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Classical Music - Alison Stephens

Like many people, I am unfamiliar with classical mandolin. But I was mesmerized by the instrument when I read Louis de Bernieres’ best selling novel ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ some years ago. I became familiar with tremolando scales, chorded and unchorded semiquavers, and tremolo speeds. I found it fascinating, but I wasn’t going to mention the obvious connection with mandolins and de Bernieres until I discovered that Alison Stephens had recorded an album with Craig Ogden entitled ‘Music from the Novels of Louis de Bernieres.’ It sold more than 10,000 copies in its first three months and it was chosen as ‘Pick of the Week’ in The Daily Telegraph. So I decided to mention it after all.

Stephens also tells me that she played on the soundtrack, written by Stephen Warbeck, for the film version. “I also play in a stage adaptation - we have done over 500 performances in seven years, 22 of those this Autumn, she says.” But this Saturday she will have a rest from Corelli and play a solo concert that will entertain and enlighten her audience. “The aim is to present a very wide range of original music for solo mandolin and to present it in an informative way,” she says. “The idea being that the audience leaves the concert knowing more about the instrument, its history and what it can do than when they arrived.” “Saturday’s programme includes ‘A Parita’ by Filippo Sauli (c1700), some Bach (transcriptions from the Cello Suites and Violin Sonata No.2), some romantic pieces by the virtuoso mandolin player Raffaele Calace (1863-1934), a few modern pieces, and two by me ‘La Tristezza D’Inverno (The Sadness of Winter) and Mount Fuji.”

Take the fifth: Alison Stephens has an 18th century mandolin
called ‘Vinny’. Pic by Kate Mount