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I have also never known an audience to be so still, or so silent throughout a performance. That alone is a measure of the extent to which the listeners were drawn into the music, but subsequent conversation proved the point. One lady I spoke to referred back to memories of the lunchtime concerts in the National Gallery during the Second World War, and the likes of William Pleeth, Pears and Britten. She knew when she had heard something out of the ordinary. I also found it interesting, later, to discover the language in which one reviewer had felt compelled to describe Graffin's recording of Ernest Chausson: 'This is one of the most beautiful discs of chamber music I have ever heard. In every respect it is sheer perfection, the young French violinist, Philippe Graffin, playing with a passion you may be fortunate enough to hear once in your life.'

Philippe Graffin
Philippe Graffin

Nor is it only in French music that he excels, as the second piece in the recital demonstrated: Kodály's Duo for Violin and Cello, Op 7. If anything, there is an even greater range of mood and melodic expression than in the Ravel. At times folk-influenced, at others, darkly aggressive and uncompromisingly 'modern' for its date -- (1914) -- there are passages which would brutally expose even a momentary lapse in the symbiotic relationship of the two instruments. Here, the two performers played, and seemingly thought as one.

Though there have been musical events in previous years, this is the first Leamington Festival as such, and it eloquently makes its point: you don't have to live in London, or one of the 'major' cities of the British Isles, to be treated to world class performances. I only wish I had been able to attend some of the other concerts. The excellently produced Souvenir Programme, with authoritative notes on each concert, reveals what I had missed: The Lindsays, The Vienna Piano Trio, The Schubert Ensemble, Peter Hill, Martin Roscoe ...

The organiser, Richard Phillips has achieved something very special in this Midlands spa town. Hopefully, this will be the first of a long line of yearly musical celebrations in Leamington.

One final, poetic touch. Thursday 8 May was a memorable day for Raphael Wallfisch too, and not only because of his marvellous concert. He also celebrated his fiftieth birthday. Whatever the gifts he received, they could not have been more special than the one he, and his musical partner, gave to us.

Copyright © 13 May 2003 Rex Harley, Cardiff, UK





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