Shrewsbury School

Shrewsbury School musicians in concert at the Wigmore Hall

Thursday 5 March 2015

Martin Knox reviews a memorable concert. "If there has been a better show these forty years, I must have missed it." - Praise indeed.

This year there is to be no mass migration of the Music Department to London or Birmingham, but instead a select group of performers was up very early last Thursday, bound for an 11am start at the Wigmore Hall, the capital’s premier recital venue. Awaiting them, in addition to parents and friends, was an impressive turnout of Old Boys, loyal men who rally round the Salopian flag wherever it is raised. They love their school and they love their music, too, as witness their generous support over the years. It was also good to see a few recent leavers, who were taking a couple of hours off from their studies. Happily for all, the concert was an occasion for joy and pride in equal measure.  If there has been a better show these forty years, I must have missed it.

The ninety-minute programme began with Bach’s cantata, ‘Jauchzet Gott’, in which the versatile Henrike Legner (soprano) was the impressive soloist, joined in the outer movements by the glittering trumpet of Henry Thomas. David Joyce stepped forward from the accompanying string ensemble to lead a movement from the 4th Brandenburg Concerto, in which John Dempsey (flute) and Hannah Sanderson (recorder) also made a lively contribution.

Rich tone and a sure sense of Mozartian style was evident in Loren Kell’s presentation of an aria from 'Don Giovanni'. I trust she will feature in the production of 'Figaro' scheduled for next term.

The leader of the strings, Calvin Chang, teamed up with Galin Ganchev in a sonata for violin and piano by Brahms, a performance notable for the unity and balance which they have developed over the time they have been playing together. They pulled off one explosive entry with immaculate timing and the hushed ending was perfectly judged.

Ursule Taujanskaite has only recently joined the Sixth Form and has already made an impact as an exceptionally fine flautist. Her technique was equal to the very demanding piece which she offered on this occasion. Henry Newbould, who has been winning the Senior Wind Prize since he was in the Third Form, also chose a fiendishly difficult number, producing an astonishing range of sounds from his soprano saxophone  Regular attenders of the lunchtime concerts  could be forgiven for thinking that half the school played the saxophone, so it was not surprising that Henry went on to play in a quartet of the same. Proportional representation? They were all very good and, believe me, they are only the tip of a considerable iceberg.

Shrewsbury has been fortunate to have had Galin Ganchev in its ranks for a full five years and readers of these columns will be familiar with glowing reports of his accomplishments. He is a superb pianist and his “high definition” playing of a Chopin Polonaise-Fantaisie saw him at his very best, a lyrical, emotionally-charged performance, worthy of the venerable surroundings in which it took place. He moves on to the Royal Academy in September. Catch him while you can.

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