Piano Duet – Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

We are delighted to announce Maxability’s online concert for February 2021: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, transcribed for Piano Duet by the composer Franz-Xaver Scharwenka and brilliantly performed by Tessa Uys anbd Ben Schoeman. Read on for details about how to access this remarkable recording.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Opus 125, was premiered to an overwhelmingly enthusiastic audience in Vienna in May 1824, three years before the composer’s death. All nine Beethoven Symphonies have been faithfully transcribed for Piano Duet by Franz-Xaver Scharwenka. Tessa Uys and Ben Schoeman are currently preparing performances of the entire set, which Maxability will offer as YouTube videos as they become available. 

In an age when CDs, iPods, Spotify and YouTube were unknown, and live concerts had been the prerogative of the wealthy, transcriptions like the ones in today’s performance reflected what most people in the 19th century knew of this and, indeed, of countless other orchestral masterworks.  To quote Tessa and Ben:

“Working on the 9 Symphonies transcribed by Franz Xaver Scharwenka has been a journey of exploration and inspiration. To be able to hear and discover the intricate weaving of all the internal harmonies and melodic lines that one knows are there, but that tend to get submerged in a large orchestral ensemble, has been a revelation.”

Scharwenka travelled widely as a piano virtuoso and scored a considerable success in England in both this capacity and that of composer. Scharwenka was an inspiring teacher, and a composer of symphonies, piano concerti and an opera, as well as a quantity of instrumental music, including the transcriptions for piano duet of all 9 Symphonies of Beethoven.

Our Performers

Tessa Uys was born in Cape Town and gave her first public performance at the age of seven. She first studied with her mother Helga Bassel. As a winner of several international prizes Tessa has performed in many different countries and broadcast frequently for the BBC. She has given recitals in the City of London and at Wigmore Hall. Since discovering Scharwenka’s transcriptions for four hands of all Beethoven’s Symphonies among her mother’s scores, Tessa and fellow South African Ben Schoeman have presented the 9th Symphony to great acclaim in the City of London and they have been invited to play the work in many other venues in London and beyond. 

Ben Schoeman has won prizes in international Piano competitions, and has given solo, chamber music and concerto performances in many of the world’s the most prestigious concert halls – including Wigmore Hall, Barbican, Cadogan, LSO St Luke’s, Queen Elizabeth Hall (in London), Carnegie Hall in New York, Konzerthaus in Berlin, and many other concert venues in Edinburgh, Lisbon, Turin, Milan, Bucharest and Ottawa, Canada. His solo album, featuring works of Franz Liszt, was released by TwoPianists Records. 

To buy access to this remarkable concert recording, please send us a booking email, and we will send you the bank transfer details to make your donation of £15, followed by a link to view the concert video.

Many thanks, as ever, for your support.

Piano Quartets – 29th February 2020

Our next concert, to be held on Saturday 29 February, at the usual time of 7pm, promises to be exceptional. It will be first time that we are offering the comparatively rare format of PIANO QUARTETS. 

We regularly host performances of String Quartets, Piano Trios, instrumental duos and soloists – but the great Piano Quartets have not been performed here… until now!

The Greenwich Piano Trio are Yoko Misumi (piano), Lana Trotovsek (violin) and Heather Tuach (cello) – they are of course well known to Maxability audiences. We are delighted that on this occasion they will be joined by Mariam Ruetschi (viola) in the following programme:

Mozart – Piano Quartet in E flat, K 493

This mature work shares a sense of relaxed grandeur with its contemporary Piano Concerto in E flat K 482, displaying a profusion of lyrical themes in the opening movement. The Larghetto second movement is intense and contains an impassioned development section and coda with unexpected twists. Mozart discarded two drafts of the finale’s theme before arriving at the gavotte-like version that satisfied him. The whole movement is laden with an abundance of graceful and piquant melody.

Brahms – Piano Quartet in G Minor, Op 25 (1861)

This quartet is almost orchestral in its texture, sense of colour, scope and range of expression. The finale’s unbridled gypsy music is the fullest expression of Brahms’s love of popular and exotic Hungarian idioms. It is no wonder that Arnold Schoenberg was tempted to give these tendencies full rein when he arranged the work for large orchestra in 1937! 

Mahler – Piano Quartet Movement in A Minor

This brief composition is an early, but deeply moving, work of Gustav Mahler. It is the intended first movement of a piano quartet that apparently was never completed. It is the only surviving piece of chamber music without voice composed by Mahler. 

