Review: Fireworks in St Peter’s - piano recital for four hands in the Brilliant Young Musicians series

Written by Christopher Rogers on .


Janneke Brits and James Kreiling have performed individually at St Peter’s Church for the Marlborough Brandt Group, but on Sunday (November 23), the pair, now married, performed together in a spectacular programme of piano duets.

The recital was the second in the 2014-2015 series organised by Nick Maurice to raise funds for the Marlborough Brandt Group and the St Peter’s Church Trust.

The first half of the programme was devoted to a version of Gustav Holst’s ‘Suite: The Planets’  This is very familiar music in the ever-popular orchestral  version, but here was a piano duet version which had languished in obscurity for some 80 years in a cupboard in Saint Paul’s  Girls School,  (where Holst had been Director of Music) and has only recently entered the duet repertoire.  

The piece begins with the  percussive and persistent rhythms  of Mars.  Mercury, is represented by a  flurry of fast moving notes. Then comes Jupiter  represented by  one of  most memorable and loved melodies of the twentieth century. The work finishes with the appropriately ambiguous music of Uranus and the gentle other-worldy pulsating chords of Neptune.

In this stripped-down piano version we  heard the  piece from a fresh perspective - much  more transparent  and immediate. Jennike and James worked hard to capture the diversity of moods and styles which the interpretation  of  these movements requires

The second half was devoted to two very contrasting pieces. It began with the ‘Ma Mere L’Oye’ or ‘Mother Goose Suite’  by  Ravel. Each of the six movements refers  to a Fairy Tale, and was originally conceived for the two children of friends. What expectations he had of their ability!

Here is variety of mood gentle and lyrical, even threatening at times. One movement  shimmers with oriental magic while the last movement, ‘The Magic Garden’  brings  the piece to a triumphant climax.     

The final work was the piano duet version  of Stravinsky’s ballet score ‘The Rite of Spring’. This which preceded the infamous  orchestral score which caused an outcry when the ballet was first  performed in Paris in 1913.

There are two movements, the Adoration of the Earth and The Sacrifice,  bursting with primitive percussive rhythms, discords and unfamiliar interval. Each movement rises  to a huge atavistic climax.

Playing this piece requires, as James told us, a  real understanding of each  partner’s role, with hands and arms actually interlocked at times. This virtuosic score is some challenge - thumping chords, wild harmonies and thrilling runs. They played with flair and confidence to the astonishment of a riveted audience. Furthermore the piano survived!  

It was indeed a spectacular concert and one which will be remembered with awe.  

The next recital in the series features Erdem Misirlioglu - at St Peter’s Church on Sunday, 14 December at 7.30.  More details here.