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Utterly gripping

A recital by Fiona McNaught and Daniel Tong,
appreciated by MIKE WHEELER


Bartók's two violin sonatas are among his knottiest pieces. But Fiona McNaught and Daniel Tong's lucid, searching performance of No 2 was an utterly gripping experience. They explored the first movement's fragile sound-world with a mesmerising sense of concentration, and maintained the dance-impulse behind the second through the music's constant tempo fluctuations. It was a neat idea to lead into the Sonata's sound-world by prefacing it with three of Joesph Szigeti's transcriptions of Bartók's piano pieces For Children.

McNaught and Tong's revelatory account of Ravel's Sonata brought out the work's darker undercurrent more powerfully than in many performances I've heard. The later stages of the first movement became a real climb out of earlier shadows, and the low-key, slower than usual, start to the 'Blues' second movement made the violin theme sound, for once, genuinely nostalgic (in accordance with Ravel's marking), as well as bringing out the movement's increasingly obsessive quality.

They also explored some fairly sombre shadows in Brahms's G major Sonata, Op 78, with some steady tempi but, even in their intense reading of the middle movement, no feeling of trying to squeeze more out of the music than was already there. The finale was relatively swift, by contrast, Tong's crisp articulation offsetting the husky viola-like sound of McNaught's bottom string, with the wind-down at the end beautifully paced.

Daniel Tong and Fiona McNaught
Daniel Tong and Fiona McNaught

Throughout the evening McNaught's astonishing technical command -- bow-control, intonation, rhythmic precision -- was matched by Tong's combination of power and clarity. Balance was pretty well ideal -- and the same can be said for the evening as a whole.

Copyright © 23 November 2005 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK


Fiona McNaught and Daniel Tong's Derby Chamber Music recital took place on 18 November 2005 at Murray Park School, Derby, UK.

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