Free tickets for 8 - 25 year-olds!
Recent New Town Concert reviews
A shattering evening!
Paul Lewis is a rare musician. He came from a working class background—his father was a docker in Liverpool—and there was no music at home: the only musical instrument available at school was a cello, which he hated. Yet, through self education (mainly listening to records from public libraries), he managed to get into Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester at the age of fourteen. After four years of hard work, he went to the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and also became a pupil of Alfred Brendel. Today, he is, at the age of 46, one of the leading pianists in the world. He is engaged in a two year project to play and explore the connections between the sonatas of Haydn, the late piano works of Brahms, and Beethoven’s Bagatelles and Diabelli Variations. The New Town Concerts Society have certainly staged a major coup to get him to conclude the series at the Queen’s Hall tonight.
There is no one better to explain his choice of programme than Lewis himself in his programme notes. He begins with a Haydn sonata of which he says: “there aren’t many composers whose music can raise a laugh from the audience”. On Brahms, his second work, he says: “Brahms is a composer I’ve come to love more recently, his madness has an inner logic and in whose hands the rawest of emotion can sound simultaneously unrestrained and refined”. On his final work, Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, he says: “arguably Beethoven’s greatest piano work encompasses everything from the blustering to the introspective, the farcical to the deeply serious”. In other words, it is a perfect work to contrast with the Haydn and Brahms earlier: it proves to be a great choice.
The concert begins with Haydn’s sonata in E minor written around 1778. This was right in the middle of the transition from the harpsichord to the piano, and it’s not clear what instrument Haydn composed it for. However, under Lewis’s skilled fingers, it is all the things he promised in his programme notes: it is moving, it is surprising, it is funny, and occasionally surprising. It is a perfect opening work.
He continues with a work written one hundred years later: Brahms’ Three Intermezzi (1892). The first of these has a distinctly Scottish flavour and apparently Brahms was influenced by one of the Border Ballads, Lady Anne Bothwell’s Lament, whose words were scrawled above the score. Certainly, there is a strong Scottish skirl in that first movement. The other movements display all the qualities Lewis mentioned in his introduction: at times rapture, at times despair. Indeed, Brahms himself said that together the Three Intermezzi amounted to “three lullabies for my sorrows”.
The main event of the evening occurs after the interval, Beethoven’s mighty Diabelli Variations. In 1819 Beethoven was approached by the Viennese publisher Anton Diabelli to write one variation to a waltz he had written.His idea was to ask fifty leading composers to write one each and then to publish it and make lots of money! Beethoven clearly wasn’t too impressed by Diabelli’s waltz. He called it “a cobblers patch” and set out to write twenty-two and finally thirty-three variations that had a tenuous connection to the original. They became, along with Bach’s Goldberg Variations, the greatest interpretations of any musical work.
Lewis’s playing of the Variations is also extraordinary: at times he caresses the keyboard, at times attacks it; occasionally the work is humorous, at times savage. By the end, when he plays Variation 33—an elegant minuet—the audience are stunned. Lewis gets a very enthusiastic response from very big Queen’s Hall audience, who are sure they have heard great work from a great artist.
Hugh Kerr for The Wee Review
New Town Concerts Society is delighted to announce membership of CAVATINA Chamber Music Trust which exists to encourage more young people to attend chamber music concerts. CAVATINA operates a Ticket Scheme under which young people can obtain free tickets for certain chamber music concerts. Up to 50 free tickets will be available free of charge for all New Town Concerts (except the piano recitals) for any young person aged 8 to 25 inclusive. Please encourage young people you know to discover the delights of chamber music. Tickets available via the Queen's Hall box office either in person or by phone (0131 668 2019).
Reviews for for last season's concerts:
"A very fine young quartet"
The concert begins with Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 76 No. 2 in D minor, written in 1797, commonly known as “The Fifths” because of the musical pattern of the first movement. It is a lively late quartet, which incorporates gypsy music, and tradition has it, a donkey braying outside Haydn’s studio!
It continues with Schumann’s String Quartet Op. 41 No. 3 in A major, written in 1842 for his love, Clara Schumann, which displays all Schumann’s skill as as a chamber music composer. It is superbly played by the young musicians of the Castalian Quartet.
The concert concludes after the interval with Brahms’ String Quintet in F, Op. 88, with the addition of viola player, Simon Rowland-Jones, a founder of the famous Chilingirian Quartet. It is interesting to watch an “outsider” viola player interacting with the quartet, who, clearly used to each other, require a little more eye contact with the visiting player.
Overall, this is a very good concert, and it is warmly received by a big Queen’s Hall audience. Truly, Edinburgh is blessed with a surfeit of good music!
Hugh Kerr, The Wee Review
Booking now open!
Subscriptions to the 2019-2020 New Town Concert series are now available from the Queen's Hall Booking Office by phone on 0131 668 2019. This allows you to attend 4 concerts for less than the price of 3 and to reserve the same seat for all 4 concerts.