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Beethoven's ruminative explorations are unique in a work so early as Op 5 No 2. He also demands every modicum of effort from the two performers in the breadth and contrast of the work's changes of nuance, poetic asides, and eventual high jinks during the joyful finale. This was a marvellous team performance.

Poulenc combats his sad seriousness with a seamless enjoyment of Parisian daily existence, and invites the tourist to partake of his enjoyment. He also challenges his performers into achieving feats of dexterity intermingled with drastic changes of mood accompanied by interruptions of key sequence and status quo. It is quite usual for one or other player to actually have to stop at the end of a phrase, then proceed with something different and unrelated. His cello and piano Sonata is full of endless quips and surprises. It brought smiles from both performers and audience.

Dutilleux somehow carries on where his predecessor left off. Trois Strophes sur le nom de Sacher for cello alone carries the performer and the listener into more introspective veins of harmonisation and exploration. Here is a work demanding command of the instrument and musical intelligence together on an even keel. Its composer is a high-level strategist, with disguised intentions suddenly bursting forth into fresh thought stratas which keep interpreters on their constant metal. No problems here!

Brahms' Sonata Op 99, with four striding, sweeping and highly intense movements is a tour de force of differing challenges. Coming at the end of this far-reaching recital, I would have welcomed it after the Beethoven. It sounded well enough, but by this time the playing was a little tired, and less than this colossal work requires.

Copyright © 12 April 2002 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK




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