For a start, the programme had translucent variety. An evening of song ranged from Haydn to Stravinsky. The soprano sang joyously and the cello sang lyrically. Its multicolour and melody had the air of a Schubertiade gathering, among friends.
Further, there was the calibre of the artists – a rare meeting of true musicians. We had the pure, self-possessed and delicate tones of one of England’s most honoured and experienced singers. Dame Emma Kirkby – departing from Elizabethan and Jacobean territory – gave us Haydn’s moving and magisterial cantata. It has supple seriousness, turning in due course to poignant, soaring lament. She then demonstrated – with lightness and ease – less well-known skills in Debussy and florid exuberance in the arresting songs (settings in French and German) of Amy Beach.
With just as much pleasure, we heard the flowering artistry of Joy Lisney. She is still in her teens, beginning her career, continuing her studies no doubt and yet playing with an aplomb and rapport, a definition and vitality, an insight and ardour that many cellists better known and more experienced would do well to honour. Her sensitive musicianship was manifest. Her lyricism was uplifting and haunting. Her abrasive vitality in Suite Italienne was sensational. (A little more panache would have left me even happier.) The Chopin was a revelation. It is not often played – and twice, in the last four years, I have heard a virtuoso pianist drown the cello’s softer voice. Not so at The Red Hedgehog.
This was clearly a true partnership between cello and piano – just as it was a truly living partnership between father and daughter [a fact I feel bound to stress because it contributed so significantly to the close understanding shown in this particular performance]. James Lisney – no mean virtuoso – accompanied Joy with a vigour and discretion of the utmost musicianship. As a result, the long first movement was an impressive success, a momentum derived from the discipline of Chopin’s eloquent intellect, especially clearly delineated, here. Moments of counterpoint, for example – places where the piano so easily pounds the cello into background obscurity – had exemplary delicacy and clarity, allowing the subtlety of Chopin’s inspiration to shine forth.
- The Red Hedgehog
- The Red Hedgehog is situated at 255-257 Archway Road, Highgate, London N6 5BS
- Box Office: 020 8348 5050