Indira and Francis Grier – 3 July 2021

As I write, at 4.45pm on 5th June 2021, our wobbly release from lockdown strictures, scheduled for 21 June, remains intact!
I am therefore delighted to invite you to the first full live-performance that we are staging for Maxability after an eighteen-month musical desert!

Beethoven – Sonata for ‘Cello & Piano, No 3 in A Major, Op 69
Brahms – Sonata for ‘Cello & Piano No 2 in F Major, Op 99 
Schumann – Adagio and Allegro for ‘Cello & Piano, Op 70
György Ligeti – Solo Sonata for ‘Cello

Musicians: Indira Grier (‘Cello) and Francis Grier (Piano)

The Music

The Beethoven, Brahms and Schumann works are firmly established in the supreme firmament of classical chamber music – they require only to be heard, and heard again! The Ligeti Sonata, by contrast, will be unknown to most of you but is in its own way no less special. György Ligeti (1923–2006) was a survivor of both Nazi and Soviet repression – he and his wife fled their native Hungary on foot following the brutal 1956 Russian suppression of nascent Hungarian liberties. Born into a Jewish family, he came to music relatively late, beginning piano lessons at the age of 14, his early influences being the nationalistic works of Bartok and Kodaly.

The Musicians

Francis Grier and his daughters Indira and Savitri will be known to most of our audience. They have performed at Maxability concerts in every year since their inception 13 years ago. However, now that Savitri lives in Berlin we see her less regularly – but this affords us a wonderful opportunity, like tonight, to get to know the extraordinarily rich world of ‘Cello/Piano compositions.

Make the evening a real treat – arrive at 6.30 to enjoy the beautiful garden with a pre-concert glass of wine. As usual, the concert will be followed by a light buffet. For full booking instructions, including suggested donations, please have a look at our concerts page.

Please note: I hope that this will not happen, but in the event that audience-size restrictions will be re-imposed, the first 35 applicants for places will have priority. My advice is therefore to submit your booking promptly.

Needless to say, it’s been a tough time for all of us, but survival instincts are bolstered by great music – and that’s why we are here. Love to you all.

Piano Duets – Rachmaninov and Schubert

We are delighted to offer you our recording of a beautiful Piano Duet concert, performed at Greenacre on 17 April by Zrinka and Andrew Bottrill, of two major works by Schubert and Rachmaninov, with a short Scherzo by Dora Pejačević in between.

There are no vocal introductions, but there is a detailed printed sheet of the programme and explanatory notes on each work clearly visible when you begin the viewing. Please listen particularly to the Minor/Major transition that occurs in the slow second subject of the Schubert, and each time it is repeated. Note also the theme in the final section of the Rachmaninov – if it sounds familiar, that’s because Rachmaninov incorporated it from Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at the Exhibition”. We are sure you’ll enjoy it!

Please note that Zrinka and Andrew declined to accept payment, generously donating this performance to Maxability. We are truly grateful to them.

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. Should you prefer to donate via PayPal, please visit our donations page.

Many thanks, as ever, for your support.

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.

Sam Kelly and Jamie Francis

We were delighted to kick off 2021 with an exclusive concert recorded for us by the renowned folk-duo, Sam Kelly (Guitar) and Jamie Francis (Banjo). You will recall their performance for Maxability a few years ago, following which we were besieged with requests to invite them back. Their new concert for us includes several new folk-songs alongside some of their most popular pieces.

Sam and Jamie filmed this video especially for Maxability when they were in their studio recording their forthcoming album, and therefore the image and sound quality are excellent. For this we are extremely grateful to them.

To Book

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.

Background and reviews 

Multi-award-winning folk musicians Sam Kelly and Jamie Francis first met at university in Brighton in 2010 and started performing in Sussex as a duo, playing folk and blues songs. Over the years they have become two of the most respected and innovative musicians on the British folk scene, and are the main songwriting partnership behind the hit folk band Sam Kelly and The Lost Boys.

In non-Covid times, they play together throughout the UK at folk clubs, music venues and festivals, performing inventive interpretations of tunes and songs (between humorous anecdotes and stories of their misadventures). An evening of most pleasurable musical entertainment is guaranteed!

You can find out more about them by visiting Sam Kelly’s website.

Their work has attracted numerous rave reviews. Here are just a few edited highlights:

About Sam Kelly

‘What a beautiful singer. He has that really rare male voice, that soft-edged tone, you know those beautiful tenor voices of the 30’s and 40’s… it really draws you in.’

Kate Rusby, fRoots magazine (on the ‘next big thing’).

‘Sam has such a beautiful voice and sings with so much soul. I’ve seen him perform live a few times and he’s amazing.’

Cara Dillon

‘I think this guy is absolutely brilliant…. His voice is beyond sublime.’

Mike Harding

‘Amazing, thrilling music.’

Mark Radcliffe, Radio 2 Folk Show

‘A captivating performer, Sam Kelly has one of the best young male voices in British acoustic roots music. Seriously… Check him out!’

Sean Lakeman

About Jamie Francis

‘Fantastic banjo player’

Mike Harding, the Mike Harding Folk Show

‘Stealing the banjo from the clutches of Mumford and Sons’

Huey Morgan, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, BBC Radio 2

‘Exemplary Banjo’

‘Superb banjo picking’

Martino Tirimo: Beethoven Sonatas

Martino Tirimo, founder of the Rosamunde Piano Trio, has recorded an extra-special piano recital exclusively for Maxability. As we approached the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth on December 17th 2020, we were thrilled that Martino offered us the following inspired programme:

  1. 15 Variations with a Fugue in E flat major, Op.35, ‘Eroica’ 
  2. Sonata No.30 in E major, Op.109 
    [Vivace, ma non troppo – Adagio espressivo – Tempo I
    Adagio espressivo – Tempo I
    Gesangvoll, mit innigster Empfindung] 
  3. Sonata No.32 in C minor, Op.111 
    [Maestoso – Allegro con brio ed appassionato
    Arietta: Adagio molto semplice e cantabile] 

Covid-19 restrictions put a temporary stop to our live concerts, but this first-rate recording is superb compensation. The music has come out brilliantly, and the great Steinway sound comes through with exceptional clarity from first to last note. Our recording technicians have, I’m sure you will agree, done a very fine job.  

I ask those who are not familiar with these immortal works to believe me when I say that this is a truly exceptional opportunity, not to be missed!

As some of you know, in 2019 Martino completed his marathon recording on a Steinway concert grand, made over a 12-year period in the Gewandhaus, Leipzig, of every note that Beethoven wrote for solo piano – an unprecedented feat that has earned him world-wide acclaim. Here, to quote one example, is Damian Thompson, music critic of The Spectator. After reviewing the whole of the existing recorded output of Beethoven’s piano works, Thompson concludes:

“Here is a Waldstein, an Appasionata, a Hammerklavier and a final trilogy that match or surpass any recent competitors. It’s decades since a pianist has managed to convey such an overwhelming sense that we are listening to pure Beethoven. And there are 20 hours of it – surely the greatest recorded achievement of this anniversary year.

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.

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.