Review: Ben Goldscheider and Tom Poster in Concert.
Two of our local musicians now enjoying stellar international success joined forces last Thursday evening in an enthralling sequence of works written for Horn and Piano. Tom Poster (piano) from Cambridge and Ben Goldscheider (horn) from Ashwell, each winners of the BBC Young Musician of the Year in their respective categories (2000 and 2016 respectively) started their programme with a sonata (F.Op. 17) of Beethoven’s, the only piece the composer ever wrote for a solo wind instrument. Its premiere in Vienna in 1800 employed the mutual talents of a contemporary horn virtuoso and those of Beethoven himself at the piano - a concert performance for which many today would no doubt envy that first audience.
In this piece the seamless weld of the two instruments provided the keynote for all that was to follow. In a display not only of the instrumentalists’ virtuosity but also of a contemporary’s gift for composition the concert included the premieres of two works by Professor John S.Wilson, mathematician and Fellow of Christ’s College. The relationship of mathematics and music has been noted since antiquity, and Wilson’s exploration of the possibilities of the modern horn in Aubade Op. 22. No. 1 and Divertimento Op. 22. No. 2 reflected not just an extraordinary ear for musicality but equally a fascination with the complexities of mathematics itself in musical theme and structure. The two works received a just and appreciative reception from audience and performers alike.
No doubt to allow Ben to draw breath (how does anyone manage such a formidable instrument and perform on it to this level?), two solo piano works were positioned to separate out demanding pieces in waiting. Tom is a masterful pianist – as one critic has written appropriately – ‘is there anything that Tom Poster can’t play?’ Tom performed memorably one of the too seldom heard Nocturnes (F. Op. 6) of Clara Schumann, and gave a truly ravishing account of his own arrangement of ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ from the Gershwins’ musical ‘Oh Kay’ (1926).
The duo reassembled to perform Robert Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro, Op. 7, the second movement a blistering challenge to a horn player and wonderfully carried off by Ben Goldscheider; Poulenc’s Élégie, written in memory of the English horn player, Dennis Brain; and Belgian composer, Jane Vignery’s Sonata Op. 7, many passages of which, incredibly difficult though they are, were effortlessly achieved by the virtuosic ability of our two musicians.
This was indeed a concert which those attending will be glad not to have missed. Yet for all the ebullience and jouissance there was an undercurrent of melancholy that went like a thread throughout. The Beethoven sonata announced it in the marche funèbre of its brief second movement, and the mood was continued in Robert Schumann’s deeply introspective Adagio. Poulenc’s atonal Élégie remembered Dennis Brain, killed in a car crash in 1957 at the age of 36, while Jane Vignery had been the victim of a railway accident in 1974.
But in contrast with the sad, often tragic, vicissitudes of life Tom Poster’s and Ben Goldscheider’s concert last Thursday evening was a remarkable life-affirming experience in every sense.