Ashley Fripp at St Bartholomew the Great

Ashley Fripp at St Bartholomew the Great
Ashley Fripp at St Bartholomew the Great for the City Music Society. Mozart K.311,Liszt Sposalizio,Ravel Gaspard de la Nuit
Quite a surprise to find this church in London by Smithfield Market in the shadow of the Barbican.
The oldest church in London dating back to the 11th Century.
Even the more surprising though was the wonderful acoustic for the lunchtime recital by Ashley Fripp for the City Music Society Young Artists Series .
A wonderful sounding Steinway “D” at the foot of the altar created the ideal situation for some remarkable music making .
Ashley  Fripp Gold Prize Winner from the Guildhall and now completing his studies in Florence with Elisso Virsaladze has already been admired in many important venues throughout the world .
I well remember a remarkably poetic performance of the Chopin D flat nocturne op 27 from Warsaw even the more remarkable as it was on a Kawai Shigeru piano!
Unfortunately arriving late for his recital as I had mistakenly made for St Lawrence Jewry the usual venue for the City Music Society concerts not having fully understood this change of venue.
But what a change!
Whereas in St Lawrence the resonant acoustic was not helped by an over brilliant Fazioli piano instead of Sir Thomas Beecham’s old piano that is resident there .
Dinara Klintons remarkably subtle piano playing last year was completely lost in this “church” acoustic .
The change to St Bartholomew the Great was a revelation in that every note could be savoured to the full with just the right amount of resonance that can help an artist create real intimacy in such a large space.
The wonderful sounding Steinway Concert Grand sitting so nobly in the middle of this remarkably ancient building.
Arriving for the second movement of the Mozart D major Sonata K.311 I was completely seduced by the sublime melodic invention of one of Mozart’s most simple and touching slow movements.
In Ashley’s very sensitive hands this movement was allowed to sing and be shaped with such ravishing sounds that filled every crevice of this noble edifice .The very subtle use of rubato and the exquisite ornaments completely won over a very full hall where not a pin could be heard such was the atmosphere and concentration that Ashley was able to capture .
The charm and wit of the Rondeau was played with all the style and virtuosity that one could expect from a disciple of Elisso Virsaladze . But there was more to it than that for there was a personal involvement and sense of character that totally contrasted with the sublime slow movement and that showed a great musical personality that allowed the music to talk so directly with such conviction .
Introducing Liszt Sposalizio – The Marriage of the Virgin – Ashley demonstrated his intellectual involvement that got to the very core of the music and allowed him to interpret it with such meaningfulness.
Some very subtle colours in this very suggestive piece where the terrific technical demands were never allowed to overpower the real musical line.
Gaspard de la Nuit by Ravel ended the programme and as Ashley told his audience it was written by Ravel with the intent of outdoing even Liszt’s Transcendental Studies with the technical demands required by all those that dare tread its waters.
The poems of Bertrand eloquently read by Ashley before each of the three movements to his attentive audience.
The water nymph Ondine can never before have sounded so happy to bathe in these subtle waters created on this occasion
The tolling bell of Le Gibet played with such understatement that it became even more insistent and sinister that usual .
Scarbo played at an almost impossible pace but held together with such breathtaking virtuosity that made one realise how Ravel had indeed succeeded in his mission to out do Liszt.
Some amazing feats of virtuosity from Ashley but always with the most subtle colours and sense of the real character of each piece to the fore as he had so courageously described in the poems read before each performance .

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