REVIEW: Joglaresa at Turner Sims

The Coronavirus pandemic has got us all locked inside, and I’m on my laptop significantly more than normal! All of that screen time got me reminiscing about better times when we could go to concerts and shows… and so here is a review of optimal jollity from those better times!

Joglaresa’s ‘Teatime Special’ at Turner Sims was full of life, energy, beauty and fantastic musicianship. The group ‘continues to delight and surprise’ (Classical Music Magazine) from the first strum of their period instruments, until the last chord of the concert.

Led by Belinda Sykes, the renowned early music group took us through Middle Eastern, Celtic, European and Medieval music in a new and exciting way. In both the haunting love songs and the uplifting, satirical dances, Joglaresa’s early music was completely different to anything I had heard before. Instead of simply reproducing old music on old instruments, the group brought a vivacity and life to the early music that made it feel both steeped in tradition and completely new.

The singers took on the role of bards, who delivered and reinterpreted age-old stories for this new audience. Their story-telling was without fault, and every humorous line landed perfectly with the audience. This was assisted by Sykes’ hilarious interjections between each song, explaining a little more about the climate in which the songs had been written and performed. A particular highlight was a mournful love ballad, performed by Jeremy Avis, which left the audience in hushed awe.

The musicianship of the group was also incredible, with each song seeming almost improvised. Every groovy medieval tune seemed more complex and interesting than the last, and their joy and energy was relentless and contagious.

Hilarious, exciting, surprising and musically ingenious, Joglaresa was one of the best concerts I have seen at Turner Sims. Once this god-awful lockdown and disease is over and done with, get yourself to a Joglaresa gig!

REVIEW: Eric Lu at Turner Sims

On Tuesday 2nd April, 2019, Eric Lu made his first appearance at Turner Sims Southampton following his success at the Leeds International Piano Competition. The scene was set with dimmed lights across the auditorium and a warm, muted spotlight on the centre-stage piano. As soon as Lu walked on stage, there was a hush across the audience, everyone excited to hear what this new young talent had to offer.

First we heard Mozart’s ‘Rondo in A Minor’, and we were introduced to Lu’s ability in exquisitely gentle playing. Every note was incredibly precise, graceful and tranquil. This was a theme that continued throughout the performance. In every piece, Lu managed to capture controlled pianissimo that created an ambience of complete calm in the concert hall.

In the second half, we heard technical prowess in the Handel ‘Chaconne in G,’ with a combination of speed and breath-taking accuracy. In a perfect contrast to the more meditative first half, Lu tackled the Handel with fervour and vivacity, lighting up the room by showing off the many variations on the sarabande theme that seem to increase in difficulty and speed as the ‘Chaconne’ goes on.

This exciting sarabande preceded the final piece of the evening, Chopin’s ‘Piano Sonata No.2 in B flat minor.’ To balance this programme, the ‘Funeral sonata’ needed gravity, anguish and a focus on all of the colours and shapes within this piece. Lu conquered all of these elements to bring the concert to a resounding and poignant close. Sometimes, he would tip his head back and look upwards, showing his emotion and passion at particularly moving moments. The highlight of the sonata was undoubtedly the third movement, the ‘Marche Funèbre.’ Here, the sombre bass was matched effortlessly by the mournful right hand, and the energy we heard in the Handel fused together with the delicate quiet of the Mozart to create a beautiful culmination of all of Lu’s skills in this pivotal moment of the recital.

Ultimately, Lu provides some soul-bearing moments of fire and passion, but the real pièce de résistance of his playing is the artistry with which the pianissimo moments are played. His playing fills with poise and beauty, allowing him to hold the audience in the palm of his hand. Not only does this showcase the quiet and reflective moments, but also accentuates the elements of intensity when they come, and for this Lu was rewarded with a resounding cheer at the end of his performance.