Raphael Wallfisch and NCO, Stoller Hall, review
Neil Sowerby enjoys a fitting end to the Northern Chamber Orchestra’s 50th anniversary season
WHAT a fitting end to the Northern Chamber Orchestra’s 50th anniversary season, consummating their residency in the acoustic heaven that is the new Stoller Hall inside Chetham’s.
NCO president Raphael Wallfisch took centre stage as soloist in Elgar’s Cello Concerto, which has its own anniversary (100) next year. Under-rehearsed for its 1919 premiere, its elegiac intensity lukewarmly received by audiences struggling to resolve their own grief over the Great War, it was Elgar’s last full length work.
I’ve listened to most of the stellar performances that finally established it in the concerto repertoire – Du Pre, Casals, Tortelier – and to occasional florid takes. That would be the last adjective to describe Wallfisch’s taut, passionate interpretation, where the heartbreak of the Adagio feels like a bereft quest for resolution rather than any wallowing. All aided by those Stoller acoustics.
…it is still a shock to see veteran artistic director Nicholas Ward arranging affairs from his leader’s chair
There was a wonderful stripped down clarity, too, to the post-interval Beethoven’s Fifth. What a fiercely compressed piece this remains, those opening four hammer blow notes reassembling themselves across the symphony with fragmentary horn-led echoes even in the lyrically tender slow movement. More than usual you note, too, how the scherzo echoes Mozart (whose jaunty Magic Flute overture opened the afternoon).
Thirty years since the NCO became one of the first ensembles to dispense with a conductor, it is still a shock to see veteran artistic director Nicholas Ward arranging affairs from his leader’s chair. Now the Stoller seems the perfect home for such an approach.
After their usual involvement in the Buxton Festival the NCO will resume their Stoller Hall residency on Friday, September 28 with more Beethoven – the Eroica and Piano Concerto No.3, Freddy Kempf the soloist.
Tasmin Little, Piers Lane: Brahms “a seamless flow of intense, controlled emotion”, Review in The Strad May 2018
The Strad Issue: May 2018
Description: Weaving a little more magic in Brahms’s sonatas
Musicians: Tasmin Little (violin), Piers Lane (piano)
Works: BRAHMS Violin Sonatas: no.1 in G major op.78, no.2 in A major op.100, no.3 in D minor op.108
Catalogue Number: CHANDOS CHAN 10977
Tasmin Little begins Brahms’s First Violin Sonata with the mixture of precision, tonal warmth and flexibility that is always a feature of her playing. She will nail one phrase with silvery brilliance and bring gentle mystery to the next. The dolce lead, back to the recapitulation of the first movement, is magical. She plays the theme of the second movement with a richness that brings her mentor Menuhin to mind. The final Allegro combines beguiling simplicity and a sense of confidentiality with a confident reprise of the slow movement at its heart.
The Second Sonata has an air of reverie to it, with liquid phrasing in the first and last movements, as if she is exploring every phrase to find out what comes at the end. The vivace sections of the second movement are quicksilver, with light and nimble playing from Little and the always-excellent Piers Lane. In the first movement of the Third Sonata there are stirring, heroic moments, but here, as in all the sonatas, much of it has a feeling of intimacy, of something personal being shared.
The slow movement is a seamless flow of intense, controlled emotion, and the finale has some splendid theatrical outbursts. The recorded sound is rich, with the musicians close.
Raphael Wallfisch/John York – wonderful review of their April 2018 recital in Painswick
14:04:18 A Concert of Music for Cello and Piano.
The second of Painswick Music Society’s season of concerts featured the prestigious Duo of Raphael Wallfisch (cello) and John York (piano). Their deep musical insights and immaculate playing delighted a capacity audience at St. Mary’s Church.
In order to achieve a balanced sound, it is usual for grand piano lids to be only partially opened when stringed instruments are being accompanied. So, arriving at the church to see the gaping Steinway, with lid fully raised, left one wondering if the sound of the cello might be swallowed up. Worries were groundless: from the first chord of the Beethoven Variations it was apparent that Raphael Wallfisch had tone ‘to burn’. In his masterly hands, the cello throbbed and sang as he projected a gloriously rich sonority which reached every part of the church.
The two artists have performed together for over thirty years and their musical ‘chemistry’ produced a wonderfully balanced account of Beethoven’s 3rd Sonata. They wove a tapestry of sound which flowed seamlessly from one to the other, with both pianist and cellist producing exquisite pianissimos.
The Sonata by the Russian composer, Myaskovsky, was written under the oppressive glare of Stalinist ideology, when composers had to do as they were told – or else! The simple melodies were conveyed with soulful expression.
In the final work, Brahms’ passionate Sonata Op 99, the artists generated a breath-taking range of emotion which swept the audience through the work’s contrasting moods. The pianist’s fine technique enabled him to carry off with ease the difficult and fiery Scherzo movement while the rich melodies and haunting pizzicato notes of the cello part were endowed with a beauty beyond measure.
Listeners, aware that they’d been treated to something very special, conveyed their thanks with energetic applause. In return, as an encore, these fine artists bade us adieu with the lingering beauty of ‘Love Song’ by Karl Weigl.