Guy Johnston and Tom Poster
Guy Johnston (cello) and Tom Poster (piano)
One of the most exciting and versatile British cellists of his generation, Guy was born into a local musical family. He joined his brothers in the choir of King's College, Cambridge and went on to achieve important early success in the BBC Young Musician of the Year title, and received a Classical Brit Award at the Royal Albert Hall. He has made many important debuts including at the First Night of the BBC Proms playing the Elgar Cello Concerto. Guy regularly performs at home and abroad and is known locally as the founding Artistic Director of the Hatfield House Chamber Music Festival.
Tom is a musician whose skills and passions extend well beyond the conventional role of the concert pianist. As a composer recent commissions include two pieces for Alison Balsom and a chamber opera The Depraved Appetite of Tarrara the Freak which ran for three weeks at Wilton's Music Hall in 2017. In demand internationally as a soloist and chamber musician across an unusually extensive repertoire, he has been described as "a marvel, [who] can play anything in any style" (The Herald), "mercurially brilliant" (The Strad), and as having "a beautiful tone that you can sink into like a pile of cushions" (BBC music).
Guy and Tom have been friends and performed together for many years including as part of the Aronowitz Ensemble formed in 2004. Their programme for us will feature:
Smyth Sonata in A minor, op 5
Grieg Sonata in A minor, op 36
Rachmaninov Sonata in G minor, op 19
It is fitting to include Ethel Smyth in celebration of the centenary of Women's suffrage. Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) overcame the constraints of her middle-class English background by open rebellion. Taught piano and theory as ladylike accomplishments, she became so concentrated on her studies that her family deemed them unsuitably intense and stopped her lessons. The teenage Ethel went on strike, finally confining herself to her room and refusing to attend meals, church, or social functions unless her father would send her to Leipzig to study composition. After two years the embattled Mr Smyth gave in, and Ethel went to Leipzig where she studied and got to know Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Grieg. Once described as "the most remarkable and original woman composer in the history of music", the influence of Brahms permeates her early songs and chamber music. In 1910 Smyth joined the Women's Social and Political Union, giving up music for two years to devote herself to the cause. Her "The March of the Women" (1911) became the anthem of the women's suffrage movement. In 1912, when the WSPU's leader, Emmeline Pankhurst, called on members to break a window in the house of any politician who opposed votes for women, Smyth was one who responded to Pankhurst's call. She, Pankhurst, and 100 other women were arrested, and she served two months in Holloway Prison. When Thomas Beecham went to visit her there he found suffragettes marching in the quadrangle and singing, as Smyth leaned out of a window conducting the song with a toothbrush.
Grieg composed the Cello Sonata in A minor, Op. 36 for cello and piano, his only work for this combination, in 1882-83, marking a return to composition following a period when he had been preoccupied with his conducting duties as well as illness. Grieg dedicated the piece to his brother, John, a keen amateur cellist. The work was premiered on 22 October 1883 with Grieg at the piano.
Rachmaninov's Sonata in G minor for Cello and Piano, Op. 19 was completed in November 1901. Rachmaninov regarded the role of the piano as not just an accompaniment but equal to the cello. Most of the themes are introduced by the piano, while they are embellished and expanded in the cello's part. Once again the composer was at the piano for the premier on 2 December 1901.