None = Unmissable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme
Masterpieces of the Classical era (page 92)
Harpsichords at St Cecilia's Hall Series
Music Joseph Haydn: Variations in F minor H.XVII:6; Mozart: Sonata in F major K332; Beethoven: Sonata in E flat major Op.31 No.3
Performer Lucy Carolan
Venue St Cecilia's Hall (Venue 31)
Address Niddry Street
Reviewer Pat Napier
Haydn's enchanting Variations in F minor were particularly suited to this sound. They were, for the most part, gentle, lyrical and of a beautifully-judged leisurely pace, justifying the Andante marking. Haydn, always the master of musical surprises, presented us with a set of double variations, alternating his original F minor theme with an unrelated one in F major, full of lovely runs, delicious trills and the most ravishing, unexpectedly delicate touches just when we expected more emphasis. The piece ended with a robust coda, added much later by an audibly more mature composer but reaching a satisfyng conclusion.
The Beethoven, by contrast, was a descriptive glimpse into the composer's soul. Mozart and he could hardly have been bigger contrasts. Where the Mozart was serene and bright, Beethoven's serenity was altogether more expressionistic: serene passages interrupted by emphatic chords - perhaps indicating his disastrous deafness. Beethoven's 6/8 final movement was a sound picture of a hunt, full of jolly galloping rhythms and horn calls. It was difficult to believe that this one instrument could respond to the soloist so well that each composer's very different voice and sound world clearly shone out.
© Pat Napier. 15 August 2002. Published on www.edinburghguide.com
Merrily we roll along (page 105)
Venue C (Adam House) (Venue 34)
Address Adam House, Chambers Street
Reviewer Jerry Gregson, Guest Reviewer
Merrily We Roll Along is Stephen Sondheim's 1981 musical about the creative New York and Hollywood showbiz world, in particular about a successful producer and song-writer, Frank(lin) Shepard and the people around him. Since Sondheim never does anything routine, the story is told backwards, giving him a chance to ring changes on the "reprise" formula and to set up cross-references in the music. It's also an effective dramatic device: the audience is engaged by seeing the characters get progressively younger, and the incidents and personality traits which shape their later lives - and this being showbiz - they lead somewhat messy lives.
Sondheim and his librettist George Furth also indulge in some autobiographical touches. Remembering that Sondheim is intellectual rather than "commercial" there's some criticism of more popular theatre. This they do partly by developing the characters' mood from their glossy cynicism in 1976 to their youthful idealism of 1957, the year of the Sputnik (and the year Sondheim himself was writing the lyrics for West Side Story, not having been entrusted with the music.) Perhaps appropriately, Merrily was one of his Broadway flops, but it is a great Sondheim piece for connoisseurs. This RHMT production is an excellent and rare chance to savour it.
The cast of 15 deliver the show with considerable enthusiasm and talent. The six lead characters are all well taken, but Paul R Murphy as Frank's one-time friend and partner Charley, steals the show with his first virtuoso number. Then with Jon Hewines as Frank and Ruth Williams as Frank's first love Beth, they make the most of the other show-stopper, a sly cabaret number about the Kennedys Bobby and Jackie and Jack.
The production maintains good pace and variety through close to two hours, played with no interval. In the early Chorus numbers we regrettably lose some of the sharp lyrics due to heavier musical scoring. They also have to contend with a cramped stage, shared with the 8-piece band. The only props are noticeboards announcing the date and location, and a piano used in several numbers. (They really should get its damper pedal fixed.) However the performance as a whole succeeds very well in building up the back-to-front story, and in building the audience interest and excitement. Sondheim is a class act, and this full-scale musical show - allowing for some rough edges and the limited production space - must be one of the better values on the Fringe.
© Jerry Gregson, 08 August 2002
Music François Couperin: Messe pour le Paroisses - Gloria, with plainchant in the alternatim; Charpentier: Messe de Minuit with Lebegue's Noels for organ and Couperin's Messe pour le Paroisses - Offertoire sur les grands jeux; Franck: Choral No 1 in E (organ solo); Vierne: Messe Solennelle for two organs and choir
Venue St Cuthbert's Parish Church (Venue 122)
Address 5 Lothian Road
Reviewer Charlie Napier
The major contributor this evening was definitely the organist, and what a virtuosic performance he gave! He really did "pull out all the stops" tonight, although not all at the same time, thank goodness, except in a few appropriate instances. This was one of the best performances that I have ever heard John Kitchen give. His handling of the organ(s), his choice of registrations, and his solo and accompanying roles were superb. However, this is not to take anything away from the choir. This chamber group (with two male altos!) performed extremely well, with an excellent tone and balance. Thomas Laing-Reilly sensitively directed the whole ensemble. The concert was subtitled "Music in the Churches of Paris" and perfectly illustrated the sort of music one would hear in the bigger churches of Paris during the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The Couperin Gloria was really a plainsong rendering of the words with short organ solos between each phrase. The Charpentier Midnight Mass was specifically written for Christmas and uses eleven carol melodies adapted to the liturgical text. There were the usual sections; Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benediction and Agnus Dei. After each of the three sections of the Kyrie, John played solo versions of the carols used, arranged by Nicolas le Bègue (1630-1702), something that happened at that time.
After the interval, John played one of Franck's last, and greatest organ works. It was so good that words fail me! St Cuthbert's is one of the very few churches that actually has two organs (both played from the same console) so it was ideal for the Vierne Solemn Mass. The contrast between the two organs, as solo and accompanying instruments, plus the choir, resulted in a marvellous performance with the most sublime of endings.
© Charlie Napier, 18 August 2002. Published on EdinburghGuide.com
18 August at 20.00 (2 hours).