Tasmin Little & Piers Lane

Violin Sonata in A, Op.100
Violin Sonata in E flat, Op.18

Tasmin Little (violin) & Piers Lane (piano)

Reviewed by: Kenneth A. Clifford

Reviewed: 17 September, 2006
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Tasmin Little and Piers Lane were greeted by a capacity audience at the Wigmore Hall on this Sunday morning, a “Coffee Concert”. The recital opened with Brahms’s A major sonata, which was written in the summer of 1886 while Brahms was on holiday in Hofstetten near Thun, Switzerland. This sonata is more expressive and lyrical than Brahms’s first in G major, and in many respects allows the performers more freedom.

The opening theme was beautiful if a little cautious; perhaps Lane may have been concerned about balance, even though the piano’s lid was only on half-stick. Lane’s sound, however, has a depth and roundness that serves this music well and as the movement progressed he found the appropriate boundaries. Little’s tone was rather disappointing in comparison. Her sound lacked focus and intensity and her dynamic range was too confined next to the contrasts explored by Lane. For me, at least, Little never sought to get inside the music – her phrasing was given a superficial silver lining and, as a result, there was nothing personal in her performance. Every turn, sound and slide was predictable in a sonata that gives the violinist so many opportunities to entice and surprise the listener. There were, though, some magical moments in the Andante tranquillo in which both players anticipated each other’s rubato with great intuition.

Written in 1887, when he was 23, Richard Strauss’s Violin Sonata is perceived as a bridge between the composer’s ‘student’ and mature language.

In the opening Allegro, Little’s intonation was frequently inaccurate and, as in the Brahms, her unvaried vibrato prevented the listener from discovering many of the avenues that can bring this work to life. All the subtlety and imagination came from Lane, who always provokes and stimulates as the music dictates. Little’s reading of the second movement, which bears the title ‘Improvisation’, lacked the musical impulses necessary to make it appear spontaneous, but Lane managed to inject some real energy into the finale, showing us both his technical excellence and page-turning skills (his assistant was so engrossed in the performance that she forgot why she was there!).

The duo chose Tchaikovsky’s Melodie in E flat as an encore.

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