Mai Charissa Tran-Ringrose at the time of her first Marlborough recital...The new season of recitals at Saint Peter’s church began (October 25) with a return visit to Marlborough by Mai Charissa Tran-Ringrose who first came to play for the Brandt Group Brilliant Young Pianists series three years ago. Mai Charissa was then aged 16, and now, aged 19, she is an undergraduate reading languages at Trinity College Cambridge.
In her short career as a pianist Mai Charissa won, aged 13, first prize in Thailand’s National Piano Competition for Young Pianists. At the same age she achieved the Diploma (with Distinction) of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, and a year later she was awarded its Licentiate. She has also been awarded the equivalent qualification in France: the Diploma d’Etudes Musicales.
The first half of her programme was devoted entirely to Beethoven - just two works, both in very sombre minor keys. First came the 32 Variations in C Minor. These toy variations, lasting in some cases but a few seconds each, were based on a simple eight-bar melody. There was a rich kaleidoscope of temperament in a very short time, some tempestuous, others placid, all rushing past the listener until Beethoven finally pauses for breath with the last dramatic and demanding variation. Mai-Charissa demonstrated not only her technical skills but also her ability to interpret each of these variations individually.
Beethoven's Sonata 17 in D minor followed - another work in a dark key. It begins with a remarkable first movement, with a series of tempo changes that leaves the listener wondering what Beethoven was planning. The movement remains one of huge variations in mood: the fast sections are almost manic in intensity.
The second movement has a steady and persistent rhythm, the repeated chords in the bass creating the atmosphere of a funeral march. Relief finally arrives in the rippling and gentle allegretto movement, but even here the movement ends quietly with a profoundly melancholic theme which completes this troubling sonata.
We heard some technical skill here and Mai Charissa wrung from the work the dramatic mood changes and all-embracing sense of anguish which the work conveys.
Most of the second half was devoted to Chopin. Mai Chairissa began with two of Chopin’s Nocturnes, E Minor and B flat Minor - a form Chopin popularised. After the tempestuous Beethoven these were a good deal more calming. They are lyrical and wistful and very elegantly played.
...and more recentlyThese were followed by Chopin’s Ballade in F Minor - another musical form which Chopin popularised. The name might suggest that there is a specific textual underlay; the telling of a story. There are pronounced shifts in mood, reflective passages which then lead into lighter dance-like moments, before ending in a dramatic and virtuosic outburst. Mai Charissa highlighted these mood changes in such a way that we could build up our own ‘ballad’ from the music.
The Chopin experience was briefly broken with the miniature ‘Smyrna’ which Edward Elgar had written in 1905 which visiting the eastern Mediterranean. This lovely work is very atmospheric, and the ‘colour and movement’ which Elgar describes is bedded deep in the left hand where there are traces of eastern harmonies and rhythms.
Finally the recital's grande finale: Chopin’s Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante - two wildly differing works which are frequently paired for their dramatic contrast. The Andante is gentle and has a very familiar lullaby feel to it - in complete contrast to the fireworks of the Grande Polonaise.
Yet another musical form popularised by Chopin, the ‘polonaise’ is loosely based on the rhythms of an energetic traditional Polish dance. This Polonaise, the most ambitious Chopin wrote, is joyful, full of wild rhythms and a sense of bravura leading towards a dramatic climax of arpeggios stretching the pianist to the limit, arms stretching the length of the keyboard and hands lost in an avalanche of notes.
What a performance! It was technically very good indeed and the appreciative audience greeted its conclusion with rapturous applause.
For a young pianist of but nineteen years Mai Charissa shows a very mature technical command of the piano. Perhaps her playing as yet, reflects too little of her own personality. Furthermore she should learn to engage more with her audience. However these are early days. After she completes her studies at Cambridge she plans to become an accountant. Nevertheless, let us hope that she will continue to play, for without her the world of music would be all the poorer.
For dcetails about future recitals in the series go to the MBG website - or follow our What's On Calendar.
A pair of Foxy HuntersA queen on the throne, The Queen on 'the throne', Father Christmas, and a milk float with a difference were all part of Wiltshire’s oldest and most vibrant illuminated carnival last night (Saturday).
117 years has not dulled the spirit of Pewsey residents who, if they weren’t in fancy dress in the procession, had turned out in traditionally-large numbers to cheer on the participants.
