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S & H Recital Review

Beethoven, Brahms & Rawsthorne Sonatas for Violin & Piano: Jonathan Carney & Kathron Sturrock (The Fibonacci Sequence) at St John's Smith Square, 1 July 2002 (PGW)

 

Two fine musicians, each seen more often in ensemble, joined in duo-recital to celebrate Jonathan Carney's years as leader of The Fibonacci Sequence and to mark his departure for the United States. Kathron Sturrock, the ensemble's founder and usually self-effacing musical director, chose the Beethoven Op. 30 No 2 and revelled in its energy, "an exhilarating roller coaster". The centrepiece was Alan Rawsthorne's sonata, which should hold a regular place in the repertoire, and Carney selected the mellow Brahms sonata in G, nominally No 1, but there had been four or so before it - discarded and, presumably, destroyed.

Carney will never be a super-star but offers insightful phrasing, vibrato judged according to context, and a steady right arm. A violinists' violinist, you might say. Each work had been scrupulously and, no doubt, lovingly prepared, and this came through with their affectionate rapport. The Beethoven is continuously eventful, one of his most exciting and best. From where I sat, in the acoustically fickle St John's, a sound account of the more leisurely Brahms was slightly impaired by the piano texture sounding at times congested and 'boxed in', possibly because of a little too much pedal and because the duo opted for the 'short stick'. I was reminded, as quite often through the years, of Szymon Goldberg's lesson at a Dartington Summer School master class for violinists, when he thrust the lid wide open and urged Susan Bradshaw never to have it down for the sake of a violin.

The best performance was, I thought, the Rawsthorne, compact and perfectly judged in the composer's score and in this realisation; the The Fibonacci Sequence, with Kathron Sturrock authoritative at the piano, had recorded an admirable CD of Rawsthorne's chamber music (ASV CD DCA 1061) and Peter Sheppard Skaerved with Tamami Honma include the Violin Sonata on Metier MSV CF92029.

At the concert I was presented (as often I am) with two CDs to consider for possible review, these by The Fibonacci Sequence's composer in residence, Cecilia McDowall (mcdowall@argonet.co.uk). She is a versatile, very practical middle-of-the-road composer with many commissions to her credit, including scores for children and amateurs (The Fibonacci Sequence tends to pursue a cautious path in its contemporary repertoire). Her commercial studio CD (Deux-Elles DXL 1033) has a selection of McDowall’s chamber music with Richard Shaw (piano), Emma Williams (flute) and the Ensemble Lumière. The other is a wide-ranging demo compilation which includes live public performances by the London Mozart Players, Philip Mead etc. There are three useful pieces for trumpet (Paul Archibald) and the LMP and I was intrigued by a piece for violin, double bass & strings, but sorry that the double bass's influence seemed to peter out, leaving me reminded strongly of Honegger's Symphony for Strings - an indication of McDowall's idiom.

Nothing though to hold a candle to the compelling listening and enduring worth of Rawsthorne, one of my favourite British composers of his generation, whose music does not date; we are indebted to the Rawsthorne Society for supporting these initiatives.

Peter Grahame Woolf

 

Alan RAWSTHORNE
Concerto For Ten Instruments
SONATINA For Flute, Oboe & Piano / QUINTET For Clarinet, Horn, Violin, Cello & Piano / SUITE For Flute, Viola & Harp / QUINTET For Piano & Winds

ASV CD DCA 1061


Alan RAWSTHORNE
Sonata for violin and piano
Theme and Variations for two violins

John McCABE
Maze Dances
Star Preludes

Peter Sheppard Skærved  violin Christine Sohn violin Tamami Honma  piano
MSV CF92029


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