Because the string players need space to perform, the maximum audience size will be 60. To avoid disappointment please do not delay. For full booking instructions, including suggested donations, please have a look at our concerts page.

We look forward to welcoming you on 29th February and thank you, as ever, for your kind support.

Miriam Wakefield and Christopher Guild – Cello and Piano – 1st February 2020

Our opening concert of the new year is an evening of wonderful works for cello and piano, performed by Miriam Wakeling and Christopher Guild. The three main works in their programme are:

Beethoven – Sonata for Cello & Piano No 5 in D Major, Op. 102, No 2 (1815)

This brilliant three-movement sonata is probably the most accessible of Beethoven’s works in this genre. The composer’s fulsome instruction for the middle movement reads “Adagio con molto sentimento d’affetto – Attacca”, and it leads straight into the final movement – a fugue that prefigures those in the finales of the Hammerklavier sonata and the late string quartets. Hold tight!

Claude Debussy – Sonata for Cello & Piano in D Minor (1915)

Demoralized by the carnage of World War I, and facing his own mortality as he fought against cancer, Debussy went to work on a series of six instrumental sonatas, only three of which were completed before his death in 1918. One of these, the amazing cello sonata, composed precisely 100 years after the Beethoven work (above), utilises a rich palette of timbres and achieves exquisite subtlety in both cello and piano parts. It stands at the very core of the cello repertoire.  The Miriam’s teachers’ teachers, Tortelier and Fournier, two of the greatest French cellists of our time, performed this sonata regularly.

Cesar Franck – Sonata in A Major

The A major Violin Sonata, of which we shall be hearing the Cello version, is one of César Franck’s best-known compositions, and is widely considered one of the finest sonatas for violin and piano ever written. The piano part is exactly the same for for both versions. Franck may well have originally conceived the sonata as a work for cello. Indeed, when the great cellist Pablo Casals heard that Franck himself described the work as belonging equally to both the violin and cello, he learned it, loved it, and included it regularly in his concert schedules. It has become one of the most beloved sonatas in the instrument’s repertoire.

For full booking instructions, including suggested donations, please have a look at our concerts page. To be sure of a place and avoid the waiting list, please book early.

We look forward to welcoming you on 1st February and thank you, as ever, for your kind support.

A Visit from the Mayor

Mayor’s Visit to Maxability, 18th September 2019

Maxability’s trustees were honoured when the Mayor of Barnet, Councillor Caroline Stock, recently expressed an interest in our work. At her visit to our studio on Wednesday 18th September, the Mayor met several students with learning and/or physical disabilities, and commented: 

‘I am delighted that this therapeutic work has reduced their sense of isolation and boosted their confidence. It was wonderful to see the beautiful pieces of art being produced. The moment we walked into Maxability, we were taken aback by the incredible colour, warmth, care and love in the room, not only inspired by Anita, who is truly one in a million, but also by the teachers, and the patience and understanding offered by the carers.’

The Mayor was accompanied on the visit by her sister, who has a keen interest in ceramics and was impressed by the standard of ceramic art produced, and suggested new ideas for future growth and for raising awareness of our work. During her visit the Mayor also met Anita Woolf, Chair of Maxability.

UPDATE – Trio Concertante, 12th October 2019

With two weeks to go, we have nine places available for our next concert:

Beethoven – Piano Trio in D Major, Op.70 No.1, [“Ghost”]
Shostakovich – Piano Trio No.2 in E minor, Op.67
Brahms – Piano Trio No.1 in B Major, Op.8

If you are eager to hear three of the greatest Piano Trios in the repertoire – shortly before they are played at Conway Hall – please get in touch with us as soon as possible!

For full booking instructions, including suggested donations, please have a look at our concerts page.

Trio Concertante – 12th October 2019

This brilliant Piano Trio ensemble will return to Greenacre on Saturday 12 October to perform three of the most sublime works in this genre, and which they’ll be performing at Conway Hall shortly after that:

Beethoven – Piano Trio in D Major, Op.70 No.1, [“Ghost”]

Beethoven’s middle period chamber works include his two Opus 70 Piano Trios. The first, in D major, known as the “Ghost”, is one of his best known works in the genre (rivalled only by the “Archduke”, which we heard at last the previous concert). Beethoven’s pupil, Carl Czerny, wrote in 1842 that the strangely scored and eerie-sounding slow movement of the D Major brought to mind the ghost scene at the opening of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and this was probably the origin of its nickname, with which it has been stuck ever since.

