The third and final recital at Turner Sims with Chloë Hanslip and Danny Driver embracing all ten of Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas – and destined to be a recording project on the Rubicon label, Volume One just released, to preserve these musicians’ spirit of adventure and enquiring minds, a superb collaborative relationship.
What also struck me was the freshness and spontaneity of their approach, a quality evident in Schubert’s youthful D-major Sonatina (1816). The prosaic opening was imbued with considerable promise, and even if phrase-endings nearly disappeared from earshot when Hanslip leaned in towards Driver for closer interaction, there was a palpable rapport and a wealth of dynamic shading. Her tone did not seduce by its amplitude or radiance – they came later – but more for its purity and integrity. Within the graceful Andante Hanslip shaped Schubert’s soulful lines as if they were the greatest the composer had ever conceived, and in the witty interplay of the Finale they caught the music’s joie de vivre to perfection.
From four years earlier, Beethoven’s final Violin Sonata: there is no doubting its expressive and emotional riches. Hanslip (sweetly ardent) and Driver (warmly obliging in response) cooed like doves during the opening bars, setting in motion a train of exquisite exchanges. Rapture continued in the slow movement, gratifying for its stillness, and the Scherzo unravelled with playful ease, rhythms pointed and the tempo finely-judged. Both instruments have their fair share of accompanying in the closing set of variations, its abrupt mood-changes and impetuous passages delivered with aplomb.
Beethoven’s penultimate and most ‘symphonic’ Violin Sonata was given a reading to savour. This ‘Kreutzer’ brimmed with energy, the first movement imperious and plaintive, dazzling and tender – not a bar went by without an arresting cascade of notes or a legato line of penetrating insight. It wasn’t just the meeting of minds here, the players’ collective intuition, but the combined control and sheer accuracy that left one searching for superlatives. Hanslip and Driver mesmerised in the central movement, sustaining its lengthy and diverse span with infinite care and unfailing variety of feeling, and the Finale was simply spellbinding, the duo entering the spirit of its ‘cat and mouse’ antics with unsuppressed glee and bringing to a close a knockout performance.