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Second Prize went to the Vashti Hunter/Jesse Beaumont duo, of whom Jesse (so named by his American mother) injected the most drama (shades of his namesake Jesse James!) into Opus 102 No 1. His faultless memory (never once did he glance at the music open on the rack before him) allowed his imagination full play as witness his agogic accents, not picked up by the cellist, who nevertheless produced a full-bodied tone and a strong workmanlike conception. Her strength of attack struck home after the somewhat thin, but always eloquent, sound of our first duo of the evening: Brian O'Kane and Ciara Moroney from Ireland. They wisely chose Op 5 No 2 in which Brian's dark romantic presence could achieve maximum effect, thanks to talented Ciara's excellent support while keeping to the half-stick in view of the restrained dynamics.

Personally, I would have been tempted to award Second Prize to the Richard Birchall/David Swain duo but for one reservation: it sometimes came close to being a Sonata for Piano with Cello accompaniment, mainly because the wide-open lid, which they perhaps unwisely retained from the world-beating First Prize Winners who preceded them, gave the stylish David the appearance of 'taking over' and, thanks to his rhythmic vitality, driving all before him -- including at times the hapless cellist. Also, for all that both were consummate musicians in their own right, their personalities -- the cellist lyrical and introspective (what the Germans call 'innigkeit') and the pianist extrovert -- were not entirely compatible at a deeper level.

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Copyright © 22 May 2006 Malcolm Troup, London UK


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