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In virtuoso manner

Alice Neary and Gretel Dowdeswell
at London's Wigmore Hall,
heard by BILL NEWMAN


I first met Alice Neary when she played Haydn's Cello Concerto in C at St John's, Smith Square in London. Here was real beauty of cello line, refined, soulful, songlike, poetic and dramatic -- almost in the same breath. The last movement alone was so virtuosic as to claim comparison with Tortelier, Starker, and Rostropovich. I remember questioning John McCabe a week later about a comment he made in his marvellous biography of British composer Alan Rawsthorne. John stated that Haydn did not understand the need for virtuosity in his concertos, and how this could be assimilated into the music's logical progress rather than being reserved.

There is, of course, every necessity for young artists to perform in a virtuoso manner on each and every occasion. The public somehow demands it and recognises it by enthusiastic applause -- yet I wonder if the need to be daring and brilliant at the same time can sometimes detract from some performer's deeper musical qualities?

Alice Neary, by her playing and sheer versatility has the sense to place the music continuously foremost, and her efforts to bring its inner qualities into the context of each composer's desires was very typically realised when she performed Beethoven, Poulenc, Dutilleux, and Brahms at the Wigmore Hall recently.

Alice Neary (left) and Gretel Dowdeswell. Photo: Keith Bramich

Her partner -- preferable to the incorrect and unfair term 'accompanist' -- was Gretel Dowdeswell, a pianist of tremendous musical and technical flair, as recently witnessed in another Wigmore Hall event with the up-and-coming cellist Liwei Qin. 'They are both so easy to accompany' said Gretel. I had no hesitation in commending her most highly for clearing all the hurdles of Beethoven's G minor Sonata, Op 5, the flamboyant Sonata by Poulenc, and the huge proportions of the Brahms, Op 99. They were richly resplendent in every note, phrase, and dynamic contrast.

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Copyright © 12 April 2002 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK




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