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The Mid Argyll Arts Association opened their 2021/22 season in international style on Saturday September 4. Concert pianist Clare Hammond, took the audience on a journey through Europe with compositions by Montgeroult (France), Brahms (Germany) and Szymanowski (Poland) and then across the Atlantic to America with a less known composition by W G Still.
The concert opened with a selection of Etudes by Montgeroult. Clare introduced them allowing the audience an insight into the compositional techniques that Montgeroult included. (An etude is a ‘study designed to improve the technique or demonstrate the skill of the player’ – it is certainly the latter which was the meaning on Saturday.)
Clare introduced this next selection of music by Brahms explaining that by the time Brahms composed these pieces he was in his late-50s and felt he’d written enough. His music was now looking back on his life and showing a great sadness and affection. In the calm and peaceful atmosphere of Christ Church you could feel it within the music.
An exciting and relatively unknown work by H G Still – The Bell was perfect in Christ Church. This work was composed in 1943 and unusually both the orchestral and the solo piano pieces were composed simultaneously. The inspiration for this piece came from the 1873 poem The Phantom Chapel by John Townsend Trowbridge. Clare demonstrated the entire range of the piano to its full potential in this unsettling, haunting, atmospheric piece.
Clare’s final selection was Variations on a Polish Theme by Szymanowski. There are 10 variations, with the early ones all enjoying their own bright style and tempo until the 8th variation, where everything changes. It was this dramatic and powerful Variation No.8 that Szymanowski wanted played at his own funeral, which it was.
This first concert of live music certainly lived up to its name. The acoustics of Christ Church and the virtuosic skills of Clare Hammond performing an exciting programme of music certainly shows that the MAAA Season is off to an excellent start.
The MAAA’s next concert is a drive-in concert with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Saxophone Quartet on Saturday September 18. Tickets to purchase are available through their online booking service, buytickets.at/midargyllartsassociation
or the “buy tickets” button at the bottom of their website.