27th Annual Piano Concert at Haberdashers' Aske's School for Girls****

First published in What's On

For parents and others who have the privilege of attending, there can be few more congenial events than the Annual Piano Concert - the 27th - given by the students of Rena Delaney in the Sime Hall of Haberdashers' Aske's School for Girls in Elstree. Perhaps, in ten or 20 years' time, we shall be queuing to hear these young musicians at the Royal Albert Hall.

Some of the students were as young as four, and we could observe the meticulous care with which Rena had prepared them. From a small child, good balance between the hands, clear distinction between legato and staccato and accurate memory - most of the students played from memory - are important things, as we heard from Uma Shah (7), who played Walking in the Air and won the Special Achievement Cup, and Zoe Gray, who played a piece by Clementi.

At the top of the age range, Nicola Teh, who already has the Dip ABRSM, impressed with a movement from Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No.2, for which, however, the tone of the piano was not really suitable.

The most ambitious piece played was perhaps a movement from Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos, in which Hannah Westbrook demonstrated why her academic attainments are already impressive. She avoided the temptation to over-use the sustaining pedal, to which a number of the students succumbed - not surprisingly, for in Beeethoven's time, for instance, the piano had less sustaining power and his pedalling instructions can mislead.

Clementi is a favourite composer for teaching the piano, and another who faced the challenge was Adam Lau (10) with the Sonatina in D. He won the Diligence Cup. Like many of the students, he suffered occasional accidents; but at this stage in learning, they are inevitable and pardonable. What matters is the opportunity to face the experience of playing to an audience and the training in concentration and confidence which, as Rena said, are among the educational benefits of music. Councillor Peter Knell, the Mayor of Hertsmere, commended these achievements in presenting the awards.

Graham Mordue

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