Hampstead and Highgate Festival – Catriona Scott, Gemma Rosefield & Michael Dussek

Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor, Op.65
Cavatina at Midnight [CAVATINA Chamber Music Trust commission: World premiere]
Trio in A minor for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, Op.114

Catriona Scott (clarinet), Gemma Rosefield (cello) & Michael Dussek (piano)

Reviewed by: Kenneth Carter

Reviewed: 8 May, 2008
Venue: Christ Church, Hampstead Square, London NW3

Chopin wrote the piano part of his Cello Sonata for himself, incorporating his own bravura – and Chopin-loving performers have followed likewise. Furthermore, since his day, the volume potential of grand pianos has increased greatly. A pianist thus has a responsibility for allowing his partner’s sound to come through. Cellist Gemma Rosefield’s playing was rich, warm and involved yet cool-headed, but Michael Dussek’s Fazioli filled the church hall in excited and impassioned moments, bludgeoning the cello into inaudibility. In addition, his performance was less emotionally involved than Rosefield’s. He held more notes and more volume, but commanded less interest.

Cecilia McDowallCecilia McDowall’s Cavatina at Midnight fared better. Its calm, reflective mood found common-ground amongst all three performers. The piano part is more sparing, its mood contemplative, its tonal range more delicate and its volume more restrained. Dussek responded to this. He played with sensitivity and also respect for the skill and sensibility of his fellow performers. This was, in the best sense, a hushed partnership in a work easy on the ear yet unobtrusively skilful in allowing civilised conversation among the performers.

Catriona ScottAdam Gorb’s Reconciliation, for clarinet and piano, moved towards a similar end – the impetus for each instrument to have its say. We began with a struggle, a somewhat petulant conflict of will that grew increasingly noisy and intemperate, getting nowhere. Tactics then changed: we entered a period of tension, resembling the taut quivering of a rope in a tug-of-war in which the piano became quite ominous. Finally, each instrument went its own way – a victory for tolerance, but a defeat for establishing a relationship. Catriona Scott and Dussek understood and conveyed the implications – and indeed Gorb’s skilful expression of them in musical terms – with beguiling artistry.

Brahms’s Trio was, as often is the case, a rather gruff muddle. As with the Chopin sonata, the pianist has a special responsibility for allowing his partners to come through. Much of the performance sounded muddied. Despite the undoubted skills of the players, the performance did Brahms no service. There were brief moments of ravishing, impassioned sound from Scott and Rosefield in particular. However, Dussek’s fingers continued to have something of a problem in discovering a Romantic means of expression – and the Fazioli remained a magnificent loudmouth.

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