Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Pianist lifts the lid on her favourites!

Pianist lifts the lid on her favourites!

A CONCERT pianist from Henley will be lifting the lid on some of her all-time musical favourites in the coming weeks — with a series of winter recitals in Wallingford.

Anita D’Attellis of Norman Avenue is looking to expand on the success of last year’s series at the church of St Mary-le-More in Market Place, which was the first she had organised.

“That was the trial run!” she laughs. “Just to see how it went and how I coped with it — and in the end it was a success and I enjoyed the whole process.”

Highlights of the 2018 series, which ran from January to March, included a “Bring on the Youth!” concert — an idea that is set to be reprised this year.

“The format is pretty much the same,” agrees Anita. “There are four recitals and one of those is dedicated to young people. So I’m doing the same as that because I think it’s important to keep that side of it going. And then the other three are with adults but with completely different programmes to last year. So yes, something different!”

The first concert takes place next Saturday evening (January 19). “Beethoven meets Brahms” features the talents of violinist Marian Givens and French horn player Andrew Sutton alongside Anita on piano.

Works due to be performed include Beethoven’s Horn Sonata in F major and Rondo a capriccio, alternating with Brahms’s Violin Sonata No 2 in A major and Horn Trio in Eb major.

All of which represents a fair amount of practice time — not that this seems to faze Anita.

“Last year, because I was playing in it as well as devising it and getting things organised it did seem that it was quite a lot of work, but it was really enjoyable because at the same time I was doing the things that I wanted to do — I was playing the pieces I wanted to play and working with the people I wanted to perform with. So the upsides counterbalanced al the hard work!”

As was the case last year, the proceeds from the recitals will go to the St Mary-le-More’s tower fund.

“The church were delighted,” says Anita. “They got some £3,000 out of it for the tower fund, so financially it also worked out okay. And they’re nearly at the end of it now — they’re just doing the last few thousand now, so hopefully these concerts will help.”

Featuring the talents of the All Saints’ Marlow Choristers and a number of outstanding young instrumentalists, “Bring on the Youth” takes place on Saturday, February 9.

Then on Saturday, February 23, Anita and Shiplake saxophonist Huw Wiggin present a “Classical Journey — from Bach to Gershwin” featuring an eclectic mix of popular classical pieces.

Matters then take a continental turn on Saturday, March 9, with the final recital in the series, “Vive la France!”

Joined by Giles Wade on violin and Jacqueline Johnson on cello, Anita will be tackling a programme that includes Saint-Saëns’s Cello Sonata No 1 in C minor, Chausson’s Poème, Ravel’s Sonata for violin and cello, Debussy’s Piano Préludes and Fauré’s Trio in D minor.

“I’m excited about this series of recitals because I had really good feedback from the last one and each concert was a sell-out,” says Anita.

“I sort of thought over the summer, ‘Well, shall I do it again?’ I talked to a few people and it was as though it was meant to be because I was talking to all these musicians, and they’ve all got their different things that they’re involved in, but when it came down to me fixing some dates they were all free on the different dates — so it fell into place like a miracle.”

It’s an unfair question to ask, but is there perhaps any one of the four concerts that Anita is most looking forward to performing in?

“I couldn’t say!” she laughs. “I really wouldn’t want to single one out. For all different reasons I’m really looking forward to each of them. With the first and the last particularly, I collaborated with those people to get the programme we wanted.

“Most of the pieces are kind of
all-time favourites that I’ve played before but years ago and I can’t wait to play them again. But there are also some new pieces that I’m looking forward to doing.

“In the French one, the Saint-Saëns cello sonata is a new piece. I mean, I’ve learnt it now but it was new when we were choosing it. I haven’t performed that one before but it’s a great piece and Jacqueline introduced me to it. So yeah, brilliant.

“I’m also doing a few solos within these programmes as well, which I didn’t last time, but they just fitted into what we were doing.

“For example, if you’ve got a French horn player, you’ve got to give them a break [during the concert] — they can’t just play for a whole day!

“And the same with Huw Wiggin — so I’m doing a few solos in his concert as well, because it’s actually quite demanding to continue playing without a break.

“So I’ll be doing a few solos in between to break up the programme — and also I think it makes it more interesing for the audience because they get a different sound.”

While the details of this year’s Henley Festival line-up are yet to be confirmed, it is understood that Huw Wiggin is due to perform there with the Henley Symphony Orchestra.

The past year has been a busy one for Anita, 41, who is married to former Fleet Street photographer John Downing MBE. At one point, prior to performing a full cello programme in Marlow, she was practising for around 10 hours a day.

How many engagements does she tend to take on in an average year?

“It’s difficult to say because sometimes things can be a lot of work but it’s not necessarily a big concert. So it might just be that I’m playing for someone’s audition. I played for a couple of people’s diplomas over the summer, so that’s quite a lot of work — it’s like a 40-minute recital. They’re the one being examined, I’m not, but I feel like you can be quite busy even if you haven’t got any concerts on!”

All four Wallingford recitals start at 7.30pm and will be performed in the round. Seats are unreserved, so concertgoers are advised to arrive early to secure the best spots. Refreshments will be available and a donation bar open.

Tickets for each recital are £12 in advance or £14 on the door. For more information and to book, visit

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