By James Montgomery
What other instrument played these days possesses more than four thousand years of beguiling musical pedigree? I suspect hardly any. The ancient Egyptians would have marvelled at how their single stringed legacy would become multi-stringed and enable a vast variety of key changes and sonority. To show us how, Francs Kelly with a spellbinding performance or the virtuoso piece for solo harp, ‘Impromptu-Caprice’ by Gabtiel Pierne. Deceptively, the harp demands great strength,co-ordination and deft feetto adjust the seven pedals, and boy, was it in evidence here.
For the rest of the programme Frances was joined by the viola player Gustav Clarkson and flautist Judith Treggor, both fine soloists in their own right. Just two of the other six concert pieces were classical, a charming Rondo byMozart, and a four movement ‘sonate’ by Handel in which the accompanying harp subsituted for the harpsichord – no coincidence there.
In the audience was the prolific composer Paul Lewis who’s written a mutitude of scores for television, film & radio. His ‘Divertimento’ was penned specifically for the flute,viola and harp. Such an ensemble has inspired many composers and the Trio conveyed beautifully the skillful range of visual images, instrumental colours and evocative threads for which he is so renowned. A spectacular flourish of ripples ends the work, the sound we so much associate with the harp.
Frances arranges works to suit her Trio, for instance her adaption of movements from Ravel’s orchestral work ‘the Mother Goose Suite’. From it we heard three fairytales, ‘The Sleeping Beauty ‘, ‘Tom Thumb’ and ‘TheLittle Ugly Girl,empress of Pagodas’, the latter conjuring up a flavour of the Far East.
You couldn’t hear a pin drop during this concert, a testament to just how absorbing was the Trio’s playing a majority of comparatively contemporary sounding music. Take the ‘Elegiac Trio’ by Arnold Bax written one hundred years ago. He was classed as a Romantic, but this dissonant music reflecting the world’s turmoil at the time, ending with the uncertainty of a single note played on the flute.
The Trio finisged with a tour de force, Debussy’s ‘Sonate pour Flute, Alto et Harpe’. we were led through three contrasting movements written exactly at the same time as Bax’s work. Unsurprisingly this was confused , tortured, indeterminate sound, uncertain of where to go next, conveyed consummately by these oustanding artists. Debussy’s jagged music concludes abruptly with a stabbed major chord. The audience was ecstatic . Quite right too.