Amanda Cook Review
It is always a pleasure to hear Amanda Cook play. She always engages here audience with her charm, humour and obvious passion for her music. No wonder she is a favourite with WSGC audiences.
Amanda's programme opened with Junto al Generalife, a lesser known solo work by Rodrigo, who is more often associated with his Concerto di Aranjuez. The piece comprises a number of different scenes which describe the beautiful gardens of the Alhambra Palace in Granada in southern Spain. Amanda demonstrated a number of techniques, in this piece, the tremolo section being particularly evocative of running water in the garden. A wide dynamic range contributed to the audience experience.
The next piece as Sonata K309 by D. Scarlatti. Originally a keyboard sonata, this piece works really well on the guitar, and was lightly and brightly played by Amanda, whose enjoyment at playing this rather jolly piece certainly rubbed off on the audience.
Amanda's next set of nine pieces was Cantos Yoruba de Cuba by H. Angulo. Amanda explained that the pieces were inspired by a group of Nigerian slaves, whose culture became entwined with their imposed homeland. I didn't find these pieces as enjoyable as the opening two pieces. They were all very contrasting, but some were perhaps a little too esoteric for my taste. Amanda herself remarked after she had played them that it was easy to get lost in them. One or two of the pieces seemed to lack the quality of execution of the opening pieces, but then again, this may have been what the composer intended. Amanda is intending to record these pieces on a forthcoming CD of Latin American music. Perhaps the more abstract pieces might be omitted?
Amanda's final piece prior to the interval was intriguingly entitled "Anonymous Item" in the programme. This was as Amanda explained, because, the official world premiere was to be at the Wigmore Hall in a few weeks time but she wanted to try it out first among friends. The covert nature of the programme and Amanda's desire for no formal documentation (not withstanding the video camera!) was a source of much amusement for all concerned.
The piece, a one movement Sonata by the Brazilian composer, Nato Lima did not sound like a typical Latin American piece, but was more in keeping with a 19th century romantic sonata.
Amanda had mentioned that it was a bit of a work out for the hands, and I have to say that Amanda's articulation wasn't 100% in a few places, but this didn't detract from what was a very lively and enjoyable piece played with passion and enthusiasm. It can only get better with a little more polish and I'm sure its debut at the Wigmore Hall will be well received. I will look forward to hearing it on the CD.
Following the interval, Amanda played us Adagio K540 by Mozart, arranged by Ben Verdery. It's always a treat to hear Mozart and this was no exception, delicately played, although there might have been one or two notes that didn't sound quite as clear as they might have. A long piece to listen to, but thoroughly enjoyable.
Amanda's next three pieces, El Decameron Negro, were by the Cuban composer Leo Brouwer and are based on African folk tales. All were atmospheric, the last of the three, Doncela Enamorada (Ballad of the Maiden in Love), being more melodic than the others, with a lovely theme that recurred throughout the piece. All were played in an engaging manner which drew you in the more you listened.
Amanda's final pieces she described as "Typical Latin Fare" from Peru. These were arrangements of popular Peruvian tunes. Both were typically lively, with lots of ponticello and rhythms that changed dramatically as if trying to catch you out if you were foolish enough to think you might know where the piece was going next. Both were highly enjoyable and entertaining and would work well on her forthcoming CD.
There's an old adage that says "Always leave 'em wanting more", and this has to be the case with Amanda's encore, Gnossiene by Eric Satie. This is a fabulous and unusual piece of music which in it's quieter moments had the audience straining to hear, such was the delicate touch that Amanda demonstrated. I'm sure it's impossible to play that quietly, yet she managed it. Superb!
Overall Amanda's performance was very enjoyable, but it was let down in places by the choice of programme. For me, the Satie was fantastic and I would love Amanda to record it.