<< -- 2 -- Manus Carey HIGH CALIBRE
All performers were of a high calibre, and it was fascinating to hear the vastly differing performing styles and ideas that were applied to the sonatas. A comparison of these five duos involves so many varying factors (most notably, of course, different instruments and different pieces), but, to my mind, there were two clear areas in which some of the performances were more successful and captivating. The first of these was the level of interaction between the two players, whether they played as two soloists or one unified duo. The second striking point was the way the rests and pauses were manipulated and utilised to characterise the entire performance. Some of the players threw these away as something inconsequential, while for others, most notably the duos Simon Wallfisch and Lefki Karpodini, and Reinoud Ford and Christoph Schuringa, the moments of silence became as important as the moments of sound, resulting in an overall depth to their respective performances. Indeed it was these two performances that were certainly the most persuasive and engaging of the five. That is not to say that the others did not contain some wonderful playing (particularly impressive was Simon Lane's colourful and sensitive piano playing in the D major sonata -- the most imaginative pianist of the lot), but these two provided a whole gamut of varying emotions and moods. Simon Wallfisch's performance of the G minor sonata was extrovert, charismatic and beautifully phrased, always slightly on the edge with its pungent sforzandi, resulting in exciting listening: he was supported by marvellous piano playing from Lefki Karpodini.
The Dutch duo (Ford and Schuringa) was a different kettle of fish, yet equally compelling. The cellist was the only one of the five to sit next to the belly of the piano (rather than beside the keyboard end), which created a more homogenous sound between piano and cello. The cello could easily have been drowned out with the piano on full stick, but the excellence of both musicians ensured a beautifully balanced texture. In the end the prize -- four hundred pounds and a recital within the forthcoming BPSE concert series -- went to this Dutch duo (though it may have equally gone to Wallfisch/Karpodini), who provided a clearly structured and very convincing performance, particularly in the final fugue which was masterfully paced; this was playing without excess or interference from the players with the music itself given full stage. For me, the best performances of Beethoven seem to transport the listener to a world beyond the instrumentation and the players' personalities, and this performance did just that.