As far as comparison is relevant, one might characterise James Francis Browns Violin Sonata as airy and equivocal. Premiered at last years Cheltenham Festival, the work now features a central Presto scintillating in its demands on both musicians and, in the Trio, engaging in its delicate whimsy. The opening Quasi improvisiazione veers between intimacy and rhetoric, its ideas insinuating but not overly defined. That process of recognition is achieved in the final Allegretto, drawing the salient material together in an apex of strongly-felt emotion, before the coda distils a powerful calm and perhaps in keeping with the return to grace spoken of by the composer recalls the later sonatinas of Busoni in its sense of benediction. Suffice to say that the performers were fully attuned to the musics elusive depths.
Liebeck had opened with Tartinis Devils Trill Sonata generously expressive in the opening Largo and trenchant in the ensuing Allegro, but too reticent in the intensifying alternations of Andante and Allegro which make possible the pyrotechnics of the cadenza. This was vividly dispatched, though a momentary loss of concentration just before the re-entry of the piano did undermine momentum.
Brahmss terse and often forceful D minor sonata was given a spacious reading which, at least in the outer movements, seemed a little too concerned to reconcile the music with that of the composers earlier, major-key sonatas. If the Adagio also erred towards the ruminative, Liebecks sustained eloquence was in itself a pleasure, while the quixotic character of the Intermezzo had a telling poise.
The recital ended with a strongly-projected account of Saint-Saënss First Sonata, its two linked pairs of movements contrasting and complementary an entertaining solution to the problem posed by Classical form in the Romantic era, from a composer who straddles the apparent divide between the two. Tension ran high in the opening Allegro agitato, Liebeck bringing off a magical transition into the Adagio which was expressive but never cloying. The quicksilver Scherzo was elegantly done, and Liebeck really drove home the moto perpetuo of the Finale. Eloquence and electricity were equally in evidence, the two being drawn together in an exhilarating coda.
Heady stuff, and Liebeck had enough in reserve for two Kreisler encores Schön Rosmarin and Liebesleid, neatly turned and an attractive end to a recital in which he and Apekisheva each gave notice of an assured future.
- For further information about the music of JF Brown and Peter Fribbins: Music Haven