The Festival managed to choose some very cold days for its concerts in St. Paul’s Church during the autumn and winter season, but what was on offer certainly warmed the heart and brought good cheer to those who heard the excellent fare brought to Honiton by some fine young musicians.
Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert were certainly there, but exploration of less known paths brought names such as Ginastera, Krommer, Stadler and Roesler, and even with the more familiar names there were lesser known works to be heard.
Selected by the Royal College of music as one of its ‘Rising Stars’, pianist Maria Marchant opened the season in October with a fascinating programme consisting of a Mozart sonata, Chopin’s ever popular Raindrop Prelude and two of the Petrarch Sonnets from Liszt’s Années de Pélerinage. All were impeccably played, but the pièces de résistance were Ginastera’s Danzas Argentinas. The furious rhythms, intertwined ancient modes, general feel of the Pampas, and not to mention the tremendous glissando at the end, made the performance a gripping experience.
Violin and Piano
November brought a stunning performance by the up-and-coming young violinist Victoria Sayles and her duo partner, pianist Martin Cousin, who was making a return visit to the Festival. Both are now very sort after musicians and Martin is considered to be one of the most exceptional pianists of his generation. They gave a very satisfying account of two well-known sonatas – the E flat major, Op.12 of Beethoven and the D minor of Brahms – sharing their roles to excellent effect. The Brahms, in particular, revealed so much of the composer’s inner thoughts while in his most deeply felt and passionate mood.
Clarinets and Basset Horns. The audience was completely entranced with the recital by the Clarino Ensemble. Three young ladies presented a fascinating programme of music for clarinets and basset horns, the latter being a low pitched member of the family and an instrument with which many members of the audience were unfamiliar. The recital brought names with which the listeners were equally unfamiliar and that great virtuoso of both instruments, Anton Stadler, who inspired Mozart to write his great works for these instruments, especially his Clarinet Concerto, came well to the fore. With lesser known works by Mozart and Haydn, pieces by the Bohemian composer Jan Josef Roesler and the Moravian Franz Krommer, this recital was a revelation and the highlight of the season.
To end the season there were two mainstays of the chamber music repertoire brought to the Festival by a string quartet, fairly new to the recital scene. The Idomeneo Quartet has been heralded as one of the most exciting young quartets of the moment and they certainly proved their worth in thoughtful performances of Mozart’s Disonance, and Schubert’s Death and the Maiden Quartets.
Once again, the Honiton Festival has brought a wide variety of great music to this small Devon town, delighting large and loyal audiences.