Love, Mania, Transfiguration

Victoria Kingham on the St Leonards Concerts Weekender in Hastings Independent Press

Once more, it has to be said that down here in a small area of St Leonards and Hastings we are privileged to hear the most gifted of musicians. They are certainly attracted here by the exceptional Max Baillie, whose outstanding musicianship and bold musical entrepreneurship has led to some notable, world-class concerts. It isn’t only their performative skill, but also the genuine enjoyment that is generated by groups of players who are able, together, to communicate what it is about Tchaikovsky or Schönberg or Bartók or Schubert that makes their genius eternal.

So it was last Saturday evening. Love and Mania featured the linguist, instrumentalist and singer Alice Zawadzki, who understands well the subtleties of how song communicates. Vocals arranged by her included a Brazilian standard (though written by Mexican Tomás Méndez) Cucurrucucu, a Sephardic folk song, traditional Polish ballad Oczy Czarne (Black Eyes) and Schubert’s transcendent Death and the Maiden. There were other songs, some arranged by Max Baillie, one by his father, acclaimed cellist Alexander Baillie. Zawadzki seems limitlessly versatile. It isn’t just about her extended vocal range or her impeccable timing or her perfect diction. She has something more: the special intelligence which makes a great singer able to communicate meaning through vocal expression, to render, through complexity, simplicity and truth. She is, I would say, a great artist.


The first half of Sunday evening’s concert was occupied by the original arrangement of Schönberg’s Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night) which surely stands as one of the most viscerally beautiful musical constructs of the last 150 years. It occupied the first half of the concert; the second half was Bartok, Janáček, Tchaikovsky, all faultlessly rendered with verve, passion, and the certainty that comes from depth of musical understanding.

Dmitry Smirnov, outstanding Russian violinist, was refused a visa by the British authorities only three days before the concerts and one day before he was due to fly. Given that he had an invitation to play here, with dates and details, and then has an international professional schedule in Europe until at least October this year, this seems a draconian intervention. His place was taken on the Saturday by Magdalena Filipczak, who managed to learn the very difficult Janáček Kreutzer sonata in two days. Filipczak is, like all these players, an international prize-winning multi-talented musician. For the Sunday replacement we were privileged to hear the confident, silvery tones of a young Japanese violinist, Yume Fujise.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that these musicians play together very regularly, such was the warmth and perfection of delivery and the communication among them. The websites listed below indicate their various achievements. Another St Leonards Concert is coming up soon, and promises to be exciting. Details below. Bring your cushion.