The beginning of this new school year has felt like much more of a renaissance than normal, following the reduced concerts of the past two school years. To gather with the wider Oakham community in itself was a delight, and the music offerings of Mr Peter Davis, Oakham School’s Director of Music, was a startling reminder of what we have all missed so much. Mr Davis opened his piano recital with J S Bach’s Italian Concerto, BWV 971. As a composer who saw the fortepiano in its infancy, many have speculated over the suitability of Bach on modern pianos. Enjoyed in the large, sun-lit space of the All Saints nave, it seemed that no other instrument could have offered such a combination of dynamic expression, lyricism and, simultaneously, intimacy and projection. A particular highlight was the third movement, Presto, which really grabbed hold of the audience with its thematic rocketing ascending melodic runs and answering, descending right hand chords. Repeated ideas in the transitional sections offered great opportunities for light and shade with dynamics contrast. The tempo was well judged to reflect the acoustic of building; what we experienced had a great sense of direction and clarity.
Next, we heard the two pieces by John Ireland. These were a new and great discovery. Having previously known his choral and organ works, there was plenty of harmonic language in Chelsea Reach that reflected the English Romantic character; that he was a student of Charles Villiers Stanford and inspired by Impressionists, but also a style that showed he was a generation later than his teacher, with some wonderful crunchy, jazz-inspired harmony in places, all whilst retaining the idiomatic English character. Ragamuffin, the final piece of the programme, sharpened our ears, conjuring the image of a charming young rogue, sidestepping the consequences of their fearless actions with sudden modulations to unexpected keys, all whilst extending a merry tune, pacing keenly along a busy London street.
We look forward to a great term of pupil performances on Wednesday lunchtimes!