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The mandolin sonata, the UK première of which the duo gave at a North London venue shortly before this concert, was a delight to the ear, characteristically neo-baroque/classical, with the three movement format of 'Fantasia', 'Aria' and 'Variazione', that gave rise to unexpectedly contemporary harmonies, a melodic fluidity and idiomatic allusiveness to renaissance and baroque textures. The first movement seemed to follow an abbreviated sonata design with the delicately flowing first subject, prelude-like arpeggios shared between the instruments, eloquently shaded so that the mandolin always stood to the fore. The contrasted second theme began with an idiomatic plucked repeated note gesture, moving through more chromatic harmonies to an enriched version of the first theme, followed by expressive chains of sequences, all of which was repeated in slightly varied form in the second part.

In the slow movement Sariel projected the long-breathed melody with radiant resonance, its middle-eastern modal-tonal inflections enhancing the mystique of the duet; the finale was a vividly coloured set of variations on a rather interesting theme, which culminated in a powerful climax where the mandolin at last produced rich chords rather than single lines. Overall the duo shared material yet the mandolin was always in the foreground, and with some delicate overlapping of scalic passages between the partners. Francesca Ghilione has a wonderfully full and soft tone, and her harmonics are incredibly clear, particularly in this artfully shaped work.

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Copyright © 22 February 2007 Malcolm Miller, London UK


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Classical Music Programme Notes for concerts and recordings, by Malcolm Miller