Shostakovich – Piano Trio No.2 in E minor, Op.67

The astonishing work received its premiere in Leningrad on 14 November 1944. The daunting opening theme is composed for solo cello, played entirely on upper-register harmonics, leaving many listeners in a state of unbelieving bewilderment. The whole movement requires incredible technical prowess from the three instrumentalists.

This is followed by (i) a frenzied, unsettled dance; (ii) a sombre largo featuring dark exchanges in the strings against a background of repeated piano chords; and (iii) a “dance of death” followed by echoes of the earlier movements and the Jewish melody quoted by Shostakovich in his 8th String Quartet. The work ends with a barely audible chord in the major key.

Brahms – Piano Trio No.1 in B Major, Op.8

This great lyrical work was composed by Brahms in 1854, but completely revised 36 years later in 1890, losing one-third of its original length. Such is the contrast between the two versions that the revised trio should really be thought of as a different work. In composing the 1890 version Brahms excised several of the original passages, and added much new thematic material. It is the 1890 version that is invariably performed, and which we shall be listening to tonight. It is Brahms’ only work that today has two extant published versions, and one of the very few to begin in a major key and end in the tonic minor. You will be spellbound from first to last!

For full booking instructions, including suggested donations, please have a look at our concerts page. To be sure of a place and avoid the waiting list, please book early.

We look forward to welcoming you on 12th October and thank you, as ever, for your kind support.

Greenwich Piano Trio – 7th September 2019

We begin the Autumn concert season on 7th September with our old friends, the Greenwich Piano Trio (Lana Trotovsek, Violin; Heather Tuach, Cello; and Yoko Misumi, Piano).

And behold the great programme we have for you:

Beethoven – Piano Trio Wo039 in B Flat [Allegretto]

This single movement miniature is a gem of the genre. It is an original Piano Trio composition, and what it lacks in length it more than makes up in feeling. From first to last note it is sublime Beethoven – at his heavenly purest!

Schubert – Notturno D897 in E Flat

This late Schubert single movement work for Piano Trio is a deeply felt Adagio, its unrelenting piano runs and jagged string rhythms swinging between major and minor, pull the heartstrings as only Schubert can do!

Rachmaninov – Trio Elegiaque No 1 in G Minor

The exposition of this one-movement work in sonata form is built on 12 episodes, reversed symmetrically in the recapitulation – a unique invention for the 18-year-old Rachmaninov. The powerful Brahmsian elegiac theme first appears in the piano part, and is marked ‘Lento lugubre’, which says it all! In the sections which follow the elegy is presented by the cello and violin, and after constantly evolving it is ultimately recast as a funeral march – its form highly evocative of Tchaikovsky’s A Minor Piano Trio. When Rachmaninov embarked on his performing tours he selected mainly solo works, so it is unlikely that he would have performed this work on my piano – as we know, this was his instrument of choice whenever he performed in London!


Beethoven – Piano Trio in B Flat, Op. 97, ‘Archduke’

This Trio is referred to as the ‘Archduke’, because it was dedicated to Archduke Rudolph of Austria, the youngest of twelve children of Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor. Rudolf was an amateur pianist and a patron, friend, and composition student of Beethoven. Beethoven dedicated a total of fourteen compositions to the Archduke.

Beethoven was 41 years old when he composed it, and by then was completely deaf – despite which he performed the piano part himself at rehearsals, almost destroying the fortepiano by banging the keys in the ‘forte’ passages, while playing inaudibly where the score is marked ‘piano’. After that he gave up public performances! Much as we would love to have heard that, tonight all will be revealed! The sublime music in this four-movement work is better heard than described, so I’ll say no more by way of introduction.

This concert is likely to be fully booked. To be sure of a place and avoid the waiting list, please book early.

For full booking instructions, including suggested donations, please have a look at our concerts page. We look forward to welcoming you on 7th September and thank you, as ever, for your kind support.

