Town and Country: folk tunes plain and fancy
Items by Hummel, Dussek, Lyons, O’Carolan, Matteis, Alexander, Brahms, O’Brien, Wells, Griffiths and Berkahn
Jonathan Berkahn and friends
St. Andrew’s on The Terrace
Wednesday, 1 November 2017, 12.15pm
This programme replaced that originally scheduled at short notice, due to illness. The pieces were mainly Scots, Irish and English, or were based on songs from those nationalities. The latter were infrequently heard examples of their composers’ works. Jonathan Berkahn gave a brief spoken introduction to each of the items.
It began with Berkahn playing piano, first in Thème Anglais “The Plough Boy” varié, Op.110/1 by Hummel. This delightful variation on a well-known English folk song received a very effective performance, but it was at times over-pedalled, reducing its clarity. It was given excellent dynamic variation.
Turning to the piano accordion, Berkahn then played in folk style the self-same traditional English song, along with two others: Hesleyside Reel and Morpeth Rant.
The composer Dussek was next, with A favourite song, arranged as a Rondo. The song turned out to be “Oh dear, what can the matter be? Johnny’s so long at the fair”. It was a charming piano piece, one of a number of songs of the British Isles arranged by the composer for various instruments. It made another addition to an interesting collection of unusual music.
Then a couple of Irish pieces; “Miss Hamilton” by Cornelius Lyons (c.1670-1812) and “O’Carolan’s Concerto” by Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738). Both these pieces were originally written for harp. The first had a very song-like melody, while the second was more folksy.
Berkahn showed his versatility by playing “Ground after the Scotch Humour” by Nicola Matteis, a Neapolitan composer (fl.c.1670-after 1713), on the treble recorder, with Bernard Wells playing piano. However, the latter was too loud for the gentle recorder tones. Since the piece consisted of repetitions of the ground, it became rather tedious when the upper part could not always be heard clearly. There followed two traditional Irish songs, the second played by Berkahn on the tin whistle; they were succeeded by attractive arrangements of them for piano, made by Arthur Alexander in 1929.
Onto the big name: Brahms. From his piano sonata no.1, Op.1 (with which I was not familiar) the Andante (Nach einem altdetschen Minnelied), based on a song (probably not a minnelied according to Berkahn) for which both German and English words were printed in the programme. A simple movement, it was pleasant – and soporific!
A modern French piece “Crested Inns” and an Irish item by Paddy O’Brien “Poor but happy at 53” (if I heard correctly; these two were not detailed in the programme) were short and pleasing, but repetitive, folksy pieces. Bernard Wells played flute with Berkahn’s piano.
The concert ended with three short polkas, by Bernard Wells, Emily Griffiths and Jonathan Berkahn. The flute and piano accordion were joined by an unnamed folk fiddler for these jolly last pieces.