Vinteuil or Testosterone?


Last night, I was privileged to attend the inaugural concert for 2016 of the Roman River Festival at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester, Essex.
It featured Tasmin Little and Piers Lane playing the following violin sonatas…

I enjoyed the Sarasate piece played by Melinda Blackman at the start, a young locally born performer here given experience of a relatively large audience.

BEETHOVEN – Sonata 5 in F Major, Op. 24 ‘Spring’

I used to have an LP record of this work in the 60s that I listened to a lot. I enjoyed reminding myself how good it is as I followed the classical –> romantic audit trail of lilting buoyancy and more pensive moments of this work, as projected by the immaculate performers Little and Lane.

SZYMANOWSKI – Violin Sonata in D Minor, Op. 9

I liked the performers’ confidence in presenting this less well known, earlier work of this composer, and experienced its endemic inchoateness at their hands. Romantic, yes, but basically off the wall, much to my taste. TL called it ‘heart on sleeve’ in her introduction. With the Intentional Fallacy Theory of Art, we shall never know.

SZYMANOWSKI – Romance in D Major, Op. 23

This short piece was only a few years later than the previous work but TL announced it was more in this composer’s trademark impressionist style, although I would say he is always more romantic than impressionistic, a recognisable style of his own which is hard to categorise. Just as Delius works are. And Franck…

FRANCK – Sonata in A Major

This is one of my favourite works of all time, and I was not disappointed by this bravura but sensitive performance. But put off by TL’s introduction, because I like to hear music for music’s sake, a purity that was diminished for me by being told (for the first time in my life) that it is (arguably, I’d say) about a Bride and Groom, the second movement being ‘full of testosterone’ and with church bells in the last movement! Franck has ever been the purest music for me, and I have always enjoyed the thought that this particular sonata may be the non-programmatic Vinteuil Sonata from Proust’s wonderful massive novel.

An encore of William Lloyd-Webber’s recently discovered ‘In the Garden of Eastwell’ was sublime. You can tell where his son gets his composing skills from.

Despite the peripheral misgivings expressed above, the whole performance was a landmark musical experience for me.

[My previous Classical Music concert reviews: HERE.]

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