Variations on a Theme by Paganini
Rondo in G minor
Trois Ballades de François Villon
Piano Trio in E minor, Op.90 (Dumky)
Lay a Garland
The Blue Bird
Ashley Wass (piano)
Maria Kliegel (cello) & Nina Tichman (piano)
Jeremy Huw Williams (baritone)
Reviewed by: Rob Witts
Reviewed: 16 May, 2006
Venue: St John's, Smith Square, London
Klaus Heymann’s Naxos label was founded almost twenty years ago, an offshoot of his concert promotions in Hong Kong – themselves only organised to promote his electronic equipment business. Since then, Naxos has rewritten the rules of the classical recording industry, and has grown to encompass a catalogue of some 10,000 titles.
This gala concert of Naxos artists, efficiently compered by James Jolly of “Gramophone”, was a celebratory affair, and if the selection of performers did not quite add up to a coherent programme, this simply reflects the diversity of the Naxos catalogue.
Ashley Wass gave a tremendous performance of Frank Bridge’s imposing Piano Sonata, a densely chromatic work coloured by the experiences of the First World War. Wass was equal to the piece’s technical demands and clearly articulated its knotty structure.
Wass was also a sensitive accompanist to Jeremy Huw Williams in another highpoint of the evening, Debussy’s “Trois Ballades de François Villon”. Williams inhabited the contrasting characters of the songs, and brought them to vivid life.
Naxos’s international interests were represented by the members of the Xyrion Trio, whose performance of Dvořák’s popular ‘Dumky’ Trio was stylish, though not well suited to the cavernous venue. Cellist Maria Kliegel and pianist Nina Tichler had earlier given an equally poised reading of the same composer’s Rondo in G minor; however Kliegel’s two solo offerings were exercises in empty virtuosity that suffered especially by their placing straight after the hushed and shattered conclusion of the Bridge.
Opening and closing the concert were Oxford Camerata under Jeremy Summerly. Allegri’s famous “Miserere” was not a great choice to open the concert, for the antiphonally placed choirs seemed uneasy. Nicolas Gombert’s 8-voice “Credo” was vastly better, with expertly judged build-ups to points of climax. In Stanford’s “The Blue Bird”, the choir demonstrated a wonderful hushed, covered tone, with Eloise Irving’s pure soprano notes floating above. An encore followed in the form of “Steal Away”, as arranged by Tippett.