Music for violin and piano
Pärt: Fratres (1977) for violin and piano
Fauré: Andante Op.75
Elgar: Sonata for violin and piano Op.82 (Allegro; Romance; Allegro non troppo)
Simeon Broom (violin) and Rachel Church (piano)
St Andrew’s on The Terrace
Wednesday, 31 July 2013, 12.15pm
These two young performers were newcomers to the St Andrew’s scene, but they have played together for years, in New Zealand, Germany and the United Kingdom, and have recently returned from overseas.
Their opening item is well-known, but perhaps not in this arrangement. The piece is technically demanding for the violinist, while the pianist repeats the theme in chords, mainly. The violinist plays many variations upon it, some of them stratospheric. The variations are vigorous and interesting if not, to my mind, profound.
Nevertheless, the musicians conjured up many delightful moods and effects, especially when the melody was played on violin harmonics, with the piano pianissimo, at the end.
Fauré’s Andante was not a work I knew, and was in a completely different aesthetic from the 1970s Pärt work. It has warm-toned, human-related melody – or certainly had the way these two played it. If Pärt’s mood was somewhat depressing, Fauré’s soaring melodies soon overcame that. It is a tribute to the violinist’s skill that he made this work sound utterly uplifting in character. At the same time, it demonstrated the composer’s “dislike of all pretension” as the excellent programme notes stated.
Elgar’s Sonata is a substantial work, infrequently heard. The opening movement featured wonderful changes of expression, the instruments variously extravert, winsome, and brilliant. The moods veered from cheerful to romantic; wistful to excitable. All of this was well managed by the performers.
The slow movement was serious, yet included bouncy figures, vaguely reminiscent of parts of the composer’s well-loved Enigma Variations. As a violinist himself, Elgar had an inside knowledge of how to write for the instrument. There were interesting modulations in both parts, and a rather grandiose section before a quiet ending.
The finale conveyed a pastoral scene in its opening, then became energetic and thoughtful by turns. All was most beautifully executed, with finely controlled dynamics. There were many enchanting melodic figures and passages.
It was pleasing to see a good-sized audience attend the concert, and enjoying such accomplished playing of a programme of comparative rarities. Simeon Broom has recently joined the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and so we can perhaps look forward to hearing these two fine musicians some more.