TOM NEWELL'S LIGHT MANDOLIN REFRESHMENT
J.S. Bach: Adagio & Andante (Tom Newell)
Old Royal Naval College Chapel, Trinity College of Music, Greenwich 3 April 2004
This lunchtime concert, to which I was alerted by The Lute Society, was an enterprising professional training project organised by 4th year student violinist Tom Newell, who had recently taken up the mandolin. These projects are intended to be connected to how the presenting students intend to make a living, and they are completed by handing in a portfolio covering how the student went about it and how successful it was etc... The chief object of this one was to learn how to publicise a musical event.
Tom opened the proceedings by announcing, somewhat perfunctorily, his own two items which, it has to be said, were not quite ready for public performance. He might have done well to invite the small audience (some of whom will have chanced upon the event) to come closer to the front of the beautiful, large Chapel to create a more friendly atmosphere. His recruitment of colleagues to play in the well mixed programme ensured that the concert was a huge success, indeed revelatory for most of us who knew little or nothing about the mandolin (q.v. wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandolin).
Travis Finch came across as thoroughly professional in his spoken introductions and confident performances of two engrossing pieces; only afterwards did I learn, to some surprise, that he is only a 2nd year 1st study mandolinist. (Trinity College of Music has a small but thriving Mandolin Department, its students having won both the coveted Silver & Gold Medals in recent years.)
Alison Stephens *, well known in the mandolin world, played two of her instruments and talked about them. Movements from Abel's Suite in D minor left us wishing she had played the whole. For Victor Kioulaphides's Diferencias (see the score on .pdf at http://www.paperclipdesign.com/vk/ ) she opted, somewhat to the composer's surprise, for her "Beast", the large octave mandolin [pictured] and her fluent account of this substantial work was a highlight of the recital.
Hear Alison Stephens with Stephen Devine (both of them heads of small Departments at Trinity College of Music) on NAXOS 8.570434.
Peter Grahame Woolf
* 17 October 2010; Sad to read of Alison's premature death at 40: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/culture-obituaries/music-obituaries/8064905/Alison-Stephens.html
for mandolin and guitar
Chandos CHAN 10563
A thoroughly enjoyable recording, which finds the mandolin ideally coupled with the warmer-toned guitar. There are discoveries to be found amongst these composers from Columbia, Mexico, Greece and other countries, with premiere recordings of music by Armin Kaufmann, Kiouphides, Zambrano and Stephens herself that are of more than passing "easy listening" account.
With solos for each instrument interposed amongst the duets, it is a well honed programme (they have been touring this music together for ten years) and a more successful CD than the Naxos one of mandolin concertos with piano accompaniment.