On Saturday 26th February 2011 those very clever people at Leighton Buzzard Music Club brought us two more talented young musicians: Hannah Marcinowicz with her saxophone and John Reid playing the piano. The underlying theme of the concert was Spanish, although the composers came from many lands and several different centuries.
The mellifluous sound Hannah produced with her sax made it immediately clear that the instrument can do much more than jazz solos. The sound was like a purring kitten, prone to scampering off in trills and runs and with a surprising range of both tone and pitch. When I attend these concerts I am constantly surprised at the wonderful music and varied repertoire given by solo instrumentalists of all persuasions. This was one of the charms of the evening.
The Spanish theme was established with the joyous little ‘Fantaisie sur “Le Freischütz” de Weber’ by Jean-Nicolas Savari. It was followed by a yearning piece of Debussy – ‘Syrinx’. Hannah explained that, in mythology, Syrinx was a nymph who fled from Pan down to the water’s edge and turned herself into a reed which Pan plucked and shaped into pipes, so he has been playing her ever since – and you could hear the nymph’s fear and the wind in the reeds in the music. The mood turned sprightly once more with a musical realisation of five picture postcards in ‘Tableaux de Provence’ by (hooray!) a female composer, Paule Maurice. My favourite of this little suite was “Des Alyscamps l’âme soupire” which had a soulful, Gershwin feel to it. The final piece of the suite was recommended to us as a French version of “Flight of the Bumble Bee” and proved a tour de force of speed and trills. Bravo!
John now gave us two Argentinian dances by Alberto Ginastera. The first harked back to the Thirties and had something of Scott Joplin’s slow rags about it, crossed with Manuel da Falla, with lots of luscious blue notes. The second was a fast dance allowing John to showcase his formidable skills and talent.
The first half was brought to a close with Hannah’s ‘signature piece’: an arrangement of “Deep Purple”. Variations on the theme of that lovely song were played with enormous verve by both parties.
The second half opened with a short, lyrical and varied sonata by Telemann which led us forward to more demanding music by Jean Françaix which Hannah described as ‘a cross between Poulenc and Stravinsky, spiky and anti- romantic. Here were African influences as well as Latin, harking back to the Twenties and including something, introduced by John as ‘intricate’, in five-four time. Next came a traditional Japanese love song, gentle as a lullaby, which was surprisingly western in tone and tempo. Now we returned to the fiery Latin temperament with ‘Intermezzo from “Goyescas”’ by Enrique Granados. Finally we heard ‘Pequena Czarda’ by Pedro Iturralde. There was a big dollop of film noir about this piece. The girl with the sad eyes spies M’sieur Rick through the hazy cigarette smoke in his ill-lit gin-joint; the music takes off in loops and palpitations as she wishes she hadn’t come. She flutters, she prevaricates. She tries to run from him and suddenly there’s a touch of klezmer to the music as she tries to push her way through the Jewish refugees in the doorway. But Rick is at her elbow now. The refugees bicker amiably as he leads her away. I shall keep my ears open for more Iturralde; this piece made a very fine finale. So much so that our enthusiastic applause persuaded Hannah and John to give us an encore – Scott Joplin’s ‘New Rag’.
What a lovely selection of Spanish-flavored musical tapas – as light and pequeño as you could wish for.