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<<  -- 2 --  Rex Harley    MUSCULAR PERFORMANCE


As a middle-aged man, curmudgeonly from childhood, I tend towards scepticism where wunderkinder are concerned. This was the first time I'd heard the seventeen-year-old play live, and as she came on stage, in a dress possibly designed on a whim by Speedo, the swimwear manufacturers, complete with two go-faster stripes from top to toe, my upper lip may well have curled. A 1940s, retro hairdo reminiscent of Jessie Matthews also seemed less than a good idea. And then she launched into Prokofiev's First Violin Concerto.

The experience was rather like my one and only encounter with Martina Navratilova, at a long ago Wimbledon. Along with several others in the crowd, I was blocking the path, and Ms Navratilova, returning from a match on one of the outside courts, was in no mood to be held up. She literally picked me up and dropped me to one side, mercifully on my feet, before marching on. The experience left me temporarily breathless.

Chloë Hanslip too is chunkily put together -- the great thing about female soloists is that you can see their arms when they play -- and this was a muscular performance. Not that there was any lack of finesse. The range of sounds she drew from her instrument, from scorching ponticello passages to soaring lyricism, was also breath-taking. No irritating mannerisms; no fake histrionics -- just honest, genuine musicianship. The only indulgence she allowed herself was the occasional sweeping gesture of the bow, on the rare moments when the soloist stops playing. It was a performance of total concentration, and demanded (and received) no less from the audience. And the accompaniment was perfectly judged: the balance of sound; the interplay between soloist and orchestra.

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Copyright © 25 May 2004 Rex Harley, Cardiff UK


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