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Particularly compelling was their impressive account of the Theme and Variations 1932 by Olivier Messiaen. This is an early work in which his fingerprints are clearly audible, the rich luminescent harmony, the rhythmic syncopations and complexities and an urgent, emotional tension arising from stylized sonorities. The theme itself is plain and simple, yet upon its return in the fifth and final variation higher up in the violin's register, it becomes an impassioned utterance. The increase in speed in the intervening variations is Classical in intent, yet Modernist in expression: the jazzy accented piano textures imitated and counterpointed by the violin, leading to more and more climactic waves of intensity.

This memorable performance was equalled in the final work, Prokofiev's vintage Second Violin Sonata Op 94a which, despite a slightly hesitant start, the duo projected with impetus, energy and wit. The typically Prokofievian tonal twists and turns were eloquently realised from the very first movement, where the main theme based on fifths returns in new guises and arrives unexpectedly on a final major triad. The impetuous ebullient second movement displayed Miss Leader's virtuoso, graceful technique, and her tone glowed resonantly in the slow movement with its bitter-sweet edge. The rollicking finale also conveyed its exuberance and elements of surprise before concluding powerfully in affirmative mood.

If throughout there were occasional lapses of intonation, dynamic contrast or blurring of articulation, these did not detract from an enjoyable recital notable for its fervency of interpretation and naturalness of tone. It was apt to conclude the evening with an encore by Norman Rosenberg, collector of violins whose 17th century instrument Miss Leader was playing. His Song of the Violin beguiled the audience with its genial lilt and mellow harmonies, an attractive waltz to gently round off an enjoyable journey into the lyrical regions of 20th century repertoire.

Copyright © 2 April 2007 Malcolm Miller, London UK

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SERENA LEADER AND GORDON BACK PLAY MUSIC BY JULIAN DAWES

SERENA LEADER AT THE BERAKAH PROJECT

GORDON BACK AT THE GUILDHALL SCHOOL OF MUSIC & DRAMA

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