Beautiful music and surroundings

St John's church in the city centre.
St John's church in the city centre.
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Lunchtime concerts in city centre locations can be a delight. Take a break from business or shopping and listen to beautiful music in lovely surroundings. There are few things more relaxing or refreshing.

So it was with these three lunchtime concerts during April at St John’s Peterborough, in the heart of the city. Enhancing the pleasure of the experience the audience was treated to some unforgettable performances by three outstanding young musicians.

In the opening concert Irena Radic consolidated her reputation as one of Peterborough’s leading pianists. Currently studying at the Royal College of Music in London she made a ravishing first impression with a perfect realization of the opening of Ravel’s Sonatine.

Even better was the careful shading of the lower layers of the Menuet which allowed its wistful melody to stand out clearly. Later it was a pleasure to hear some of Brahms’ late piano pieces which are not often played in public.

Here Irena showed an understanding and maturity far beyond her tender years. 
Yet to conclude the concert she was equally at home 
with the fiery driving rhythms of Ginastera’s Argentine Dances.

After the delights of Irena Radic’s piano recital it was the turn of soprano Nina Bunting to present a concert of early music, much of it with a Shakespearean theme. In a very short time Nina has established herself locally as a singer who needs to be heard, with a voice of exceptional purity and passion.

In two charming Italian Baroque songs she demonstrated not just beauty of tone but clarity of diction and exemplary preparation. I confess that I have to declare an interest here because Nina went on to perform my own piece Ophelia Sings. As a composer I couldn’t wish for a more authentic or heartfelt interpretation of these deeply poignant lyrics.

As if this wasn’t enough Nina then went on to stun the audience with some unaccompanied singing of a medieval French song, Quant Je Suis Mis by Guillaume de Machaut. Slowly walking down the central aisle of the church she revealed not just her haunting voice but a sure instinct for dramatic presentation.

Last of the three young musicians to perform in this concert series was cellist Ellen Porter, accompanied by Alec Hone.

From the sonorous opening solo of Prokofiev’s Cello Sonata it was clear that Ellen’s playing was characterised by a deeply mellow tone, and also that she was in total sympathy with this unusual and demanding score.

Better known and irresistibly beautiful was Faure’s Elegie. At the start of the ultra-expressive middle section roles were reversed and Alec played one of the French composer’s loveliest melodies while Ellen accompanied.

It was greatly to her credit that she included some lesser known but thoroughly worthwhile pieces in her programme.

Following the success of the April recitals it’s good to report that a new series of lunchtime concerts at St John’s starts up on May 24. Take the weight off your feet and be there.

Review: Joe Conway.