Chapel inspirational venue for concert

Review of Meads Festival

by Robin Gregory.

EASTBOURNE’S position near to Brighton and the county town of Lewes has no doubt helped to secure the services of outstanding musicians for the Meads Festival’s first-ever two concerts.

Following Brighton-resident baritone Christopher Maltman, it was the turn of Lewes-based pianist Alexandra Silocea to delight the audience in the inspiring environment of All Saints Chapel.

Her programme on May 8 included Haydn, Prokofiev, Schubert and Liszt. Romanian-born Alexandra demonstrated that her many awards and successes in Europe and America were merely the start of a great career.

In each of the three movements of Haydn’s 1795 Sonata in C she found the right balance between classical restraint and emerging romanticism, her technical control enabling her to bring out many a subtlety without ever losing the forward momentum.

The Prokofiev which followed, however, is very 20th century, its biting rhythms and musical surprises laying many a trap for the young performer.

Miss Silocea has already recorded the first five sonatas, of which this is number two; and in each of its four movements she proved equal to every demand.

The short Scherzo fizzed like a fire-cracker. The menacing tread of the Andante was perfectly judged, right up to its final dying moment; and the Vivace showed rhythmic attack no matter how many notes were involved or how furious were the top-to-bottom descents.

It was right to open Part Two with Schubert’s sunny “Little” Sonata in A. The first movement is a carefree song.

The happiness becomes bliss in the second movement, and the landscape seems to resonate.

We could really believe, in this performance, that we were hearing the composer’s joyful recollection of a sunny holiday with Josephine, to whom the sonata is dedicated.

Liszt could do anything on the piano, and to bring off the Bach Variations which ended the programme the pianist needs strength, agility, and a touch of daring.

A blind listener would have assumed he was listening to an athletic male who just happened to be a great pianist. For here we had drama, brilliance and majestic control.

Alexandra seemed almost surprised at the rapturous reception for so magnificent a performance; but then supplied two perfectly-chosen encores.

The second movement of Mozart’s K330 Sonata, with its delicious change from major to minor, was not enough to quell the demands for more; and her chosen Chopin Nocturne finally brought a breathtaking afternoon to a peaceful close.

The Meads Festival continues each Sunday in May with performances by soprano Sarah-Jane Brandon, by the Finzi String Quartet, and by the Aanna Colls Singers.