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Spitalfields Festival 2006: Wilton’s Music Hall, 06 and 12. 06.2006 (DD)

Tuesday June 6

Rohan de Saram – cello; Ananda Sukarian – piano

Schubert: Arpeggione Sonata; Shostakovich: Prelude and Fugue Op 87 No4 in E minor; Hindemith: Sonata for solo cello; Naresh Sohal: Foray

This recital seemed a curious mix of duos and solo works at first. It began with an extremely lightweight offering of Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata but although lightweight in performance, no loss of musical depth was felt and the audience soon warmed to the cello’s soft timbres. This may have seemed unusual repertoire for the cellist who was a founder member of the often outrageously brilliant Arditti String Quartet which has specialised for many years in promoting and performing music at the cutting edge of the avant garde composers of the seventies, eighties, nineties, and subsequently.

The Schubert was followed by a perceptive and powerful performance of the Prelude & Fugue No 4 (E minor) from the Opus 87 set of twenty-four preludes and fugues by Shostakovich (whose centenary year this is) performed by Ananda Sukarian - who told me afterwards that he does perform the whole set. That would be a wonderful thing to hear since his playing is so convincing and he has all the skills necessary.

Rohan de Saram then gave a very rare performance of Hindemith’s Solo Cello Sonata. This is a curious work which I did not take to from a listener’s perspective (finding the composer often to be rather dry and academic.) From a performer’s viewpoint however, it has a great deal to offer and is most demanding of the cellist’s technique.

The final work was Naresh Sohal’s latest composition – Foray. This piece, lasting some fifteen minutes, seemed to be open fields and fresh air after the somewhat congested sounds of Hindemith. Apparently simple and melodic in this composer’s recent style – which is softer, and more yielding than say, his Chiaroscuro II (String Quartet No 1) written thirty years before and for the Ardittis, incidentally - which still sounds as if it was written just yesterday. There is a distinctive Indianness about this music and yet it is written in a totally western way. Improvisational in character, the three movements form a satisfying whole and both musicians obviously enjoyed performing this actual 'foray' into new sounds from a composer who has always been full of new things to say.

The concert was also broadcast by Radio 3 on Friday, 16th June.

Monday 12 June

Dante String Quartet: Krysia Osostowicz and Giles Francis (violins) Judith Busbridge (viola) Bernard Gregor-Smith (cello) Sally Silver(soprano) Sanju Sahai (tabla)

Janacek: String Quartet No 1 ‘The Kreutzer Sonata’;
String Quartet No 2 ‘Intimate Letters’
Sanju Sahai: Colours of the Tabla
Naresh Sohal: Three songs from Gitanjali – for soprano, tabla and String Quartet

It is extremely rare to hear both of Janacek's Quartets in a single concert. For everyone in the distressed concert hall that is the building once famous for being Wilton’s Music Hall, this rare occasion could not have been bettered. From the very opening of ‘Kreutzer’ this was clearly going to be a performance of the very first magnitude. Full of passion, all of the demands on the players being so finely executed that we felt we were listening to four instrumental masters – as indeed we were. As a group, their sound is absolutely perfectly honed and the balancing between each one of the ‘high wires’ is spot on.

“There is nothing more passionate than the music of Janacek’s first String Quartet,” said Krysia Osostowicz as the players settled to give their next offering. “Until you hear the Second.” The sheer physical strength of the sound of these musicians was amazing. Equal to any quartet anywhere in the world, the intensity of their combined (and solo) musicality was testament to the wondrousness and true value of classical music. If they ever record these works…

After the sheer exhilaration of the first half (not that there was an interval) another rarity was given to a totally fascinated audience by the tabla player, probably the most eminent and musicianly tabla player of all, Sanju Sahai. He is one of those terrifyingly skilful performers who can not only play his instrument better than almost anyone else in the world, but can also vocally articulate the incredibly complex rhythmic patterns by way of illustrating what his art is about. After his brief spoken introduction, he set about demonstrating his art. It is virtually impossible to describe what we all heard and the fantastic wizardry we all witnessed, at times in utter disbelief. One cannot even hear as fast as he plays at times – please find out for yourself and if you are lucky enough to live where he is performing – go and hear him.

The final work was Three Songs from Gitanjali * (one of the great volumes of poetry by the Indian poet, Tagore) set to music by the Indian-born composer, Naresh Sohal. This work was premiered by tonight’s artists two years ago at the Spitalfields. With the quartet flanked by the tabla (just by the first violin) and the soprano placed by the cello, the arc of musicians produced a wonderfully homogenous sound so that the poet’s vision of lost love regained, was wonderfully reproduced in this most attractive work. Fortunately Sohal is composer who at last is gaining some of the respect his music deserves.


Dennis Day


* These unusual songs are available to by post, from
the Naresh Sohal Society. Visit the web site for further details.


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