Young pianist shines at St Albans church as choir comes close to perfection

PUBLISHED: 16:16 12 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:53 06 May 2010

ALTHOUGH I have known about the outstanding young local musician Alissa Firsova for some years, Saturday s concert by the Carillon Chamber Choir was my first opportunity to hear her play. And the wait was well worth it – although I will do my best to go

ALTHOUGH I have known about the outstanding young local musician Alissa Firsova for some years, Saturday's concert by the Carillon Chamber Choir was my first opportunity to hear her play.

And the wait was well worth it - although I will do my best to go to any of her future recitals in the area.

Born in Moscow in1986, Alissa has lived with her family in England since 1991. A former Purcell School pupil, and winner of the 2001 BBC Guardian Proms young composer competition, she has already made her Proms debut as a pianist and is one of only two candidates accepted for a prestigious conducting course at the Royal Academy of Music.

On Saturday at the packed concert in St Peter's Church, St Albans, Alissa performed Sergei Rachmaninov's outstanding Variations on a Theme by Corelli, an event which completely captivated her audience.

She was clearly fully emotionally involved in her performance, demonstrating exquisite phrasing and outstanding dynamics and gave what can only be described as an outstanding rendition of this too rarely heard work.

And just to add lashings of icing to this already tasty cake, she went on to give a stunning performance of one of Rachmaninov's Etudes Tableaux as an encore.

It is rare that I have seen such a young musician so completely captivate an audience but such was the quality of her performance that anything less than their full and undivided attention would have been a complete insult.

Alissa was not the only star of the evening. The choir itself gave one of its finest performances in my memory with the main work of the evening, Rachmaninov's Vespers.

Although they had opened the evening with three superbly sung hymns by Rachmaninov, Kalinnikov and Gretchaninov, the performance of the Vespers was something else.

The huge work, which lasts for over an hour, is tough for the singers not only because of its length and the fact that they were singing it in Russian but also because of its vocal complexities.

But under guest conductor David Ireson, Carillon gave an inspiring performance.

The atmosphere of the performance was heightened by being staged in a partly-candlelit church, surrounded by icons by local artist Dr Derek Bird and by the use of incense which forms an integral part of the Russian service.

But even without this, the performance would have been memorable for the sheer quality of the singing and in particular the solos by Elva Ainsworth and Andrew Shepstone.

David Ireson has always been one of the conductors to get the best out of Carillon, but this time he outdid himself.

This was an evening of near-perfect music and once more proved that people do not need to travel to London to hear truly outstanding performances.

JOHN MANNING


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