We get fired up by a candelit Chopin concert

RARELY do I find myself queueing outside on a Saturday evening any more – those days are well and truly gone – let alone to get into a church. Nonetheless, that’s what I was doing last weekend, somewhat in trepidation for what I expected would be a lesson in classical music. I was delighted, therefore, to see an audience lining up for the Chopin & Champagne By Candlelight concert at St Ann’s Church just off Deansgate – each with as much excitement as the folk waiting outside Manahatta just up the road.

The programme twisted, danced and cascaded throughout the repertoire of Chopin, leaving no stone left unturned as to what the composer’s music was capable of. As we worked our way through the pieces, the boxes were ticked with nimbleness, poise and energy. The evening began with understated class, reciting Three Ecossaises, Op posth, translating as Three Cottages. The simple structure of each dance delivered a delightful thematic subject, with pianist Warren Mailley-Smith’s playing exuding perkiness and fun. We worked our way through the first half never revisiting a bar or passage that wasn’t given the care and time that I knew I’d be giving to my glass of Champagne during the interval.  

We worked our way through the first half never revisiting a bar or passage that wasn’t given the care and time that I knew I’d be giving to my glass of Champagne during the interval.

20190114 Chopin Champagne Warren Mailley Smith Playing Piano 800X600
Warren Mailley playing piano

Fantasie-Impromptu in Cminor Op.66 was delivered as a small masterpiece in itself, giving way to a chromatic essay, a personal favourite of mine for the evening, and played with such off-the-cuff style that it was made to sound as confident as if Warren were making a sandwich and reading the newspaper at the same time. I must note at this point that the entire evening was played from memory. The relentless train of semi-quavers had the audience revelling and out of their seats, bending over the pews in order to believe what they were hearing. This piece wouldn’t have been out of place in a Laurel and Hardy skit; so playful.

A lesser-known work, Berceuse in Db Op.57, left me unknowingly holding my breath, not wanting to burst the moment in which Warren tapered over the last chord. He gave each phrase as much space as a double decker, the kind of stylish technique that only comes with vast experience.

Post champagne and chit-chat, we sat back down in the candlelight (sounds romantic, I know) to a Mazurka No.41 in C Minor, Op. posth. Traditionally a dance, Chopin had honed in on his Polish descent, bringing out the hidden beats of 2 & 3, hinting at an Eastern European folk dance. After the frolic of the previous pieces, Warren rounded off the programme with a climatic Sonata. No.3 in B minor Op.58, which roused the audience into a 25-minute musical experience, rich in a polyphonic and counterpointed tapestry. The piece offered hints of a new-world sound in comparison to the rest of the evening, and was perhaps why Warren so cleverly curated the programme in this order.

The finale so rightly received the standing ovation it deserved before the audience pattered away into the Deansgate smog in their Sunday best, possibly passing the Chopin statue along the way.

The only words lingering over me after the concert? When is the Mozart & Midori evening? I’m there.

Find out about Chopin & Champagne By Candlelight and book tickets for future concerts here.