As always, the Carnival Queen and her attendants led the procession, but were followed not long afterwards by Her Majesty herself, or at least someone posing as her – a walking entrant sitting in a toilet, the legend Still On The Throne alluding to Elizabeth II’s record-breaking reign.
There were more topical floats – one in the form of the milk float with a life-sized cow implored local people to pay a fair price for their milk.
There was an early showing for Father Christmas and his elves, courtesy of the Party Animals, and as always a good smattering of popular culture references – the recently-resurrected TV classic Thunderbirds, Disney’s enduring Frozen, and the unescapable Minions.
And from the baby the the pouch of a kangaroo as part of the Cotton Eye Joey float, to the Pewsey Old Broilers – who used their Dun Clucking float to announce their retirement from Carnival – the event managed to appeal to every generation.
- Click any image to enlarge
An Elf from the Party Animals Christmas floatCarnival Queen Daisy-Mae Phythian and attendant Chelsea WeirKennet Valley Brass Bavarian Band Make Love Not WarMinions 2015Pewsey Hasbeens Thunderbirds Are GoPewsey Legions Two Tribes floatPewsey Old BroilersPVADS Madness-themed floatStill on the ThroneThe Major WrecksThe milk float campaigns for fair milk prices for farmersThe youngest participant Cotton Eye Joey
On Sunday (September 13), at St Peter's Church, in a concert organisedd by the Mayor of Marlborough, Councillor Margaret Rose, The Cook and Stanley Piano Duet provided a large audience with a varied range of works.
Berendina Cook and Matthew Stanley had met in 1984 whilst they were music students at the Royal Holloway College, University of London and have continued to play together ever since. They have become established as one of the leading specialists in Piano Duet work, and have played in venues all over the world. International recognition came when in 1996 they won no less than three prizes at the International Piano Duet Competition in Tokyo
The recital began with Mozart's Sonata in C (which may have originally been intended for two pianos.) A spirited allegro opens the piece, contrasting with a gentle andante, before launching into a jaunty allegretto, the main theme returning time and time again.
Schubert was a very able pianist and wrote extensively for the duet. His lovely Rondo in A may well have been written for him to play alongside one of his gifted pupils, probably one of the daughters of his patron, Prince Esterhazy. The work is based on a gentle, poignant theme around which the four hands interweave in a series of atmospheric and intimate variations. Such beauty, from a composer close to death from a terminal illness!
What a contrast this made to the bombastic and extrovert Valses Bourgeois by the larger-than-life Lord Berners. Berners was one of the flamboyant figures of Britain in the 1920’s. A gifted musician, poet, novelist, artist and erstwhile diplomat, his social life revolved around the Sitwells, William Walton and Constant Lambert as well as the Mitford sisters. His hospitality at Faringdon House, where he kept a flock of doves dyed in vibrant colours, was legendary. These Valses, are, not surprisingly, larger than life - showy, brash, satirical, and harmonically edgy. Furthermore, they were brilliantly played - a very suitable end to the first half.
The second half began with a Suite in Three Movements by York Bowen, a sadly neglected composer these days, but one of the recognised musical talents of the interwar years. He was also a talented horn player and piano teacher. His Suite, probably written for his own use, is very difficult and requires substantial changes in mood. The wonderful central movement is a Nocturne, initially a gentle reflective piece which steadily rises to a disturbing climax. The last movement, Dance, is another tour de force.
Debussy’s Petite Suite is well-known to duet lovers and was beautifully played. The four movements begin with En Bateau, (a serene evening on a boat rudely interrupted by a nasty squall!) and includes a striking Minuet before finishing with a very well-known Ballet.
The programme finished with a piano duet version of Gershwin’s famous Rhapsody in Blue, better known in its original version for piano and orchestra. Indeed the work loses something of its variety of colour in this version for duet. Nevertheless, it was played with great style and made a very suitable climax to the evening’s music.
It was most fitting because George Gershwin died at the age of 38 from a brain tumour, thus cutting short a very flourishing career. Berendina’s own son died of a brain tumour in 2000 at the age of 14, while the Town Mayor’s son-in-law suffered the same fate. The concert, appropriately, was to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity which will remain the Mayor’s Charity of choice throughout her year in office. This was a worthy and most enjoyable start - a very successful concert.