violinists swapping positions with each other at this point). This was a brilliant way of rounding off the evening and sending the audience home with a spring in their step.
All told, it was a privilege to experience such a superb evening’s music-making, and the Maxwell Quartet’s evident enjoyment of their repertoire, and of each other’s company, proved infectious in the best possible sense! We wish this young quartet well as they continue to conquer the heights of the chamber music world.
Artistic Director, Music on the Green
1st Prizewinner and Audience Prizewinner at the 9th Trondheim International Chamber Music Competition in 2017, and hailed as “brilliantly fresh, unexpected and exhilarating” by The Scottish Herald, and "superb storytelling by four great communicators" by The Strad Magazine, the Maxwell Quartet is now firmly regarded as one of Britain's finest string quartets, with a strong connection to their folk music heritage and a commitment to bringing together wide-ranging projects and programmes to expand the string quartet repertoire.
For more information about the quartet click on Artists and scroll down to the photo of The Maxwell Quartet where you will also find more videos of their playing.
Make sure this concert is in your diary. One not to be missed!