Before the [Vaughan Williams] Sea Symphony concert came the delightful Piano 4 Hands, performed by Waka Hasegawa and Joseph Tong, an established piano duo of true merit. Music by Mozart, his Andante with Variations, K501 and Schubert, his utterly sublime Fantasie, D940 were joined by two premieres. Variations on a Theme by Haydn by David Matthews lasts nearly 20 minutes but is so crammed with ingenious invention that the time sped by.
Matthews is an English composer to his core (his monumental Sixth Symphony embraces the hymn tune Down Ampney by Vaughan Williams as its motto theme) but here he always manages to keep the interest of
his audience by including so many musical genres and styles. In these Variations he offers a waltz, a canon, a tango, a chromatic blues, a barcarolle, a moto perpetuo, and ends with a four-part fugue before the final presto in scherzo mood; all this ingenuity comes from the original choice of a theme from the opening of Haydn’s last String Quartet, Op. 103. Using this diversity Matthews has written an eloquent and elevated work, reinforced on this notable occasion by the commitment of his performers.
They were also heard in the altogether different style of Daniel Kidane, coming from a generation younger than Matthews. Classical forms cease to be relevant in this new work and I confess to being bemused reading that what I was listening to was based on a genre of electronic music that developed in England in the early 1990s as part of rave music scenes…the performers produced the necessary fire and brimstone demanded by the young composer.
The concert closed with a real audience favourite, the ever lovable First Symphony, the Classical, by Prokofiev in a new version for four hands, one piano by Waka Hasegawa. This is music that brings a smile to the face and a pleasure in any format.