Grier Piano and Cello Duo – 6th July 2019

On Saturday 6th July we shall be hosting a programme of great Cello and Piano Sonatas – to be performed by two-thirds of the Grier Piano Trio! While violinist Savitri is otherwise engaged in China with the Berlin Philharmonic – a great tribute to her immense talent – Francis and Indira Grier will perform the following works for Piano and Cello:

  1. BEETHOVEN worked on his third Sonata for Piano and Cello, Opus 69 in A Major, between 1806 and 1808, when his deafness was all but total. In his tragic letter (the “Heiligenstadt Testament”) of 1802, he had admitted harbouring thoughts of suicide. “It was only my art that held me back – Oh, it seemed impossible to leave the world until I had produced all that I felt was within me.”
    Yet this sonata is one of the most positive works imaginable – from the opening phrase it radiates serenity, humour and joy. It is thoroughly classical in structure, with every theme perfectly conceived for both instruments.
  2. SHOSTAKOVICH was on his way to premiere his Sonata for Cello and Piano in D Minor, Opus 40, in 1934, when he read Stalin’s statement in Pravda attacking his music as “bourgeois”. This was the start of a desperately difficult period for the composer, entailing withdrawal of several works from rehearsal and performance – but not, fortunately, this Sonata.
    Written in the style of his large-scale symphonic works, its first movement is in textbook sonata form – even including repeats of the exposition. Yet, unsurprisingly, there is no lack of satire or mockery, particularly in the vehement Scherzo. The aria-like third movement is more compassionate than desolate, with almost Schubertian lyrical grace. The comically sinister finale builds tremendous momentum before coming to an abrupt and unceremonious end.
  3. BRAHMS composed his glorious F Major Sonata for Cello and Piano (Opus 99) while on a summer holiday in Switzerland in 1886. This epic work represents one of the most technically demanding challenges for both performers in the chamber music repertoire. It is a fiery, exultant, heroic, even bombastic, conception – interwoven with the many heavenly themes we expect of late Brahms.
    At its core lies a breathtakingly beautiful slow movement labelled “adagio affettuoso”, words that clearly held special significance for him; it concludes with an ineffable sense of lasting peace and serenity.

To be sure of a place and avoid the waiting list, please book early.

For full booking instructions, including suggested donations, please have a look at our concerts page. We look forward to welcoming you on 6th July and thank you, as ever, for your kind support.

Roskell Piano Trio – 25th May 2019

The Roskell Piano Trio (Penelope Roskell, Ruth Schulten and Heather Tuach) grew out of Penelope Roskell’s long-standing collaboration with the Fitzwilliam String Quartet, with whom she has performed much of the Piano Quintet repertoire. The Trio is in residence at London’s Sutton House, where it gave its first sell-out performance in 2011.

We are now delighted to offer Maxability’s supporters an opportunity to hear the Roskell Piano Trio perform three of the most wonderful works in the genre:

  • Mozart – Piano Trio in B Flat, K.502
  • Mendelssohn – Piano Trio in D Minor, Op. 49
  • Beethoven – Piano Trio in D Major, Op. 70 (“Ghost”)
  1. Mozart
    In this Trio the ensemble’s most prominent role is occupied by the piano – which is hardly surprising when we remember that the extraordinary spirit Mozart breathed into his keyboard trios corresponded with the very time that the harpsichord was being replaced by the pianoforte. Mozart’s great and enduring contribution to the Piano Trio medium began in 1786 with the brilliant work we shall hear tonight, composed immediately after Marriage of Figaro, and just before his Prague Symphony.
  2. Mendelssohn
    More than fifty years later Mendelssohn completed his 4-movement D Minor Piano Trio, one of the most popular works in the repertoire. Together with his Op.20 Octet, this Trio is recognised as one of Mendelssohn’s finest chamber compositions. When Robert Schumann heard it he declared Mendelssohn to be “the Mozart of the nineteenth century, the brightest musician, who most clearly understands the contradictions of the age and is the first to reconcile them.”
  3. Beethoven
    The D Major Piano Trio, the first of Beethoven’s two Opus 70 trios, is known as the Ghost, and is one of his best-known works in the chamber music genre, rivalled only by the “Archduke” (which we shall be hearing later this year). The Opus 70 Trio gained its “Ghost” subtitle when Beethoven’s pupil, Czerny, wrote in 1842 that the slow movement brought to his mind the ghost scene at the opening of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and this apt epithet has stuck with the work ever since.

We are clearly in for another wonderful evening – please book early to avoid a waiting list.

For full booking instructions, including suggested donations, please have a look at our concerts page. We look forward to welcoming you on 25th May and thank you, as ever, for your kind support.