Lost expectations but audience pleased

PUBLISHED: 06:53 19 November 2008 | UPDATED: 22:37 15 June 2010

THROAT infections are an ever present hazard for singers and, unfortunately, for tenor Adam Tunnicliffe, and his Seaton Music audience, he was one of its latest victims.

THROAT infections are an ever present hazard for singers and, unfortunately, for tenor Adam Tunnicliffe, and his Seaton Music audience, he was one of its latest victims. There was considerable disappointment for all concerned for he had been due to take part in a fascinating recital with French horn player Alec Frank-Gemmill and pianist Matthew Schellhorn at the town hall. His absence meant that the audience was deprived of Beethoven's great song-cycle An die ferne Geliebte, a world premire of a work by Jeremy Thurlow, two works by Benjamin Britten and songs by Schubert and Richard Strauss.But the show had to go on and at the very last minute an alternative programme for just horn and piano was put together and thereby much of the disappointment changed to satisfaction with some fine playing from both participants.At no more than 23, Alec Frank-Gemmill is a very accomplished player of a difficult instrument, obtaining subtle tonal variations from it, and not a single fluffed note throughout. And, in the absence of notes for the revised programme, he proved to have a personable ability to inform the audience of the music played.The recital opened with two sonatas by Cherubini, originally intended for horn and orchestra. Individually short single movement works, together they formed a satisfying and enjoyable work of greater substance.Then it was Beethoven's only Horn Sonata. Written for the virtuoso player Giovanni Punto, it was the first recognised work of its kind. Composed for the valveless natural horn, its original difficulties involving both open and stopped notes, are more easily overcome on the modern instrument. The first performance of the work was a bit of a last minute effort, just as was the Seaton performance, but it showed no signs of being so in a fine showing by both players.A pleasant Andante movement from an unfinished sonata by Richard Strauss, intended specially for his horn playing father, completed the first half.Two works by Olivier Messaien were the only ones to survive the original programme. His atmospheric Appel Interstellaire, for solo horn brought some virtuoso playing with some very unexpected tonal effects from the instrument, sometimes with a quite ghostly sound as calls were made to the stars high above America's Bryce Canyon. It was Matthew Schellhorn's turn for a solo spot, with three of the same composer's early Preludes. This is quite intoxicating music in which he excels.To complete the programme there was Saint-Sans' Romance and the well known Adagio and Allegro, more usually heard played on the cello, by Schumann.In the end, from the disappointment of lost expectations, the audience was very pleased with what they heard instead.John Dalton

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