Sonata in C minor for Viola and Piano
Hebrew Melodies, Op.9
Sarah-Jane Bradley (viola) & Anthony Hewitt (piano)
Reviewed by: Tully Potter
Reviewed: 26 February, 2012
Venue: Hall One, Kings Place, 90 York Way, King’s Cross, London
Although this recital was part of the usual London Chamber Music Series, it coincided with the Jewish Book Week. Sarah-Jane Bradley and Anthony Hewitt paid their own tribute with works by two Jewish composers.
Mendelssohn’s Viola Sonata is a teenage work but extremely accomplished, as we have come to expect. Not having heard it for a while, I had forgotten how much of the viola part was written in two voices – Bradley’s double-stopping was beautifully in tune. The partnership with Anthony Hewitt was a good one, as he played up to Bradley’s famed tone without trying to drown her. Although Mendelssohn does not provide a slow movement, the final variations gave the duo plenty of chances to expand their phrasing. There were gorgeous effects in all three movements but especially in that finale.
We rarely hear anything by Joseph Joachim in a concert. His Hebrew Melodies, inspired by Byron’s poetry, can be very involving if the players sustain a long line and find colours to vary the prevailing plaintive tone. Bradley had clearly thought long and hard about how to voice the viola part and the result was most satisfying.
Peter Fribbins was present to hear his two Fantasias, composed several years apart but both well written and effective. In the first, based on a Welsh folksong, he demands some difficult A-string acrobatics and harmonics from the violist, well executed here. The second Fantasia, based on a Hungarian folksong, sets an interesting viola line against rippling scalar passages on the piano for much of the time.
Although the Fribbins pieces were well worth hearing, one felt the need for something a little faster to end the recital. A substantial encore, ‘Dance of the Knights’, one of Vadim Borisovsky’s masterly transcriptions from Romeo and Juliet, filled the bill nicely.